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Pull Up A Sandbag
Sandbag Reminiscences of Paul Treen Sandbag
Things We Said And Did!
I wonder how many of you remember "Tonfanauspeak" - the sayings etc. we first heard at Tonfanau.
A few examples:
"Stand by your beds with your best boots in your hand."
"Thumbs in line with the seams of your Trousers."
"WAH -toop threep - WAH" - screamed out on the square by Drill Sergeants.
"What's with Chips?" - uttered by ravenous Junior Leaders at supper time when the ACC would only dish out chips with grotty dishes like eggs left from breakfast. The ACC cooks serving out the chips practiced physiological warfare on all Junior Leaders. They would scoop up a big pile of chips, look you in the eye till they saw the gleam in your eye, then with a deft flick of the wrist (which must have taken ages to perfect) shook off 90% of the chips and slung about 10 on your plate!
I got to practice the same thing one day - we were looking after some Army cadets for a weekend and I was promoted to Chip server one meal time. I was even meaner than the ACC with the portions, with the result that the Junior Leaders in the cookhouse were left with a chip mountain which we soon demolished.
I don't expect many of the Cadets eventually joined up.....
"Two warmers into the bank." - On range days at the firing point the first two SLR rounds were fired at the bank behind the targets to get the weapon functioning. Even I, one of the worst shots in the western world, managed to hit the bank. Although I was known to fire at the target next to mine. Those No 11 targets all looked alike......... I think the boys in the butts were issued with a 7.62 pencil when I was firing!
"Miss - over". Everyone will remember this drill timing used on the march when the squad Junior NCO ordered for example 'Eyes right' to salute an officer. However at Tonfanau, the squads would bellow this out at the tops of their voices to ensure that the officer would wake up and return the salute! There are probably still a few deaf old Majors as a result of their Tonfanau postings.
"23994388 Junior Gunner Treen Royal Regiment of Artillery SAH!" - During room inspection by 'R' Company Commander we all had to come smartly to attention when this feared figure approached our bedspace and chant our respective mantras as above. (I often wondered - who were 23994387 and 23994389?). One day, ordered to about turn, I smartly complied, but unfortunately had stood too near my bed, and as I brought my leg up - thigh parallel to the ground - no cow kicking as instructed by my wonderful drill sergeant - my left foot hit the bed frame, demolishing my lovely shiny bulled best boot toecap.
"Son - you and your section have just been over-run by 10,000 screaming Chinks!" - Weapon training Sergeant to J/Gnr Treen who had failed to complete the Bren barrel changing drill in the required time. My SLR magazine filling skill was just as bad.
"Put this in your pack for me - its my supper tonight." - Cpl Oliver, PTI out on a run with 2 Platoon, found a rabbit which had just been run over.
"Now you'll find out who your mates are!" - Sympathetic Platoon Sergeant to unlucky Junior Leader, out in the Welsh hills on exercise, who had accidentally dropped his mess tin of stew. To be fair I think most of us donated a couple of spoonfuls - got rid of the gristly bits anyway!
"Good turnout - enjoy your trip to Towyn." - NEVER said by Lance Corporal Fagg.
"The top of the mountain MUST be just over this f*ckin' crest!" - Everyone at Tonfanau must have said this at some time. Even the Padre.
Rob Summers was wrong (His Sandbag Story) - They didn't steal his whole bed - they left behind one of the iron feet. I believe the rest was up in the roof rafters. Full marks to Rob - he acted very nonchalantly when he noticed it had gone!
"Pay and paybook correct, sir!". Remember the pay parades when, after marching up to the officer, halting, saluting and all the other military things, you had about 3 milliseconds to scoop up your paybook, examine the entry, check the paltry sum, state the required phrase, salute, right turn and march smartly away. I wonder what would have happened if a Junior Leader had said "Excuse me sir, I think I'm tuppence short"? - or even "You've given me a bob too much".
"How many baked beans do we get in a portion sir?" - Idiot Junior Leader to Captain Best, ACC, who was giving us new recruits an excellent lecture on how the Army would feed and water us so that we would be lean, mean soldiers of the Queen. Don't remember Captain Best's reply (Probably same as Captain Mainwaring - "Stupid boy").
"When I blow the whistle, get lined up in the corridor outside my office. I don't care if you've just come out of the shower and your tools are dangling, just get lined up" - Sergeant Finlay, Admin Sergeant to us 2 Platoon 'R' Company recruits.
"Cor the Army's great - they even supply bed socks" - 2 Platoon recruit on first day. We'd just been allocated to our room and bed spaces. On each bed was a set of striped pyjamas, a stable belt, and a few pairs of the grey issue socks - hence the remark! I do recall that next day we were all issued with a set of denims, but that boots were issued a day or so later. 2 Platoon was a sight to behold marching - or should I say walking in step - dressed in denims and a wide range of civvy shoes - winkle pickers, Chelsea boots and all the other styles in fashion in January 1964.
In 'R' Company, we all had our first Army dental inspection. I had already missed one appointment due to a previous engagement at the .22 rifle range trying to qualify - I couldn't hit a cows arse with a banjo as the old saying goes. "Your pay is more important than your teeth son." said the Sergeant at the firing point. "You will stay here as long as it takes. Sod the dentist." (The ammo budget for the MOD in 1964 must have taken a hammering) So, the dental officer was already pissed off with me for wasting his time when I eventually got into the chair. Remember dental treatment in the 60's? - drills worked by foot power etc. - just slightly better than Middle Ages torture chambers. That was civvy dentists - rumour was that Army dentists (and MO's) were rejects from Civvy Street.
I was terrified as the dentist advanced with the instruments of torture. I was gripping the handles of the chair so hard that I broke off the right hand handle.
"GET OUT BOY AND DON'T COME BACK" screamed the enraged officer.
I obeyed with a sigh of relief....
By coincidence I have a dental appointment today. No worries - What a difference 40 years makes!!
I suppose that Drill produced more sayings than anywhere else. They seemed new to us hearing them for the first time, but no doubt were used on each new intake right back to when soldiers didn't have numbers because they all knew each other. Yes, I heard that at Tonfanau!.
Some gems from the Tonfanau Drill Sergeants circa 64/65:-
The right turn - "Swivel on the balls of your feet - Yew didn't know you had balls on your feet did yew lad?"
Marching - "Bags of swank", "Dig your heels in" and "Don't look down, I've checked there's no money on the square" etc.
Arms drill - We were always instructed to strike the wooden parts of the rifle as hard as we could during the various drill movements. Sergeant Gracie promised to pay for any rifle stocks or butts damaged in this way. Like mugs we always did try and break them! Of course, he was on a safe bet!
Finally, I remember on parade one day in Imphal platoon, Sergeant Brooking berating one unfortunate who had a bit of a nervous tic. - "Stand still, you look like your doin' the f*ckin' Twist."

"Oh no - The sweets must have fallen out of my rucksack!" - During one of the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions we had wandered over those steep Welsh hills all day and were knackered. The only thing keeping us going to the top of the last peak was the promise of a rest and getting stuck into the compo tins of sweets and chocolate, which were quite good in those days. We collapsed at the top, and started salivating at the thought of chocolate.Then came that anguished cry from one of the patrol rummaging frantically through his bergen. I had never been so disappointed in my life! The offender narrowly avoided a lynching - luckily for him we were above the tree line.
Later, back at camp, we found out that we had been victims of the Great Chocolate Robbery. The night before the expedition, all the compo tins were distributed between the patrol members to pack in the bergens. Some devious bastards had then nicked the tins of chocolate and scoffed the lot in the comfort of their bed spaces. YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!!!
"Give that man another portion - he said please." Captain Best of the ACC was on duty in the cookhouse one dinner time observing the feeding of the ravenous hordes (I said hordes!). He was so impressed by one polite Junior Leader saying thank you to the chef serving that the lad was rewarded with a double helping. Of course, everyone behind him in the queue were then saying "Please, thank you and all sorts of pleasantries - but to no avail. Captain Best was no fool! The likely lads were soon back to the normal cookhouse tricks like grabbing bread and jam from the tables nearest the queue!
"Thank you Treen, I've seen quite enough." - We RA lads went to the Driving Wing for continuation training where we inflicted untold damage on the Austin 1 tonners and the local civilian driving instructors. This took place initially round the old gun emplacements just outside the camp near the sea. We later progressed to venturing out onto the roads and even drove at night on a couple of occasions. Some lads soon had the knack of double declutching and all the other skills. I evidently didn't and when the officer supervising my driving test made the above comment within a few minutes, my optimistic reply was: "Have I passed then sir?"
(I later passed my test driving a 10 ton Matador truck in Singapore - but that's another one of my stories on my Borneo link).

Sergeant Gracie was determined that his lads of 2 Platoon of 'R' Company would have the best turn out in the British or any other Army. Now, you will all remember that the Shirt KF was a notorious item of kit that always scruffy, however long you would spend ironing it. (Iron, what's an iron? was the reaction of most of us). To ensure that our shirt collars were always neat and tidy, Sergeant Gracie, like Private Baldrick, had a cunning plan. Each member of the Platoon had to sew (another swiftly acquired skill) a length of cotton under each of the 2 points of the collar. After putting on our ties (no Windsor knots) we would then wind each of the trailing lengths of cotton round the button of the shirt breast pocket thus preventing any untidy bits of collar flapping about. Ingenious eh? Well, it was to Sergeant Gracie but a pain in the arse to us.......!
To complete this picture of military smartness, we were also kitted out in those other modern (in 1939) shapeless sartorial triumphs - Battle dress and berets. We looked like extras from a World War II film, so much so that we referred to our newly issued headwear as the Dunkirk beret! I remember that my BD jacket was so ill fitting round my scrawny chest that the tailoress in the camp had to attach a little metal popper to the lapels to take up the slack.... Could have been worse, previous intakes were still wearing what must have been the final stocks of Service Dress. I have to say that they looked smarter than us!!
Plus another saying from the Drill Sergeants when teaching Eyes Right - "I want to hear them eyeballs CLICK"

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