“Now an official Gateway to Hell, one hundred percent approved by the Vatican Council.”
“You’re just a bunch of manky foul-mouthed spunkers. Repent you fuckers, repent!” -- His Holiness Pope John Paul II
"I've never been so disgusted in all my life." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
One of the great things about being a teenage air cadet was that you got to dress up in army combats every now and then and act hard. Only trouble was, ever since Cadet Sergeant Marcus Sergeant took his pot-shot at the Queen, we weren’t allowed to run around with guns. No problemo, we just went home and knocked out realistic-looking Uzi’s out of wood and scrap metal. We thought we looked hard. But in reality, we looked like twunts. Twunts with youthful stuble and acne, reeking army surplus combats and toy shooters.
Did I ever mention my dad, Professor Scary was a Territorial Army officer? No? Ah. At weekends, and for a couple of weeks a year, Professor Scary became Lt Col Scary of a certain Royal Army Medical Corps unit. Like we kids, they too were allowed to dress up in combat gear and run around the countryside looking hard. Only difference, they were allowed guns. Real ones.
In a bizarre set of circumstances I am still trying to fathom, Lt Col Scary was put in charge of organising a field exercise for his unit, in which they would simulate warfare, and a steady stream of casualties would arrive at their field hospital to be treated. And who would these victims be? Why, as many sea, air and army cadets that they could lay their hands on. You know, spotty gits like me.
We were carted up to Colchester barracks, fed, barracked and failed to get served in the NAAFI club bar. Colchester, as anyone who has visited the place will tell you, is the arsehole of the free world, and is permanatly full of battling squaddies and students. It also has, I gather, the highest suicide rate in the country, which is hardly surprising. Craphole doesn’t do the place justice, and is actually an insult to genuine crapholes.
It was on the first morning of the exercise that Lt Col Scary took us aside and explained the real reason he’d selected me, my brother and several others from our unit for this exercise, while all the other spotty erks were drawn from groups around London and Essex. He wanted us to break into the field hospital and kill all the doctors in direct contravention of the Geneva Convention. War is hell.
Holy poop, I was to be an assassin. Only we still weren’t allowed guns. We were, however, permitted by Her Majesty’s Armed Forces to point a finger at our intended victims and shout “Bang”. God help us if there’s a war.
Saturday morning, we were set free. We were carted off to the hospital - one of the larger barracks in Colchester - in field ambulances and dumped at the hospital with other cadets who had liberal quantities of tomato sauce smeared over their faces to simulate blood. It smelt like the back door of a Wimpy bar on a Saturday night.
Once admitted into the hospital, we split from the main group, stalked the corridors and found our quarry.
“Major Cholmodeley-Smythe?” I asked, saluting him for good measure.
“Why yes, can I help you corporal?”
“Yes, sir. Bang. You’re dead.”
It was like playing cops and robbers. A referee walked in, placed a sticker on the Major’s chest and told him to sit in the Officer’s Bar for two hours. I bet he was devastated.
Minutes later, our missions accomplished, we met up at the front of the hospital, laughing at our successful assassinations and our future careers as fifth columnists. It was then we received our next mission from Lt Col Scary.
We were to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere, sneak into the ambulance station and blow it up with a fake “bomb”. No worries, Dad ...err... sir.
Night fell. We blacked up, and rode in the back of a lorry somewhere in the Essex countryside, where we were thrown out and left to our fates. Using advanced tracking and skirmishing techniques known as “creeping about in the dark really, really quietly”, we soon made it to the edge of the ambulance station. This would be a doddle.
Would it fuck. The next thing I knew, this huge black guy was sitting on my head. A brief moment of panic saw that the same fate had befallen Nige, Shed, and the others from our group. We wewre surrounded by army regulars, all armed to the teeth, and ready to open a spectacularly big tin of whoop-ass on us at a moment’s notice. Me? I was bricking it.
The only person missing was Gary. Seconds later he burst out of the bushes, sprinted into the command centre and threw in the “bomb” shouting “BANG!” for good measure, before getting jumped on by a bunch of hairy arsed squaddies. A referee emerged from nowhere and liberally handed out red stickers to “victims” who were last seen heading towards the NAAFI bar.
But not us. We were prisoners. And worse, no-one had bothered telling anybody else we were part of the exercise. We were spread-eagled on the grass, searched and questioned. If I was bricking it earlier, it was running down my legs now as hairy arsed squaddies stood over us, pointing their huge weaponry at our heads.
“Name?” asked a hairy-arsed squaddie
“Errr....” I replied trying to think of something that wouldn’t give me away as a pimply air cadet in over his head.
He got bored of me and started work on hyperactive Gary, who probably saved our lives.
“Private Parts? You kidding me?”
“No sarge. I’d never take the piss out of a man with a gun.”
There were a few sniggers from the back, which soon became open laughter.
Nige suddenly became Corporal Punishment, while Jez and Alan went totally over the top with “Major Disaster” and “Captain Caveman”, and the ice was finally broken. The full truth finally came out, much to the amusement of our captors, and our even greater relief.
“You was lucky,” said one particularly hairy squaddie, “We’d normally beat the shit out of you.”
Yeah, right. Thanks.
Just to show us how much they appreciated us livening up an otherwise drab exercise, they let us borrow one of their ambulances to drive back to Colchester. Ever the bundle of energy, Gary leapt into the back, and knocked himself out on the roof, the great idiot. Lights flashing and siren wailing we arrived back at the hospital of death with the only genuine casualty of the entire exercise.
Lt Col Scary summed it all up in carefully chosen words.
“You stupid bugger, you.”
Assassin? No thanks. Fucking awful, especially when your finger only fires blanks. Get me a real job. I want to be a lumberjack.