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Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of Alan Crompton Sandbag
More Things That Were Said And Done
After reading Paul Treen’s piece in the ‘Pull up a Sandbag’ page (Said and Done!), I thought I’d trawl through the gungier (is that Tonfanau speak?) corners of my memory to see what I could find. The AAJLR I remember was a place of three starvations, food, sex and nicotine. Let’s be honest, the food was disgraceful, the women invisible and we would have sold our souls for 50 ‘Park Drive’
There was always a snide eagle eyed Junior Lance Corporal on cookhouse duty who’s challenge, “you’ve been round before” could bring down the wrath of God upon any unfortunate soul who tried to cheat the system. Angry denials and cries of “oh no I bloody haven’t,” were useless, unless one had a very good line in lying (something we all developed as a matter of necessity) It was like the first chapter in ‘Oliver Twist’. What for? The scoff was abysmal yet he, whom the MO decreed should have a double rations chit, was King. The foul food policy was obviously deliberate or why did the quality improve 1,000% when some big noise arrived on an inspection?
If all the stories I heard about sexual conquest were true then every female (human that is) from Barmouth to Aberdovey was a nymphomaniac. As for leave time, to hear the tales told, some of my contemporaries couldn’t have eaten drunk or defecated, they were so busy doing the horizontal tango. It’s a wonder they weren’t all in the sick bay with STD’s. Yet there was a lad in my platoon called Joe, he looked about 12 years old, had that country boy rosy cheeked, cherubic look, the face of an ‘Enid Blyton’ hero. One day we came back from lunching at the Ritz to find him packing his kitbag. Poor kid was almost in tears, “that fucking cow got herself pregnant on purpose. They’re kicking me out on account I got to marry the bitch and I’m only 17.” We were shocked to the core, this was akin to discovering that the WVS lady had a pitch in Lime Street and serviced merchant seamen four at a time.
The most common cry heard in Tonfanau was surely, “two’s up,” or, “give us a drag”. Thinking back, what a revolting habit that was. If you managed to scrounge someone’s dog end there was no telling how many other mouths had been round the damned thing. Most people bought that ‘roll your own’ stuff and make cigarettes that got more like a pencil lead as the week wore on. Then we’d search through all our fluff stuffed pockets in a vain search for a dog end we’d nipped and forgotten. I got round this by leaving some cash at home and getting my dear mama to send me a pound postal order every Sunday. What a smug little bleeder I was come Tuesday post.
Everyone remembers how important sport was in the AAJLR ethos, “a healthy mind in a healthy body” and all that twaddle. I was once press-ganged into a ‘friendly’ rugby game between ‘Alamein’ and that scurvy lot ‘Tunisia’. If this was ‘friendly’ then Viet Nam was a Tupperware party. The referee was an officer who knew less about refereeing than I did about nuclear physics. He must have had an early case of ‘Stevie Wonder syndrome’ for ‘Tunisia’ platoon were committing mass GBH and he blithely ignored everything.
They thumped us and jumped us, then sat on us and shat on us. I dodged most of the mayhem and carnage but in the last minute one of their lot bore down on me at a great rate of knots, I thought, ‘make yourself small and he’ll ignore you’ but no, the bar steward ran at me and pushed me into the filthiest puddle in Wales. I spat out a gob-full of mud and yelled, “cotton runt”.
The referee stopped the game and called me over, “I will not tolerate language like that. Good job there’s only a minute to play or I’d send you off.”
“What for sir?”
“Un-gentlemanly conduct” - Even after 40 odd years I can’t get my head round that one.
Remember the inter-regimental sports days? I recall once when one of our boxers was thumping seven shades out of one of theirs. (I think it was the infantry mob from Oswestry) The noise in the Globe was unbelievable. Our beloved RSM stood up after the bout and came out with the following piece of gibberish, “the referee can’t hear his self think, or give instructions to the boxers” he bawled at us, “you will keep silent during the boxing and cheer only in the intervals.” That order was obeyed for all of ten seconds. After a couple of minutes the RSM, his face like thunder, got up and left followed by many a rousing cheer and witty comment. He had his revenge the following Wednesday morning.
The first time I fired my SLR I was extremely nervous. Some of the other lads had been in the Cadets and knew what to expect but it was new to me. I lay on the ground trying to see the target in the mist and the Weapons Training Sergeant said something like, “you have to hate that target, you have to think it’s a slant eyed Mongol what wants to murder your mother, rape your sister and kick your dog. If any bastard kicked my dog - I’d blow his balls off.”
Then there was going sick, what a ‘Monty Python’ adventure that could be. During the summer of 62 I cut a finger and within days my hand went septic, quickly followed by the other one. Some mornings when I woke up my arms looked like ‘Popeye’s’. So three times a week for six weeks I reported to the sickbay to have zinc ointment dressings changed. One day I heard the MO scream at some nerd trying to ‘work his ticket’ “flat feet, flat feet, don’t talk to me about flat feet, I’ve seen men with flatter feet than you win the Victoria Cross, now get out!!!” Ooops as they say.
There was always the joy of the drill square. One lovely day I was in a squad and our performance could only be described as abysmal. The drill instructor was a Staff Sergeant in the RMP and he was well pissed off. The knuckles on his left hand were white from gripping his pace stick but his face was redder than his hat. We were petrified.
After maybe 15 minutes of this shambles he called us to a halt, “you are the biggest shower of shit I have I have ever seen in my life. What are you?”
We replied in unison, “we’re the biggest shower of shit you ever saw in your life Sergeant.”
He continued, “if I shout ‘left tarn’ I mean army left. For those of you what don’t know yore left from yore right, yore left hand is yore wankin’ hand, unless of course you are a Chimpanzee and uses your feet.”
Surely that can’t be right, if a Chimpanzee used its feet it would fall over.
Then there was the apocryphal tale of the lad in ‘B’ Company who was stopped by one of the Drill Sergeants who bawled at him, “get your bloody head up boy, you looks like a Jew what lost a tanner.” The story went that the boy was in fact half Jewish and wrote home. The proverbial then hit the fan. If the Drill Sergeant did have to apologise as the story says he did it was probably the first time in British Military History.
Is it my memory playing tricks on me or did the sun always shine when I was in the Education Wing and then piss it down when I was on Adventure Training? Must have been the military version of Sods law in operation. I once spent an entire hour in a science lesson, peering into a microscope then drawing what I saw. At the end of the lesson the Education Corps Officer made me stand in front of the class, “are you trying to be funny Crompton?” he demanded angrily.
“No sir.”
“No sir? No sir? Then please explain what it is you’ve just spent the last hour drawing, Crompton.” I looked down at the paper. I’d drawn my eyeball.
I’ve often thought that the main purpose of the AAJLR was the manufacture and spreading of rumours. The place was always rife with them. I was proud of the one I started that Edmund Hillary had found the nearest biological relatives of Lance Corporal Fagg half way up Mount Everest. The rumour machine went into overdrive during the summer of 62 when the Cuban Missile Crisis was at its height. I was walking back to the billet one day when some daft sod accosted me, “Hey Crompton it’s started, President Kennedy just declared war,” he yelled.
“Don’t talk such bollocks,” I replied. At that exact moment two jet fighters from RAF Valley flew over the camp and frightened the living daylights out of both of us.
“See, you clever count, what did I tell you,”
I cannot finish a piece about the AAJLR without mentioning my old adversary the only captive Yeti in existence, Lance Corporal Fagg. I was once again on RP’s and it was just before the Orderly Officer’s inspection on the Guardroom veranda. Some minor blemish in my turnout enraged Fagg for he asked me those classic questions, “does I look like a fucking iddyott? Do you fink I’m fik?”
I was economical with the truth and replied “no Corporal,” keeping my face dead straight. This was no mean feat as out of the corner of my eye I could see my fellow defaulter’s shoulders heaving in silent mirth. I could have sold them into slavery at that moment. It was even worse for my body was screaming at me, “for God’s sake let me fart.” How I controlled my face, voice and anal sphincter I shall never know. Just in the nick of time some poor unfortunate snorted. Fagg’s bat ears picked it up instantly and he dashed to the other end of the line to find the culprit. During the ensuing screaming and yelling I was able to ease my discomfort. This led Lance Corporal Fagg to ask the ultimate army question, “which of yew dirty bastards done dat?”
Happy Days?

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