Falklands 1991

Falklands 1991

With the poppy appeal in full flow and armistice day fast approaching. It always reminds me of one night in the Falkland Islands in 1991.

I was a young man of 22 serving in the RAF, and was currently posted 8’000 miles from home in the Falkland Islands. I was living in a four man room, with 2 other RAF and a Paratrooper.

This one night, there was about 10 odd of us in the room drinking and watching Black adder goes forth on video. Although we were not suppose to have alcohol in the room , being caterers we had managed to get a few cans of beer in, and had a huge tea urn full of Vodka and Orange.

I should point out at this stage that we had just finished a five day exercise; we had been practising our roles in the event of the Falklands were invaded whist we were there.

So, if you can image it 10 odd men, 8000 miles from home, aged between 18 and 24 from the RAF, Army, Navy and the Para’s, in a 4 man room drinking, laughing, just of a 5 day exercise and watching Blackadder goes forth.

Then the laughter stopped and the mood changed as the final scene from Blackadder was played out.

For we all realised that we were far away from home, and what if what we had just been practicing became reality, then…

Please buy a Poppy this week.

Thank you




The proposal

I first came across this when I was in the RAF in Germany (roughly 1995). Since then I have worked for a few organisation and all of them could be substituted into the following article.

                                                                                                                     The Proposal

First came the Proposal and then the Consultancy, and the lower ranks went to their Sergeants and said “This is a pile of shit and will badly damage morale”

The Sergeants went to the Flight Lieutenants and said “The men think that the proposal is a bucket of manure and will affect morale.

The Flight Lieutenants went to the Squadron Leaders and said “The proposal is full of that which aids growth and will greatly affect morale

The Squadron Leader went to the Group Captain and said “The proposal is a potent accelerator of growth and will be good for morale.”

The Group Captain went to Air Vice Marshal and said “The proposal will work better than we ever dared to think and it would greatly increase morale.”

The Air Vice Marshal was pleased and implement the Proposal, and there was woe and much sadness on the face of the lower ranks.

Being British, Guns, and Guard Duty

Being British, I never quite understood the desire to carry guns.

As some of you know, I served 12 years in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a caterer and in those 12 years I learnt to fire both the L1A1 Self Loading Rifle (more commonly known as the SLR) and the SA80. Neither or which filled me with a feeling of empowerment when I carried them on Guard Duty or on Exercise. Rather they were a major pain in the arse.

Let me explain.

Let’s start with Guard Duty and the old days (1993). You have an SLR in your arms and 30 live rounds in your magazine. The SLR was a sodden heavy rifle and even with the shoulder strap, carrying it was a pain.

Now, most Guard Duties I did were 2 hours on followed by 2 hours off for a period of 12 hours, for 7 days. So, image you are on gate guard, and only allowed to move roughly 5 feet from a fixed point, carrying this lump of metal, in the pouring rain, boiling heat, or as I once did at RAF Gatow in Berlin in -24c (At that temperature, the police dogs were not allowed out due to health and safety but us poor guards still had to go out) Trust me when I say, all you want to do is get inside and get rid of the bloody thing.

Now if that was not bad enough, if you had an ND (a Negligent Discharge i.e. you fire your rifle by mistake) it was £500 plus put on charge and that was in 1993!!!

And Heaven forbid that you actually shoot someone, as you are instantly charged with murder, and have to prove that you obeyed your “Green Card” or Rules of Engagement.

Now before people get angry about this I was in the RAF when the IRA were still bombing and killing members of the Armed forces on the British main land so Guard Duty was not a risk free exercise.

Anyway, as for ” Exercises” well I was caterer and in the RAF, so most of the time I was in a tent preparing meals, however, I did my time running round in a respirator, wearing my NBC suit and carrying a rifle.

I also went on Exercise with the Ghurkha’s down the Falkland’s in 1999, and yes I did very nearly die, it’s amazing what your body can do when you have a Ghurkha Corporal screaming in your ear. I can honestly say at no point was I thinking “I’m running around with a rilfe, this is cool and amazing” I was too busy trying to breath.

So what is the point of this posting? Well I hear young kids today talking about guns like they were toys, I hear them glamorising guns and thinking them ‘Cool’ because to them that is what they are.

Now I am neither Pro nor Anti guns (Nor anti violent games), they are after all just lumps of metal. However, maybe just maybe if guns were made a little bit less glamorous and cool, then maybe the adults of tomorrow would not think of them as such.

So how to make them less glamorous? Oh that is easy lol. Without any live rounds – Make them do Guard Duty for a week in the freezing rain or boiling heat, make them run a mile and half with the weapon in port position every day or a week, make them clean and maintain 30 rifles a day, before they are allowed to go out or play on their computer games.

Then when they are so sick and tired of carrying the rifle around, and only then,  place them on a properly supervised range and then fire off a couple of shots, and clean the rifle afterwards of course.

Make them learn that a Rifle is just a lump of metal and really quite boring. Make them learn that the most import part of any weapon is the Human that carries it, for its them that will ultimately make the choice to fire or not.

As for me, I am glad to say I have never fired a rifle in anger, and only once had to cock my weapon. I am very proud of that.


The Day That Changed My Life

The day that changed my life was the 7th November 1989.  It was the day that I joined the Royal Air Force as a Catering Accountant.

I come from a small village on the West Coast of Scotland, and that day began by me catching the 0620hrs ferry, which would allow me to catch the first train up to Glasgow.  Once in Glasgow, I would meet up with my fellow new recruits and catch the train from Glasgow, Queen Street down to Lincoln and RAF Swinderby, where I would spend 6 weeks doing Basic Training.

It’s funny, but even now, I can still remember that ferry journey all those years ago.  It was a dark, cold, and still winter’s morning.  The only lights were from the ferry itself, and a couple of lampposts.  The water was dead calm and jet black.

As the little ferry slipped away from the pier, its engines surprisingly mute, I sparked up a cigarette and watched the place where I grew up slowly drift away into the darkness.  I remember feeling no particular emotions as I watched my home vanish – is that sad/cold?

In my defence, I had already said goodbye to my family – Mum, Gran, my sister and brother – the previous day and, to be honest with you, when I had stepped onto that ferry, I had already moved on to what lay ahead, rather than what was behind me. 

Anyway, I paid for my ticket – one way, only – and moved to the front of the ferry to watch the twinkling lights on the opposite shoreline grow brighter in the darkness as we made our way towards them.

At this point, I suppose I should point out why I joined the RAF.  It’s really very simple – I needed a job.  I was 20 years old.  I lived in a small coastal village that was/is very picturesque but had no jobs, so I did what most 20-year-old Scots did – I joined the forces.  To add a bit of context to that, four people in my street, including myself, all joined the military in the space of six months.

I am rambling now, so back to the ferry.  I must have sparked up another cigarette (I smoked far too much in those days, though I am pleased to say I quit seven years ago) and, as I stood there, I remember thinking, “What would the future bring?  Where will I end up in the world?

Well, I can tell you, in the twelve years I served in Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force, I did two tours of the Falklands, lived in Germany for three years – including eighteen months in Berlin, served at a number of different RAF bases in the UK, received an Air Officer Commanding No.3 Group Commendation in the 2000 New Year’s Honours list, and was a PA to a Group Captain for two months.

I met a whole range of people that I would have never met, from the wicked and the witless, to the wonderful and marvellous.  I had my heart broken, I broke a few hearts, and, all-in-all, I can honestly say I enjoyed every single minute of it.

Sorry, I’m rambling again.  Right, where were we?  Oh yes, the ferry.  As the ferry docked at the pier, I remember making sure that I had all my bags and waiting impatiently for the ramp to go down, as I needed to make sure I was on the train to Glasgow, which was leaving in 15 minutes.

The ramp finally went down and I handed over my ticket and raced for the train station.

I managed to catch the train with five minutes to go and, as I settled down, waiting for the train to go, I remember thinking to myself as I looked at my watch, “In twelve hours’ time, I will be in a different country and in basic training,”  – and I was.

So there you go – the day that changed my life – 7th November 1989.

The Y Front Chronicles – How it got its name.

 I have been asked by a number of people – “Alan, why on earth did you call your Sci –fi book ‘The Y Front Chronicles’?
The answer to that is rather complicated and mildly interesting!  Below is the short easy version…though still mildly interesting!
‘Y Fronts’ came about because of the webpage – Readwave.com.  My short stories were getting good reviews and had just become a Star Reviewer on Readwave, so I wanted to write some quick and easy that could be made up of instatements.
The idea of writing in a diary format sprang to mind, quickly followed by the idea of setting it in the year 3256. But whose diary would I be writing?  Immediately the world ‘Killer’ entered my mind.
So, next I had to work out the actual story.
The story of ‘Y Fronts’ is about a man who is lost, lonely and feels out of place within his new environment.  Having served in the RAF for 12 years (as a caterer), it was a feelings I could strong relate to. The military has its own language, rules and ways of doing things and you know where you fit in.
When I left and went to work for the Council, it was a huge shock to the system and I found it very difficult to fit in. They worked differently, they talked differently, they could not relate to my past experiences and I could not relate to theirs.
It took me almost a year, to learn to be a Civilian again, and talking to fellow ex-military colleagues and friends, I discovered that they too found it very difficult to adjust to the “Real World” that lay outside the camp gates. I wanted to get this feeling of being out of touch with the “Real World” in my character.
I also wanted the Diary to be written by a military man with an average educational background. I wanted the reader to feel that they were actually reading a ‘Real’ Diary not a beautifully formatted perfectly flowing and well penned diary of a person with an honours degree in English.
The next problem was to make the journal seem real, I did this by putting in daft little bits about day to day life, and one of the daft little bits I put in was that he needed to get some new underwear as his old ones had holes in them.
For some unknown reason, the women who read this on Redwave loved the fact that he was search for the perfect pair of underwear, and it became a running theme that ends with the jet black and gold Y Fronts.
Anyway, I needed a name for the book.  I came up with a number or names – “The Space Killer Diary” and “The Chronicles of a Mass Killer” are two, I will actually admit too, the rest were even worse.
I was staring at a blank page when the words “The Y Front Chronicles” slowly took form in front of my eyes. That was it, that was my title. So that is why the book is called what it is – Because of a slightly warped sense of humour and staring at a blank screen for 30 minutes.