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Sandbag Reminiscences of Richard J Abraham Sandbag
Flash, Bang, Ooops!
As with all others at the Tonfanau Holiday Camp my first introduction to the thunder-flash was when we were lined up – I think on the ranges over the railway line – and watched while one was placed under a tin hat, and set off. The explosion sent the metal headgear very high into the air to demonstrate how bloody dangerous they could be.
Now, those who have read anything about my AAJLR days, or indeed who remember me there, will know that I was an uninspiring Junior Leader who – by and large – kept his nose clean (for example I cannot specifically recall Lance Corporal Hermes Fagg or any other RP) but who was never destined to make his mark in HM Services (Army). The thunder-flash however did its best to make several marks on me, and all due to my ineptitude as a 'fighting soldier'. Its small wonder that I ended up as a Pay Clerk!
As has been shown in Afghanistan street fighting is little more sophisticated now than it was through France and Germany in World War II, and the AAJLR prepared us for that type of hand-to-hand stuff; this even before the skill became vital in the Northern Ireland troubles which started some four years after I was at Tonfanau.
We carried out our 'house clearance' exercises at somewhere I seem to remember was a derelict village or possibly an area of houses at Morfa, or similar. The instructions were made abundantly clear to us. They were to "chuck in the thunder-flash, wait for the bang then rush screaming into the room with your SLR and spray the rounds at waist-belt height". No problem. Even a half-wit could do that. So, in went my thunder-flash, heard a bang and rushed screaming into the room. Unfortunately, the explosion I had heard hadn't come from my 'grenade' so as I entered the room, my bugger went off! Beautifully illuminated apparently, my trigger finger reacted by spraying the room all over the place – thank God we only used blanks – and I failed that test miserably.
Next it was upstairs clearance. Up onto the landing went my thunder-flash. Trouble was that it landed in the only hole on that upper floor and then dropped down behind me. Finger on the trigger I was all set for the explosion, when I would gallop up the stairs and give the enemy hell – at waist-belt height of course. Even this many years distant I remember that in the small space under those stairs it was a bloody big bang! Frightened me half to death, I jerked upright cracking my (luckily helmeted) head on the wall, was hit in the arse by assorted rubble and debris from the floor, hat down over the eyes, trigger finger responded by spraying my bullets God knows where.
The instructor, who also in hindsight had been standing rather too close to me, appraised my performance by pointing out that the likelihood of my making a fighting soldier as long as a certain part of my anatomy was equipped with a hole, was less than remote. If memory serves he didn't put it quite as polite as that.
Suffice it to say that I believe my acquaintanceship with the thunder-flash started and ended with that exercise!
Richard J Abraham.

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