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The Guardhouse

A story from Alan Crompton

Godfather Of Tonfanau
This short piece is dedicated to my - admittedly tarnished - memories of a man and the effect he had upon me. Even now after 41 years I find myself asking "was he for real, or what?" I refer to the doyen of the AAJLR disciplinary system, Lance Corporal Fagg. When I first heard his name I misunderstood and thought it was 'Fogg', which of course is thick, foul and nasty and often covered large areas of Mid-Wales in gloom and despondency back in the 1960's.
Having read most of the 'pull up a sandbag' essays in this website and had emails from several old comrades, it seems that everyone who ever attended the AAJLR knew him. Which than begs two questions, first was Lance Corporal Fagg there the whole time the place was open, and second why did his regiment - The Royal Green Jackets - not ask for his return? (If anyone knows the answers please don't bother passing them on).
To anyone not privileged enough to have known the Lance Corporal how can I describe him? He was taller than me (but as I'm only 5ft 4inches tall, most people are). I suppose you could say he was a cross between Walter Mitty, Homer Simpson and the worst kind of schoolyard bully. I would not say I remember Fagg as being ugly, (not when there are dozens of better words in the thesaurus) and in my opinion, to compensate for a limited IQ he possessed a large measure of low cunning and a never-ending ration of malice.
He was also dentally challenged as nearly all his upper teeth were missing. The only time I ever heard him mention this loss was when he told a captive audience that he’d lost them during a ‘shoot out’ whilst on a jungle patrol – ‘somewhere out East’, a ricocheting bullet hit him in the mouth. Ignoring the terrible pain he kept on firing till all the bad guys were dead. No doubt he was waiting for his medal in the post. Camp scuttlebutt said he’d lost his teeth in a NAAFI brawl in Aldershot. I know which version I believed.
Despite Fagg's claims, he did not run the Tonfanau guardroom all by himself. He had a boss (at least while I was there) a huge barrel-chested, black moustached terror machine, Provost Sergeant 'Tanky' Wilson. I often pondered how the RTR got Wilson inside a tank. Did they take the turret off; shove him in with the help of a huge shoehorn then bolt the turret back on again? The Lance Corporal also had a workmate, a Scotsman called Lance Bombardier Tweed, who did not have Fagg's charisma but did have all his own teeth. Rumour had it that in the event of war, Tweed was to be pumped full of helium and used as a barrage balloon.
Being a stroppy, sloppy little Junior Leader I made Lance Corporal Fagg's acquaintance shortly after joining 'Alamein' Platoon ('C' Company's hotbed of sedition and mutiny). For the next 15 months he and I spent many hours together and I learned first hand how morons get their revenge on an uncaring world. However I would not want anyone to think all my memories of the man are negative, far from it, my most abiding memory is one of laughter and it happened thus.
It must have been one of the few weekends when there were no prisoners in the cells so we of the 'Saturday afternoon happy gang' were detailed to scrub and polish and bumper the guardroom office. Lance Corporal Fagg was in a very jocular and expansive mood. I suspected that this was due to him having met an accommodating female (of which species I leave ewe to speculate) and the absence of the Provost Sergeant.
When we had completed our tasks to the Lance Corporal's satisfaction he bade us sit a while so he could regale us with his exploits whilst in Germany, "Yah, when I was over in BAOR, I usta motor dahn to Fwaknfurt of a weekend, cos me an Elvis was big buddies. I was like his bodyguard, I yewsta keep all dem Kraut bints orf of im. Right bleedin job it were, they was crazy for 'im. One day Elvis says ter me, 'Terry if yew evah comes over to Nashville in America, yew can be my right hand man, I give you a job any time yew likes'. 'Naah Elvis,' I says, 'I'm a British sowjah, I gotta fink abaht the honour of me regiment an' all vat.' He was almost sobbin' ole Elvis was, almost sobbin".
Lance Corporal Fagg thought we were laughing with him.

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