Haughley Branch of The Royal British Legion, Suffolk
How would Prince react to the crowd? The answer was!!! Not very well, He was used to us working alone and he was not a happy doggie!!
As much as the 'Snowdrops' and the dog men tried to get people back to give us a gap to go through, they in turn, of course didn't want to lose their place at the front, and I had to hold on hard to the check chain of a snarling Prince with all the strength I had.
So off we set on our imaginary patrol. Now Prince was more interested in causing mayhem in the crowd, and if you have ever had to hold back 70Ibs of angry animal then you will understand the job I had on my hands.
After what seemed an age, Al appeared, I pointed Prince in the right direction and released him with the order, "Get him". But Prince was confused with all these people and spinning round, was more interested in what he could see (the crowd) as criminals were behind me. As luck would have it I don't think they understood that. As I screamed for him to "Leave it". Thank god Al let a couple of rounds off from his .38. This took Prince's attention and at the 'Get him' order, he raced off to nail our 'Criminal' Such was his anger he went through all the padding and drew blood. I spoke to Alvin recently, some forty odd years later and he told me he still bears the scar and memories of that day.
Photo: Roy at home indulging in his hobby of reading
So here we are at our exciting job of patrolling 'X Group' and there are one or two thing that could be told about that but, I will restrict them.
Summers coming and the humidity coupled with the heat drains everyone's strength and patience, even he poor old dogs. I remember well one night in Little Isthmus, looking up at the set of stars known as 'The Plough' and wondering if anyone at home was looking at it at the same time. As you dream away it gives you a strange sense of comfort. That dream was shattered by Prince's teeth in my leg, I had trodden on his foot. I'm not sure what I said but I know it wasn't 'Ouch!' However I got a licking from Prince saying sorry boss!
I took comfort from the heat and humidity I just spoke of. I suppose we can all tell tales of heroics but it's the more amusing that grabs the mind, well they are funny now. If we can't laugh, what's the point of life?
Two other tales come to mind, that is apart from being the spare team and the joys of the mosquitoes on the cemetery patrol, sit down for five minutes and the dammed things were buzzing around your head. When the buzzing stopped they were feeding, so much for the rest.
Now a certain Scotsman, no names, no pack drill, was a keen basketball player, but also fancied himself as a bit of a John Wayne. He would practice drawing his pistol time and time again, before we went to get the dogs for patrol. But one night before we were due out he shot his imaginary enemy as normal, then his face turned a strange colour. He broke his pistol and sure enough there, all five rounds with the hammer marks on each one. (Misfires??) Had one gone off and hit one of us the you know what would have hit the fan. To this day I will never know how the armourer lost those rounds, I do know we were never entertained to that performance again.
Save the best for last, they say, so I shall bore you with one more tale from 'X Group'. We had come in from our patrols one morning and were hurtling down Ma'alla with Geronimo, our local driver at the wheel, when we were overtaken by a motorbike and was flagged down. It turned out to be a hothead Lance Jack, oops sorry, Lance Corporal, Military Policeman, "Why are you not wearing headdress?" he said. Now you can imagine, you are coming from an all night patrol and some 'Charlie' wants to know why you haven't got your bl..dy hat on. "We don't wear hats", we reply, giving him the minimum information. "You are aware?" blah, blah, blah. By now Geronimo is getting fed up, just like us, all he wants to do is get home to bed. Brains (Dave Turner) now offers his ID card just to get Charlie off our backs. He can't believe his luck, here we all are, six blokes quite happy to be reported. Now each and every one of our ID cards show our rank when we first joined up, but our uniforms all have two stripes upon them. I think that means corporal or always did. Seems that the 'meathead' sorry policeman hadn't worked that out and went happily on his way, having booked six blokes on the back of a lorry for no headdress. It didn't occur to him that we had all been speeding, and believe me at that time of day we would have been speeding.
I need not tell you the laugh we had
had on the way back, but we did know
when he heard. When we woke up later in the day there were no orders to report, maybe the report hadn't gone in, but it had and we had reliable word that the air was somewhat blue when Mac heard. But we were to hear no more about it and also no more from the Gentlemen with Red Caps. Which proved the point, he may have been a hard task master, but you couldn't wish for a better ally than Mac when you were right. How I remember his words. "I will never go any higher Boyo as I give them too much trouble" So here I was a few months into my tour when I heard those familiar words, 'Mac wants to see you.' God what have I done wrong now? "Things are beginning to look a bit serious" he said, "I'm afraid no dogs can be spared so the trials are off." The trials were a competition to take place in Kenya to determine the best dog team in the Middle East.
I had been promised two weeks before the trials, to enable Prince and myself to get used to working on grass again and hopefully for Prince to get rid of any gremlins he may have had in his head. I was seriously jarred off, as was my boss who was as convinced as I was that the trophy was coming back to 'X Group'. However there was to be a show in the Steamer Point Stadium.
My part in that as much as anything, would confirm that dogs could be moved swiftly from one area to another by helicopter, thus confirming to the locals that nowhere was safe if you were up to no good. For this of course, I would need to train and work with the Army Air Corp, it would be easier to do this at Khormaksar, coupled with the fact that another dog team would bolster security there. This was, so to speak, killing two birds with one stone. Give me time to think about this? Er! Goodbye 'X Group', I shan't miss you.
So its off to Khormaksar, the dog section is stuck out on a limb, miles from anywhere and everyone. Perfect, no CO's car to worry about and the majority not even knowing that you are there. I have to say I enjoyed working with the A.A.C. Flying over the Salt Pans at low level was quite an experience, a sight not to be forgotten. Funny enough they are stationed just down the road from us now, at what was RAF Wattisham, the machines they have now are a little bigger than those we were used to.
When the top brass pressed the 'Red Button' the terrorist threat was higher. the risk to an attack on The Stadium was high, and the lack of a doo pato,
at Khormaksar would leave a gap there. One of the disadvantages of being stuck out on that limb was we needed a lorry to take us down to the mess at meal times, miss it and you went hungry. However 1 remember one afternoon someone asking if Ye- could go to the front,of the queue as Agitate so slow and IFIL would hold us all up and we would be late reporting for patrols. I hadn't noticed this albeit I knew my Dad was a slow eater. When I was a boy I had asked him why? He replied, Doesn't a cow chew its cud, and no one asks why'. I didn't like being likened to a cow but I know if I ate too fast I ended up with belly ache.
That three tonner had another incident attached to it. We would be picked up and taken down to collect our arms and ammo prior to being allocated our patrol areas. One night as normal, the boys jumped off one by one, it came to my turn and I jumped off with Prince alongside me, or that was how it started only this time I caught my foot in the tailgate chain and went headfirst and landed with a thump on top of Prince. He was not amused, this time he had me under my upper arm, and there followed that, 'sorry boss licking I!!
I remember well the first VC10 that came out, what a sight that was, and boy he didn't hang around, half way down the runway and gone, unlike the boor old Britannia going home fully laden. That would scrape of the end of the runway and climb so slowly you often prayed for it to gain height but somehow it always did.
The only incidents, as I recall were incoming military flights and the fire engines racing off, and a Fireman was what I wanted to be but, for some reason during my training I changed my mind and became a 'Doggie Man'.
As I recall BFBS had a thing at Christmas to raise money, whereby you pledged money for them to play a certain record and someone would pledge more to have it taken off. We had them play `Tony Faynes' Police Dog, and kept it going for some time. Oh happy days!!!
It would seem that my reputation travelled with me because we always seemed to get the cream jobs like, getting sent down to the radio masts at the end of the Causeway. Me, the faithful Prince and a radio that I swear wouldn't transmit 10 yards, and who would see your torch flashing down there? "See you in the morning" the driver would say, "Sooner you than me". "Yeh" I would reply " I ain't going anywhere soon". On the plus side, the sight of those flamingo's along the Causeway in the morning on the way back was a sight that will live with me forever.
A couple of years ago I was talking to a fellow R.B.L man and it turned out he was there at the same time as I was but at Singapore Lines. Oddly enough I was sent to the lines from time to time to make a show I suppose to the local labour force, maybe to spread the word locally that dogs patrolled there, although of course we didn't, anyway I asked Joe (my R.B.L. mate) if he remembered a dog patrol being there, and he said he did but it was a right
vicious B..t..d, I said I hoped he wm_.,,.2 referring to the dog and not 4 7S-1
was that dog patrol. Small world! he was an old army man living in the next village and our paths had never crossed.
I always heard it among other stories about the security teams we had in the UK, who would attempt to break in and plant imaginary explosives on our 'V' Bombers or bomb dumps. This was done at any time not purely during exercises, remember that was the time of the 'Cold War'.
At Khormaksar when we were on inner patrols around hangers and dispersals, we made a point of not being seen and were often within feet of static guards, who would have probably had a heart attack if we had spoken. These guards were not always given the most intelligent of orders and would often present an ideal target, particularly on the 'X Group' wall.
All of our dogs had a monthly vets check. The only vet that showed no fear of Prince was an army man, but he soon learned that it was safer if I taped his jaws up first (Prince's that is)
Apart from anything else Khormaksar was much cooler in summer time than at 'X Group' In that 'bowl' we had a 'tick' bath and sheared the dogs to cope with the heat in summer, talk about 'should have gone to spec Saversll', and those ticks would get into your legs if you hadn't seen them and killed them first, and it would take a lit cigarette to burn the little perisher's and make them let go.
It was normal for us to do seven patrols on and one night off. As things got a little more hairy we volunteered to patrol the married quarters for the sake of moral. We were told we could do this on our night off, as you can imagine it didn't happen very often. Some of those normal nights would finish just after mid-night and the day would be filled with training, cleaning and feeding details.
I remember one afternoon late on, a
Land Rover rolled up to see us. Turned out to be a 'Rock Ape' (RAF Regiment) patrol. I think they had been shipped in to bolster security. They were armed with the latest Sterling's (SMG) We had still got the old Sten Guns and .38 pistols, oh how the mouth watered, 1 think that most of us felt that we should have been part of the Regiment and that it would have been better for everyone. However these boys proved to be our real partners.
Whilst out on the wire, and remember we were on our own, these boys were never far away and a great sense of comfort. Unlike some other gentlemen who made it clear that they had no intention of risking it that far out unless they were forced to.
So my time came to come home, sadly for prince there was no going home, he was to spend his final days there. I was told some twelve months later that he was never the same dog.
I met up with Geordie again. Four nights we waited and four nights the same old story, 'Sorry lads no space on this one' Then that call,' There's a flight we can get you on but it can't fly over certain air space, so it goes round the World a bit."Sir, we don't care if it goes to the moon and back so long as it means we are on it.'
And so the long haul home into Lynham, onto the train, the wonderful sight of green fields with cows in, but God don't the women look ghostly white and drawn? A final shake of the hand, "See you then mate". We went our separate ways. I had been posted to Suffolk, Geordie to Linc's again, but a different station. We were young and we were loners, but that was the nature of the job. We both had a couple of years to do and have said since that time. If I hadn't met the girl of my dreams I would have signed on again.
Sadly we all get older and some 40 plus years later, after much searching for each other, my wife traced Geordie through his local paper. We had our own little emotional re-union, the same two boys that said farewell all that time ago. Just a little older. We even found young Alvin who now lives in Holland, and hope to have our own mini re union soon before it is too late.
So, what do you miss most and the least from those far off days?
For me I miss those 0500hrs swims at Elephant Bay with the faithful Prince.
I miss least, the stinking heat, the mosquito's and the 'ticks' feeding off of you whilst grooming your dog.