META name="verify-v1" content="i1TVJEv2OOOg+fzf1aEgIJ1srnyAsn3jT1UDDDhjUU4=" />

Friday, June 30, 2006


There's a Blackadder sketch where Blackadder and George are talking about mines. Every minewarfare lesson I've ever had has had this sketch as an introduction. The script goes something along the lines of:

George: If we do happen to step on a mine, Sir, what do we do ?

Blackadder: Normal procedure, Lieutenant, is to jump 200 feet in the air and scatter oneself over a wide area.

This is very funny (no trust me it is) and I always laugh. Patrolling around a small Bosnian town and seeing 5 year old child missing both legs below the knee puts a different spin on things.

There is a particularly nasty mine in the Balkans known as the PROM-2. If you were unfortunate enough to sit through Behind Enemy Lines then this is the mine that the hero manages to outrun. He is the only person ever to outrun a PROM-2.

The mine has 6 tripwires running from its centre and is very sensitive. If you set it off a small explosive charge pops it out of the ground to about waist height before the main charge spreads shrapnel over a wide area. If you are lucky, and you are an adult, then all that will happen is that you will lose both legs. Of course if you are child then it will take your head off.

There are still thousands of mines buried in the Balkans. I think about that sometimes when I'm going for a walk in the countryside in the UK.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Back in 2006 we've just found out where we are going to be for the next two years. It can be quite strange sometimes knowing that you are going to be uprooting your family but having no idea where you are going to.

Now we are waiting to be told where we'll be living (please let it be a house) although our first look at the new place will be when we turn up.

Would you move to a house you'd never seen?

Saturday, June 24, 2006


"How long do you reckon they're going to be?"

"I've no idea."

"I'm f**king bored."

"Me too."

We'd been sat in a layby on a hill. There were a number of UN vehicles in the layby. Halfway down the hill there were people digging.

The war had passed through the area a number of years before. There'd been a number of local atrocities - mainly committed by people from neighbouring villages who had traded with each other, drunk with each other and generally got on well. I'd never understood the localised blood letting. I could sort of understand how vicious bastards like Arkan could move into areas and terrorise the local population. But the prospect of getting one of your neighbours to castrate another one of your neighbours with his teeth before getting them to try to kill each other was a bit beyond me.

The first of the body bags came up the hill and went into the UN truck.

I was quite glad I was bored in my LandRover.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Englands 11

If any of you hadn't noticed 11 blokes keep turning out to represent the country at kicking a football around a field.  This has got me thinking, and I've had plenty of time for that this week.  Which 11 people would I pick to represent the country as a whole.  This is my list:
The Queen - whatever you want to say about the Royals she still does a fantastic job at representing this country.
Delia Smith - the 'saviour' of British cooking?  Dunno - but the girl's done well.  Also very funny on Sky Sports when she's drunk.
Tommy Atkins - ok so he doesn't really exist but the archetypal English soldier of the two world wars.  We have a lot to thank him for.
Del Boy - where would this country be without people like him?
William Shakespeare - need I say more?
John Constable - ok maybe his paintings are the England of yesteryear but they do some up the English countryside.
The Beatles - slightly cheating here because there are four of them.
John Cleese - to represent the best of British humour - I'd probably cheat here as well and have the entire Monty Python team.
Nelson - not a massive fan of the navy but the boy done good.
Boris Johnson - represents the best, and worst of British politicians.
Prince William - because he's a nice bloke and will do the country well in the future.
So who would you pick?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

You've Got Mail

It's always nice to get a letter. A proper one that is. Not just something that arrives in your inbox.

The British army supplies 'blueys' - free airmail letters - to both soldiers and to anyone who wants to write to them*.

The arrival of a bluey is often the highpoint of your day. A link back to the normal world. The more difficult the situation the bigger the morale factor of a letter arriving.

Somewhere up in my loft there is a box with all the blueys I received from Mrs Soldier when I was in Bosnia. Must go and find them.

I'd also like to point out that a no point did any vile squaddie wipe his arse on a bluey, fold it up and mail it to his mate somewhere else in the country. No - that definitely didn't happen.

* - You can walk into a post office and ask for some if you like. Try addressing a letter to "A British soldier in Iraq" and see what sort of response you get.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Wedding Planning

Some of you might remember that sometime before I'd gone to Bosnia I'd got engaged.

My advice for anyone who is planning on getting married is to b****er off to Bosnia for 6 months and leave the future Mrs Soldier to it.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


This is what the British Army has to say about it. I think most of it has come out in the comments on the previous post, possibly with the exception of the bit about military law:

The Army is, of necessity, an hierarchical institution, which must be structured in peace as it is for war if it is to be trained and ready to deploy at short notice on operations. To be effective on those operations, the Army must then act as a disciplined force. Commanders must be certain that their orders will be carried out, and everybody must be confident that they will not be let down by their comrades. Lives may depend on it, as may the success of the mission. Good discipline also helps to conquer fear. The best discipline - which the Army expects from every soldier -is self-discipline. This comes from a sense of commitment and loyalty, and a readiness to put the needs of others, and of the mission, ahead of self-interest. For example, to keep on fighting when in danger or isolated, to stay alert on sentry when tired, cold or wet, and to keep going when frightened or exhausted.

Because discipline is so vital to success on operations, commanders must be able to enforce it when necessary. That requires clearly understood rules and a military legal system which can deal with offences such as absence, desertion or insubordination which are not found in civil law. And if it is to work in war, such a system must be in place in peace, for it cannot be turned on and off at will. Discipline must therefore be rigorously but fairly upheld by all those in positions of authority, and self-discipline must be deeply rooted.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Standards and Values - Discipline

The third of the standards and values that the army expects of its troops is discipline.

So what does that mean to you?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

You Can Take Your Latte and.....

Bosnian's don't do skinny lattes or caramel frapuccinos. Coffee drinking in the Balkans is almost a feat of strength. Although they'll be more than impressed if you can hold your booze they'll be even more impressed if you can drink your coffee.

When I was out there if you were given a coffee it came in an espresso sized cups although it made a Starbucks espresso look like a decaf cup of water.

At least half of the cup was filled with coffee grounds and you had to drink it through closed teeth. This stuff put hairs on your chest.

My record was five cups in an hour. I didn't sleep for two days afterwards.*

I still miss it now though.

* - Well ok a slight exageration.

Friday, June 09, 2006

What Goes Up Must Come Down

I can't remember who Croatia were playing but whoever it was it was a very important match for them.

The Croatians won and for the next couple of hours we had a heavy weight of tracer being fired into the air from the Bosnian Croat half of town.

It was two days later that they found him. An old bloke, living by himself a little way out of town. He'd been minding his own business, sat on his veranda.

He had a very neat little hole in the top of his head. And he was very dead.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ayia Napa Metal Factory

Before the conflict Banja Luka Metal Factory had been just that - a metal factory in the town of Banja Luka. As a large site with big buildings it had been taken over by peacekeepers when they moved in and had ended up being one of the Multi-National Division HQs.

By the time we arrived in Bosnia, BLMF had become REMF heaven. We'd go up there from our own camp on various admin taskings and see what we were missing out on.

Every nation had its own store. Every nation had its own bar. The Dutch ran a particularly good cafe with outstanding coffee and a good take on a British fryup.

When they weren't at work people wore 'normal' clothes. On Friday evenings you'd think people were going out for a night out in the UK - blokes with trendy shirts, lasses dolled up to the nines.

And were we jealous.

Course we were but we just muttered "REMF b*****ds" and drove back to our camp with its portakabin bar and two cans a night.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Are You Taking The P**s?

Well yes. Literally they were.

The Compulsory Drugs Testing (CDT) team has a far reach. It doesn't matter whether you are on adventure training skiing, on tour in Bosnia or back in camp the CDT team can turn up. I've always found it odd how they turn up when the snow is around or if there's a particularly bad patch of weather they turn up in Belize or somewhere equally sunny but there you go.

So we got drugs tested in Bosnia. Maybe I'm being naive but quite how we were supposed to be getting drugged up out there was news to me.

The one thing that always amuses me, even to today, about the CDT programme, is how righteous some of the main stream media can be when blokes get caught out.

Don't get me wrong. I think the fact that CDT is there, and that we chuck out people who get caught, is actually a good thing.

It's just I'd like to see the newspaper that reports about "Drug Shame in British Army" actually CDT it's own workers.

I'm sure then it would become a matter of 'Human Rights' rather than 'Army Shame'.

Oh and later on in my career I've had the delight of being a 'willy watcher' - checking that the blokes are actually peeing in the test tube and not pouring someone elses in. Now there's a good days work for you.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Two Cans

Two cans.

That's what the army says you can drink when you are on operations.

Two cans of beer.

And not all the time. Sometimes it's nothing*. And then sometimes two cans might mean two jerrycans.**

I'm sorry but if you are a wine/spirits/alcopops drinker then you're probably going to be thirsty.

Well until you finish your 6 months and then we all seem to play catch up for a bit.

* And I'm not complaining. Sometimes you or the situation is far too busy for anyone to have any alcohol in their system.

** Not that we'd ever break the rules - just bend them a bit.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

How To Win Friends And Influence People

We'd taken one of the Warriors out for a run to check some mechanics. We'd ended up at a CD selling shack. For once I decided I didn't want anything and me and my mate left the 'shop'. One of the other lads was still looking.

We were stood outside at a kiosk selling cans of drink. We kept casting glances back inside.

"Beautiful lady," the bloke at the kiosk says.

The woman in the CD shop was indeed quite beautiful in the Balkans kind of way that lasts until they reach their thirtieth birthday when they become fat, ugly and wear black shawls.

We decided to use some of the vocabulary that the interpreters had taught us since we'd been out there.

Me: "Ya, Dobra Cici*" - (Yes, good tits)

My Mate: "Ya, Dobra Dupe" (Yes, good arse)

Kiosk Bloke: "That's my sister."


* - For anyone who does speak Serbo-Croat - you will have to excuse the spelling.

Saturday, June 03, 2006


We'd been out on a patrol checking to see if any DPREs (Displaced Persons and Refugees) had returned to one of the outlying villages. We'd heard that some were due back. Sometimes this caused massive tensions as people who'd lived together for years, then spent a couple of years trying to kill each other, were finally reintegrated.

The village itself consisted of about 15 houses. None of the roofs were still intact. Even pre-war it didn't look like it had had running water or electricity.

We found the returnees - a family of four. At least one of the children wouldn't have been born when they'd been forced to leave during the war.

Like many returnees the family were trying to weatherproof their house with a UN 'kit' consisting of tarpaurlins and see through plastic sheeting.

We didn't have an interpreter and fairly quickly our faltering Serbo-Croat ran out. We made do with sign language. We were invited in and they made us coffee.

Then they brought out the food. It consisted of cabbage, flour and water made into some sort of strudel. And it was cold.

But it was their food for the day.

And they wanted us to have it.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Murphy's Laws For The Army - Number Fifteen

The worse the weather, the more you are required to be out in it. Top of the British Blogs