Chapter 1: Call out
His name was Jack Fletcher but his army pals all called him ( Fletch). A good looking well built soldier, 2401964 Corporal Jack Fletcher had been a member of the elite Royal Military Police unit stationed with the front line force known as the (Fire Brigade Unit) in Cherry Tree Camp, Colchester for about two years now.
He had left his home town of Winchester in 1964 to join up and had now been in the army for approximately six years, serving with the British forces in Germany, and the Far
East colony of Hong Kong with the Special forces on drug running border patrols in Hong Kong’s New Territories Communist Chinese border.
This special unit worked closely alongside the British SAS (Special Air Service), and were on a 24hour notice to fly out to any friendly country who had requested the need for military assistance.
Qaboos, the new Sultan of Oman was born in 1940 and had been privately educated in England after graduating from the Officers Military Training Academy at Sandhurst in Surrey. He had joined an Infantry regiment the 1ST Battalion Cameroonians, and after spending a year with them as a junior officer holding a staff appointment with the British army had returned to Oman only to be held as a virtual prisoner by his father Sa’id bn Taymur in the Royal Palace at Salalah. For six years he had been held prisoner but in July1970 soldiers who loyally supported him clashed with forces loyal to his father, and he managed to depose his father taking his place as the rightful Sultan of Oman.
The Sultan had gladly sold the rights to the oil fields which lay in the interior of Oman and the British oil companies had negotiated access routes to them with Al Sa’ad in a business meeting held in Muscat a few months earlier, but when the oil men went to explore the desert region for oil, they were attacked by the tribes whom the new Sultan considered to be rebels.
The oil companies immediately complained to the British Government , and at the request of the Sultan were now sending well trained and well armed troops to the region to secure the safeguard of the oil company workers.
Corporal Fletcher (Fletch) RMP, was now on imminent standby along with his RMP unit pals Corporals , Billy Crosby ( Bing), Robert Lang ( The Dog) six foot Steve Lanham conveniently nicknamed (Tiny), Paul Silver ( Sick Leave) Barry Harper known as ( Woody) , John Barnett (Torchy), Roger (Rasher) Bacon, and his best pal Sergeant William ( Bomber ) Hill.
The RMP Troop Commander Captain Graham Flowers, known to all his men as (Blossom), was a man about as far as you could possibly get away from a nickname such as Blossom. He had previously won the Military Cross for his heroism whilst serving with his RMP unit in Northern Ireland after being caught up in an ambush on the Irish Southern border, and saving the life of all the men under his command. Captain Flowers was a hard man but fair who commanded the respect of all the soldiers under him, although he was most certainly not a man to be crossed under any circumstances.
The men of ( Red Troop RMP) now under his command had a great deal of respect for their captain and would follow him without hesitation through hell or high water.
Sergeant William Bomber Hill had just been welcomed back to the unit after recently getting married to his young bride, Julie Bambridge who was the daughter of Major Peter Durham Bambridge, Bombers old Officer Commanding from his previous RMP unit stationed with 12 Brigade in Osnabruck Germany.
Bomber had met his new wife when his Officer Commanding and his family had been invited to a dance at the 12 Brigade Sergeants Mess Club, and they fell in love almost immediately. They had both recently spent three glorious weeks together on honeymoon in Cyprus, but it was now back to the grindstone for Bomber and he had to leave his new bride in Aldershot to live with her parents due to her father’s promotion ,as he was now the new Officer Commanding of 160 Provost Unit RMP stationed in Aldershot.
Sergeant Hill had only just arrived back at Cherry Tree Camp and not even had time to unpack his kit bag before the order was given to prepare to fly out immediately to the RAF garrison base compound at Salalah , Oman, in the Persian Gulf.
“All the vehicles ready to go Corporal Bacon,” shouted Captain Flowers as he walked briskly across the parade ground heading for the vehicle compound which was situated at the north end of the camp.
“Yes Sir, all your instructions have been carried out to the letter, and all the stores, food, equipment, and ammunition have been loaded as per your orders Sir”, stated Corporal Rasher Bacon.
“Where’s Sergeant Hill ?, Rasher ” “He’s in the Armoury issuing the weapons to Red Troop, Sir”. “Good job Rasher! Now you can make sure that bloody scrim net which is hanging off the top of the lead Land Rover is tide on securely before the dam thing spills out all over the road and causes all sorts of mayhem!”
“Yes Sir!, right away Sir!” said Corporal Bacon in his haste to reach the scrim net which was now literally hanging over the side of the Land Rover. Sergeant( Bomber ) Hill, and Corporal (Torchy) Barnett arrived back soon after carrying an arm full of weapons, consisting of 10 SMG’s ( Sub Machine Guns) 2 LMG’s( Light Machine Guns) and a box full of grenades.
“Torchy, get a couple of the lads to help, and put these weapons in the back of the 3 ton Bedford right away, there’s a good lad! “Ok Sarg, will do” shouted Torchy as he headed towards his pal Corporal Barry Harper ( Woody) who was throwing all the troops kit bags in the back of the truck. Corporal Harper was the Red Troop carpenter and there was nothing that he couldn’t make out of a piece of wood, hence his nickname (Woody).
Tiny slowly slid his long legs over the Bedford’s tailboard and dropped to the tarmac, and looking the RAF camp guard straight in his eye said in a low deep voice, “If you poke me again pal with that toy gun, I will shove it up your arse, twist it, and pull it out again!”
“Right lads,” shouted Bomber, “GRUB UP!” , just in time to take Tiny’s mind off his cramped right foot, and the annoying RAF camp guard who had sensibly decided to make a quick exit into the camp guardroom whilst he was still in one piece.
Before retiring to the Officers Mess Captain Flowers had left instructions with Sergeant( Bomber )Hill that after eating in the NAFFI ,the men were to get some rest in barrack room (A3 ) which had been put at their disposal by the RAF Camp Duty Officer, and the men were then to be woken at first light to board the Beverly troop plane which was due to take off promptly at 0600 hrs. After chow everyone clambered into their bunks to get their heads down and before long had drifted off into a deep sleep.
“RISE AND SHINE, YOU SCABBY LAYABOUTS!” Shouted Bomber Hill, “Sort out your ablutions and assemble outside in thirty minutes for a briefing, and that’s AN ORDER !, you can catch up on yer sleep on the journey out.”
The briefing had been arranged by Blossom before the troop stepped onto the Beverly, to inform them that the aircraft was due to stop off at RAF Muharrag in Bahrain to refuel before flying on to RAF Shalala in Oman.
The troops clambered aboard the plane with all their kit straight after the briefing and the pilot wasted no time before taxing out onto the runway precisely at 0600 hrs.
Just after take off the men settled down to play cards, “ Hey up lads, just realised summit!, old Sick Leave is still we us, thought he’d a jumped ship by an,” commented Corporal Bing Crosby jokingly in his broad Yorkshire accent. “Suppose yer think that’s funny Crosby!” Sick Leave said grumbling under his breath as he chewed on half an old Mars bar which he’d just found in the top pocket of his combat jacket.
Corporal Bing Crosby who’s home town was in Sheffield South Yorkshire, had been stationed with ‘Red Troop’ for well over two years now and had seen action in Northern Ireland, as well as serving with NATO troops in Sierra Leone, so he was well versed in how to handle himself in a combat zone and was looking forward to action in the Gulf State of Oman. Unlike Sick Leave, Lance Corporal Paul Silver, who had spent most of his time in the Royal Military Police behind a desk in the NATO Headquarters building in Brussels, and had decided that he now wanted to see a bit of action, so he had applied for a transfer to 19 Brigade RMP Cherry Tree Camp in Colchester, and was excepted due to working with NATO.
“Right you lot listen in, ” said Sergeant Bomber Hill. “We will soon be landing in Muharrag so I don’t want anyone wondering off to go sightseeing, were only there for a short stay to refuel, so get some grub down you from the NAFFI and get back to the aircraft ’ Two Tweet Fourth With, GET IT! I don’t want to have to come looking for anyone is that understood”, said Bomber sternly.
“No problem Sarg ! we will all make sure ’Sick Leave’ doesn’t do a runner,” shouted Corporal Robert Lang laughing out loud from the rear of the plane.
Corporal Lang nicknamed (The Dog) was the joker of the pack, but hard as nails and with mussels to prove it. He was well known on the streets of Hong Kong where praise doesn’t come lightly. Whilst stationed with the RMP in the colony during the 1960s The Dog made his reputation by arresting any soldier, sailor, or airman that stepped out of line in the bars and brothels on Hong Kong Island, and that included officers and all members of the United States Fleet who had arrived in Hong Kong for repatriation leave.
As instructed the troop were soon strapped back into their seats ready for takeoff within the hour, much to the relief of their Troop Sergeant Bomber Hill.
Ten minutes into the flight and the Beverly troop plane hit a large pocket of warm Gulf air which serverly shook the plane and sent some of the troops kit bags rolling to the rear of the plane. “See I told you what these bloody planes were capable of Torchy!” Shouted Woody, who was sat holding onto his seat belt for dear life looking like death warmed up.
“I suppose you want your mummy with you to hold yer bloody hand Woody,” commented Sergent Bomber Hill. “Well get use to it lad because life is going to get a dam sight rougher than this very shortly.” No one said a word but just stared at one another, as the plane started to level off onto a smoother flight path once again, to the great relief of the troop.
An hour into the flight and Blossom came out of the flight deck after talking with the captain, “ Listen up lads!, The captain has just informed me that were in for a rough landing on RAF Shalala airfield. Rebels in the surrounding hills are sending a barage of mortar shells down on the camp which may mean a quick in out exit for the Beverly, so I want every man Jack of you to be ready to jump off the plane and onto the airfield as soon as we land. The captain will do his best to zigzag and slow down to a safe speed for everyone to jump clear, but he will not stop under any circumstanses and will take off again as soon as everyones off the plane with their weapons and equipment. IS THAT UNDERSTOOD ?”
“Boy I wasnt expecting that Sir,” commented Sick Leave, “Expect the unexpected from now on Sick Leave, AND GET USE TO IT!,” growled Blossom.
“Here we go, Buckle up lads!” Shouted the captain over the Tannoy system, as he put the plane into a slow steep dive situation, which made everyones head feel light and their stomacks churn up. The Beverly circled the runway and the captain checked out the surrounding hills and countryside before placing the aircraft on a heading towards the airfield landing lights.The captain spotted smoke coming from the centre of the camp, and more smoke driffting upwards from the runway.
“Zulu One to control tower!, Zulu One to control tower!, whats the situation down there?” Shouted the captain over the radio, and back came the reply, “ Not good im afraid Zulu One, rebels shelling the camp and airfield, risky landing I’m afraid, do you want to abort ?”
“Zulu One to control tower, not possible I’m afraid, instructed to land cargo ASAP, Please clear runway for drop off , as I will be taking off immediately cargo deployed “OK Zulu One, keep on heading 857 Delta,south west of runway, Artillery cover fire will commence on landing, GOOD LUCK !”