So you want to be a para

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I have done my trade training and have received a poor posting so off to affiliate to the Parachute Regiment

Submitted: November 17, 2017

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Submitted: November 17, 2017

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MIDDLE WALLOP TRADE TRAINING

  It is hard to believe I have been in the regular army for seven months and I am nowhere near to being qualified as anything in particular.
Ok having the skills to maim or kill someone is some sort of a qualification but will I need it when I am a civilian.
  I have about six months of intensive trade training and a further six months of continuation training before I will be recognised as a member of the elite light blue bereted class two aircraft technician with a matching single stripe.
Of course with the stripe comes a pay increase and the potential to once again own a car.
I never thought I would miss my old A40 Somerset banger but it beats walking and buses anytime.
On arriving at the Army Air headquarters I am a little disappointed that they haven`t done a fly past to welcome us, perhaps next week.
 We are shepherded into a small hanger where we accept. basic standing orders and then led off to our more modern barrack accommodation.
With only eight to a room and plastic type flooring, it should be a lot warmer and easier to keep clean.
 After collecting our bedding there is a meeting of training staff to lay down the law and tell us what is expected of us.
"You are all basic infantry and will be expected to meet minimum requirements for weapons, marching and any other bullshitty thing that is put in your way. There will be no ifs and buts. If you fail on basic soldiering you fail on your course, you will need to pass the military education program but as you are supposed to be the cream you should have no problems.Are there any questions?"
We are all waiting, there is always somebody who fails to grasp simple instructions.
"Yes, sir what times dinner?" It just had to be Paddy, but we are all thinking the same as we missed out on lunch.
"Refer to standing orders for all that information." 
Next day we are aircraft course properly and first business is explaining why a plane actually flies.At least I am learning something new. It gets a bit monotonous when facts are constantly being repeated, as I said I tend to pick up information and remember it pretty quick much to the annoyance of my fellow students.
We are doing a lot of hands on instruction which simplifies the written word.
 I`m a bit peckish this morning so roll on lunch time for my dinner.
The food is a lot better here and I haven`t seen a cockroach yet.
Of course, if they have been cooked to oblivion we won`t see them anyway.
One of the course students has come off his long weekend has arrived with a Ford Popular so he is very popular himself.
It has been suggested we drive into the local village to sample the legendary scrumpy ciders. Having never tried cider I am looking forward to the experience.
Arriving at the cider house the first thing I see is a warning sign.
"Warning cider is stronger than beer, Drink with caution".
Talk about a red rag to a bull this is very provocative.Obviously, we are going to neck a few to try it out.
The barman tells us "Four of these and you will be on your back".
I`m only a novice drinker aged eighteen but four, are you having a laugh.
Four pints later I wonder what all the talk was about, I`ll have to pop out to the toilet though, it`s a bit gassy for me.
I feel my face being slapped.
" Archie are you ok ,wakey wakey."
 "What happened there then I thought I was in the bogs."
"You were, we found you slumped outside by the car."
My head is really throbbing, I feel like I have been hit by a double decker bus.
Moral of the story, give cider a miss and stick to what you know.
I am the butt of a lot of jokes for the next few weeks but it serves me right.Good job the driver was only drinking pop or we all could have been killed.
  It is time for our first major exam. It`s pass or be back squadded for two months and have one more try.
The exam format is new to me it is called multi choice answers.
Straight forward enough though, if you know the answer.
 Simple question for you "The firing order of a four piston straight engine is?"
A -1234
B -153624
C -1342
D -321
Now it`s not rocket science to realise two of the answers are impossible to be and use your brain to figure out the [to me ] the obviously correct answer.
I wonder how Paddy got on with that one.
 Three hours later and we are home and dry and it is time to meet the new intake from Bordon.
A large suitcase narrowly misses me as I pass beneath my dormitory window.
I hear a load of shouting from one of the foreign lads from Scotland, Doigy to be precise.
" You`re no coming in here you sasanach bastard".
What`s upset him he is normally very placid.
It soon becomes very obvious.
Humphrey Bogart impressions at the ready,"Of all the places in all the world you come here".
I don`t believe it myself, as bold as brass it is no longer local acting unpaid lance corporal Evans.
"And he`s not coming in here either".is echoed around the block.
The cheeky twat, he strolls into our room and plonks his gear in the vacant bed space next to mine.
As he leaves the room to fetch more of his stuff I grab his suitcase and follow him to the stairs and it soon overtakes him nearly taking him with it.
"It`s got to be Stringer," he yells. Senior soldier Stringer to you welsh twat.
After a lot of shouting and having to hold back some seriously angry people, a CSM enters the room.
"Craftsman Evans is billetting in this room so keep stum and forget previous encounters, Got it ?"
I`m not too bothered because he is not anywhere near me.
He ought to be concerned that is bed is at the far end of the room by the window, which is a lot nearer than the toilets.
He will figure it out sooner or later when we go out celebrating the passing of the first exam.
Stuck with something to occupy our time on the weekends, I join the "Tug of War team" to help boost my new found fitness.
  It is not so easy going as I expected with a lot of techniques to develop and quite gruelling to the weak.
Having mastered the tugging of an Oak tree we are invited to a small competition at one of the local pubs, Should be interesting as it seems to be the local sport.
after a complete and utter whitewashing by a team that includes women, I think my over confidence is coming back to earth.
We are challenged to the yearly wet pull which involves pulling over a small brook. I fear the worse.
  A few days later and the exam results are given to us.
I`m over the moon with a pass of ninety six percent, top of the class.
Paddy has barely got through as several of his answers were duplicated.He must have thought it would be clever to tick off two of the answers and hope the examiners would not notice.
A big mistake as we had been already warned of this little cheat.
It looks like the big wet pull has arrived and we are invited to the much acclaimed cider house to take part.
After a quick moral boosting pint we take our position on one side of a brook.
Our opposition are the local champions so a dunking is very liable.
"Take the strain, and pull."
the first few seconds and we are four feet closer to the water.
Our team at the front of our rope see the water looming and decide to loose the rope and walk away. This is not the way do it because the remainder of us are quickly pulled across the brook to the laughs of the locals.
Needless to say, I lost my passion for tug of war and moved onto anything different.
Several months and related exams have passed and I am pleased to say I am averaging ninety four percent pass rate making me top man but is annoying when I am being bounced questions at me constantly.
For some unknown reason, I find that I have got enough cash to buy myself a little Escort van a 1960 model as the previous owner is being posted to Sharjah somewhere in the middle east and he is desperate to get it off his hands rather than scrap it.
I offer him silly money and he accepts. Brilliant.It is already taxed and MOTD so just the insurance to sort.
It is amazing how popular I have become.It`s a lot quicker and easier to pop up to the Midlands for a weekend break and I have a passenger to pay towards the petrol.
On one weekend trip mom asks me to give her a lift to visit her mom, my granny, so how much do I charge her, just joking.
While there I meet up with one of my aunts and her new husband.
"Harry has a younger sister who would probably fancy a date, Do you want her address and write to her," enquires my Aunt Maureen.
Blind dating smacks of desperation to me so I am a bit reluctant.
"She is pretty better looking than Harry."
Sarcastically I mumble "That don`t take much doing does it."
I take the scribbled on a bit of paper and screw it into my pocket and forget about it.
We are due a long weekend for Easter shortly so I pluck up the courage and write to the sister.
Using all my charm and sarcastic nature I try to set up a foursome for that weekend.
I haven`t got time for a reply so I suggest picking her up and taking a chance.
The weekend arrives and in my best clothes I duly turn up with Aunt Maureen.
I am expecting something like the elephant man or one of the Adams family to be swinging on the ceiling light to appear so I am knocked back when I am summoned to enter the front door.
Is this a ploy so I can`t do a runner, am I going to surrounded by a bunch of mentally challenged hilly billys.
Too late I am ushered in.Expecting a catch net to go over my head when I am pleasantly surprised to the see a very young looking gorgeous sight of my potential date.
This cannot be her, this is some sort of a trick to lure me into a false sense of security.
A quick introduction confirms she is the one. I feel that I have won the pools but I am still apprehensive about what can possibly be wrong with her. She ought to have suitors queuing up to take her out.
It has been decided that I will be ok for one date so make the best of it I say.
After a very pleasant night watching my aunt getting blathered, I manage to sit alone in the van with my date.
I ask her a few questions and find she is basically very shy.
I push my luck and steal a kiss or two, thinking this is liable to be my one and only date; She is way out of my league.
I drop off the relatives and take her home.
Being the cheeky bugger I am I ask if I can see her again in a weeks time. To my surprise, she answers "yes".
Now I am beginning to think there is a problem with her.
We managed a few dates and I start thinking that I cannot string her along, Hopefully, I might be out of the country in a few months, so I tell her.
Big mistake.
"What makes you assume I will be bothered. There`s plenty more fish in the sea".
With that, she jumps out of my van and slams the door so hard it blows open my side door.
I try to explain but to no avail, she is gone in the night.
I feel guilty not being a little more tactful but I was trying to be honest.
It is shame really because I really was falling for her and now I have cocked it up, I daresay she will be better off without a squaddie in her life.
Back to the realities of army life and finish my course albeit with a heavy heart and a missed opportunity.
To make a couple of quid I somehow found myself being asked to babysit for some of the already qualified lads.
How I got dragged into this is probably down to the fact being from a large family and knew how to change nappies.
Still, one pound fifty to sit in nice married quarters with TV and food is not a bad way to pass the time and most of the time I never saw any of the kids, a bit of a win win situation.
Of course, the one time I had to do any baby watching is when an eleven year old cheeky bugger woke up as soon as his mom and dad had left the house.
I just did a deal with him and let him watch some kid`s rubbish on the telly, nothing frightening mind you,
His parent rung to say they were on the way so fob him off to bed a bit smartish.
"Everything been ok? Archie only Jim tends to try his luck sometimes."
"Nothing I can`t handle. I think putting him to bed at six thirty in summer months is always pushing your luck, to be honest."
Well, that was it little Jim keeps asking for me as a babysitter so I get a regular change of scenery and some much needed cash.
It turns out his Dad is doing an Articifer training course and is attached to the Parachute Regiment, and talking to him makes the posting seem very attractive, just a little matter of P company and jumping out of a serviceable plane.
We are into our final few days of training and along with Doig and a fellow named Webb we are informed that we are on a short list for a new award " Student of the course", which involves being paraded in front of your peers and being photographed for the local rag, the army magazine and the local paper to your hometown.
We are interviewed separately to get our feedback.
"Well Stringer, You surpassed all expectations of you and easily came top of your course, but we are awarding Doig the honour because he comes from a nonmechanical background, unlike yourself and Webb who has an engineering degree."
I knew Webb was a few years older than most of us but I wouldn`t have thought he had a degree in anything, To be honest, I thought he was lower than the average student.
The powers that be had decided, so I just went with the flow and was glad I had. The crap Doigy had to put up with if he made a mistake were well and truly taken out of context.
"Why didn`t you get this award instead of me?" Doig asks.
"Because I is inglish and am a lesser mortal."
No more was ever said with the last remaining months at Middle Wallop.
As a second class airframes and engine technician, I was awarded my prized light blue beret and a set of wings to sew on my arms.
For the next six months, it was to be continuation training and then hopefully a foreign posting somewhere hot
We had all filled in desirable posting preferences which for me included Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany or Aden, fingers crossed.
I was getting bored of this further training, basically, it involved doing monotonous jobs like calibrating tools cleaning and testing spark plugs, The drive you to drink jobs.
Good news the postings are up on the notice board.
Ater our work shift we all dash to the bulletin board.
I don`t believe it we are all posted to 70 workshops, not seventy different workshops, the dump we are already at.
Very disappointed  I wander around looking for a bit of rope to finish myself off when I come across Staff Sargeant Cass my parachuting baby sitting client.
I explain the long face and he tells me that is exactly what happened to him years ago and he opted for a transfer to the paras.
"It`s hard work and you need o be pretty fit to even think about applying."
After a week of boredom, I approach a PT instructor and ask for help to get up to an acceptable fitness level.
"Leave it with me and see me in a couple of days."
 I discuss my dilemma with a truly pissed off Doig who is already thinking of doing the same.
The PTI tells me I can opt for fitness training which he will supervise for four or five months depending on P Company availability but it is every day not here and there every day.
Doig and I have a meeting with the careers officer who agrees with our predicament and he is particularly interested as he is going to do P Company himself next year.
The ball sets rolling and our first afternoon training is a gentle twenty mile run around the countryside with bursts of sprinting and a dozen push ups here and there.
Totally exhausted and only the beginning of a gruelling four months of hell I am thinking "Am I doing the right thing?"
Talking to my room mates who are also bored I think "Yes I am."
The weeks fly by and I am as fit as a butchers dog and Doigy and I are to report to Aldershot land of the Paras.
With great anticipation, we make our goodbyes and we are off.
Hopefully, that will be the last time we have to see Middle Wallop until more advanced upgrading.

ALDERSHOT LAND OF THE PARAS DREAM OR NIGHTMARE?

  I had done a lot of fitness training over the last five or six months with the student of the year Doig or jock or as we all knew him Doigy.
He was bald as a badger but not a man to mess with, a bit slow on the uptake sometimes but most jokes just slid over his head.
The thought of a twenty mile forced march didn`t bother us; All part of our training regime.
We both had in mind that we would stroll through this P Company malarky.
P Company or to be precise Pegasus Company was the final fitness testing that the parachute regiment had to pass before actual parachuting.
All of the associated corps and regiments had all done the required basic infantry training so it was a case of three weeks of strengthening up then a week of the actual physical torture that is P Company.
Sixty six of potential paras are gathered in the gymnasium that I had ever seen, ranging from officers, senior NCOs, us and the lower ranks.
The most senior of us is a Captain in the Black Watch and he looks rather feeble and I sense he is going to be an easy target because through training we are all equal.
 "Most of you are not going to make it to selection let alone pass it. If you have not got the balls and determination to endure pain and heartache, save yourself some grief and walk away now."
I see a couple of people already thinking of this option but nobody walks.
 "Ok Staff split them into three groups and take them away."
We had been ordered to turn up in battle dress so I imagine we will be going for a bit of a stroll to the nearby tank tracks.
We are C platoon and we are to see "Hell Hill" for the first time.
"To the top and back ." Again and again many times.
Blimey, this is hard work.
"Now bend your knees to a crouching position, Away you go to the top and back."
I begin to see people falling by the wayside, where they are given a roasting about it only being the first two hours of warming up exercise.
Warming up God knows what we have got coming.
Doigy is in my platoongruellingso we know how to gee each other up but I suggest to him to encourage the not so healthy participants.
I scream to a few of the stragglers "Come on, you can do it only ten yards to go."
Many of us are and it is only day one.
Forced marched back to barracks we are told to fall out, clean up and get some lunch.
"Report to the gym at 14.00 in PE kit".
I have a quick shower and change clothes ready, I am too knackered to bother going for lunchoffencesso I flake out on my bed as do most of the platoon.
Doigy shouts over"Nice easy start to the day, I`m looking forward to doing that again." 
Ten pillows fly through the air in rapid succession at the flaked out Doig.
We assemble at this massive gym and are greeted by the fittest man in the army who is just practising for a world record of press ups.
" 197,198,199and 200 that`s it for today staff."
"Ok, listen in, When in this gym you will never be standing around doing nothing, even if it is only deep breathing exercises. Got that?"
An almighty "Yes Staff", echoes around the building.
"Right touch that wall go, touch that wall go."
About ten times.
"Ok stop, touch that wall.Stop, touch that wall, touch that wall."
 Have they not listened to his first words."Never be standing around."
I whisper the words "Do something, don`t just stand there."
Eventually, they get the message.
The deep breathing comes naturally when you are worn out so I was ok.
I cannot believe it has taken an hour for the simple instruction to get through.
After multiple press ups and sit ups, we are stood down for the day.
Methinks it is time to have a little pep talk with the rest of the platoon tonight.
After dinner,  we are all talking about pains, sprains and every other ailment that is possible.
 Three of our platoon are packing up their bags.
Doigy sees the situation "Back home to mommy is it, boys?"
I know it was a hard day and we expect to lose some through injury or no commitment but day one and three can`t hack it.
We find seven have bottled out altogether which even surprises the training staff.
On parade, the depleted platoons are given a general bollocking for, "No balls, no pride and no thought for fellow trainees."
"Pull yourselves together and listen to your instructors."
I thought I was fit, how wrong am I. A lot of other people are a lot fitter than me but they are finding it hard as well.
As if we are not all worn out after three days we have to contend with early morning room inspection.
We have only occupied the room for a few days it still ought to be pretty clean but I doubt if it will be up to standard.
We are all qualified killers and should know how to keep clean a small area.Basic training teaches us that much.Doing it,but there is always a nobhead who expects everyone else to carry them.
Normally it is the likes of us corporals but as I keep saying to all "It is a trade qualification stripe, not an earned through time served stripe, so corp this and corp that in the barracks is not necessary unless senior ranks are about."
Consequently, I muck in with the bullshitting, It`s just got to be done right or we all will have to pay the price.
Inspection miserably failed several of us junior ranks including Doig are signalled out as leading a bad example and must do better.
It is Friday and we are informed that we all must do the annual fitness test and pass it.It should be relatively simple as we are supposed to be fitness fanatics.
The annual test of which I only had to do a few weeks ago consists of  tackling an assault course, fireman lift a similarly sized trainee for a couple of hundred yards, swap over and then fire ten rounds off at one hundred yards followed by a bit of a run around the tank tracks, all in less than ninety minutes; Piece of cake.
Unfortunately for some, there are quite a few injuries to contend with.
Those with aches, pains and sprains have been given wrong advice and have taken pain killers which will mean making injuries worse.Time will tell.
I fly through my test and go back along the stragglers hopefully encouraging them to step up a gear.
The results are fed to us.Eight more people are told to back squad or leave the company.
All eight opt for leaving.
The gallant sixty six starters are now down to forty eight. At this rate, there won`t be enough passing to validate the parachuting part after P Company.
  The welcome weekend break comes to an end and the notice board reveals that this coming week will include the small assault course, the large, very large assault course and the confidence course.
I have had a glimpse of these courses, and each one is backbreaking and easy to fail because they will all be timed on P coy week.
 We have a little five mile warm up before we are walked around the small assault course.
Of course, it should be addressed as an obstacle course.
We are shown the correct way to tackle each of the obstacles, but walking around and running around to meet the time limit are completely different games.
 Luckily I am one of the first five to start the race with the knowledge that every time an obstacle is crossed it is going to get muddier and slippery.
The first five manage the allocated time but only just.
We are sent to watch the rest doing their best to beat the time and look out for injured personnel.
At about the fourth team the logs and ropes are very slippy and downright dangerous, rather them than me.
We have a faller on the high log crossing and it looks like his leg is broken.
"Get up and finish soldier "screams one of the staff.
"Not this one staff he`s had it."
All finished with two major injuries but the times are atrocious.
 Thank god this is only a practice run or most of us would be going home.
To get over the small obstacle course the next day is dedicated to gymnasium work which is another word for "The Hell hole".
I hope we all remember the rules, Always be doing something. Great start, rope climbing.
The secret with rope climbing to me is doing it as fast as you can, so I use my arms to get up there and my legs to stop there.
There he is the obligatory, "take your time and do it right "merchant.
I suppose technically he is correct but while he is pissing about we are all doing pressups.
Next !!! the high vaulting horse.I don`t mind this but after a few jumps and head springs, it is getting a bit monotonous.
"Okay, let's have a bit of a challenge.Each of you tells us the vault you are going to do and make it interesting".
First one up is Doigy "I`ll be doing a straight leap staff", and off he goes.
Simple vaults seem to be the order of the day.
I`m next, "Somersault Staff", I proudly exclaim.
It is up up and away, a perfect landing, ten points if it was the Olympics.
The grinning or is it smirking instructor congratulates me for having a go, turns to the remaining jumpers, "If Stringer can do it, You all can do it."
I see their faces drop.I don`t think I am going to be very popular after this.
Next in line is the skinny Captain, He runs to the trampoline spring board, an almighty bounce and launches himself at the horse.
Perhaps he should have been told to go over the horse and not through it.
A heavily winded officer is dragged out of the way and told to go to the end of the queue and try again. He is not very pleased and I sense daggers hitting me.
"We are not moving on to the next equipment till everybody has completed this jump."
We might be here a long time. I move onto leg stretches.
 "Come on Doig , set an example you can do this."
Doigy is up for the jump, this should be interesting.I change to deep breathing mode to watch this.
Now Doig is a very robust determined young man but his prowess in the gym is a little restricted.
He takes a deep breath, eyes up the board and he is away.
His weight nearly collapses the board as he launches himself head first into the side of the horse. That`s got to hurt as he has knocked over the vaulting horse and nearly crushed the awaiting catchers.
The exercise is canceled and we move onto various upper body building techniques.
Amongst them is sitting in a crouched position with one leg crossed over.It is a lot harder than it looks and after what seems like a lifetime we are ready to drop.
My little secret is to wait till the PTI has turned his eyes away from me and then swap legs, just don`t get caught.
It is down to the last men standing Doig and some eight stone weak looking northerner.
Doig wins this hands down and does another five minutes just to rub it in.
"Well done Doig, obviously got the strongest stomach muscles."
With this Doig is instructed to lie on his back while the remainder of us run over his newly toned muscles.
You can bet that hurt.
Since I have been here I have not bothered with the booze much mainly because I am too tired to bother plus after hours of cleaning your kit up it is time for bed.
  We can look forward to the weekend break so is it home or is it do nothing.
The big attraction of home is that somehow I got back to see Pauline. I still worry about her mentality for standing for a bloke like me especially a bloke from the dog end of Walsall.
Of course, another concern of mine is that she looks more like a fifteen year old than nineteen and I sense people see me as a cradle snatcher or one of those paedophiles.
I thinking of myself as a dirty old man but sense by the time I get to see her again she will be giving me my marching orders.
Fair play because she is suspecting me of all manner of untrustworthy offenses, Of which I am innocent.
Time and lack of money is my defence.
It is a little bit harder to travel now as the last time I drove to Walsall I lent my van to a thieving Manchester turd, a fellow soldier from the RAOC who was desperate to get to the North West.
I trusted him because a long time friend of mine who knew him well, recommended him.
So basically he crapped on us both claiming the van had broken down in the Chester area and he couldn`t remember where exactly.
Unfortunately, the vehicle was not registered in my name so it was a fond farewell to that.
  Early next day after a light breakfast we are at the mercy of the large obstacle course measuring about a mile in length.
The distance is not a problem but the mud and rain are, and of course, it has to be completed in approximately ten minutes.
Once again we are walked around the obstacles and given tips on how to approach each of them.
None of the advice will be adhered to as all that will be in our minds is to do it and get it over and done with.
Within the hour several more casualties are heading to the medical centre.
  Next, please!!! the confidence course or is it the lack of confidence.
This massive lump of a tangled scaffold, planks, and cargo nets are designed to install your ability to overcome your fear of heights; Fat chance of that.
"This equipment is not going to be practised because a few are missing and the weather has made it too dangerous to risk it today, We do not want any more casualties."
As we are at a loose end the PTIs decide we will do a bit of lazing at the local swimming pool.That suits me at least the pool will be relaxing.
Seems strange that we are doing the pool in our working clothes, What have they got planned.We soon find out.
"Everybody in at the deep end and tread water."
Several voices sound out "Can`t swim Staff."
"So? touch the bottom."
We all try to help the nonswimmers so they are told to get out.
Ten minutes later we are all put on the ten foot diving board, Everyone including nonswimmers.
The first task is to mount the board and do a jump, Pretty easy if you can swim.
The second task, same board but this time a forward or back somersault.
I can sense the fear in a lot of people but remarkably all do it.
Out the corner of my eye, I spot a gigantic trapeze swing being released over the length of the pool.
From the high board, we are expected to swing the full length of the equipment and go into a dive. This should be interesting.
First up Doig! His entry into the water is the most unorthodox dive I have ever witnessed.It can only be described as the biggest belly flop possible and the following divers are not much better.
All complete the dive only to be told to "This time lets have a bit of flair with a minimum of a somersault."
I fear that some of the nonswimmers will not be looking forward to this as they have to be rescued after they enter the water.
Once again all do the jump with lots of splashing and screaming.There are a lot of reddened backs and bellies, very sore looking.
Pool time finished we fit our boots still in our wet clothes and start the half mile run back to barracks.
On the way, we stop via a tall tower where a demonstration of abseiling is given.
Abseiling down a wall if you have never done it before is nerve racking, relying on some other person to control your descent if you get into trouble.
Dodgier than that is free abseiling with nothing but fresh air to comfort you.
The really hard part is having to go over the edge leaning out straight and letting your foothold go to swing loosely at thirty feet, Easy if you don`t smash your knuckles on the overhang which several did, resulting in losing your grip on the rope.
Hope those controlling your fall can stop you before you pile into the ground. A couple of ground men are slightly injured when they are too slow and take the brunt of the falling body.
Doing the exercise is made harder by wearing heavy wet clothes.
Day over, time to dry up and change.
We are dismissed for the weekend and warned to tend to any injuries particularly open wounds and grazes and get ready for the onslaught of Monday, P Company week.
I opt to stop in Aldershot for the weekend and have a look around the Parachute museum and maybe get a few photos.
The first thing that greets you in Browning barracks is the Dakota DC something or other parked outside of the museum.
I comment along the lines of "It is either a very good calculated landing or a bad loss of direction because the nearest place to put an aeroplane down is a couple of miles away at RAE Farnborough."
We are stopped from taking photographs because of an ongoing threat from the active IRA.
It makes sense I suppose we don`t need to have any sort of connection to the paras who are in the sights of potential terrorists.
Monday arrives and our sixty six is now in the low thirties.
The first test of the day is the log race over the tank tracks which is still a quagmire ripped up by various armoured vehicles.
The P Company entrants have more than doubled as the regular paratroopers are joining us for their testing.
There are a lot of hard looking men in this regiment and the average age seems to be about ten.
Surely these are not to be our frontline troops of the future.
"This is the log race to which eight of you will be tied to, You will do a one mile figure eight lap. You will not stop for anything or anyone. If somebody falls you will need to drag them till they regain their footing. Got it?"
"Yes, Staff."
Where is Doigy when you need him and that other big bloke.
 We are on our way, I don`t know why I was worried about this.
What can go wrong when you are carrying a half ton log through eighteen inches deep mud.
There`s the first thing, man down as if it is not heavy enough.
Luckily we have only one hundred yards to the finish, let's hope the time is ok. The fallen man has managed to right himself and it is downhill let`s get a move on.
We are informed that we have barely made it so tick that box.
Some how our little team is the fastest, something to do with a drier track. I never noticed that personally.
Perhaps it is something to do with the fact there won`t be enough passes if they maintain their normal times.
Doigy has made it but he looks like he has carried the log on his own. Being the biggest has its drawbacks.
A forced march takes us to Hell hill. I`m not looking forward to this, I am exhausted.
Up the hill down the hill, up again and now they want us to do bunny hops.
"Find somebody similar sized and pick them up any way you want, to the top and back three times."
A gruelling two hours later we have got to do a five mile forced march and keep up with the leading PTI.
He has got to be the fittest man in the army and he is built like a brick shithouse.
We take the most scenic part of Aldershot and travel through the densest muddiest part of Britain.
On arriving at a twenty foot pool of mud we are encouraged to take a run to clear the deluge.
One by one it is jump, be bogged down and fall flat on your face much to the amusement of our mentors.
I set up a bit of motion and leap into the air and brace myself to be further drenched. I am still standing I must have hit a harder part of the mud slick. Wow, that will do me.
"Stringer go back and put some zest into it."
Methinks I was not meant to be standing up.
By now all have gone past the jump and they all wait in anticipation of me flopping face first into the mud.
Unbelievable I have still managed to stand. I cannot control myself and a  broad grin fills my face.
"Think you are clever Stringer, twenty sit ups, now."
If I was not wet before I am now.
The rest of the squad think it is hilarious till they are ordered to do the same.
The day has got to be nearly over as we start heading back to camp, but not without one last treat.
Down the hill, I spot the deepest grottiest tank dip wash ever covered with an oily scum and I correctly guess we have to wade through it to rid us of the excess mud we are wearing.
Wait for it any second, now when the sludge is up to our armpits."Twenty press ups and no cheating I`m counting."
After what seems like an eternity we stand up to see the following squad killing themselves with laughter.
It is going to the same for them so we all wait for, "Twenty sit ups."
I can barely lift my feet as we arrive back at base.
We are stood down and ordered to change to drier clothes ready for the small obstacle course this afternoon.
I chance a light lunch to get the taste of mud and oil out of my throat.
First tests and two more have called it a day. I will be on my own at this rate, I am not one to give up and I have come too far to bottle it.
I must confess my muscles are feeling a little tight at the moment so I take this opportunity to try to motivate our little band but some are very weary.
Tomorrow sounds interesting, the large obstacle course and the confidence course.
Meanwhile, there is a lot of kit cleaning to do and I figure that is going to be at least two hours.
The dwindling recruits assemble at the big un as we now call it and it looks terrifying. At least it is fairly dry today.
The first batch is setting off and the first casualty of the day is one of the para reg as he can`t scale the twelve foot wall.
He is marched off in disgrace with his ears ringing.I would not like to be in his shoes letting nonparas showing him up.
As each five man squad enters the course the obstacles are getting worse with a high proportion of slippages off the high balance beams, Slipping means getting wet and still having to complete the obstacle.
When my turn is due we are blessed with a fine rain drizzle to make things just a little harder.
It is supposed to be summer but the sun has been avoiding us for the best part of three weeks.so we are all in a bit of low.
I manage to get through the pain barrier but a quarter of the platoon has not.
They are all getting an ear bending but because of the failure rate and the conditions, the completion times are to be extended to include a few of the slower ones.
In the nonpara reg section, only three have the choice of leaving or back squadding; They leave.
Silly to me as they have only got to finish the testing part of P Company and it will be all over.
Off to do a little eight mile hike in our soaking uniforms we eventually arrive in time for lunch.
I flake out on my bed and consider sleeping for half an hour or risk a  light lunch The lunch wins, lets I don`t regret it and bring it all back on the confidence course.
 On arriving at the said course I stare at the top of the monster scaffolding structure.
This course is not designed to test your strength but to test your resolve and fear of heights.
Scaling various cargo nets to access lines of narrow running boards, this is where it gets a bit scary.
Running along eight inch wide planking and leaping over a four foot gap onto a seesaw board on the ground is quite easy but twenty feet in the air is a very different scenario.
An almighty leap into awaiting cargo net causes several injuries when people fail to grasp the net and fall ten feet into a deep pile of mud and cold water.
Another climb of about forty feet or so brings us to the dreaded walk of fear.
As I say on the ground this would be easy but balancing ten foot up in the air on parallel bars and scuffling along to a joint in the middle is heart stopping.
Sliding your feet on these slippery bars is bad enough but to have to lift your foot over this lump of metal is a bit iffy.
As if that is not bad enough you are required to call out your name rank and number.
I have repeated my number hundreds of times but the numbers won`t come out my mouth.I forgot what I have said but they have not got time to check if I have made it up.
Apart from the wind up here, there is the shaking of the equipment with lots of others doing their tasks.
I come to the final section which involves a zip wire flight to an awaiting cargo net, just remember to let go of the handles.
I release the handles but not at the best time and finish up bouncing off the net and rolling into a cesspit of rotting leaves.
"Fall in over there and watch for any dangerous situations."
Yes, I have completed it unscathed.
I look upwards and spot our little captain having doubts about leaping between two perilously small platforms.
"Come on sir, You can do it."
I know he is not one of us but as an officer, he is not really on the buddy buddy list.
I would not like to see anybody at this late stage of the testing so we all start shouting encouragement to the doubting jumpers.
That is it for the day and I feel very relieved that I have not got to do that again.
Next day it is a scheduled gymnasium day with lots of different fitness tests to do but the highlight for the training staff is the milling.
An hour into the gym day lets you know you are still prone to exhaustion fairly quickly.
Milling to the ignorant of you is two supposedly equally matched boxing contestants squaring up to each other with simple rules.
We are kitted out with sixteen ounce gloves which after a few seconds appear to be a lot heavier.
Rule number one: Controlled aggression.Tick that box.Rule number two: get in there and knock seven colours of crap out of him.Tick that box as well.
Rule number three: If you don`t follow the first two rules one of the staff will take your opponents place and give you a lesson in following rules.
The para lads are the skins and we are the vests but, "It`s not a competition."
One of our lot a fellow from the guards is prepared for his fight having fitted himself with a gumshield.
He takes a boxing stance.
He is a big lad six foot plus but so is one of the skins.
"And fight."
The skin takes a position and immediately lands a hefty uppercut followed by a string of nose popping jabs.
Our man is well and truly down. The bout is only a minute long but twenty seconds in and he is on the floor out for the count.
To rub salt into the ring he has to thank the victor and mop up the blood spats.
My minute passes quick and I get away with a split lip and a battered ego.
Nearly all done and there is one remaining combatant, our little Captain and no one to match him.
"Doig you are similar to the officer get in there."
Talk about David and Goliath; Doig has got six inches and two stone on this bloke.
The chief Staff informs Doig if he holds back he will be joining him in the ring.
It is only a minute but fair play to the underdog officer he is floored several times but still gets back up and fights on.
Doig is gobsmacked when the officer is declared the winner as he showed controlled aggression and Doig did not.
The winner gets a warm applause much to the annoyance of Doig.
With the milling finished so is the barrack part of P Company.
Tomorrow we are off to Wale for a few days, the Brecon Beacons to be precise.
The body count is now down to twenty five from sixty six, that's a big failure rate but apparently the normal.
Less than a week to go before final assessment to see who is off to Abingdon for Parachute training proper.
Fingers crossed Brecon here we come.


BRECON BEACON MAKERS OF MEN OR MICE


  What I know of Wales is that it is beautiful, hilly, often cold but rains a lot.
 Surprisingly Aldershot has decided to welcome summer albeit closer to autumn.
The sky is blue, no clouds and the big yellow thing, I think it is called the sun.
It is a few hours uncomfortable drive to South Wales, perhaps a chance to steal a few hours sleep.
No such luck the country roads are in poor condition and we have one of those vehicles with a screaming axle noise.
Several hours later winding through the countryside someone comments "Looks like it is going to be a nice night."
I immediately feel that he has broken the golden rule of counting your chickens before they are hatched.
"The thing to know about Welsh weather is that if you can see the mountains, it is going to rain."
The obvious retort arrives "How about if you can`t see the mountains?"
Ten voices in harmony answer "It`s already raining."
When the tittering stops we arrive at our campsite, well for three nights.
We are given a two man tent to erect on the side of a severe slope.
I tell my tent sharer to dig out the slope as to make the ground more level.
"What`s the point of that? "he mumbles.
"You have never been tenting then?It is to stop us slipping down the slope overnight."
Doubting my word he reluctantly scrapes the ground whilst I try to sort out the tent.
  "Do they need sleeping bags Staff?" enquires one of the junior staff.
"No they bloody don't, it`s not Butlins."
I bank up the three sides of the tent with any foliage I find lying about: This will act as a windbreak as the temperature is sure to drop and there is no way I`m spooning my bed mate.
We are all gathered for our first little exercise, Map reading.
After been give our coordinates we are given a grid reference to locate and report there to be given more grid points etc etc.
In the classroom, I was pretty good at reading maps but in practice, I`m not so sure.
My partner is probably the least knowledgable of all of us so his input is worthless.
"I`ll leave it to you corp."
"Thanks for that and it`s Archie on this course."I grudgingly snear.
It has been several hours and we are just approaching our first checkpoint.Why have they put the gridpoint way up a mountain?
Our rendezvous instructs on our next objective and points to a small building at the bottom of this mountain.
Confirming the new checkpoint grid I decide we can gain a bit of time if we partially run down the mountain track.
Darkness is dropping, and the compass needs to be more carefully scrutinised.
 On arriving at the checkpoint we are rewarded with a hot cup of tea and a ham sandwich. Luxury if you are famished.
A final gridpoint is given to us and we have two hours to reach the RV where transport awaits us or we have to walk it back to the camp.
I work out that as the crow flies the distance is just over three miles. A piece of cake on the flat.
The alternative is an eight mile slog but on road and track, a lot easier but the longer option.
We bump into several of our fellow Breconers and they are having difficulty making a decision.
"It`s up to you corp," decide the doubters, to take my lead and go for the longer easier route.
Several of the others plan a different route altogether so we go on our merry way.
It is nearly midnight and pitch black and I think I did the right thing as the roads are clearly visible in the glistening rain.
I hate to think what it must be like up the mountains.
 I hear the sound of running engines and make a final dash to the awaiting trucks and yet another hot cup of thick tea, Wonderful.
"Have you seen any of your colleagues Stringer?"
"Only at the last checkpoint Staff."
"Why didn`t you stick together with the failing light?"
"A difference of opinion on which route to take Staff."
 I hear the Staff talking amongst themselves.
"We will be here all night at this rate. Give them another hour, then leave a picket to redirect them."
One thirty and it is finally bed time but lack of sleeping bags soon take their toll.
It is absolutely freezing and the ground is both hard and cold.
During the night we hear our fellow travellers arriving.
Early start next morning and two men are missing,
If and when they turn up it is the end of the road for them on this course.
A fine overcast frosty morning greets us. We are still expected to shave and maintain ourselves to a military standard it is down to the stream to get water.
I can hear people screeching as the cold water and razors taking off a layer of skin come together.
The sensible way is to tip some of your hot tea into a mug and shave with that.
Dirty but more efficient. Don`t forget to clean your mug though.
We are all thinking, "What horrors are in store for us today."
A brisk walk halfway up mount Everest revels our little treat.
It is the stretcher race. In other words, four men carrying an injured lump of concrete to safety.
Weighing in at over one hundred weight it is a bit of an obese chunk.
The secret is to balance the stretcher with four similar sized stretcher bearers which work until a swap over is called for then it is anybody`s guess who is on the other corners.
The problem with the swap over we have to keep pace with a super fit instructor who is carrying nothing and we are unlikely to do that.
Some of the trailing runners are deliberately holding back to avoid their turn on the poles but the instructors are wise to that one.
With the stretcher poles on our shoulders, it is not long before agony sets in, roll on the changeover.
 One of the two stretchers breaks apart so it is cast to one side, so now we can have a longer time off the carry.
It looks like it is going to be a long haul as I see the final destination in the distance at about three miles away but with many steep climbs and falls in between.
The final stretch is up a steep incline several hundred yards.
I suggest to the superfit instructor "Can we put more men on the stretcher to lighten the load."
"As long as we finish the task in the allowed time I don`t care if you drag it."
I organise two more men to grip the inner part of the stretcher and balance the load between equally sized bearers.
It is done, the finish is within our hands or should I say legs.
"Good work Stringer on that last difficult uphill, Nice to see someone is thinking."
We take out our compasses and maps to work out our way back to base camp and lunch time.
It is quite a distance to cover but at a lot of it is downhill.
We set off in four man groups so there should be some cooperation to those who can actually read the maps.
It has been a long hard day and falling asleep comes to a lot easier.
At darkness, it is time for some night orienteering practice in two men teams.
I work out the distance only to find it is a mere three mile fairly flat jaunt; What`s the catch?
 I soon find out.There is an almost impenetrable wooded area and we have no choice but to tackle it. Both sides of the wood are steep cliffs and more heavily brambled areas.
We could not have foreseen this problem because the maps are in black and white with very little detail other than trig points and larger obstacles such as pylons or churches.
My team mate is slightly lame and is contemplating giving in.
I convince him to carry on as he will have to retrace his steps or maul his way through the thicket regardless.
He has loaded himself up with pain killers but that is only a temporary measure and can aggravate the injury to a major problem.
He suggests leaving him and sending back help but that is not going to happen. We will have to rough it together.
Fortunately, we come across two other groups so I suggest all sticking together to help the injured finish tonights objective and split back up when the finish is a few hundred yards away.
Reluctantly they agree but a bit of self preservation sets in.
"We will all fail if we take too long ."
I suggest that finishing is more important if we work as a team.
One group walks away.I feel very disappointed but I understand their concerns.
Eventually we clear the thicket say thanks for the assistance and send them on their way.
Miraculously my partner has got a bit more movement to his limbs, perhaps it is the pain killers kicking in.
As it happens it is not a timed event bit a test of moral strength.
I never told anyone about our struggle but I did question the thinking of those who walked away.
The old saying "What goes around comes around." I slept like a log and I am that knackered I am beginning to look like one as well.
Today is the big one. If I can do this I can do anything.
Armed with Ordnance survey map, a compass, and minimal food but plenty of water we are loaded into the old Bedford truck and driven off to God knows where. Keeping track via the map, in our pairs from yesterday, we get dropped off at half mile gaps.
"Show me where we are on the map."
I point to the grid reference and then given a new set of coordinates to locate.
Now left to our own devices I work out that the first checkpoint is to my west via a very large hill come mountain and the time to complete does not allow going around it.
The thing you find with scaling large hills is that when you think you are nearly at the top the hill stretches even higher.
We have been on this mountainside well over an hour and there is no sign of the checkpoint staff to give us the next grid reading.
I spot some feet sticking out of a bush, realising it is the missing Staff come mentor.
I figure that he has been dozing but it is probably better to say nothing.
Given our new destination, I point to the approximate location way down in a valley.
"If you run, as it is nearly all downhill you should do it in about ten minutes."
Who does he think we are, Christopher Chataway.
My running partner who I spent most of the last night with takes a tumble and sprains his ankle so it is going to be long haul again.
Just before the checkpoint, I check his ankle, It is badly swollen.I suggest he seeks medical help but I am talking to deaf ears.
"I`ll make it, I can`t do all of P Company again,"He painfully says.
It looks like last night has comeback to bite me. He knows I won`t leave him and he won't ask for medical help so it looks like we will both be failing it together.
As we approach the Staff one of them asks why he is limping to which he says he has something in his boot.
This final day is a round trip of about thirty miles but you can easily add five more miles onto that with the constant up and down hills.
With eight hours to complete it, I can`t see me making it at this slow speed.
His ankle is getting worse the and the end is in sight but having to slog along for over nine hours I fear that`s that for me.
With less than five hundred yards to go, I am in a little bit of a downer.
I am in front of my running partner by about ten yards when I hear the driver of a passing landrover offering my crippled partner a lift to the finish " As it is only just there."
He jumps in and I am offered the same lift to which I turn down.
Looking at my partner`s face the penny has just dropped and he decides to continue on foot with me but it`s too late, He has given in with ten minutes of pain left.
I stumble across the finish line and collapse in a heap.
"Cup of tea Arch?"
"Is it a trick question?"
I look up it is Doig."Where you been?we were just on the point of searching for stragglers."
I explain to Doig about my injured friend and the slow pace.
"He has been sent off to a hospital with a suspected broken ankle."
Well, that is bloody marvellous, He will fail anyway and my chance of passing has been jeopardised.
I`m ready to jump off a nearby bridge. All that training and pain for a selfish person to ruin it for me.
I say to Doig "It looks like I will be doing P Company tests again, I can`t give up now." 
Doigy tries to cheer me up,"You never know, a few have failed to meet the time, They might be a bit lenient."
 The stats show that eighteen of us did not make the time but surprisingly most of them are recruits from the para regiment.
We get our heads down for the night as it is going to be breaking camp at six o clock in the morning and a nice long ride back to Aldershot.
I don`t remember anything after getting on the truck because I and most of my peers are knocked out for the count.
"Wakey wakey, off the truck and fall in."
"Get some food in you, pack up most of your belongings ready for the off tomorrow and assemble after room inspection in the gymnasium at eight hundred hours."
One way or another we will all be leaving this P Company tomorrow, be it back to Middle Wallop, backsquadded or hopefully onto Abingdon.
All fed and watered we gather with all our gear in the gym.
The Para lads are on one side and us other regiments on the other.
Over half of the young paras have failed, boy are they in for it.
He starts reading out the results of our section.
 So and so pass then someone failing.
My knees are knocking. then finally some names I recognise.
" Lance corporal Doig , Pass."
 Well done you Scottish prat.
Being in alphabetical order I will be one of the last names to be called
Finally "Lance Corporal Stringer, Pass."
Did he say pass I am gobsmacked.
I can hardly hold back the tears of joy PASS.
The failures are taken to a different room to be offered the chance of returning to a unit or doing P Company again.
That will be a difficult choice.
Meanwhile, it is pats on the back big sighs of relief.
 I find out that my injured partner who is now calling it a day has informed the training Staff of my predicament and why I was late. To which they had said, "That was the right thing to do and they knew all along as it happened."
Hardly able to contain my overjoyed body it is time to embark on the next part of our journey.
Yes, Abingdon awaits us.

ABINGDON THE FINAL OBSTACLE

Drop in on RAF Abingdon

We are elated, well some of us, P Company finished, time to learn the proper business of parachuting.
Sixty six hopefuls had begun P Coy and we had been whittled down to twenty two. The slightly built Captain had passed but in his wisdom, he declined the jumping phase at this time and had decided to do P Company again to build up his strength, stamina and confidence.The man`s a fool, what has he got to prove?
 Both Doigy and I never had any doubt about passing the course it was a matter of injuries occurring, thankfully nothing that could not be overcome.
RAF world and ARMY world are two totally different cultures, We are actually treated like humans.
During the previous four or five weeks every instruction, command or order was started with "GO."
The same ploy is being used here but a bit more gentle.Using the verb go is to instil the order without thinking. Logical I suppose because you need to be a little stupid to want to jump out of a plane in the first place.
 Settled down for the rest of the day, time to check out the amenities.
First, stop the cookhouse.
What a difference to all the cookhouses I have encountered so far in my eighteen months as a soldier.
No screaming, no dodgy food, no cockroaches and a fine selection of food with a choice of various types of potatoes, Not just chips or chips.
Mealtimes are relaxed and flexible.This is a dream come true, I`m in food heaven.
 A quick one or two pints to celebrate getting this far and preparing ourselves for basic training in the art of rolling out of a parachute descent.
  Next morning we assemble in one of the main hangars where basic facts of distributing the weight of the impact with the ground in a set procedure.
 Fifty or sixty roll outs later I am getting a bit bored and look for a change of action.
Unfortunately, these actions have to be constantly practised as most injuries are at the landing stage.
Later in the day, it is time to do the same only being swung on a parachute harness.
Meeting at fuselage of a partial Hercules plane it is time to practice getting out of the plane.
Any paratrooper will understand me saying,"rear foot, rear foot, rearfoot."
This is the standard approach to the exit door so as to maintain the correct stance at the door.
These basic training methods are bored into our brains for most of the week as well as loading the plane and the hooking up procedures.
 I know it is necessary to do all this preparation work but when are we going to get in the air?
The following week is time to move onto some interesting equipment, The same procedures but from a height.
We have all seen similar rides as the fan at fairs and fetes.
Now the fan is a harness connected via a steel cable to a large fan. Simple enough you think, fasten yourself in go to the edge and jump off letting the fan slow your descent in time to adopt the correct landing action.
Not so easy, all that we have been taught has gone out the window and most of us are landing like a crock of crap.
Back up do it again and again until we do get it right.
It is hard to believe people pay for this experience.
The exiting part is fine, it is the climbing the stairs time and time again.
When the instructors are happy it is time to meet up with the parachute.Not real ones only dummies.A fitting name for some of the people around here.
This is to show how to fit the parachute because tomorrow we will be jumping from a barrage balloon out of a suspended basket.
It is only from one thousand feet so this is where the repetitive leaving, looking up and landing have got to come together.
Wearing the chute gives us a photo opportunity to which we have to pay for it as nobody is carrying a camera.If we had known somebody could have made a few quid.
 A few more techniques and more safety drills and we are free for the rest of today.
It is a bit boring stopping in the dormitory watching the same old black and white television: Don`t they know colour tv is available.
1968 prices of the new fan dangled tv is a bit extortionate.New technology and all that. I daresay in ten years time the will be begging you to buy them as black and white boxes fade out of popularity.
  When this course was assembled a couple of weeks ago there were twenty two of us thirty three of the regular paras and boo boo hiss four Royal Marine Commando personnel.
There has always been a bitter rivalry between Paras and Bootnecks, most of it friendly I hasten to add, and Abingdon is no exception to the banter, piss taking and general insults.
After the obligatory muck throwing, it is time for a bit of friendly chatter.
In the event of conflict, I think I would like them by the side of me regardless of them being bootnecks.
Doigy is impressed with the bootneck tales of far land adventures and exotic locations.
It sounds good to me but I don`t fancy being stuck on a ship for weeks or months at a time, besides we will have our own tales to tell in the future.
A short drive to Weston Green and the balloon gets bigger as we approach it. It is quite a sight to behold and the basket looks a little flimsy, to say the least.
"Have there ever been any accidents on this type of jumping ." a nervous voice trembles.
"Only with people who forget what they have learned.You will be doing two descents today to evaluate your landing procedures, and remember you don`t have to jump."
Well, that`s not going to happen, I am looking forward to this.
I am in the fourth lot to rise to the dizzy height of a thousand feet.
As the balloon goes up I feel my confidence going down.
As we go higher the basket begins to weave at it is blown by the wind and it is tipping at a very precarious angle.
The basket is turned so the exit is now at the bottom of the slope. There are strange smells coming from someone who must be as nervous of me.
"Remember your training, exit, look up identify your angle of approach to the ground and adjust your feet."
I`m up and am put to the basket gate. I can feel my bottom squeezing as I stare into open space.I am leaning that far back I think I will be on the basket floor shortly.
"Red on, release the bar and adopt parachuting position, Green on GO."
I feel myself sailing through the air, looking up to check my chute has opened: It has. With a sigh of relief, I hear a loud speaker telling me to get my feet in the right place.
I do as I am told and suddenly I have hit the ground.
Well, that was not too bad, When is the next one due?
We had been told there will b an initial drop of about two hundred feet before the chute fully opens but forgot to mention that your stomach has to catch up with it.
All the first time jumpers are taken to one side and given a bollocking for various mistakes and reminded we will be penalised if we do not improve on the second jump which is in about half an hour.
It is hard to comprehend but two of our colleagues are refusing to do the second jump, probably knowing what is coming but all that training and a simple jump stop them. Unbelievable.
The second jump goes without a hitch apart from approaching the door of course.
We sit down and watch the remaining jumpers finish their second jump.
Luckily there is a tea wagon on the field, so we can relax for a while.
  Back at camp, we are all reminded that it was not a good display but nothing they have not seen before.
Tomorrow the serious training for aircraft exiting begins.
Having run through the basics again it is time for the much acclaimed "Knacker Cracker."
This leap from a tall tower onto a sort of zip wire is designed to simulate entering the slipstream and the secret is to throw yourself out away from the building keeping the wire taut.
Failure to keep the wire taut results in a drop of about ten feet and hence the name of knacker cracker.
I successfully do my leap but I hear several people screaming in pain; Obviously not kept the wire taut.
We are required to do it again and one person is not prepared to be cracked again and calls it a day.
Surprisingly several of the men refusing to continue with training are Para reg. I would not like to be in their boots on their return to Aldershot. It is not only their embarrassment but they will be kicked out of the paras and be assigned another regiment normally an infantry regiment where they can expect a lot of ribbing.
 Some of them might qualify for leaving the army altogether depending on their age, Best of luck to them.
Back to our training.
A few more mishaps and cracking and we are booked for a flying experience.
Most of us have never travelled by plane including myself so let`s see what all the fuss is about.
We all fit ourselves with proper chutes and go through the motions on a mock up fuselage.
The adrenalin is flowing as we board the C130 or better known as the Hercules.
The take off is an eye opener. Ten minutes later the command "Stand up, hook up," comes.
going through the checks here is an almighty rush of wind as the dispatch doors are opened.
There is that horrible smell of somebody crapping themselves, It`s not me, I made a point of visiting the toilet before we boarded.
One by one we are guided to the open door and invited to look out over the dropping zone. What a wonderful experience I can feel myself wanting to leap into the great yonder, but not for now.
Thrilled with the experience of the flight we are treated to the landing as normally we would not do this part having assumedly already jumped.
Weather being OK the first of six planned descents is on for tomorrow noon and most of the following days.
Take off check, stand up check, hook up check, revolting smell check. There is no turning back now.
The rush of air and the noise soon liven everybody up.
"Sticks of six, line up."
Number one is at the door, Red on.Pause, green on, GO.
It echoes through the Hercules "Rear foot, rear foot." and away we go.
I check my canopy, ok, I check my descent approach ok I will be doing a left leg landing roll.
On the ground, I have landed fine, now to roll up the chute and report to the DZ coordinator.
All checked in, I can watch the remaining sticks do their first jump.
What a wonderful experience to talk about, I can hardly wait for tomorrow.
Driving back to base everyone is amazed to see one of the most recognisable aircraft shapes ever, in my eyes.
It is the magnificent twin boom Argosy, An aircraft close to its final days as RAF transporter come para despatching role.
We will be doing one of its last sorties in its role as a paratroop facility.
The basics are similar to the Hercules, just different seating arrangements.
We board the Argosy next morning, refreshed on slightly different techniques and off to ten minute flight before the doors are open.
  The next jump will be changed to the normal exiting the aircraft on both sides at the same time.
There are more actions to learn and this time we are jumping from only eight hundred feet so not a lot of time if anything goes wrong.
Having learned how to recognise a BP, a blown periphery and use of the emergency chute it is time for jump number three from aircraft.
A BP is is basically when one or more of the rigging lines somehow blows over the canopy making the chute to look like a massive bra, not pretty and possibly death if you don`t react quickly.
Green on Go, I am heading earthwards. I look up to check my canopy. Having made a bad exit I find that my rigging lines are twisted and that if I don`t kick myself out of them I will not be able to control my landing.
With my final kick out of the twists, I am hitting the ground like a bag of shit.
I am badly winded but nothing was broken but a stretcher crew comes to check me out just in case.
A red face RAF instructor comes to give me the third degree on parachuting incompetence and puts me down for more in flight training.
Over the next couple of jumps, the length of the sticks in increased to normal twenty plus sticks both sides so a new danger arrives.
If you are unfortunate to land above another canopy, the air in your chute is insufficient to maintain the weight and you tend to drop like a stone until it reflates and if you go underneath the other canopy the same happens to him.
Of course, if you are close to the ground on the last lack of air you are in trouble.
It did happen to me but I managed to get away from the other chute pretty quick. Still nerve racking.
All our sticks have landed ok but we are told to spread out to observe the following despatch of the part timers, Forty TA paratroopers. Our purpose to aid the injured.
I thought our jumping was a bit erratic but these territorials are abysmal.
It is like they have had no training at all. One of them is landing close to me and he is trapped in his lines lying in a horizontal position. 
He lands with a hefty bang, he has got to be hurt.
To my surprise, he stands up, starts rolling up his chute and says,"That was great when is the next one?"
He cannot be normal, I don`t know how he is not hurt.
It is a good result for the TA only four people with minor injuries.
It is part of their obligatory fourteen days qualifying period over the year. They do this for fun?
Every jump has gone more or less ok but the frightener is the last one when we jump from one thousand feet at night.
This is all part of normal para life, It is not always practical to jump during daylight hours.
Still, summer time months so our last jump won`t be until half past nine, luckily it is a bright night with a virtual full moon.
Out of the aircraft, carry out normal checks and try to work out where you are going to land.
Contrary to what you expect it is quite light in the air at height so you have time to see where you are going but when within hundred feet of the ground it rapidly goes dark, very dark and there is no time for your eyes to adjust, so fingers crossed and instinctively let your training kick in.
We have all successfully landed with only minor knocks and bruises.
We start to congratulate each other on the final jump and can have a few pints knowing it is all finished till ten o clock in the morning for final confirmation and debriefing.
 On parade, it is ten o clock.
The commanding officer congratulates us on our "magnificent work."
  Now, this is the thing I have worked so hard for.
I am presented with my paratrooper's wings and a shake of his hand.
Of course, I will be one of the few army personnel to have two sets of wings on my right arm as I already bear my Aircraft Technician class two wings.
A final goodbye and thank you to the training staff we begin our journey back to Aldershot.
We are all congratulated and to collect our gear to return to our units.
  Doigy and I scrounge a lift to our final destination, "21 flight
RAE Farnborough.

Of course, we are rewarded for all our training and hard work.

Yes it is a pay rise, wait for it, An extra £1.50 per week

2! flight,16th Parachute Brigade here we come!!!!!


Wherein lies another story.

 

 


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