It had been yet another mind numbing lecture on the history of the Regiment given by the museum curator at the then Depot, Maida Barracks. His subject matter was very interesting to those that didn't know the history of the regiment, but like many ex-officers, he couldn't lecture to save his life. To the sixty-odd recruits listening to his droning explanations, he might as well have stuck a recorded message up his arse and let the sound come out his mouth.
The room was hot and stuffy and everyone was already exhausted from the battering they had just received in the gymnasium. But the questions kept coming. "What is the colour patch of the First Battalion, and where are they stationed now?" he asked.
Response: "Maroon, and in Bahrain, Sir." "What is the regimental march and who wrote it?" "Ride of the Valkyries by Richard Wagner, Sir," was again correctly answered.
"What is the regimental emblem?"
"The mythical rider Bellerophon mounted on the winged horse, Pegasus, Sir!" "Good."
It was then that he noticed that one recruit was nodding off. This seemed to sting him into action. Nobody slept during his lectures and he was determined to pounce on the unfortunate fellow. While the rest of the platoon watched he made his way up to where the recruit sat and in a loud voice said, "Are you awake, recruit?"
The poor recruit jumped in shock, looked up though bleary eyes and answered, "Yes, Sir." To which the curator added, "Then you won't mind telling me what the regimental emblem is, will you?"
There was a long pause before the perfect answer came out. "Maroon background with a light blue emblem in the middle, Sir." Everyone leaned in the direction of the poor recruit as if dragged by the impending finality of the answer. Seconds passed by, still no answer. Finally, and in a sarcastic tone, the curator asked, "Come on, recruit, what is the emblem?"
Everyone could see that the poor man was trying to formulate the correct answer. Finally his face beamed and he said, "A Belephone mounting Pegasus the wing horse, Sir?"
The curator was lost for words, and for some unknown reason the whole room erupted in howls of laughter. The poor unfortunate recruit was baffled as to why the curator was furious and everyone was laughing. Without saying a word the curator fixed a glare on the recruit that said, "Your Platoon Commander will speak to you later, recruit."
It was clear that nobody on previous occasions had ever made mention of the sexual proclivities of a "Belephone and a well hung mythical horse."
Many hundreds of years ago, when I got my first overseas posting, the Regiment sent me out to the Persian Gulf. Naturally, the Toms in my section treated me like a wet-behind-the-ears idiot, as did the Sergeant and Platoon Commander. I was there to be seen and not heard until they were satisfied that I could work as a team member without shooting one of my own.
I never fully realised how much they looked down upon me until I was sent down to Aden with the company and ended up on a convoy that travelled from the coastal city of Aden right up to a place called Dhala, high in the rugged mountains of Osama Bin Laden country.
The main road, if you could call it that, was a sandy track just wide enough for a truck to traverse. It wound up between the high mountains and then climbed a hazardous pass before it ended at Dhala. The convoy consisted of about thirty trucks and half a dozen armoured vehicles, and overhead droned an ancient Avro-Shackleton bomber.
About forty of us were given the task of providing additional escort for the vehicles, which meant that we sat on the top of each truck and got bounced around like plastic ducks on a windblown pond. Being I was the new boy, I got to sit on the only truck without a canvas cover, a truck full of crates of bottled Coca-Cola. Everyone else sat under a tarpaulin while I sat exposed on top of all these crates under the hot sun. I had visions of the thing going over a mine and me ending up with a ton of glass up my arse.
That never happened, but we got a scare halfway along the road when one of the trucks supplying an outpost turned off the main track, and did hit a mine. The driver and guard weren't hurt, but one of the back wheels got blown to shreds. We all had to dismount and cover the flanks. I did my best airborne leap down from the truck and landed perfectly, bending my knees to take the impact. Unfortunately the butt of my rifle hit a large rock and shattered on impact. So here I was with a useless rifle and no way of defending myself.
About an hour later they had sorted out the truck and we were all told to mount up. The platoon Sergeant came along and checked each vehicle and its guard. He came to mine and I showed him the rifle and said, "Sergeant, my rifle's fucked. The butt has been smashed so it won't fire."
He didn't even ask how I did it, he just looked up at me and said, "Can you say bang, bang?"
I was puzzled and repeated, "Bang, bang, Sergeant?"
He answered, "Yes, if anything happens, say fucking bang, bang."
Naturally I was taken aback. So I said, "Sergeant, I can't shoot anyone when I say bang, bang."
He had that old soldier's smile on his face. "I fucking know, you plonker, but you can't do any worse than you do with one that really goes bang, bang."
I refrained from making any further comments and was extremely hurt by the suggestion.