As I sit here, floating gently through central Europe in my recently purchased rubber dinghy with matching armbands (camouflaged obviously) I can’t help but spare a thought for those less fortunate souls sipping pimms in the glorious English sunshine on yet another bank holiday. I honestly cannot imagine what you are going through. Yes, as some of you may have heard, most of Europe is currently under water due to the increasingly popular fad of biblical levels of rain for weeks on end – even our beloved Prague is about to be evacuated before it becomes accessible only to mermaids and extremely determined stag do’s – with a thing for mermaids. So, if you have a moment, in between applying layers of sun cream and happen to be in touch with the Big Man, please ask him either to lay off the rainfall or at the very least to give us a hint as to where Noah’s great grandson lives, I know of a few species of animal that I wouldn’t miss if I were to take their place this time round.
Despite the weather, things push on regardless out here. Our three day forage deep into enemy territory was both fun and enlightening as well as a great opportunity for us to learn a bit more about the, slightly weird, local folk. As one might expect there is evidence of efficiency all around – every single house has hundreds of solar panels, every hillside has countless wind turbines and absolutely everybody seems to love roller blading (a classically energy efficient mode of transport). Everywhere you looked there were people cruising along ‘walking’ their dogs, couples going for a romantic ‘blade’, entire families rolling along in immaculately straight lines in perfect height order and one chap just enjoying some quality alone time with his roller hockey stick, all wallowing in glorious efficiency.
They all seemed to love us as well. Probably due to the fact that things have moved on somewhat from the days of arriving, pillaging then burning down their villages before galloping off into the sunset with the Mayors daughter under one arm and some new mess silver under the other. We did discuss ‘going old school’ just to see what all the fuss was about but fortunately, for all parties involved, we decided against it.
I also reckon that the reason they loved us so much is because they had no idea about the trail of destruction we left behind us which comes hand in hand with exceedingly damp weather conditions resulting in numerous lovely green fields being churned up into muddy quagmires. One such field had a particularly bad time of it when one of the vehicles (a Landrover with Army bits-like guns n’ stuff added to it) got very stuck in said field and needed towing out by a far larger vehicle (designed for such a task). It should have been simple enough- the big lorry sits on the near by road and winches the stuck Landrover to safety. Sadly however common sense did not prevail and the far larger, far heavier vehicle drove straight into the middle of the field and parked happily next to the stuck Landrover and before long, oddly enough, was far more stuck than his predecessor. The solution? Get an even bigger vehicle to come and rescue both of them. The farce continues. By this point the rain that had earlier slowed to a downpour was now back in full monsoon-esque flow and both vehicles were in danger of disappearing under German farmland forever. So the new rescue party declined the use of the field as a parking spot and deployed the winch from the safety of the road, using a large Oak tree as an anchor in order to not get pulled in and join the mud bath. A fine plan, and one that looked to be working until a loud creaking sound followed by an almighty crash brought proceedings to yet another halt. As it turns out, large Oak trees with sodden roots cannot withstand the combined pressure of two enormous vehicles playing muddy tug of war and this grand old tree had been ripped from the earth, roots and all, leaving an enormous hole, a massive dying tree and two sinking vehicles as the sorry looking scene of soggy desolation that was by now rivaling the final day of Glastonbury, just with fewer hippies.
Eventually, somehow, the vehicles were recovered, although the same cannot necessarily be said for the field or the Oak tree, or even Anglo-German relations for that matter, which may never recover. Still it’s good to leave your mark on these kinds of expeditions.
When I wasn’t watching vehicles destroy fields and international relations my time was generally spent racing along country lanes trying not to lose those who I had been assigned to observe like some sort of military themed whacky races, or converting my hummer into a caravan having discovered that it is wide enough to fit a camp bed in the back, enabling me to not have to sleep outside. Any idiot can get rained on and I had no intention of being one of them. The real highlight of the whole thing however, is the addition of the ‘God Gun’ to my kit. This part of the exercise is effectively a giant game of laser quest as all the guns get fitted with lasers to shoot each other with and all men and vehicles wear receivers to tell you when you have been shot- it’s reasonably realistic and makes things more interesting than just driving around shouting ‘I shot you first!’ ‘No, I shot you first!’ Although I can assure you that that still happens. So, as an observer I get given a ‘God Gun’, which, amongst other things, can kill people off. This is intended for when the kit isn’t working properly or if someone is not playing nice with the other soldiers, but in my opinion you can’t give a ‘God Gun’ to a mere mortal with time on his hands and not expect him to ‘experiment’ with his new powers. As it turns out ghetto style drive-by shootings in a hummer are a highly entertaining way to pass the time and I now understand why they are so popular across parts of America. I also find a simple wave of the divine weapon during an argument with any exercising troops brings a swift and favourable conclusion to proceedings. It’s the most useful thing the Army has given me for a long time and is going to look great tucked into my belt when I get my cowboy hat in Canada.
In the mean time we have settled in to our new camp, which, believe it or not, makes me miss camp Aachen.
This time round we have managed to squeeze more of us into a smaller ‘Officers Mess’ that is a brisk 100m walk to the nearest shower block, which given the weather at the moment tends to negate the need to get into a shower once you finally make it. Also, presumably in an attempt to trump camp Aachen this one actually has fences around the accommodation with guard towers-currently unmanned but unless I can find the ‘Sunshine’ button on my ‘God Gun’ soon, things may well change. Not long to push now, Canada is going to be glorious.
By Rich Glover