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Sunday, April 30, 2006


This is what the Army has to say about it:

"All soldiers must be prepared for tasks that involve the use of controlled lethal force: to fight. They may be required to take the lives of others, and knowingly to risk their own; to show restraint, even when doing so involves personal danger; and to witness injury or death to their comrades but still continue with the task in hand. This requires physical courage, and soldiers will depend on each other for it. Moral courage is equally important. That is the courage to do what is right even when it may be unpopular, or involve the risk of ridicule or danger; and to insist on maintaining the highest standards of decency and behaviour at all times and under all circumstances. In the end this will earn respect and foster trust.

Courage - both physical and moral - creates the strength upon which fighting spirit and success on operations depend. It is a quality needed by every soldier, but it is especially important for those placed in positions of authority, because others will depend on their lead and respond to it."

The emphasis is mine. I think these are the elements than can be particularly difficult to show in yet are probably the most important.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Standards and Values - Courage

I'm off on my bank holiday weekend. In an earlier post I explained that the army laid out the values and standards it expects of its' soldiers.

So what do you think they mean by Courage?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Just Asking

Just out of interest is anyone else getting an extra (free) day off work in recognition of the Queen's birthday?

We get one every year - not necessarily on her birthday - I've got a nice long weekend looming.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

And You Are?

Prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia there had been one army - the JNA. As the country split so did the army. Which was going to make things interesting.

"Erm excuse me Mr Heavily-Armed-Sort of Soldier would you mind awfully telling me whether you are a member of the ARBiH, MUP BiH, TO, HOS, Green Berets, Patriotic League, VRS, JNA, Arkan's Tigers, White Eagles, Scorpions, HVO or HV?"


Just saw this at Gonorr's blog and nearly fell off my chair.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Language Lessons

I was one of the 'lucky few' selected for a weeks intensive Serbo-Croat language training. The teacher was herself a refugee from the conflict who was now making a decent living teaching the British Army.

Phrases I Learnt Which I Thought Might Come In Handy*:

  • Hello, my name is.....
  • British Army, stop or I fire.
  • Put down the weapon.
  • That place is dangerous - it is mined.
Phrases I Learnt Which I Didn't Think Would Come In Handy**:

  • I'd like a double en-suite room please.
  • A table for two.
  • We are ready to order now.
  • Can I have the bill please.
* - Actually I only used the first and last.
** - I hope to get to use some of these in the future.

Monday, April 24, 2006

History Lessons

You might be surprised to know that before any planned deployment the soldiers are taught a bit about the history and culture of where they are going.

We learnt about the Ottoman Empire and the result its collapse had on the region.

We learnt how the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo had sparked the First World War.

We learnt about the infighting during the Second World War, the role of the Ustase and the Communist partisans led by Tito.

We learnt how Tito had enforced peace on the different nations which made up Yugoslavia and how this peace had failed after his death.

In fact we learnt that the different peoples who made up Yugoslavia had been killing each other off and on for hundreds of years.

Unfortunately I didn't read "The Bridge on the River Drina" by Ivo Andric until after I'd finished my second tour in Bosnia. It is perhaps the best explanation of what has happened in that part of the world.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One

"One country, with two alphabets, three religions, four main languages, five nationalities, six republics, and it was bordered by seven countries."

The first thing I remember learning about the Former Republic of Yugoslavia during pre-deployment training for Bosnia.

And I'd thought the situation in Northern Ireland had been complicated.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What Goes Up Must Come Down

After the physical effort of skiing uphill and digging the snow hole I'd expected to get cold very quickly once we got inside.

I was pleasantly surprised by the effect lighting a candle had. Such a small flame rapidly warmed the snow hole enough that we were soon stripping off to our base layers.

I was even more pleasantly surprised when the instructor announced that the weather forecast for the night meant we wouldn't be staying overnight.

I'd like to say that we returned to the ski lodge, and a cold stein of Bavarian lager, in style - skiing the deep virgin powder snow to perfection.

Unfortunately describing our descent as 'skiing' would have been something of a lie - 'semi-controlled falling' would have been more apt.

Bloody good fun though.

And the beer went down well.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

That's Snow Joke

"Ok, so we've skiied to the top of this big mountain. Now you want me to dig a hole and sleep in it........?"

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

You Want Me To Do What?

"OK, so let me see if I've got this right. We're going to be skiing uphill......"

We'd had five days of downhill skiing and now we were going to pay for it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Are You Taking The Piste?

"Right lads, we've got two spaces on the next adventure training package in Bavaria. It's ten days skiing but you have to chip in yourselves."

"How much Sarge?"

"Oh it's a hundred marks."

And that's how I got to go skiing for 10 days for 30 quid.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Selfless Commitment

This is what the British Army has to say about it:

"On joining the Army soldiers accept an open-ended commitment to serve whenever and wherever they are needed, whatever the difficulties or dangers may be. This commitment is reflected in the wording of the Loyal Oath which is taken on attestation, and in which soldiers agree to subordinate their own interests to those of the unit, Army and Nation, as represented by the Crown. This could involve participation in a wide range of operations, from warfighting through peace support operations to assistance to the civil authority. Such commitment imposes certain limitations on individual freedom, and requires a degree of self-sacrifice. This may involve, for example, long periods of separation from family and friends, the disruption caused by a move at short notice, and the carrying out of regimental guards and duties. Ultimately it may require soldiers to lay down their lives. For those in positions of authority, it also requires them to discharge in full their responsibilities and their duty of care to subordinates, whether in peacetime or on operations.

This two-way obligation forms a covenant between the Army and its soldiers. Both share a common bond of identity, loyalty and responsibility for each other which is unwritten but unbreakable, and which has sustained the Army throughout its history. Soldiers volunteering for the British Army accept that, by putting the needs of the Service before their own, they will forgo some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. But in return they can at all times expect fair treatment, to be valued and respected as an individual, and to be rewarded by reasonable terms and conditions of service. By extension, this covenant also exists between the Army and the Nation it serves."

Values & Standards - A Commander's Guide.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Standards & Values - Selfless Commitment

I'm in a bit of a rush and won't be around for a couple of days so I'll leave you with this. In 2001 the Army published a document entitled 'Standards & Values'. It was an attempt, and a good one, to codify exactly what the army expects of the individual soldier and what each soldier should expect from his or her comrades.

Why was this necessary?

The hierarchy felt that in a changing society the 'traditional' values which had exemplified the British Army weren't understood enough.

The first value listed is 'Selfless Commitment'.

So tell me - what does this mean to you and do you ever see it in practice in your workplace?

I'll post the army explanation in a couple of days. For those of you who can't wait you can find it at the army website (link on my sidebar).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Things You Should Never Do #1

We were in the the rest area of the guardroom. I'd just finished my hour checking peoples ID's at the main gate and now I didn't really have anything to do for the next few hours. We had a few videos but we'd seen them all before.

Me: "I'm bored."

Mate No.1: "Me too."

Mate No.2: "Bet I can eat more chillis than you can."

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Fat Controller

The exercise dragged on with not much happening. Eventually ENDEX must have been called, I really can't remember, it was that exciting.

The nice chappies from the mobile shower units were set up at the rail yard and by the time we boarded the train we were cleanish.

After a month of disturbed sleep you'd think a sleeper carriage would be just what the doctor ordered. But after a few hours I'd slept enough and was just waiting to get back to camp and have a nice cold beer.

As we crossed the border back into Germany we were shunted into a siding. There was an important train of coal that took priority over us and they needed to change the locomotive.

And then someone, somehow forgot about us. I can just imagine the conversation:

"Hans - I'm sure I've forgotten something."

"Ah well Ludwig I'm sure if it was important you'd remember."

So we got to spend 2 days on a sleeper carriage.

Which was nice.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Digging, Digging, Digging

Picture the scene.

You've spent nearly 18 hours digging a trench to the required depth, width, length, etc.

You are tired, your hands are blistered and your back hurts.

Then the message comes:

"Sorry guys, the battle's moved on, enemy attacked 1st Bn The Blogshires instead, we've got to move location."
Now imagine this is the third time you have heard that in four days.

I didn't particularly enjoy that exercise in Poland.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A Big Bang

The exercise had been stopped for a while. We were all going to see a demonstration. The whole Brigade. That's several thousand people and lots of vehicles.

We were going to watch the Giant Viper being fired. The Giant Viper is an impressive piece of equipment. It's basically a hundred metres of oversized hose filled with high explosive with a big rocket on one end.

The idea is that if you happen to come across a minefield the Giant Viper can be trotted out. The rocket takes the hose over the minefield before the explosive is detonated - destroying any mines in the immediate vicinity and giving you a 'safe lane' to drive down.

So there we were.

A few thousand of us.


And waiting.

And waiting some more.

And what stopped the demonstration going ahead?

A technical glitch perhaps?

No what stopped the British Army in its tracks was a bunch of Polish mushroom pickers out for a days picking. And because they couldn't 100% guarantee that none of them would be in the danger area we all went on our way again.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Things You Don't Want To Be Saying - Number 1

Things you don't want to be saying on the first evening* of a four week exercise in Poland in the autumn:

"Has anyone seen my sleeping bag?"

It wasn't his fault. Someone else had re-packed the wagon back in Germany and left it lying around.

Did with sympathise with him? Did we offer him all our warm clothing as a substitute? Did we offer to take in turns with the sleeping bags?

No of course we didn't.

We just laughed a lot.

* - Before you point it out - I know this is out of kilter with the last post but I've only just remembered it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ready Steady Cook

One of the advantages of going on exercise to Poland was that we'd stocked our vehicle up with some 'real' food to supplement the rations we'd get.

3 days into a rather boring exercise and it was my turn to cook.

Preparation Time: 5 mins.
Cooking Time: 10 mins.
Eating Time: about 90 seconds.


Pasta - any sort will do.
1 x tin of frankfurter sausages
2 x onions
1 x clove of garlic
1 x can Heinz tomato soup
Dried Mixed Herbs
Dried Chilli Flakes

  1. Boil some water and put your pasta on to cook.
  2. Slice your sausage, onion and garlic. Fry.
  3. Once your pasta is cooked, chuck the contents of your frying pan in with the pasta.
  4. Add tomato soup and season with your herbs and chilli flakes.
  5. Warm through.
Sat in the back of a Warrior with the rain beating down outside this tastes fantastic. I swear Jamie Oliver needs to watch out.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Talking Sense

I know it's a bit lazy just posting links to elsewhere but this was a really good article published yesterday.

The book looks pretty good, although I've only read a couple of pieces from it the rest of his work is very good.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Night Train To Poland

We'd spent nearly 48 hours loading the vehicles onto the train. The vehicle loading area was an cobbled hard standing. I still don't know if it is true or not but allegedly the stones had been laid by Jewish concentration camp victims in the Second World War. Certainly the sidings the army used for its vehicles at Bergen Hohne were the same used to unload Jews at that concentration camp.

Finally we got into the carriage we were to travel to Poland in. No one had told us it was going to be a sleeper carriage. I felt very 'Orient Express' at the time.

I felt much less 'Orient Express' after having been fed self-heating bacon and bean canned meals and spending the night in a sleeper carriage with 5 other squaddies.

The smell was.....ermm.....indescribable. Top of the British Blogs