A Hero To Die For
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A Hero to Die For ( By John L D Barnett )
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.
As the Crow Flys Risk
“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 !”
A Risky Landing
“Ok boys when the cargo cabin doors are opened, and the red cabin light turns to green get ready to jump in file, with your weapons and equipment strapped tightly to your body. As soon as you hit the deck stay there flat against the tarmac, Do not try to run to the nearest cover until ordered to do so by myself or Sergeant Hill, you could easily be picked off by a rebel snipers bullet, Is that clear by everyone, ? just remember you’ve been trained for a situations such as this one, good luck we will leas as soon as it’s safe to do so.” Shouted Blossom over the sound ofthe Beverly’s four roaring Rolls Royce engines, just as the landing wheels hit the tarmac runway with an almighty screech of smoking brakes.
Blossom released the rear hanger door catch, “Right get ready lads, on my command, Green light on,- Go Tiny!, - Go Bing!, - Go Dog!, - Go Woody!- Go Sick Leave!, GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE SICK LEAVE!” “But, but”, stuttered Sick Leave hanging onto the open door of the aircraftfor dear life and shaking in his boots. “Jump now Sick Leave! jump, you dizzy Mary!, shouted his O.C. angrily. - Go Torchy - Go Rasher, - Go Fletch. Time to go Sergeant Hill, I’m right behind you”, “OK Boss, good luck!” shouted Bomber Hill to his O.C. Blossom, as he dived out of the planes rear hanger doors and rolled over and over onto the hard tarmac surface of the RAF Shalala runway.
Now everyone was safely out of the plane the rear doors of the Beverly were shut tight by the Co pilot, and the aircraft quickly turned around at the end of the runway and took off
again, narrowly missing an enemy mortar shell which exploded right on the edge of the runway taking out a small oil storage shed and leaving a large crater in its place.
“Everyone Ok ?” shouted Bomber to the troop who were by this time all laying spread eagled on the runway as mortar shells came whistling in from the surrounding hillside and burst all around them.
“Keep your bleeding head down Woody or your liable to get it blown clean off, yer stupid bugger!”, shouted the troop commander Blossom at the top of his voice.
“Sorry Sir!” shouted out Woody, and back came the reply; “Don’t apologise Woody, it’s your bleeding neck you have to watch out for lad, so keep it down OK!”
At that moment a battery of the Royal Artillery who were stationed at RAF Salalah opened fire sending a barrage of shells down on the enemy who had positioned their mortars aiming them at the RAF base in the surrounding desert hillside, and enemy fire ceased immediately.
“Must have scored a direct hit sir, there’s no more mortar shells coming in,” shouted out Sergeant Bomber Hill.” “Right you lot, get to your feet and run like hell to that concrete bunker on the south side of the airfield, and be sharp about it, we may not have much time before the buggers open fire again,” ordered Blossom.
“Never run so fast Rasher,” said Torchy out of breath, as the pair raced across the airfield towards the empty bunker to seek cover and struggling hard to hold onto their army back packs and kit bags.
“Boy that was close Torch”, said Rasher as they finally reached the safety of the empty bunker. “Don’t know about you pal but I sure am getting hungry.” “Is that all you can think about Rasher, your chuffing stomach at a time like this, have you lost yer bloody marbles or what!” commented Torchy. “Don’t know about that Torch, but I must have been off me rocker volunteering for this bloody show”, commented Rasher.
Just as the rest of the troop reached the safety of the concrete bunker, an army Land Rover came racing towards them, “Welcome to Hell chaps,” commented the driver. “Throw all your kit in the back lads except for your weapons and ammo of course, another vehicle will be along shortly to pick you up Ok”, and with that said he spun the Land Rover around and drove off at high speed towards the main RAF base compound.
All the shelling had now ceased and the airfield apart from the sound of fire trucks racing to put out the fires from two wooden storage buildings which had been hit by enemy mortar shells, was reasonable quite once again. Blossom gathered his men together and after a short briefing everyone clambered on board an armoured truck which had just been sent out to pick them all up, before the vehicle headed off in the direction of RAF Salalah base camp and safety.
Home Sweet Home
The driver pulled up alongside an old ram shackled tin hut which was stuck at the far edge of the compound, and positioned about eighty yards from the perimeter barbed wire fence which surrounded the whole camp and was meant to keep intruders out.
“Is this it boys? home sweet home for the next six months!,” commented Fletch. “ Looks to me like even the pigs have moved out to make room for us,” commented Bing, who by this time had climed out of the vehicle and was now sat cross legged on the bonnet. “Maybe they couldnt stand the smell Bing!,” piped up Torchy. That shouldnt bother The Dog lads he’s use to living in a pig sty, shouted Rasher from the back of the armoured Land Rover,whilst climbing over the vehicle tailboard. The whole troop burst out laughing, but The Dog who was genrally used to telling all the jokes was not ammused and groweled to himself under his breath.
“Right lads lets get inside this dump and see if we cant get it looking more like home again,” ordered Bomber as he opened the old billet door. “Good God! what a bloody mess,there’s sand everywhere, and most of the wooden bunks are U.S., Woody get yer arse in here and sort out these broken wooden bunks lad ASAP.”
“No problem Sarg Im stright onto it, I’ll have these bloody bunks looking like new before you can stick a bayonet up a rebels arse and twist it”, said Woody with a big grin on his face.
“Dont know about the rest of you but Im bloody starving!” commented Sick Leave. “Lets get off to the camp canteen and see if they’ve saved us any grub.”
“Thats the best idea you’ve had all day Sick Leave,” said Bomber. “Are you sure you can make it on those legs of yours, cos I thought they’de turn to jelly when you tried to jump out of the bloody plane lad.” The whole troop burst out laughing again whilst pilling out of the billet door heading for the canteen which was situated over the other side of the camp compound.
After eating there fill in the camp canteen, the troop took a walk around the camp perimeter to familiarise themselves with the Salalah Air Base. Three listening posts were strategically place around the compound know to everyone as (Hedgehogs) to protect the base, and manned 24 hrs a day by Battalion personal who worked on a rota system of one day on ,one day off.
Mobile Radar units known as the Green Archer which had been invented to detect mortars were also dug in around the compound, and proved an invaluable asset when being threatened with incoming enemy mortar fire.
Air raid sirens sounded off whenever the rebels attacked with mortar fire to give everyone a chance to run as fast as they could to the nearest shelter.
The Sultans forces would use their heavy artillery guns, and their air force against rebels, firing back at every opportunity whilst our troops fired mortar shells which were also a significant asset in safeguarding the camp and surrounding airfield, and eliminated enemy positions on the surrounding hillsides on many occasions.
The camp had a great NAAFI, and the RMP troop spent their off duty leisure hours playing, darts, pool, or a game of dominos and cards. A camp radio station played everyone’s favourite music all day long and right up until midnight, this also read out news reports informing everyone about what was happening around the World, as well as giving out all the camp and local news.
All the British troops stationed at the air base were on call to give blood transfusions 24 hrs a day when and where required, which didn’t go down too well with Corporal Bing Crosby, as he loathed having to have injections but fortunately the camp had an excellent medical centre with army doctors on call day and night.
Unfortunately the living accommodation was nothing to write home about and the air conditioning was a joke. The RMP billet had two old electric fans that worked when they felt like it, and sometimes came on or off on their own. By midday the temperature in the billet reached 100 % during the months of May to August and tempers flared up very quickly in the heat of the day, so everyone use to look for a nice cool shady spot to get their heads down straight after duty.
Sergeant Bomber Hill was bunking down in the camp Sergeants Mess and liaised with the O.C. Captain Flowers on a day to day basis whilst awaiting special orders, but the troop was getting board by this time having to wait for HQ to give them the green light to start their mission.
A Supply plane flew in a few days later and had to run the gauntlet of enemy mortar shells once again, but managed to drop off the troop mail and her cargo of fresh vegetables and salad for the Battalion cook house ,which cheered up all the lads immensely.
“Hey up are kid, what yer think o these bloody awful foreign tomatas, look like ruddy watermelons and taste like sour bloody lemons, I’ll be glad ta get back home ta Yorkshire to me o’ld granddads allotment. Boy can he grow bloody good English tomatas Torch”. “I know what yer mean Bing it seems like months now since we tasted home cooking, I sure do miss me old mums apple pie, it makes yer mouth water just thinking about it pal.”
“Well don’t think about it!,” piped up The Dog”, “Just concentrate on the task in hand and then you can bloody starve to death.” He said with a big grin on his face.
“Can’t help it Dog, need to get as far away as I can from this foreign muck, boy do I hate these bloody tomatas,” commented Bing, just then Sergeant Bomber Hill came charging through the barrack room door.
“Think yourselves lucky you shower.” said Bomber as he pulled out a chair from underneath the barrack room table and sat down. “At least yer well fed and don’t do without, think of all the poor little sods out there who are starving in the World, anyway less of the debate, and let’s get down to some serious work.”
“Why Bomb have you heard something, have we been given the green light to go?” said Fletch as he walked into the room still wiping shaving cream off his face with his green army towel.
“It’s looking that way Fletch, we’ve been given orders to prepare ourselves for a little drive out into the desert, a rebel sympathiser was caught by the camp guard last night pacing out steps from the perimeter fence to the nearest Hedgehogs, so he could let his pals know exactly where to aim their mortar shells on their next airfield attack, but get this!, the bastard worked in the camp cookhouse as a dishwasher.”
“You just can’t trust any of these little bastards now Sarg”, commented The Dog.
“Anyway” continued Bomber, “ before I was rudely interrupted, he was arrested and interrogated by two officers from the Intelligent Corps, who stated that Adoo rebels were threatening to kill his family unless he helped them, Its wasn’t long before the little sod blurted out that another attack was imminent on 20 British Royal Engineers who’s aim is to construct schools and health centres, and drill wells for the population of Dhofar.”
“On the 19th July lads, a troop of 25 SAS men were despatched by helicopter to the British base at Mirbat, and for those of you who don’t know, it’s about 75 kms from our Salalah Air Base, and situated right on the coast. Intelligence coming in at the moment report that there is heavy fighting between British forces and at least 350 maybe 400 Adoo rebel fighters. Our job gentlemen will be to sign the route to the base, and secure the area as soon as the SAS have cleared out the Adoo rebel fighters. Is that perfectly clear lads. ? The O.C. and I will take the lead in the first Rover, and you Fletch will follow up in Popeye the second Land Rover. Sick Leave, will operate the radio system, and Woody will set up the LMG in the rear of the lead Rover travelling with myself and Blossom the C.O. Now move your arses, and let’s get all the weapons and equipment in the armoured Land Rovers and prepare to move out at first light OK!”
“Great, it’s about time we saw some action Sarg !” shouted Bing at the top of his voice.
Captain Flowers and his men set off from Salalah at first light to drive the 75 klm along the coastal track to the Mirabat British military base. After about thirty minutes Bomber who was driving the lead Land Rover suddenly pulled over to the edge of the road and came to a standstill.
By this time the troop had driven half way to Mirbat and were now only1 klm, just outside the town of Taqah. Blossom was already leaning against the side of the Land Rover looking through his binoculers at the surrounding shallow hillside, which also gave him a clear view of the Taqah Fort,whilst resting the binoculars on the Rovers canvas roof.
The annual monsoon period which lasted from June to September did nothing to help the British troops stationed in Dhofor, infact the surrounding countryside during this period was lush with green vegitation which gave the Adoo rebel fighters cover when they made their almost nightly incursions to mine the surrounding tracks and blow up the Falaj, which was the water system that supplied fresh water to the Garrison.
The rebels would descend into the lower foothills surrounding Salalah under the cover of darkness, fire off a dozen Katyusha rockets and retire once again into the hills. Fortunatly for the Garrison it was at the limit of the rocket range, and not too many fell within the enclosure, but the lads had learned that the wise thing to do was to fill up some empty rocket boxes with sand and place them all around your bed at night, but for now the troop had more things to worry about whilst travelling on the dangerous road to Mirbat.
“What’s the problem Sir!”, shouted Fletch who had just pulled up in Popeye directly behind the lead vehicle. “Dont know yet Fletch, but somethings not quite right, keep your wits about you and your weapons handy”, shouted Sergent Bomber Hill ,as he stepped out of the drivers side of the lead vehicle to take a look around for himself. “Better just check the vehicle tracks ahead Bing, take Torchy with you and prob the tracks for mines with the bayonet that I’ve put in (Popeye’s) drivers side door, OK Bing!,” Shouted out Bomber to the lads who were still sat in the rear of Popeye.
“Right O Sarg,will do”,
“Ayup Torch can tha look inta Popeye’s drivers side door for us and see if tha can find that bloody bayonet, am sure we fetched it we’us me old flower.” Instructed Bing in his usual broad Yorkshire acsent.
“Its not here Bing!,we must have took it out to open that can of beans the lads ate last night before we got our heads down.”
“Bugger! Dont say owt to Bomber Torch, he’ll skin me alive if he find ar’t have left it in ruddy billet.” Commented Bing in desparation.
“How About using old Popeye’s oil dip stick Bing, that will do the job nicely mate”, said Torchy, in a last chance to resolve the situation.” “Great idea me old luv, lets ger it na and get on we it before Bomber comes darn on us like a ton a bricks.”
Bing checked out the old vehicle tracks ahead of the lead vehicle, probing the hard sand slowly but very very carefully with the dip stick, whilst Torchy with his SMG at the ready covered his back.
The Adoo rebels had a very nasty habbit of slicing a section of hard sand that had a tyre print on it made by a previous vehicle and placing a mine under it, knowing full well that any military vehicles passing that point would be following in the previous tracks wrongly presumming that this would be the safest thing to do. Many Alied forces vehicles had been blown up in this way and many lives had been lost, so it was wise not to use the same tracks on this stretch of desert road.
“All clear na Sarg !”, shouted Bing to Bomber who was now discusing tactics for the mission ahead with Blossom the O.C
“OK mount up lads, and lets get out of here !, we’ve been stuck in this location too long already,and I dont like the look of it.” Ordered Blossom.
Red Troop drove on passed the fort and safely through the town of Taqah. “Urgent radio message coming through from 609 Signal ( Air Support ) team Sir,” shouted Sick Leave who was talking on the lead vehicle radio to the HQ Battery radio operator at RAF Salalah.
“OK Sick Leave what’s going on ?,” Shouted the O.C. Blossom, over the sound of the Land Rovers engine. “Better pull over to the side of the road and stop for awhile Sergeant Hill, so we can reply.” Commented Blossom.
“Sir, it appears that at 0600hrs yesterday on the 19 July the rebels attacked Mirbat Castle Fort where the British Army Training Team (BATT), and nine of our SAS lads are stationed. It appears that the Adoo rebels were intending to defeat the SAS guarding the approach to the town so that they could reach the Port of Mirbat over the slops of Jebel Ali, without any further opposition.
Apparently Sir, the SAS, C.O. Capt Kealy, saw the rebels advancing on the fort, but wasn’t exactly sure if they were the Omani Army or not coming back from ‘Night Picket.’ As soon as he realized that they were not friendly forces he immediately ordered his men to open fire”.
“The SAS lads took up positions on the roof of the fort Sir, firing at the Adoo rebels with L1A1SLR battle riffles, and a Browning heavy machine gun. Unfortunately the rebels were well armed Sir, and attacked the fort with Russian AK47 assault rifles, and mortar bombed the fort and surrounding area.
“Capt Kealy ordered his signaller again to request reinforcements. A small number of men from the Omani Intelligence Service joined the SAS on the roof of the fort doing their best to ward off the attack, and trying to keep the Adoo rebels at bay.”
“The HQ signaller also stated that a Sergeant from the Omani Army Special Forces ran the gauntlet of enemy fire to the gun emplacement and managed to operative a 25 Pounder Artillery Gun on his own which kept the rebels occupied for awhile, but sadly he died from a bullet wound after being shot in the neck.”
“Another of Captain Kealy’s men was shot in the stomach, but carried on shooting at the approaching rebels, and many of the lads were badly injured but fought on. Eventually his signaller managed to contact the Sultan of Oman’s Air Force who arrived just in time to save the fort from being overrun by Adoo rebel fighters. “The Omani air strikes killed off at least 75% of the rebel force Sir, forcing the rest to run to the hills for cover. Reinforcement from G Squadron have now arrived, and all the injured SAS lads have been air lifted to hospital by helicopter.”
“HQ report that what’s left of the rebel force have now completely withdrawn to the hills, and stated that we should be aware that whilst on route to Mirbat we may come under heavy attack from pockets of rebel troops that are still hiding in the hills Sir.”
“Shall I reply in the usual coded message Sir?” Requested Sick Leave, still shaking from the news of the Adoo rebel attack on the Mirbat Fort.
“Yes Corporal Silver, and inform HQ that we will head directly to the coastal British base, unless there’s a change in our orders.”
“Doesn’t sound too good Sergeant Hill, better tell the men to be on full alert until we reach the safety of Mirbat base.”
No sooner had their vehicles started to move off than a rebel riffel bullet struck the winsreen of the lead vehicle with such force that it shatered into a thousand pieces and slamed into the learther covering of the Land Rover passanger seat, luckiy missing Blosoms skull and only slightly grazing his left ear, although blood immediatly started to pour from the wound and run down his karki shirt.
“ Put your foot down Sergent Hill, GO, GO, GO!,” screamed Blossom, as he held both his hands over the wound to try to stop the flow of blood, which by this time had compleatly soaked through his karki shirt, and was now spilling all over the Land Rover floor.
Bomber slammed the Rover into top gear and pressed his foot hard onto the excelerator whilst shouting to the passangers to hang on for dear life, and at the same time zigzaging the vehicle all over the road to prevent the rebels from taking a clear shot, fortunatly they were on a slight encline and the Land Rover took off at high speed.
“Are the lads in Popeye still with us Woody,” shouted out Blossom anxiously. “Yes sir!, right up our arse, are you OK Sir?” Concluded Woody, worried about the amount of blood still gushing from his O.C.s ear.
“Dont worry about me Woody, just keep your bloody head down lad, and your finger squeesed on that ruddy LMG trigger, and dont hesitate to mow the bastards down if you see from which direction those rebel shots are coming from!”
After driving at full speed for a futher 2 klm Bomber felt it was now reasonably safe to pull over and he stoped the Land Rover underneath the cover of some rocks which were looming up at the side of the road. (Popeye) the rear Land Rover which was right on their tail, pulled up close behind them.
”Woody!” Called out Bomber Hill. “Run up the side of that banking over there lad and set up the LMG to give the troop some cover whilst I see to the O.Cs wounds.“Will Do Sarg, right a way!”
Bomber opened the passenger door, leaning over the O.Cs shoulder to reach the first aid box which had been lodge behind the passenger seat. Blossom by this time was leaning forward looking rather pale, and starting to feel faint from the loss of blood, which was now spread all over his seat and covering the Land Rover floor.
Tiny ran round the side of the lead Rover with a roll of toilet paper to help clean up the mess, whilst Bomber wrapped a dressing around Blossom’s left ear. “That should feel a little easier now Sir, we should make the safety of the British garrison at Mirbat if we push on just after midday with a bit of luck.” Said Bomber.
“Right you lot!, gather round here”. Ordered Bomber. “As you all know by now the O. C.s in pretty bad shape, so we’re going to push on to the safety of the Mirbat coastal Garrison. Keep yer bloody eyes peeled, and your weapons handy just in case we have to make a quick exit from the vehicles. If that should be the case, get down low behind the nearest cover and let the little bastards have a taste of lead.”
“ The Dog, will issue each man with 3 grenades from the ammo box in the back of Popeye before we mount up, strap them to your ammo pouches, and don’t hesitate to use them if the little sods get too close for comfort. Sick Leave you stay with the radio unless it’s put out of action, if that happens, grab the portable two way radio and get to some cover ASAP so you can call for back up sharpish, is that fully understood by everyone ?”
“Thank God for that,” said The Dog with a big grin on his face. For one fate full minute there Sarg I thought you were going to let Sick Leave loose with a grenade.” “That’s not a bad ideawe could strap the bloody box a grenades to his belt Sarg, and he could pull the pin whilst running towards the bastards.” piped up Torchy, and everyone started laughing.
“ OK that’s enough larking about lads, let’s get back in the vehicles and get the hell out of here, the sooner we reach safety the better,” cried Bomber.
DHOFAR, Mirbat - the left half of this photo encompasses the area over which was fought the pivotal Battle of Mirbat on 19 July 1972.
Seek out the Enemy
Mirbat Fort and Garrison
“Hold on Sir, Mirbat Garrison in sight now, soon have the army medics fixing you up as good as new again,” “ Thanks Sergeant Hill, don’t forget to fly some kind of white flag from the Land Rovers Ariel, for the Garrison guard to see, and get Sick Leave to radio through to the Garrison to tell them were coming in, just in case they mistake us for the rebel forces and open fire, we don’t want any more fun and games Bomber,” said Blossom leaning over the Land Rover dashboard and just barely hanging onto consciousness.
“Did you hear that Sick Leave ?” shouted Bomber over the sound of the Land Rovers engine.
“Yes Sarg”, replied Sick Leave, “Well bloody get on with it then!, and get that message sent sharpish Sick Leave before we have two vehicles full of ruddy bullet holes,!” Shouted out Bomber, whilst pulling the vehicle over to the side of the road and stopping just in sight of the Mirbat Garrison base.
“What’s up Sarg !”, shouted Fletch whilst climbing out of Popeye’s driver’s seat. “See if you can find something that will do as a white flag to tie to both vehicle aerials Fletch, and look sharp about it, If were seen I don’t want the Garrison to think that they might be under attack again.”
“Yer can use my white shirt that’s in me kit bag Sarg.” Shouted out Sick Leave from the rear of the lead vehicle trying his best to be helpful, whilst at the same time operating the radio.
“What you doing we a white shirt in yer kit bag Sick Leave, were not on summer vacation yer big pansy!,” commented The Dog grinning all over his face whilst looking in the rear of Popeye for any kind of white material to use as a flag.
“That will do nicely Sick Leave, good thinking lad, unfortunately were going to have to tear it in half so we can use it for both vehicles, sorry lad!, although thinking about it I don’t think it’s going to do you much good out here, cos the base don’t run a weekly night disco unfortunately.” stated Bomber sarcastically.
Bomber tied the two halves of Sick Leave’s white shirt to each vehicles Ariel, and then climbed back into the lead vehicle and headed straight for the Garrisons main entrance followed closely by the lads in Popeye.
“Hope you’ve sent that signal Sick Leave.” Shouted Bomber as he drove at top speed towards the base. “Yes Sarg no problem, they now know were coming in,” said Sick Leave, pulling the radio ear phones off his ears and hanging them around his neck.
The heavily armed Garrison Regimental Police Staff at The Mirbat base guardroom main entrance, waved Bomber straight through into the base compound, closely followed by Popeye the rear Land Rover shutting the main gate behind them.
The medical centre had been pre warned by Sick Leave on the vehicle radio as to the nature of his O.C.s injuries, and were already waiting outside the medical centre with a stretcher just as Bomber drove into the base.
The base doctor, Major Tyler M.D. wasted no time in rushing Captain Flowers into the medical centre where a drip had already been set up, and a blood transfusion was administrated, before sending him into a side ward to recover.
“How’s the O.C. doing doc,?” said Bomber “As well as can be expected Sergeant Hill, but he was lucky not to take a bullet through the skull, he should make a full recovery after a few days rest, so you can tell Red Troop to stop worrying now”, stated Major Tyler.
Two days later ‘Red Troop’ were sent out again on patrol this time without Captain Flowers who was still recovering from his injuries.
Sergeant Hill took charge of the lead vehicle, and Corporal Jack Fletcher was put in charge of the men travelling in (Popeye) the follow up vehicle. The aim of the mission was to seek out pockets of Adoo Rebels who were still active in and around Mirbat and the surrounding hill side, and report any rebel positions via radio link to the main HQ at RAF Shalalah.
Strike master jet aircraft from the Sultans air force would then be scrambled to attack the enemy and send a barrage of rockets and machine gun fire down to wipe out the enemy position.
The SAS were also active alongside the Sultans Omani ground troops seeking out the now dispersed Adoo rebels. The rebel attack by 400 Adoo rebels on the Mirbat fort had been a disastrous failure, and the enemy had lost at least 75% of their fighters who were now either dead or wounded. After the battle 38 dead Adoo rebels were brought in but at least another 80 were killed, and the enemy never tried to attack in force again.
Meanwhile it was still a very dangerous situation for the British and Omani troops because the pocket of rebels that had regrouped had once again returned to their old tactics of intermediate rocket and terrorist attacks on the British Garrison Base at Mirbat and RAF Shalalah.
‘Red Troop’ moved out at dawn and headed for the barbed wire perimeter and the surrounding small hillsides of Jebel Ali which was situated 1,000 meters to the north of Mirbat. Jebel Ali provided a co- coordinating feature which protected the town and surrounding coastal area.
Before the 19th July 1972 and the attack on the BATT Fort, the post had been manned by the Dhofar Gendarmerie (DG) but were all killed when they were overrun by The Adoo rebels.
Bomber was hoping to come across any remaining rebel groups that may still be congregating in this area, and ‘Red Troop’ was now well armed and prepared for any snipers or surprise attacks by the Adoo rebel force.
By midday the two vehicles were now approaching the old DG post on Jebel Ali and following previous vehicle tracks in the hard baked desert sand, although not actually driving over them due to hard lessons learned from previous military vehicles which had been blown sky high after running over buried enemy mines.
Bomber pulled over to the side of the track leading to the old post so that he could observe it from a distance by looking through Blossoms field glasses which he always kept handy in the glove compartment of the lead Land Rover. Fletch pulled up directly behind him in Popeye, and climbed out of the driving seat after giving the rest of the troop orders to stay close to the vehicles and keep their weapons handy ready for any unpredictable rebel attacks.
“See anything out there Sarg!” said Fletch as he approached Bomber from behind the lead vehicle. “ Looks and sounds a bit too quite around the old GD post for my liking Fletch”, said Bomber apprehensively.
“Do you want me to send a couple of the lads on ahead on foot to check out the post Bomb”, replied Fletch. “Good idea pal, send Torchy and Bing, but tell them to approach the post with extreme caution and for God sake remind them to keep their bloody heads down.”
“Can I go with Torchy Sarg,” Piped up Woody excitedly ! who was now sitting in the rear of the lead Land Rover with the LMG laying across his lap. “Don’t be bloody silly Woody, the troop need you to cover their arses with the bloody LMG yer dizzy Mary!”
No sooner had Torchy and Bing set off along the track towards the DG post, than a rifle shot hit the side of the lead Land rover with an almighty crash of shattered glass, sending Bomber, Fletch, Torchy and Bing scurrying for cover. “Take cover lads and concentrate your fire on the DG post, I think some of the little bastards are dug in around that area and mean business!” cried out Bomber anxiously.
Everyone by this time had taken up cover positions behind the two Land Rovers and were now concentrating their fire power on the DG post, bullets were flying thick and fast in every direction which was causing dust to rise as the bullets rick shaded off the sandstone walls of the post.
Bomber told Fletch he was going to take a chance and make a run to where Torchy and Bing where being pinned down in a small ditch at the side of the track , because he was worried that the rebels would open up on the two lads with a mortar shells or possibly a grenade attack.
“Don’t be stupid Bomber you’ll never make it!” screamed Fletch in desperation, but his words fell on deaf ears, and Bomber made a mad dash towards Torchy and Bing’s position, but then all hell broke loose and enemy fire was suddenly concentrated directly at Bomber, who had only managed to make it a few yards away from the vehicles before diving to the ground spread eagled on the road surface, with enemy bullets hitting the hard sand and splintering all around him in every conceivable direction.
Fletch knew it was only a matter of time before his pal Bomber was hit by a rebel bullet because he had now left himself in a very vulnerable position lying out on the open road in full view of the enemy. Without thought for his own safety Fletch made a mad lurch towards Bomber, spreading his own body across Bombers back to protect him from the now intense enemy fire.
Two bullets immediately slammed into Fletchers right leg with such force that it made him cry out in painful agony, but against all the odds and whilst still bleeding badly from his wounds, managed to drag himself and his pal Bomber back behind the front of the lead Land Rover and temporarily out of enemy fire and danger.
“Bloody fool Fletch!” screamed Bomber at his pal as he tore off the sleeve of his army shirt to make a tourniquet for Fletchers badly bleeding leg, which by now was causing Fletch a great deal pain. “Thanks for saving my life anyway yer stupid bugger, I suppose you’ll expect me to buy you a cold beer in the bloody mess now yer silly sod, anyway Fletch just hang on in there buddy whilst we can call for backup,” cried out Bomber.
“Sick Leave, climb into the back of the Lead Land Rover and radio Command HQ to send a Strike plane to rocket attack grid reference 784932, lets clear out these little bastards once and for all, and don’t forget to keep yer bloody head down Sick Leave,” shouted Bomber angrily.“Where’s Tiny Lanham and The Dog, Sick Leave ?” “They said they were going to sneak around to the back of the post Sarg and drop a pineapple in the rebels lap, according to Tiny”. “ Bloody Hell! will they never learn to obey orders, now I’ll have to give um extra time to get back before I call for a strike plane, better hold off on that call to HQ Sick Leave ‘just make it when I next tell yer too OK.” Commented Bomber.
An almighty explosion was heard coming from the direction of the DG post, and all of a sudden the rebel firing ceased. Tiny could be heard in the distance shouting out to Torchy and Bing who had already clambering to their feet, and were now walking back towards the two stationary Land Rovers.
“Got the bleeding little bastards!, everybody Ok ? ,” shouted out The Dog with a big cheesy grin on his hard rough sunburned face as he walked from the direction of the DG post to were both the Land Rovers stood stationary.
“ Forget that call to HQ Sick Leave, reference the strike plane, and ask them to send a medic and chopper ASAP to recover Corporal Fletcher,” called out Bomber.
The chopper and a medic arrived thirty minutes later and Red Troop carried Fletch on a stretcher placing it in the chopper ready for him to be evacuated to the medical centre at RAF Salalah.
“Take care Fletch I’m sure the medics will do a good job fixing you up pal, and you’ll be back on yer feet in no time, see you back at the base after we clean up this bloody mess, O! and by the way Fletch, I will be recommending you, via Blossom for a gong, and don’t say a dam word pal you deserve it for saving my arse, not that I think it’s worth saving sometimes, yer plonker!”said Bomber, just as the Army Air Corps pilot lifted off.
“Right you lot listen in,”, ordered Bomber “ We need to get this place cleaned up before we leave. Tiny and Dog this is all your ruddy mess, so you two throw a blanket over these three dead rebels, and load the bodies onto the back of Popeye so we can bury um back at the base. O! And Tiny don’t forget to cover up their faces, we may not like the little bastards very much but at least we can transport um in some kind of dignity OK.”
“OK Sarg!, Come on Dog pull yer ruddy finger out pal, and give me a lift with this corps onto the back of the tailboard yer big lug.” An hour later and ‘Red Troop’ pulled out of Jebel Ali and headed in the direction of the air base at RAF Salalah.
It was dusk by the time the troop covered the 75 klm to RAF Salalah and dropped off the rebel bodies at the makeshift base mortuary, but everyone was glad to eventually get back to the billet in one piece and get their heads down for the rest of the night.
First thing in the morning Bomber made a point ofwalking over to the medical centre to see how is pal Fletch was doing, but by the time he arrived he found that the rest of Red Troop had beat him to it, and were all gathered around Fletchers bed laughing and joking.
“Hey up Fletch how’s the leg old pal,” said Bomber, but before he had time to answer, the medical centre duty officer Captain Donaldson MD, stepped in ordering everyone out of the medical centre, stating that Corporal Fletcher needed to get some rest as they were due to operate on his shattered right leg within the hour.
“Bit of a bummer that Sarg,” said Rasher as the lads walked through the medical centre main door and out into compound, “Hope old Fletch comes out a this one Ok, still it looks like he’ll be getting a free trip back to Blyty no matter what happens Sarg, What do you recon?”.
“ It sure does look that way Rasher, but at least he’ll be out of this stinking hole and repatriated back home to the UK, I think he’s earned it anyway Rasher don’t you ?” said Bomber reluctantly.
‘Red Troop’ made their way back to the billet and gathered around the mess table, “Thought I’d let you all know in advance lads that Blossom has been given the all clear and is now on his way back to RAF Salalah”, said Bomber “He should be back on the base sometime before dinner, and has instructed me to give you lot the rest of the day off to chill out, so piss off and find something to do for the rest of the day and keep out of trouble is that clear!” “Thanks Sarg!” shouted Sick leave, and a loud cheer rang out around the room.
“O! and just one more thing before you bugger off lads, the O C wants a word with you all straight after super tonight. so make sure your back in the billet by 1800hrs, no excuses is that clear!” Shouted out Bomber.
Torchy, Bing, Rasher, and Sick Leave, decided to take ‘Popeye’ down to the local beach and do a spot of fishing, whilst Tiny and The Dog walked over to the all ranks club house, ‘The Wobbly Wheel’ and propped up the bar all afternoon.
By tea time Tiny and The Dog were a little worse for wear but managed to stagger back to the billet just before the OC turned up with Sergeant Hill, although by this time Tiny had slumped onto his bunk and passed out.
The OC walked into the billet accompanied by Sergeant Hill at 1800hrs bang on the dot. “Right lads all gather around the table there’s a few things I have to update you on. Firstly I would like to thank you all for a job well done whilst on patrol in Mirbat and Jebel Ali, and to inform you all of the following; On the reports received, and advice of Sergeant Hill, I have recommended Corporal( Fletch) Fletcher, to receive the M.M. ( Military Medal) for his brave action at the DG post on Jebel Ali. Corporal Fletcher by the way will sadly be leaving the troop to return to the UK for extensive treatment on his wounded right leg.”
Military Medal for bravery Dhofar Genral Service Medal
“ I have also recommended Corporal (Tiny) Lanham and Corporal (The Dog) Lang, for a MID.( Mentioned in Dispatches) for their courage and grenade attack on the rebel held DG post,” “Where is Tiny Lanham by the way!?” commented Blossom. “He’s catchin up on his..... bloooody....... beauty sleep.... ssSir!” shouted out The Dog, in adrunken slurred voice,and everyone burst out laughing, “Well let him know what’s been said when he decides to honour us all with his presence Dog,” commented the OC. and the room erupted in laughter.
“Anyway lads, to get back to what I was saying, all the rest of Red Troop have been given the Generals Commendation for bravery in the face of the enemy. WELL DONE RED TROOP! and keep up the good work,” stated the OC as he got up out of his chair and headed for the billet door.
“Ok listen in you lot,” shouted Sergeant Bomber Hill, Just as the OC left the billet and closed the door behind himself. “You’ve got away with a heck of a lot this time because Blossom was in a good mood, but let me warn you all now Red Troop, to take care in the future when your Officer Commanding walks into the room, and show him the respect he deserves. Is that abundantly clear to everyone in this room! I will not tell you again.” “Yes Sarg,!” piped up Red Troop sheepishly.
“Right you shower get yer heads down now because yer out on base perimeter patrol first thing in the morning, and I want to see you up and about at first light,” said Bomber as he left the billet.
The troop were given very little time to get their heads down before the Base alarm sounded and the Adoo rebels blasted the air field with another rocket attack, and everyone but Tiny and The Dog who were still fast asleep, and out like a light from the previous days drinking session, headed straight for the shelters.
The attack lasted for an hour but the rebels gave up when the Garrison Royal Artillery heavy guns opened up on the enemy positions. Woody, Torchy, Rasher, and Sick Leave, just couldn’t believe their eyes when they came back to the billet to climb into their bunks once again because Tiny and The Dog were still snoring away fast asleep, and had been completely oblivious to the rebel rocket attack.
Just Another Days Work
“RISE AND SHINE, you lazy shower, Torchy, Rasher, Woody and Sick Leave, your taking the lead vehicle out on base perimeter patrol today, with The Dog, Tiny, and Bing, covering your tail in ‘Popeye,’ so make sure your weapons are cleaned, oiled, and ready for use, which by now should go without saying, OK lads,” Shouted out Bomber who was striding up and down the billet clattering the end of each bedpost with his pace stick.
The Salalah Air Base was constructed in 1928 and had been in constant use ever since as a military and civilian staging post. During the 1950s it was used as a refuelling post for duty Valetta flights coming from Khormaksar to Mauripur, and also incoming flights from Muscat, but was then closed in mid -1956.
It was reopened again through the 1960s and provided refuelling and replenishment facilities for Valetta, Beverley, Argosy, Dakota and other aircraft operating on the Aden-Masirah-Sharjah-Bahrain route, and was also used to accommodate a limited number of personal for rest and overnight stops.
Due to the intermittent attacks from the Adoo rebels the base was now guarded day and night and it was the RMP job to patrol the barbed wire perimeter, inside and outside the base which was somewhat of a harassing but boring job which had to be done on a regular basis.
“Hope where back in time to say farewell to Fletch Sarg”, Shouted Torchy as he climbed out of his bunk bed whilst throwing back the only army cotton sheet that he possessed which covered his bed.
“Never mind that Torchy just concentrate on doing your job properly lad and keeping alert whilst you’re out there OK, you’ll be back in plenty of time to say your farewells to Fletch. Now the rest of you get your lazy butts out of bed and be on parade outside the billet at 0800 hrs, is that clear.” said Bomber as he slowly closed the billet door behind him.
After parade Red Troop climbed into the Land Rovers and drove passed the Guardroom turning left out of the base and following the barbed wire fencing which was strung out all around the perimeter of Salalah Air Base.
Woody stopped alongside one of the Hedgehogs which was one of the fortified positions situated between RAF Salalah and the Jebel. The idea was to intercept any Adoo who came onto the plane at night to bring the airfield into the range of their mortars. The 82mm mortars weighed over 60 kgs and often the base plate would be brought in one night, camouflaged and left in position with the tube being brought in the following night. The range was not far off 7 kms.
Armaments in the Hedgehogs comprised of the usual small arms plus GPMGs and 81 mm mortars which weighed in at 35kgs and had a range of 5.5km Illuminating rounds were fired at night to survey the surrounding plain also the rather primitive ZB298 radar system or the GS 14 which had been manufactured by Marconi Avionics and in theory had a range of over six miles, but interpretations of the surrounding plain which the Marconi picked up was difficult for the operator to pick up. Red Troop uneventfully patrolled the area for most of the morning seeing only a wild donkey and stopping only once more to talk to one of the base Saracen drivers before reporting back to camp for lunch.
Straight after lunch the lads walked over to the airfield where a troop plane had just landed to transport Corporal Fletcher, firstly to the field hospital at RAF Muharrag in Bahrain ,then onto Brize Norton in the UK and then to be transported by Army ambulance to the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot so that the surgeons there could perform their miracle surgery on Fletch’s right leg, and hopefully manage to save it.
The OC and Sgt Hill accompanied the medics who were carrying Corporal Fletcher out onto the runway and Red Troop all gathered round to say farewell.
“Take care pal, and have a good flight home ,we will meet up again at the end of the tour out here, were all routing for you Fletch, so hang on in their buddy,” said Bomber as the medics slid the stretcher onto the Beverley troop plane.
“Lucky Bastard,” said The Dog just as the plane’s wheels left the runnway and the Beverley troop plane cleared the surrounding hillside heading out into the clear blue sky towards RAF Muharrag in Bahrain.
“Sorry Sarg!” said Corporal Robert Lang ( The Dog) when he turned away from the runnway and noticed the grim black look on Bombers face whilst he was looking in his direction. “Think it goes without saying Dog,” said Bomber angrily, “I dont want to see any of my lads ever again, having to face the surgery that Fletch will have to endure over the next six months, OK !”
It was two weeks later that the Beverley supply plane arrived carrying the base mail which everyone always looked forward too. Bomber collected RedTroops mail from the base post office and headed for Red Troop billet.
“Hey up lads” cried Woody in his usual Yorkshire slang, “Bombers coming or we mail.”
“Mail’s here lads gather round,” said Sergent Hill as everyone clambered round waiting for Bomber to call out their name.“Torchy, theres three letters for you today lad”, “Great Stuff Sarg,” cried out Torchy in his excitment to get the letters from his girlfriend and family opened.
“Tiny, Bing, Woody, and Rasher, two letters each for you lot today you lucky sods, just a minute, what’s this, I don’t believe it! Sick Leave’s got five letters from home.” Typical MUMMY’S BOY! Sarg, who’s being missed from home then?” Shouted out The Dog looking in Sick Leave’s direction from the back of the room.
“Sorry Dog, no mail for you today,” cried out Bomber, and everyone burst out laughing.
“NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS!” shouted out The Dog angrily, but at the same time feeling rather hurt. “Near mind Dog I‘ll write thee a ten page love letter an post it in morning,” said Woody sarcastically, which didn’t go down too well with The Dog who just stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him in his temper.
“OK that’s enough of the sarcastic comments,” said Bomber, “just think on, and remember how you all felt when you didn’t receive any mail from home, which you were all looking forward to lads. Remember were all in a combat situation here, so I think now would be a good time to apologize to The Dog don’t you boys?”
Bomber took his own letters out of his top pocket, sat down at the billet table and started to read but was soon interrupted by Tiny. “Hey Sarg, how’s things going for Fletch, have you heard anything yet?”
“According to my letter from the wife Tiny, the operation on his right leg has been a complete success,” Said Bomber as he pointed to his letter which was now laying on the top of the billet room table.
“That’s great Sarg I’ll tell all the lads they’ll all be relieved to hear it, How’s the wife Sarg? I expect your really missing her now Bomb, it’s been at least five months since you’ve seen her.”
“I thought it would be a good idea to ask her to visit Fletch at the Cambridge Military Hospital Tiny and see if there anything he needs, she’s now living with her parents in an army married quarter in Aldershot which is not too far from the hospital. Her old man used to be my OC at 12 Brigade in Osnabruck in 1969, but he’s now commanding 160 Provost Company just off Queens Avenue Tiny.” “Good Idea Bomb, but watch out for that randy bastard Fletch you can’t trust him with anything in a skirt, ha ha” said Tiny Jokingly.
“He’s a good pal Tiny and I feel somewhat responsible for the situation he now finds himself in, so I would like to do everything I can to help him, remember he saved my life Tiny ! and it’s looking very much like he may have to leave the army now.”
“Let’s hope that’s not the case Bomb, cant they find him a nice cushy office job?” “That would be the case if he were some high ranking snooty officer Tiny, but a Corporal, I don’t think so some how do you?, holding the Military Medal might help but you know the ministry if they can save a few bob he’ll be put out to grass like the rest of the injured active service lads Tiny. Anyway I’ll still do all I can to help him. My old man owns a pub in Chester so if he gets the push Ill fix him up with a job if he wants it, anyway time I was off, got to liaise with the OC at 1100 hrs I’ll let you know what happens soon as I hear anything”, and with that said Sergeant Hill headed for the door.
Corporal Fletcher gets a visitor
It was now the end of June and Fletch had been in Ward B3 of the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot for three weeks now. The army doctors and surgeons had done a wonderful job repairing his damaged right leg, and by all the odds had managed to save it.
He was now preparing for the plastic surgeon Major Wilson DSO MD, to carry out more skin grafts on his leg before the Royal Army Nursing Corps Physiotherapy Department could take over to teach him to walk properly on his injured leg once again.
Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps Depot had been built on the sight of the old Aldershot Royal Pavilion in 1967 and house 250 nurses, who worked and trained at the Cambridge Military Hospital on a shift system every day and night, and Fletch couldn’t thank the nurses enough for the excellent job they had done taking care of him whilst he underwent hours of surgery at the hospital to save his leg.
By this time Fletch was getting really board having to lay in a hospital bed with nothing to do but read book and magazines all day long, but he looked forward to the hospital visiting hour which was between 1500 hrs and 1600hrs during the daytime and 1900hrs until 2000hrs in the evening.
Unfortunately his parents Bill and Eva Fletcher whose home was in Winchester, couldn’t manage to get up to see their son on a regular basis due to the distance they had to travel from their home town, and Fetcher’s mother had only just returned home after spending two weeks by his bedside on his return from Oman due to worrying about the major surgery on his leg, although the hospital army Chaplin who was a member of 2 Para Brigade stationed in Aldershot, came to visit him every day on his regular hospital rounds, so at least he could hold a good conversation with him as he was quite conversant with the active service roll which Fletch had played during the Mirbat War in Dhofar Oman.
Still can’t complain thought Fletch, as he laid on the top of his bed reading the local newspaper, which had just been delivered by one of the Salvation Army helpers who came around everyday selling chocolate, sweets, magazines, and the daily newspapers to all the hospital wards.
A very attractive young blond lady in her early twenties turned up at the hospital reception desk at 1500hrs that very afternoon, just as the senior staff nurse opened the main hospital doors to allow all the visitors access to the wards, making enquiries as to which ward Corporal Fletcher was staying in.
The receptionist gave her the directions she required and pointed out to her the painted white line which she had to follow that would take her directly to the ward she required. “Excuse me are you by any chance Corporal Fletcher Royal Military Police, who my husband calls Fletch,” she said softly as she stood by Fletch’s bedside.
Fletch just couldn’t believe his luck as he slowly peered above the top of his newspaper at the sound of this lovely young woman’s voice who was now looking directly at him with dreamy deep blue eyes, and in his own words she had, ‘A BODY TO DIE FOR!’
“Yep that’s me the one and only Fletch, the best looking thing since sliced bread ! , what can I do for a pretty lady like yourself ?,” Commented Fletcher jokingly.
“Actually it’s more like what I can do for you, but please don’t misunderstand me, my name is Julie Hill and I’m Sergeant Hills wife, your Red Troop company Sergeant who is still out in Oman at the moment.” Replied Julie. “Oh! really sorry Mrs Hill, you took me a little by surprise as I wasn’t expecting any visitors today, but it’s very nice of you to take the time to come and visit me anyway,” said Fletch.
“I wanted to thank you personally for saving my husband’s life Corporal Fletcher, and Bill, my husband asked me if I would visit you to see if there’s anything else we may be able to help you with whilst your laid up in hospital.”
“Please call me Fletch, It sounds so formal being called Corporal Fletcher Julie. Hope you don’t mind me calling you Julie, but it seems like I’ve known you for years, you being married to my best pal Bomber an all”. Explained Fletch.
“That’s fine I don’t mind at all, now in the meantime is there anything I can get for you, do you require any more reading material or something from the local shops, have you enough writing paper and envelopes, If you like Ill post the letter you’ve written, the one on top of your bedside table,” she said in her eagerness to help.
“Please don’t worry about me Julie,” said Fletch. “Someone comes around every day with new reading material, and I usually ask the nurses if I require any pens or paper to write letters home, but I would be grateful if you could post the letter to my parents for me please, as the nurse who collects the mail for me doesn’t come on duty until after 1900hrs, so unfortunately my letters don’t get posted until the morning.”
“Would you like to pull up that chair near my bedside table Julie, it’s better than standing up, and I can have a conversation with you much better if I don’t have to keep looking up at you,” remarked Fletch. Visiting hour seemed to fly by whilst Fletch and Bomber Hills wife Julie were deeply in conversation, just talking about anything from Fletchers time out in Oman to Julies shopping spree at the local Aldershot market.
Eventually the hospital bell rang out for the end of the visiting hour, and Julie stood up to leave. “Take care and I hope all goes well for your final operation Fletch, are you sure now there nothing I can do to help,?” Said Julie
“Only one thing,” cried out Fletch as Julie headed for the hospital exit. “What’s that.?” Remarked Julie. “Come and visit me again soon,” cried out Fletch in desperation.
A letter from Julie
Four days later Bomber received a letter from his wife stating that she had been to visit Corporal Fletcher in the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot as requested, and he was as well as could be expected in his present condition, but was now waiting for the plastic surgeon to repair some of the damaged tissue to his right leg.
Bomber was pleased to hear that his pal Fletch was doing fine, and informed all the lads in Red Troop when he walked over to the troop accommodation billet for a briefing with regard to their next mission.
“Good news about Fletch Sarg, it was really nice of your misses to pay him a visit at the hospital, let’s hope he makes a full recovery and manages to walk properly again,” said Torchy, whilst handing Bomber a cup of steaming red hot tea, which he’d just brewed up from an old electric kettle that the lads had brought with them from Cherry Tree Camp in Colchester.
“What’s on the agenda to night for you lads,” shouted out Bomber whilst sitting on the end of Corporal Bing Crosby’s bed, with his tea in one hand and rolling a cigarette with other. “I think The Dog and some of the lads are going down to the RAF Police Club to get oiled Sarg,” said Rasher. “ All the guys usually pull up a chair against the club windows, so that they can watch the Royal Artillery Gun Battery’s illuminated display when they fire of a few hundred rounds at the Jebel Sarg.”
“Is that the best you lot can find to do, I think it would be better served if you all got yer bloody heads down ready for your little jolly in the morning, don’t you”. Cried out Bomber putting his half drunk cup of tea on the table and heading for the billet front door.
“By the way Woody,” shouted out Bomber, just before closing the billet door behind him. “This time don’t forget to put the bloody bayonet in the lead vehicle passenger side door compartment, I don’t want to be stuck out in the middle of Jebel Ali surrounded by the ruddy Adoo rebels with a knackered Range Rover engine on my hands, just because you put a dirty old oily sand covered dipstick back into the engine!, Is that clear lad,” said Bomber.
“Right Sarg!, no problem Sarg!, I won’t forget it this time I promise you”.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said had immediately instigated major social, educational and military reforms in Oman soon after his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur had been deposed, and he had instructed that a general amnesty was to be granted to all of his subjects who had opposed his father in the past.
However for all those rebels who did not accept the offer of amnesty military action would be taken. The Sultan wanted his country to be recognised as a genuine Arab state with its own legal form of government and to isolate the PDRY from receiving support from other Arab states.
Within hours of the coup, He had requested assistance from the British government to help stop the Communist rebels taking over his country, which would have been catastrophic for the Western World. The British Government immediately despatched Special Air Service (SAS) troops who were flown into Oman to further bolster the counterinsurgency campaign.
Twenty Five men from the SAS were initially sent in by the British Government under the then Conservative leader Edward Heath, who wholeheartedly supported the counterinsurgency campaign, with a further 20 personal from the British Royal Engineers who would aid his people to construct schools, health centres, and the drilling of wells for the population of Dhofar.
A Royal Air Force medical team would also be sent to Oman to operate out of the hospital in Salalah. In 1970 Brigadier Jack Fletcher took command of the Brigade but it was now 1972 and Brigadier John Akenhurst had now taken overall command.
.A major effort was made to counter rebel propaganda and induce the Dhofari population to support the government, in particular appeals were made to Islam and to traditional tribal values and customs against the rebels secular and materialistic teaching.
Japanese transistor radios were distributed free to Dhofari’s who visited Salalah and other government held towns when they came to sell their firewood or vegetables to the local Dhofar market traders, this helped the new Oman government get their message across to the population .
The radios were flown into RAF Salalah on one of the only monthly regular flights from Bahrain, and Red Troops next mission was to escort the cargo to all the local towns as far away as Mirbat ,to be distributed to the people in the local market place.
After morning parade Sergeant Hill instructed, Tiny, Rasher, and Sick Leave to take Popeye out to the landing strip to meet the incoming flight from Bahrain, and then to load up the cargo of Japanese transistor radios and spare batteries on the back of the Land Rover which was then to be transported by escort to the local towns including Mirbat.
As expected the monthly RAF flight from Bahrain came under a barrage of mortar bombs from the Adoo rebels, which fortunately fell far short of their intended target, and the lads managed to recover the cargo of radios without any serious injuries to either themselves or their vehicle. Within minutes our hedgehog positions counter attacked the enemy locations and fired mortar shells in the direction of the enemy. The heavy guns of the Royal Artillery swung into action and opened up on the surrounding hillsides which put paid to the enemy attack once again.
Red troop accompanied by their OC Captain ( Blossom) Flowers in the lead vehicle headed out for the 75 klm drive to Mirbat, stopping off for a delivery to Salalah and Taqah Town , but apart from the occasional sniper who had only just managed to put one hole into Popeye’s tailboard, the rebels had very little success.
The lads managed to deliver the cargo of Japanese radios to the Mirbat market for free distribution to the local people without further incident. The local population were now trying to get to back to some sort of daily routine due to the major disruption which was suffered by the Mirbat War, and soon after visiting the BATT Fort, Red Troop headed back to the safety of RAF Salalah.
The plastic surgeon Major Wilson DSO MD performed his successful surgery on Fletchers right leg a fortnight later, when the medical team decided that he would be strong enough to undergo the operation.
It would now be left up to the QARANC Physiotherapy department to work with Fletch and try to teach him to walk on his badly injured right leg again, but for the next few days he was resting in his hospital bed from the trauma of his previous operation.
He had just received a letter from his parents in their home town of Winchester informing Fletch that they would be visiting him in hospital the following weekend and would be travelling up by car and bringing his current girlfriend, Ebony Rimmer with them to visit him.
Unfortunately although Ebony was 25 years old and a very pretty girl, she was always talking about the pair of them getting married soon, and that was the last thing on Fletch’s mind, he had too many things he wanted to do with his life right at this moment in time, and that most certainty didn’t include marriage in any shape or form.
Fletch was now in two minds whether or not to write to his parent to tell them to come and visit him alone, but he knew that the letter probably wouldn’t reach them in time before they were due to set off for Aldershot on the following Saturday morning, and he didn’t like the idea of talking to them on the telephone for hours on end, so he decided to say nothing and grin and bear it.
Anyway right now he had other things on his mind, and just couldn’t stop thinking about Bomber’s beautiful sexy young wife, and how much he was looking forward to her next visit again, although he knew this was wrong, Bomber being his best pal an all.
Over the next few days, time seemed to drag by for Fletch, but to his pleasant surprise Bomber’s wife Julie came to see him again during the Friday evening visiting hour. God he thought, he’d forgotten just how beautiful she really was when she pulled up a chair and sat down beside his bed.
Her soft long blond hair flowed over her right shoulder toughing the top of her deep red low cut dress. Fletch was captivated by her beauty and he found it impossible not to keep looking longingly into her deep blue eyes, Oh! how he just wanted to reach over and pull her towards him so he could kiss her on her soft wet ruby red lips, but somehow he managed to control himself as she started to make conversation with him.
“Did your operation go well Fletch”, I’m sure with a lot of hard work on your part you will be able to walk on it properly again soon”, she said softly.
Struggling to find the right words Fletch suddenly blurted out “Yer..... I’m sure I will with your help Julie”. and realising just what he said he suddenly changed it to, “ No...No.. I mean with you and Bomber’s help Julie.”
She gently laughed and said, “I’m sure Bill and I will always be there if you need any support Fletch, it’s the very least we could do for saving his life.”
“I’m hoping to get outside for some fresh air, when the Physiotherapy people eventually manage to get me a pair of crutches to stand up on Julie, God knows when that will be but I hope it sooner rather than later,” remarked Fletch.
“ If you would like me to take you out for a little run round the countryside in my car when you’re feeling up to it Fletch I’m sure Bill won’t mind, and anyway it will give you a change of scenery, I would think anything’s better than looking at four bare hospital walls all day long and I bet you would enjoy it.”
If only you knew how much!, thought Fletch, but for the time being he just nodded in agreement. The visiting hour always seemed to fly by when Julie came to visit, and Fletch was really disappointed when the nurse rang the hospital visitors bell, but Julie agreed to visit him again soon, so for the time being Fletch said farewell to her and was satisfied with that.
The staff nurse ushered all the visitors into Ward B3 the following Saturday afternoon and Fletcher’s girlfriend Ebony rushed to his bedside and kissed him on the lips.
“I’ve really missed you darling!, it’s been so long since we saw each other last, I do hope you can come home soon,” she said sadly, whilst cupping his head in one hand, and running her fingers through his thick brown hair with the other, which was slowly beginning to annoy Fletch, so he blurted out angrily, “ Oh!..... stop bloody fussing woman,” and Ebony quickly pulled away in surprise.
“Oh!.... I’m so sorry love, but I’m just sick of being stuck in here all day long, ” said Fletch. trying to make amends for losing his temper.
“Apart from the boredom, Jack how did the operation go son,?” said his father in anticipation. The sound of his father’s voice managed to cool down Fletch’s frustration at being cooped up in Ward B3 all day long, and as soon as he started to relax he found himself deep in conversation with his father about his future prospects.
His mother Eva, had brought him some of his home made favourite cookies along with a huge bunch of red and yellow roses which had been picked straight from his father’s garden, and she spent most of the hospital visit arranging the flowers in a multi coloured vase which she’d brought from home.
The hospital visit was soon over, and Fletch’s mother kissed him goodbye, leaving a large pink lipstick mark on his left cheek which made the family all start to laugh, and they promised to visit him again before his final release from hospital.
Fletch was pleasantly surprised that his girlfriend Ebony had not once mentioned marriage again, perhaps his father had told her not to mention it, he thought to himself, anyway he was relieved that he didn’t have to admit that he didn’t want to marry her.
On the Monday morning the patients in Ward B3 were all woken up at 0600hrs by the junior night nurses, and given their daily dose of pills, antibiotic injections and for those patients who couldn’t walk to the ablutions, a bed bath was the order of the day. Fletch always found it highly amusing watching the young nurses franticly running around like headless chickens, trying to make sure everything was in order just before the Matron, Lieutenant Colonel Janet Eastfield came round on her daily ward visit.
The Matron Lt Colonel Eastfield who stood about 5 feet 4 inches tall and was a little on the plump side to say the very least, although only very small she was feared by everyone in the nursing profession, even Fletcher’s surgeon, Major Wilson DSO MD use to jump to attention every time the Matron passed by.
All the ward sisters followed her around the wards like little lost puppies hanging on to her every word, and the staff nurses all stood to attention at the end of each patients bed looking like smartly dressed tin soldiers, with the patient’s medical history attached to a clip board in their right hand ready to pass it to her if she requested it.
For some unknown reason the Matron had a soft spot for Fletch and made a point every morning of talking to him, although Fletch enjoyed taking the Mickey out of her she simply loved it, and this was the only time a grin came across her hard weathered face.
The doctors and nurses however just couldn’t believe how Fletch managed to get away with some of the things he said to her, which on occasion was a little on the rude side, but Fletch looked forward to her daily rounds and the banter he shared with her to help him take the boredom of the hospital routine away.
His plastic Surgeon Major Wilson DSO MD came to examine Fletch straight after lunch and told him he was pleased with the healing process on Fletchers right leg, further stating that physiotherapy would now be in order and could start immediately, which pleased Fletch enormously.
“Does that mean I can start walking on a pair of crutches then doc,” enquired Fletch. “Well one step at a time, so to speak Corporal Fletcher”, replied Major Wilson, as he turned away towards the ward entrance to inform the ward sister of his decision.
As instructed two nurses from the QARANC Hospital Physiotherapy Department turned up an hour later to access Fletchers right leg capabilities, and put him through his paces. Although he found the physiotherapy quite painful and demanding at first, Fletch was only too pleased to be able to take the dressing off his leg and sit in a chair at the side of his bed in relative comfort.
A Breath of Fresh Air
At long last Fletcher was now learning to walk again with the support of crutches, which couldn’t have come soon enough as he had now been hospitalized for five long weeks, and as promised Bombers sexy wife Julie turned up at the hospital the following Monday morning in her father’s black 1970s Range Rover, to take Fletcher out for a run in the Adershot surrounding countryside.
“Hope you don’t mind Fletch but I brought my little Yorkshire Terrier Buttons along with me, she’s really cute, and well behaved, so I thought we could give her a little run on the open army ranges near Fleet, Oh! And I borrowed dads new Range Rover too ,it will be a lot easier for you to climb in and out of with your bad leg,” said Julie whilst helping a junior nurse push Fletch in awheelchair down the hospital corridor to the main hospital entrance.
“Can you drive your car to the side entrance Mrs Hill, it would make life a lot easier for all concerned if we can just wheel the chair straight to the car door without having to go down the front hospital steps”, demanded the nurse.
Julie did as she was told and ran to the hospital car park to fetch the car and then drove it round to the side entrance. The nurse was right of course and the couple were soon driving out of the hospital grounds down the Queens Avenue and to the junction of Alisons Road, heading for North Camp near Farnborough. Julie turned left onto the Fleet Road telling Fletch that she knew of a really nice area not far from Malta Barracks where she could exercise her little dog Buttons.
She had also packed up a picnic basket for their lunch so they wouldn’t go hungry, and could enjoy the scenery around this pleasant area in relative peace and quiet. The more the couple talked the more Fletch became infatuated with Bombers pretty wife, how could he tell her of his longing for her he thought without spoiling this wonderful friendship that the couple shared together, but Fletch wanted more, much more, but for now he bit his bottom lip and told himself to play it cool, he was sure she was beginning to feel the same way towards him.
On occasions he’d noticed the way she’d looked at him when he stared longingly into her deep blue eyes. Just as Julie climbed out of the driving seat to put her little dog Buttons onto herdog lead, a white Military Police patrol car turned onto the track heading in their direction with it blue lights flashing, and pulled up across the front of Julies car preventing the couple from leaving the area. A rather large well built Royal Military Police Lance Corporal opened his car door and walked towards them.
“Do you know your trespassing, this is a private military army range madam!,” said the Corporal in a hard stern angry voice, which frightened poor Julie a little. Noticing the stress on Julies face Fletch piped up, “ Can’t you see where having a private picnic pal, so just sod off and leave us in peace will you!” “One more word from you mister and you’ll be arrested and locked up!,” bellowed the RMP Corporal.
“I don’t think so pal, the names Corporal Fletcher Royal Military Police Special Forces, and this young lady your frightening the life out of just happens to be Major Bambridge’s daughter, who just happens to be your Officer Commanding 160 Provost Company, so do as your told and sod off, there’s a good chap, and just leave us both in peace Lance Corporal, got it !,” bellowed Fletch.
“Sorry Corps”! just doing my job that’s all,” replied the Lance Corporal as he returned to his RMP patrol car feeling rather embarrassed and without saying another word.
“I think we had better drive back to the hospital now anyway Fletch don’t you ? because it’s getting rather late,” said Julie still shaking from the Lance Corporals dressing down.
“Hope he didn’t frighten you too much Julie, I’ll see to that bugger as soon as I get out of the hospital, he needs to learn how to approach people and deal with other people before he goes shouting his mouth off.”
“Do you think he will tell my father Fletch ?,” said Julie in rather a concerned tone of voice. “What will it matter if he does Julie, we weren’t doing anything wrong unfortunately, only having a cosy picnic and exercising your family dog,” said Fletch smiling.
Julie drove Fletch back to the Cambridge Military Hospital and waved him farewell promising that she would come and visit him again soon. Apart from the episode with the RMP patrol, Fletch had enjoyed himself enormously and had decided that on Julie’s next visit he would most certainly make his feelings towards her known.
As expected when the RMP patrol returned to 160 Provost Company Duty Room at the end of their patrol, the Lance Corporal just couldn’t wait to spread the word about how he came across Corporal Fletcher and his Officer Commanding, Major Bambridge’s daughter out on the army range.
Unfortunately for him, the door of the OC office had been left ajar and it was situated directly behind the duty desk. Major Bambridge heard every word clearly and immediately ordered the RSM to march the culprit into his office.“What’s the meaning of this idle chatter Lance Corporal Biddle!,” demanded Major Bainbridge. “I’m.... So....Sorry Sir, blustered out Lance Corporal Biddle, in his haste to apologise, “ I didn’t mean anything bad by my comments Sir, just thought it was strange that your daughter was out on the ranges alone with Bomber’s wife, I....I..... mean Sergeant Hills wife Sir.”
“Let’s set the record straight right now Lance Corporal Biddle, and quash this ugly rumour before it goes any further than my office shall we,.... Corporal Fletcher who’s name you seem to want to blacken, saved my Son -in-laws life whilst serving honourably out in Oman, he has now been hospitalized for over five long weeks stuck in the Cambridge Military Hospital due the major injury he received to his right leg and he is now working hard to get back on his feet once again. Sergeant Hill requested that his wife try to help him through his ordeal, and it was my suggestion to my daughter that she took him out, IN MY CAR ! For a change of scenery, Is that clear to you now Lance Corporal Biddle?” “Yes.....yes....Sir, ...sorry Sir, spluttered Lance Corporal Biddle looking into his OC angry eyes which were staring straight at him from behind his desk. “Now get out of my sight Biddle! and don’t let me hear any more vicious insinuations with regard to Corporal Fletcher. “RSM march this idiot out of my office”, stated Major Bambridge as his banged his fist angrily on the top of his desk.
Julie had just arrive home from a shopping spree to the family Officers married quarters in North Camp which was situated on the north side of Aldershot, when her father Major Bambridge called her into the conservatory for a chat.
She knew by the look on his face that he was now well aware of her meeting with Corporal Fletcher, but she also knew that in the past he had never chastised her or lost his temper with her, she was still his little girl and he loved her dearly.
“Julie” said her father softly, “ You must be very careful what you’re doing my darling, with regard to your relationship with Corporal Fletcher, I know your husband William has asked you to visit Fletcher, and I do understand that it’s for all the right reasons, that you’re doing your best to help him through his ordeal, but wild rumours of this nature spread very quickly and I don’t want the good name of this family dragged through the mud. I hold a very important position as you well know, and this family must be seen to be squeaky clean, do you understand me darling ?”. Said her father as he poured himself a small glass of whisky and sat down in his favourite armchair which stood in the corner of the conservatory.
“Now come and sit beside me, and tell me what kind of a day you’ve had my darling daughter, and we will say no more about this subject”, said her father forgivingly.
“Had anymore mail from Fletch Sarg, how’s he doing ?,” said Tiny with his head still stuck under the bonnet of Popeye, whilst cleaning the sand and dirt from the top of the engine with an oily rag.
“He wrote a few days ago Tiny, saying he was due to have some more skin grafts on his leg, but not heard anymore since then.” replied Bomber.
“Has the wife been up to see him again Bomb?” commented Tiny. “ She’s been tosee him a few times now Tiny, and told me in her letters that he’s doing well, but he’s missing Red Troop and wishing he was back in the fold, bloody fool!, he’s far better off at home with his family around him than being stuck out in this God forsaken hell hole!”
“That’s a fact Bomber, I sure do wish I was back home again, I miss the wife and kids like crazy, but with a bit of luck we won’t be stuck out here too much longer now, I keep marking the days off my bedside calendar with the comment, (Days To Do Getting Few) written underneath it for luck Bomb.” Said Tiny sadly.
“I often wonder what she up too though Bomber, she must get pretty sick of being stuck in the house all day, but at least she’s got the kids to keep her busy. It’s even worse for your misses though Bomb, she’s no kids to worry about and I bet she’s misses going out dancing and the likes,” Commented Tiny without thinking of what he’d just implied.
“I’m sure I can trust her with my life Tiny, we’ve not long been married now and I’m sure she’s missing me as much as I’m missing her pal.”
“Don’t kid yourself Bomber ( When the cats away the mice will play! ) that’s life I’m afraid Bomb.” Commented Tiny as he closed the bonnet on Popeye.
“Its lunch time now Sarg, time I was off to the canteen, my stomach thinks my bloody throats cut !, are you coming over for some grub?,” said Tiny laughing.“Don’t think so Tiny, don’t feel up to it today for some reason,” replied Bomber.
Tiny walked off in the direction of the canteen leaving Bomber, leaning on theside of Popeye anddeep in thoughtabout the comments he’d just made regarding his wife Julie. Sergeant Hill was supposed to be writing a report on Red Troops progress for his OC Captain Flowers when he arrived back at the Sergeants Mess that afternoon, but he just couldn’t seemed to get his head around it somehow and just laid on his bed thinking about his wife Julie, and Tiny Lanham’s words of warning.
At last he decided to put pen to paper, sit down and write a nice long love letter to his wife Julie, being careful of course not to accuse her of anything and this made him feel so much better, and took his mind off any previous suspicions’ he may have had.
It was a lovely day when Julie awoke on the following Sunday morning and the sun was peeking through her bedroom curtain, splashes of sunlight were dancing on the bedroom wall as a soft breeze from her open window blew gently against the curtains shutting out the sunlight and then allowing it back into her bedroom once again to dance on the walls and ceiling even more.
It felt so good to be alive on a beautiful sunny morning like this she thought, as she climbed out of bed and quickly slid her feet from the cold wooden floor into her warn fury slippers.
Think I will visit Fletch today at the hospital, she said to herself as she made her way to the bathroom putting her dressing gown over her shoulders and brushing aside her soft long blond hair. Maybe she could take him out for a run in the car to the coast she thought to herself, somewhere like Brighton or Eastbourne, it was such a lovely day and maybe this would make up for the disastrous picnic they both had out on the army ranges the previous week before she thought.
After breakfast she put on a pretty white and red, flowered, low cut summer dress, and flat heeled shoes to match, blowing a kiss to her father and mother, who were sat on the veranda swing drinking a glass of cold orange juice, as she ran out of the front door to the garage at the bottom of the driveway.
Fletch had been woken up at 0600 hrs that morning as per the same old hospital routine which he was well use too by now, and had just made his way out into the hospital gardens on his crutches, when to his pleasant surprise Julie arrived to take him out.
She looks so beautiful again today thought Fletch as she sat next to him on one of the many hospital garden benches which had been placed around the gardens. Fletch just couldn’t help noticing the sunlight dancing through her long blond hair and shinning over her soft velvet skin as she sat beside him admiring the colourful garden flower beds.
“Where would you like to go today Jack” said Julie taking her car keys out of her handbag and placing them on the seat beside her. “I don’t care Julie, anywhere as long as it’s with you,” said Fletch, which caused Julie to blush a little. “I thought we might take a run down to the south coast Jack, Brighton or Eastbourne maybe,” suggested Julie. “ Sounds good to me, let’s make tracks then lovely, can you help me up please Julie ? this dam crutch hurts my arms if I push on it to help me stand up.” Replied Fletch.
By noon the couple where sat closely together in the car on the top of a cliff overlooking a romantic quite beauty spot, they could hear the sound of the sea far below lapping against the shore as the couple gazed longingly into each other’s eyes.
“Julie, there’s something I have tell you, I have tried to avoid speaking to you about it because I was worried that it would spoil our friendship together but I’m afraid I can’t hold back from telling you any longer,” Said Fletch hesitantly. “I LOVE YOU! I can’t help myself, and I feel so ashamed because your my best friend’s wife, and he’s out in Oman putting his life on the line, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH JULIE ! I fell in love with you the first day you stood beside my hospital bed, God I’m so deeply in love with you it hurts Julie!”
Julie looked away trying to avoid his gaze, but the attraction was far too strong and she turned back towards him, their lips met in a long passionate soft lingering kiss, she managed to forced herself to pull away again saying, “NO.... NO....Jack, I can’t do this!” crying out in despair, “WHAT ABOUT MY HUSBAND ?!”
Fletch flopped back in his seat and held her right hand softly in his own. “I don’t know what were going to do now Julie ?, I only know I love you deeply, and I would understand if you never want to see me again, I only know I can’t live without you my angel, and I want you so very badly!” said Fletch in desperation.
Fletchers Good News
The couple hardly spoke two words to each other and spent the time sitting in relative quite whilst travelling back to Aldershot. Julie felt so ashamed of herself for succumbing to her emotions and passionately kissing Fletcher on the lips.
Fletch on the other hand was really worried that Julie wouldn’t want to see him again, and now wished he’d said nothing, but how could he have kept a secret like that to himself, he was so passionately in love with her now, and had never felt this way about any other woman before, she made him feel wonderfully alive and he couldn’t stand the thought of never seeing her again, he just wanted to be by her side every minute of the day.
Arriving back in Aldershot , Julie drove Fletch around to the side entrance of the hospital and quietly said her goodbyes, but turned her head away when he reached over to kiss her on the lips.
“Will I see you again Julie, ?....... please,..... please, say you’ll see me again Julie”, said Fletch in desperation. “Even if our relationship is just a friendship,” begged Fletch.
Julie looked the other way whilst trying to avoid his gaze and said, “ I don’t think that’s a very good idea anymore do you Jack?” and without uttering another word she slowly drove off down the hospital drive leaving Fletch stood at the hospital side entrance feeling very foolish and alone.
Over the following few days Fletcher started to sink into a deep depression, Julie had not bothered to contacted him, although he knew this was understandable but he missed her like crazy, and to top it all a Ministry Captain currier from the Ministry of Defence in London had been to see him, presenting him with a letter which read as follows:
To 2401964 Corporal J Fletcher. 24th July 1972.
I am Commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Army to inform you that they have learned with great pleasure that on the advice of the Army Chief of Staff, The Queen has been graciously pleased to award you the Military Medal, for bravery skill and leadership in the face of the enemy whilst serving in Her Majesty’s Forces in Dhofar Oman, in the course of which much havoc was caused to enemy movements.
This Award was published in the London Gazette Supplement on the 25th July, 1972.
Two reporters and a camera man from the national news papers, had also turned up at the hospital to get his side of the story, but Fletch didn’t feel up to giving them too many details, and they went away putting his reactions down to the injuries he’d received out in Oman, but Fletch knew differently and was pining desperately for Julie.
His father rang him two days later when the story of his bravery out in Oman hit the front page of all the local and national news papers, to tell him how proud he was that his son Jack had been invited to Buckingham Palace to receive his medal personally from Her Majesty the Queen.
Unfortunately it hit Fletch even harder when the hospital staff turned on the daily news report on his bedside television set, and the men of ‘Red Troop’ still stationed out in RAF Salalah Dhofar appeared singing his praises, and his pal Sergeant (Bomber ) Hill telling the TV reporters how he’d saved his life. God did that make him feel bad!, and the nurses just couldn’t understand why he demanded that they turn his TV set off. The Matron put his sullen moods down to too much excitement, God if she only knew the real reason! Thought Fletch.
It was two days later when Fletch had just finished another intensive course of exercises with the hospital Physiotherapy Department that his surgeon Major Wilson MD came to see him at his bedside to inform him that he was being released from hospital within the next few days.
Major Wilson also told Fletch that his physiotherapy would continue for a further six weeks as an outpatient from his local hospital in Winchester now that he was managing to walk around with the aid of just one walking stick. He was also satisfied that Fletch would make a reasonable recovery from his injuries. Unfortunately Fletcher was also informed that after his investiture at Buckingham Palace on the 1st August 1973 when he was due to receive his Military Medal from Her Majesty the Queen, he was to be discharged from the army with a military pension, but this was little comfort to Fletch, and although he was expecting this to happen, it still hit him like a bolt out of the blue, and did very little towards helping him out of his depression.
His father had told him that as soon as he felt strong enough and wanted to work again, he could go into business with him in his sailing, fishing and speedboat sales business, which his father had managed to set up during the early 1960s and it was now expanding due to receiving more major boat sales contracts from abroad, but nothing seemed to matter to Fletch anymore, and right now all he could think about was losing Bombers wife Julie.
Julie had been reading all the national and local papers, and just couldn’t help following all the heroic stories about Fletchers deeds on the Television news reports whilst he had been serving out in Dhofar Oman. It was then that she began to realise just how much she loved and cared for him, and try as she may she just couldn’t get Jack Fletcher out of her thoughts which haunted her day and night.
At last she made up her mind to go and see him at the hospital and tell him that she loved him too, before he was due to return home and it was too late to tell him of her feelings towards him.
Fletch was sat on the edge of his bed with his suitcase packed and ready to go after saying farewell to the hospital Matron, doctors and staff, when Julie ran frantically down the hospital corridor and rushed into his arms.
Fletch was taken completely by surprise but was so happy and relieved that Julie was now in love with him too. Fletcher held Julie tightly in his arms and tears of joy ran down Julie’s face as they kissed and embraced each other, telling each other that they never wanted to be separated again.
At last Fletch managed to explained to her that his father was driving up from Winchester and due anytime to collect him within the hour, and she would have to leave before he arrived, but they exchanged telephone numbers and he promised her he would arrange a meeting again with her as soon as he could make the necessary arrangement.
Julie found it hard to pull away from Fletchers loving arms but gave him another lingering kiss on the lips before blowing him another kiss as she reluctantly left his bed side and headed for the main hospital exit just before Fletchers father arrived.
“All ready to go son, your most certainly a lot more cheerful than of late” said his father picking up his suitcase at the side of his bed “Sure thing dad! didn’t think I was ever going say this, but I sure will miss this place now I’m leaving it dad,” said Fletch sadly, as he waved farewell to the duty nurses and limped towards the hospital main exit supported by his father.
A few days later the Fletcher family were preparing to drive up to London for their son Jack’s investiture at Buckingham Palace, which was to commence at 1130hrs on the 1st August 1973. His father Bill had booked an overnight stay in the Bletchley hotel, so the family could do a little sightseeing after the medal ceremony before returning home once again to Winchester.
Fletch had pressed and ironed his best blues uniform, spit and polished his best army boots, and brushed his best red top peak cap, ready to be presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to receive his Military Medal.
Everything was now packed and ready to go, His mother and sister had been shopping the week before and had purchased new summer dresses and hats for Jacks big day at the palace. His mother Eva had selected a beautiful Wedgewood green dress and hat with a bow to match, and his sister Cathy had purchased a Wedgewood blue summer dress with a modern side hat that had two huge light blue feathers attached. The family were so proud of Fletch and were looking forward to visiting Buckingham Palace and meeting the Queen for the first time.
A Bellboy was waiting outside the Bletchley hotel to carry their suitcases up to their rooms when the family arrived outside the main entrance in his father’s Mercedes car, and a chauffeur requested the car keys from his father so he could drive the car around to the secure hotel car park which was situated at the back entrance, directly underneath the hotel.
After dinning in the hotel restaurant that evening the family celebrated Jacks investiture in the hotel bar room and lounge before retiring to their rooms for the rest of the evening.
Investiture day at Buckingham Palace was a memorable one and the whole family met and spoke with the Queen after the medal ceremony. Fletcher proudly wore his Military Medal on his Royal Military Police uniform and the local and national newspaper photographers and journalists covered his story. After a final celebration back in the Bletchley Hotel the family decided to stay on in the hotel for a further night and then drive home the following morning.
Fletch contacted Julie from the hotel by telephone, and told her he had arranged for them both to spend the following weekend together in a small two bed roomed country thatched cottage at the edge of a small picturesque village called Meadstead ,which was situated just off the A31 between Winchester and Aldershot. Julie was overjoyed at the news and told Fletcher just how much she’d missed and loved him.
Julie drove down to the cottage in Meadstead the following Friday night to spend the weekend with Fletch, telling her parents that she was spending the whole weekend with one of her old school chums from her College days in Oxford, which was a complete fabrication of course, but she couldn’t possibly tell them the truth knowing full well that they wouldn’t understand the situation.
Fletcher arrived at the little cottage in Meadstead early on the Friday evening so he could lay and light the open log fire to warm the cottage through before his beloved Julie was due to arrived an hour later.
Fletch laid the dining room table with a white linen table cloth, making sure the silver service had been laid out correctly, and the wine was placed in the ice bucket to chill, finally lighting the candles in the silver candlestick which he’d placed in the centre of the table alongside a vase of red roses which he had freshly cut from his father’s garden before setting out for the cottage.
He had ordered an Al-carte meal from a local English restaurant which luckily arrived piping hot just a few minutes before Julie arrived, and everything had been laid out perfectly just as her car, pulled up outside the cottage front door.
Fletch rushed outside and opened her car door, holding her in his arms and kissing her tenderly full on the lips. “God I’ve missed you so much Julie, it’s seems like we’ve been separated for weeks although it’s only been a few days my love,” said Fletch as he gently pulled away from their lingering kiss.
Julie locked her car door and Fletcher suddenly and without warning, lifted her up off the floor and into his arms, carrying her over the threshold and gently placing her feet first back down onto the cottage living room thick pilled carpet.“Oh ! how lovely this little cottage is Jack, it’s so picturesque, and you’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to make everything wonderful,” cried Julie joyfully.
“I do hope we can make this a memorable weekend Julie, I’m so pleased you could manage to break away from your family without too much trouble,” said Fletch, as he gently kissed her forehead.
“Well actually Jack I felt quite ashamed of myself because the only thing I could think of was to tell my father that I was staying with an old school friend over the weekend in Oxford, and I had to make a silly excuse when my parents asked for a contact telephone number, I just told them I would ring them from a phone box when I arrived. I don’t like telling lies to my parents but I was left with very little choice, I Love you so much Jack!,” said Julie, feeling positively guilty by now, as she started to take off her coat and move towards the open log fire to get a little warmer.
“Wow Jack! the meal looks wonderful you certainly have surpassed yourself I’m so proud of you”, said Julie as she sat down pulling her chair closer to the table. “Only trouble is Jack you’ve forgotten to put out any napkins,” she said jokingly with a big grin on her face.
Jack quickly ran into the kitchen and pulled out two new white napkins from a kitchen draw, placing one gently on Julie’s lap. “Thank you kind Sir” said Julie smiling, as Fletch poured out a glass of chilled French Chardonnay wine, which he’d opened early to allow it to breath.
“Bon Appétit Julie,” replied Fletch, “We better get stuck in before it starts to go cold,” He said as he looked across the dining room table in Julies direction smiling.
Just after dinner the couple stretched out on the cottage sofa, laying in each other’s arms contently and without saying a word, so very much in love, whilst watching the flames from the open log fire dancing and flickering up the side of the chimney breast.
Fletcher ran his fingers through her soft long blond hair whilst he pulled her face gently towards him, their lips met in a long lingering kiss and they fell gently to the floor, clinging together whilst laying on the fire side rug. His hands slid down to the front of her pretty flowered dress and her soft open cleavage.
Turning her gently onto her left side his right hand nervously unzipped the back of her dress which slowly slipped down to her waist, revealing her full round beautiful soft bosoms. Fletcher passionately kissed the nape of her neck, whilst caressing her left breasts with his trembling free hand, her body shivered with excitement, as his lips carefully worked their way around to the soft velvet skin on the top of her shoulders. “WAIT !WAIT! JACK! ”, Cried out Julie in ecstasy I want us both to undress each other together she moaned loudly.
The sun was shining through the tiny cottage bedroom window echoing the dawn, when Julie slowly awoke stretching her beautiful soft bare body between the silken sheets. Oh how wonderful she felt, her body still alive and reeling with passion whilst lying in the four poster bed which she’d shared with her lover, Jack Fletcher the night before Fletch had arouse early that morning and entered the bedroom carrying a tray with a single red rose in a miniature vase on it, alongside a full English breakfast with toast and peculated coffee, which he placed on the top of Julie’s bedside table. “I wanted to bring you breakfast in bed my love, what a wonderful night we had last night!, I only wish this could last forever,” said Fletcher, knowing that this was a virtual impossibility, but wanting Julie so very, very, badly.
Julie kissed him tenderly on the lips and softly said, “We have to make the most of our time together while we can Jack, God only knows what’s going to happen when Bill gets home, I love you so much and I don’t know how I’m going to tell him the truth about our relationship.”
The couple made the most of their time on their passionate weekend together, spending every single minute in each other’s arms, but the hours just seemed to fly by and the weekend soon came to an abrupt end.
Fletcher opened the boot on Julies car, placing her pink leather suitcase inside before reluctantly closing it. Julie sat behind the wheel kissing Jack tenderly on the lips, both finding it hard to say goodbye, but Julie finally managed to pull away, wiping the tears from her soft red cheeks as she drove down the lane heading in the direction of Aldershot.
Red Troop Return Home
Julie and Fletch were now heavily involved romantically and were seeing each other as often as possible, meeting up every weekend at the little cottage in Meadstead. After being made aware of Fletchers romantic involvement with another woman, his old girlfriend, Ebony Rimmer was deeply broken hearted, but reluctantly released Fletch from their relationship a few days previously.
Red Troop had now served their full tour in Dhofar Oman and had finally been flown out of RAF Salalah by Beverly troop plane, to spend a further week on recuperation leave in Bahrain before returning home once again to RAF Brize Norton Air Base in the UK.
Julie contacted Fletch as soon as she heard the news from her husband Sergeant Bomber Hill, and together with her parents she set out for RAF Brize Norton to meet the returning troop of Royal Military Policemen to welcome them home.
Fletch had also been informed by his pal Bomber by letter that the troop were due to return home to England on the 26th September 1973 and he too had made arrangements to meet the lads when they flew back into the RAF Base from Bahrain on a RAF VC 10 passenger flight.
Although walking much better now Fletch was still having to use his walking stick for support, and was greeted by Julies father, Major Bambridge Royal Military Police, who told him to sit next to his family on the viewing platform and rest his leg when he finally arrived at the base.
Julie by this time was feeling very guilty, and did her very best to avoid Fletchers gaze when he greeted the family, but pretended that she was pleased to see him once again and made polite conversation about his health now that he had been discharged from military service.
Fletch on the other hand was so deeply in love with his pal Bomber’s wife that nothing mattered to him anymore other than having Julie in his life.
Fletcher continued to make polite conversation with Major Bambridge and his family as the RAF VC10 safely toughed down on the runway, and the band of the Royal Engineers played a medley of marches welcoming the troops home.
The Air Commodore Sir Antony Gilbert DSO DFC took the salute as the returning troops marched passed the podium, and were presented with their General service medals before being stood down and free to join their families after the ceremony.
Sergeant Hill rushed into his wife Julie’s arms, holding her tightly and kissing her tenderly on the lips, before turning to greet her family and his pal Fletch .“It’s good to see you looking well old pal! we’ve so much to catch up on,” said Bomber firmly shaking Fletchers hand.
Fletcher just nodded in agreement but just half heartedly smiled in his direction, hating the thought of anyone else kissing and cuddling his beloved Julie but having very little choice in the matter, and it was now eating away at him just thinking about Bomber sleeping with her on his return home from Brize Norton.
Fletch made his excuses and told Bomber that he was going to greet the rest of Red Troop before they left RAF Brize Norton for home, but asked Bomber to ring him during the following week so he could find time in his busy schedule to take him out on a fishing trip in one of his father’s firms hire boats, whilst Bomber was on his disembarkation leave from the army.
Just as he was leaving he managed to look over his left shoulder, glancing back in Julies direction and nervously giving her an half smile, but she turned her head away quickly just in case her husband noticed the slight glimmer of sadness in her eyes.
The rest of Red Troop were all really pleased to see Fletch and enquire about his future prospects now he had been officially retired from army service. Fletch informed them all that he’d taken up a position in his father’s boat sales company in his hometown of Winchester, and at this present time was quite happy and contented with his lot, although he missed his life in the RMP, and the everyday banter he shared with all his friends.
After everyone dispersed and made their own way home Fletch walked over to his car feeling rather lost and alone, wondering if he was ever going to see his Julie again, and if his best pal Bomber ever found out about his relationship with his wife, how would he take it ?
He had given Julie a private telephone number that was a direct line to his office in his father’s boat showrooms which was situated on the A33 just outside Eastleigh , but he didn’t know if she could find the time to break away from her husband and call him.
A whole week dragged by for Fletcher but Julie had failed to call him, maybe she couldn’t get away from her husband thought Fletch sadly. Just as he was talking to a potential customer in the main boat showroom his direct telephone rang, making his excuses to the customer he quickly ran to his office telephone.
“Jewels! Jewels!, is that you darling, “shouted Fletch down the telephone mouthpiece as he lifted the receiver up with his right hand. Unfortunately for Fletcher the voice on the other end of the line answered; “No your dizzy Mary it’s me, yer pal Bomber, I found yer number on the wife’s dressing table, and she said you gave it to her to give to me pal. Hey who’s this ‘Jewels’ anyway pal, have you been holding out on me buddy, I bet she’s some looker knowing you, I’ll have to meet her when I come down.
Fletcher breathed a sigh of relief, boy was he lucky to have got away with it this time he thought. He had managed to arrange to meet Bomber at the Selby Boat Centre in Selsey on the south coast a fortnight later, so the pair could take a company boat out fishing for the rest of the day.
Just as Fletch was preparing to leave the business premises at the end of the day, his office direct telephone rang again. This time he lifted the receiver and answered it very cautiously.
“Is that you Bomber?” said Fletch in a low voice, and back came the reply “No darling Jack it’s me Julie, I’m really sorry about Bill finding your telephone number my love, but I emptied my handbag on the dressing table without thinking and the little piece of paper with your number written on it fell out and onto the floor, as you can imagine Bill stooped down to pick it up and it’s the first thing I could think of saying. Anyway I’ve missed you so much darling and I really need to see you as soon as possible Jack, as I’ve something to tell you, but not over the telephone my love,” Replied Julie.
“Can we meet at the cottage in Meadstead next Thursday night Julie at about 8am, as it’s the only time I can make it due to the pressure of work this end, do you think you can manage to get away from Bill for a few hours ? ”
“I think he said he was going down to the Queens Head pub in town for a pint with the locals Jack, I’ll tell him I’m meeting my old school pal for a reunion, so if I’m late back I can tell him I broke down, How’s that sound ?.”
“That’s fine my love ,Thursday evening can’t come soon enough for me, God Julie I’ve missed you so much, take care my darling, love you!, see you Thursday evening.”
Fletch replaced the receiver, locked up the boat showrooms and headed for home, feeling warm and content knowing that he would be meeting up with Julie once again within the next few days.
Julie Secret Meeting
Bomber sat in Julie’s father’s comfortable armchair by the fireside reading the local newspaper when Julie informed him that she was going to meet her old school friend for a reunion the following evening in Guildford. Her parents had been invited to a dance which was being held at the Officers Mess Club in 3 Para Regt Aldershot and they had left the house earlier that evening. Bomber stopped reading and folded up the newspaper placing it neatly on the coffee table which was conveniently placed at the side of his armchair.
“You’ve not mentioned this before Julie”, stated Bomber to his wife, who was now closing the red velvet curtains in the living room. “I was sure I mentioned it to you the other day darling, Diane was my best friend at the Oxford all girl school I use to attend, and I’m really looking forward to meeting her again after all these years Bill”, said Julie nervously.
“Why didn’t you ask her to meet you here Julie ?,” replied Bill, Julie hesitated quickly thinking of what to say next, finally blurting out ,...... “ Err..Err..m..Oh ! she’s staying with her crippled old aunt in Guildford and invited me over for tea, so that I could meet her, and we can catch up on old times, and you mentioned that you might be going down to the Queens Head for a pint on Thursday night anyway Bill,” said Julie nervously, anxiously hoping that Bill had swallowed her story.
“Think I’ll make a nice cup of tea!, do you fancy a cup Julie?,” replied Bill, as he walked through the living room door in the direction of the kitchen. “Yes please darling, remember no sugar for me,” called out Julie, relieved that Bill had believed her fabricated story, and not commented further.
The problem was that Bill was far from being naive, he didn’t believe a word of Julie’s story, and had heard a few bad whispers among the RMP staff at the 160 Provost Duty Room, when he’d visited his father-in-laws office a few days earlier. His old pal Tiny’s words of warning now came flooding back to him as he poured the tea into Julie’s cup.
God he thought to himself, surly his beloved wife Julie was not cheating on him. His heart sank and a feeling of jealousy and fear flooded over him like a tidal wave, as he thought about her making love to someone else.
He decided there and then that he would follow her to Guildford the very next day hoping and praying that his worse fears were not realised.
Julie kissed Bill on the forehead the following evening and told him that she would try not to be too late home as she climbed into her little red MG BGT sports car, and gave him a comforting wave as she headed down the drive towards the main gates.
As soon as the car disappeared out of the driveway Bill ran to his black BMW frantically starting the engine so he could catch up to his wife before he lost sight of her car completely. Fortunately Julie had been held up at the first set of traffic lights on the North Camp Road, and Bill had managed to catch up to her whilst keeping the cars at a safe distance apart, so she didn’t realise that his car was now following her.
Julie stopped at the junction of the Guildford Road, but then turned right towards Meadstead, and Bills worse fears were finally realised. He followed her all the way to Meadsted at a safe distance stopping occasionally for a few seconds so that his BMW car headlights disappeared from the view in Julie’s MG car mirrors.
At last she turned into the driveway of a small cottage just on the outskirts of Meadstead and stopped outside the cottage door. Bill pulled over onto a lay-by a few hundred yards away from the cottage entrance, turning off his engine and car lights immediately. He quietly closed his car door, and quickly ran alongside the 6 foot privet hedge which surrounded the little cottage garden.
It was pitch dark now and Bill stumbled over a rock which nearly throw him off balance and into a little stream that ran down the whole length of the hedge, but he manage to keep his balance and found a small hole to crawl through which placed him behind a Camilla bush directly overlooking the cottage front door.
Fletcher had arrived at the cottage a couple of hours earlier to prepare the bed in the main bedroom, and light the log fire in the hearth to warm the cottage through before Julie arrived. Fortunately for Bill Fletch had not heard Julie’s car pull up in the driveway, giving Bill ample time to get into a position near to the cottage doorway where he had a clear view of the front door.
As Julie rang the front door bell, Bills heart was in his mouth hoping and praying that at the last minute her old school friend had changed the venue for their meeting, but just as the little cottage porch light came on, to Bombers horror he saw his best friend Fletch holding and passionately kissing his wife in the doorway.
Bill wanted to cry out in anger, but remembered his army training at the last moment and managed to keep his cool. He now felt bitterly betrayed by his pal Fletcher, and although Fletch had saved his life out in Oman, Bill’s jealousy consumed his whole body, which left him shaking with rage.
Fletch broke away gently from Julie’s embracing arms beckoning her to come inside the cottage, but Julie refused and said, “No Jack ! I’ve something to say before I step inside, because you may not want to see me after you hear what I have to say”. “Don’t be silly Julie, nothing in this world would stop me seeing you darling, you know how much I love you,” insisted Fletch. “Well Jack, I’m pregnant, and it’s your baby!” blurted out Julie insistently , “I Didn’t know how to break the news without frightening you away Jack.” Replied Julie worriedly.
Fletcher was so pleased with Julie’s news, that he kissed her full on the lips lifting her high into the air and spinning her around in the doorway joyfully. “What about Bill, Jack?”cried out Julie. “How can I tell him he’ll be devastated,” insisted Julie, although happily relieved at Jacks reaction to the news of her pregnancy.
Unfortunately Bomber was still hiding behind the Camilla bush in the garden and heard every single word clearly. The news hit him like a bolt of lightning from the sky and did very little to calm his jealous rage, and the tremendous hurt he was feeling from his best friends betrayal.
The couple entered the little cottage holding each other’s hands whilst closing the door behind them, Bill stayed hidden behind the bush, tears streaming down his angry reddened face, until he saw the bedroom light come on which silhouetted his wife and best friend Fletch kissing passionatelythrough the bedroom curtains.
He slowly walked back to his BMW that was parked on the lay-by a few hundred yards further up the lane, stricken with grief and holding his head in his hands, Bill cried uncontrollably over the cars steering wheel.
It seemed like Bill had been sat in his stationary car, parked in the lay-by and grieving over his cheating wife Julie for hours, when he finally decided to drive back home.
Bill just couldn’t think straight now, tears where still clouding his eyes and streaming down his face, when he very nearly ploughed the car into a field on his way home taking a corner far too sharply, but he’d decided that one thing was for sure, if he couldn’t have Julie, no one else was going to have her either.
Bombers Fishing Trip
Before Julie left the little cottage to drive home to Aldershot, Fletch suggested that he would change her front offside wheel so that if Bomber questioned her for being late home, she could tell him that the car had a flat tyre on the way home from Guildford, and she was stuck out in the countryside not having a clue what to do until a passing motorised finally stopped and kindly changed the flat tyre for her.
He then suggested that Julie stopped in a lay-by just before reaching home and let all the air out of the tyre in the boot of her car that Fletch had changed for her, This way Bomber wouldn’t get suspicious if he happened to look into the boot of her MG.
Julie thought this would be a good idea, and after kissing him goodbye, and heading for home she followed Fletchers instructions to the letter, arriving home in the early hours of the morning.
Bomber did his best to hide his jealous grief, and just as Fletch predicted he wanted to know why she was so late home, finally suggesting that he would take the flat tyre in her car boot to the local garage in Aldershot for repair the following morning.
Julie didn’t have a clue that her husband had followed her to the cottage the previous evening, and said very little about the fictitious meeting she had with her old school friend, just in case she said the wrong thing.
She badly wanted to tell him that she had fallen in love with his best friend and she was now expecting Fletchers baby, but she just couldn’t pluck up the courage or find the right words to say to him, so she decided to wait until he returned to his RMP unit in Colchester and then write him a long letter.
Julie knew that this was the cowards way out of her situation but this was the only way she could possibly tell him, knowing that when he finally found out the truth Bill would be devastated.
Bomber sat for hours on a chair in the garden trying to piece together where he’d gone wrong, he knew that he was partly to blame for his own downfall, by sending Julie to visit Fletcher in the hospital in the first place, but he thought she could be trusted, and believed he’d married a good woman. Oh ! what a fool he’d been he thought to himself as the tears streamed down his cheeks.
Deep in thought once again, and brushing away the tears, Bomber finally decided to get rid of his opposition, He felt no guilt or remorse, for Fletcher now, only deep hatred, he had stolen away the only thing in the world that Bomber loved, and he’d violated her body, how could he have done this to his best friend ? well ! he would now take his revenge thought Bomber, jumping up from his garden chair in anger.
A week later Bomber set out in his car for the long awaited fishing trip with Fletcher, nervously placing a kiss on his wife’s cheek before climbing into his car and heading in the direction of Selsey, and the Selby Boat Club.
Fletch was waiting anxiously to meet him when Bomber arrived and parked his car in the club car park, “How are you Bomb, did you have a good trip down mate?” said Fletch as he opened the car door for Bomber. “Not bad old pal, but I had to stop at a garage half way down to put some air in the front tyres thought they were a bit low,” replied Bomber sarcastically.
“Right if you’re ready Bomber we’ll get off to the boat, I’ve loaded all the rods and fishing gear we need pal, and alerted the Coast Guard just in case, apparently there’s a storm brewing out there somewhere, but today’s the only day we’ll get the chance to go fishing together mate, anyway if we stay near to the harbour entrance we can sail back inside to safety if the weather worsens,” remarked Fletch.
Fletch had moored one of his father’s companies brand new 1973 Viking 33Foot Sports fishing boats at the very end of the marina so they could have easy access to the harbour entrance, and moor up easily if required to return to the harbour without delay.
This was the boats maiden trip to sea and Fletchers father had asked his son to put the fishing boat through its paces so he could have a good knowledge of how the fishing boat performed out at sea to pass onto the customers.
The pair cast off and sailed through the little harbour mouth. “ Climb up to the top deck Bomber !” shouted out Fletch above the sound of the boats marine engine noise, “I’ll show you how to use the controls and the radar equipment pal.”
Before long Bomber had a first class knowledge of how the controls and all the electrical equipment worked. “By the way Bomb if you need to call the coastguard for any reason your call sign is ‘BLUE DOLPHIN 709’OK pal,” commented Fletch.
“Boy this is some boat Fletch!” said Bomber, but thinking all the while to himself , ‘Thanks sucker’ ! I know all there is to know about this boat to get me back into the harbour in one piece now.
“Think we’ll drop anchor here Bomber, should be some good fishing around this area, I always look out for the Gannets diving, it’s a sure sign of a mackerel shoals,” stated Fletch,
‘Clever sod’ ! thinks he’s a Mr know it all, thought Bomber, feeling more and more bitter towards Fletch by the minute.
Fletcher switched off the boats engine and lowered the boats anchor into the water. Bomber sat down on one of the swivel chairs on the lower deck of the boat and after tackling up his fishing rod, he cast it out as far as he could.
“It reminds me of when we were both out in Oman on one of our weekly fishing trips Bomber, although we had to watch our backs in case of rebel snipers, I always enjoyed that day out didn’t you pal, it always took my mind off the boredom of RAF Salalah.” Commented Fletch.
The boat had now been anchored about a mile from the harbour entrance and Fletch and Bomber had caught a full basket of mackerel and some reasonable size haddock, when the storm blew up.
“Better be going back in Bomber, don’t want to be caught out in this lot pal, stated Fletch, but by the time they had gutted the fish and cleared the deck of fishing tackle the swell was quite high, and Fletcher was struggling to pull up the anchor.
This was Bombers opportunity to push Fletcher overboard and he wasted no time in picking up a boat hook and pushing it hard into Fletchers spine, sending him hurtling overboard just as he was leaning over the starboard side to securing the anchor.
Bomber ran as fast as he could up to the top deck and started the boats main engine moving quickly away from where Fletcher had pitched into the sea. He could hear Fletchers desperate voice in the distance calling for help, but the waves by this time were very strong and the boat was pitching heavily from side to side.
He finally decided to turn the boat around and go back to the possession where he’d first pushed Fletcher into the sea, but Fletcher had now been in the freezing cold sea for at least thirty minutes, and although he was an exhalent swimmer, he was utterly exhausted trying to battle against the strong high waves of the storm.
Bomber manoeuvred the fishing boat closer to Fletcher, angrily shouting out at the top of his voice;.......
“ NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL YOU BASTARD!, YOU STOLE THE ONLY WOMAN I EVER LOVED, BUT YOU’VE LOST HER FOREVER NOW! SO YOU CAN DROWNED LIKE THE RAT YOU ARE !” and with Bomber’s last words echoing in Fletchers ears he steered the boat away in the direction of the harbour. Bill switched off the boats Volvo engine about half a mile from the harbour entrance and called the Coast Guard over the fishing boats radio.
“Coast Guard this isBLUE DOLPHIN 709, SOS! Coast Guard this is BLUE DOLPHIN 709, SOS!,” called out Bomber over the fishing boats radio, receiving an instant response from the Coast Guard.
“What’s the problem BLUE DOLPHIN, have you broken down ?,” Bomber explained that his pal Fletcher had slipped on wet fish which had been lying on the deck whilst he was trying to stow away the anchor, and he had accidently fallen overboard in the heavy swell of the storm.
He also informed the Coast Guard, pretending of course to be tearful, that he’d thoroughly searched the area but found no trace of his best pall Fletcher who only a few months ago had saved his life out in Dhofar Oman.
Due to the heavy storm the Coast Guard informed Bomber to set sail for the harbour entrance immediately, and he would call out the life boat and Air Sea Rescue to search the area for Fletcher
Bomber turned the boat towards the harbour grinning all over his face with satisfaction, knowing that he’d at least solved one of his major problems, only one more to get rid of now he thought to himself.
The police were waiting at the quayside when Bomber moored the boat alongside the dock. They quickly clambered aboard the boat and told Bomber not to tough anything. Off course Bomber immediately demanded to know why the police were searching the boat, but to no avail. A tall broad shouldered police constable ordered Bomber to accompany him to the local police station, stating that he would have to give them as much information as possible and also make a statement.
Bomber did as he was told but was far from happy about the way he’d been treated, If he’d been an innocent victim, he would have been even angrier he thought to himself, so he decided to protest a little stronger, informing the police Sergeant on the duty desk that he was a member of the Royal Military Police Force himself .
Bomber was ushered into an interview room and offered a cup of tea by a pretty looking woman police constable, before being questioned by a shabby looking detective who looked as if he’d had no sleep for a week, and reminded Bomber of the TV detective Peter Falk who played COLUMBO.
After searching the area of sea where Fletcher had last been seen for about two extra hours, the Air sea Rescue, Lifeboat crews, and Coast guard vessels extended the search area further out to sea, eventually coming across Fletchers lifeless body.
The body was retrieved from the sea by the Selsey Lifeboat crew and brought back to shore. On hearing of the certain death of Fletcher, Bomber insisted that he alone wanted to inform Fletchers family of the tragic circumstances of his death, because Fletch was his best friend, and he informed the police it would be a little easier on the family if he informed them personally.
Fletcher’s family were devastated when they heard the news of their sons unfortunate death, and his father informed the detective dealing with the case that he would drive up immediately from his home in Winchester to identify the body, hoping and praying that they had picked up an unidentified body, and his son had made it safely to the shore, but on his arrival he was shocked to see that this was sadly not the case, and he broke down uncontrollably when he identified his sons lifeless body.
Bomber was released a few hours later from police custody, but told to report back to the police station the following day, until the case had been thoroughly investigated. Bomber was grinning all over his face as he climbed into the driving seat of his car knowing full well that he’d managed to get away cleanly with Fletcher’s murder.
After driving over to the mortuary, and meeting up with Fletcher’s parents and sister to share their grief, Bomber took great pleasure in driving home to pass on the bad news to his wife Julie.
Julie was in the garden cutting some fresh flowers to place in a vase on the dining room table, when her husband arrived home much later than expected that day.
“Did you have a good day out fishing with Fletch?,” enquired Julie nervously whilst pretending to be interested, but terribly worried of course just in case Fletcher had discussed their relationship with him.
Bomber stood inside the conservatory doorway dropping his back pack to the floor, and forcing a tear from his eye, pretending to looked really sorrowful. Julie turned towards him after laying her bunch of freshly cut flowers on the garden table and noticed the single tear trickling down his sad looking face “What is it Bill ? What’s happened?”said Julie feeling really concerned now.
“It’s Fletch Julie,” blurted out Bomber, pretending to be tremendously grief stricken, “He’s had a terribly accident whilst we were out at sea. We got caught up in a storm and he fell overboard and drowned.”
Julie just stood there in shocked silence, her whole body began to tremble and then shake with grief ,..... “Oh no! he just can’t be dead,..... Oh no ! what I’m I going to do about the baby,” she thought silently to herself, as the tears started to form in her eyes and trickle slowly down her soft red cheeks.
Julie ran to the bottom of the garden and collapsed onto the lawn crying uncontrollably, Bomber immediately ran to her side, lifting her up and putting his arms around her shoulders pulling her gently across his chest saying, “Try not to cry Julie, I know how sad you must feel, he was my best friend and I’ll miss him so much. It should have been me that drowned out there Julie, Fletch didn’t deserve to die, God knows he saved my life !, and struggled with so many operations to his leg. Oh my God !I’ll miss him so much”, said Bomber as he pulled Julie closer and tighter to his chest.
A full investigation was carried out by the Selsey local constabulary, but found nothing to connect Bomber to Fletchers death, in fact he was actual praised by the Coast Guard for alerting them immediately, and trying his upmost to continue to search for Fletcher when he fell into the sea.
Fletchers funeral was held in Winchester Cathedral a week later, and Bombers Officer Commanding 19 Infantry Brigade RMP ,had extended his leave so that he could attend the funeral with his wife Julie by his side. ‘Red Troop’ carried the coffin into the church, and formed a guard of honour when Fletchers body was slowly laid to rest in the church yard.
Bomber returned to his RMP Unit in Colchester a day after Fletcher’s funeral feeling glad that it was all over, now he could concentrate on planning his next move he thought.
The RMP Officer Commanding 19 Infantry Brigade, Captain ( Blossom) Flowers, had been promoted to Major due to playing his part in the Oman Dhofar Mirbat war, and Sergeant Bomber Hill was ordered to report to his office on his return from leave.
Bomber couldn’t think for the life of him why the O.C. would want to see him immediately he returned to his unit, and racked his brains thinking of anyway he may have slipped up when he planned Fletcher’s murder.
“Morning Sergeant Hill, very sad business over Corporal Fletcher, still these sort of tragedies happen in life I’m afraid, and we must all carry on and do the very best we can to get back on track”, commented his O.C. Major Flowers, “I expect your wondering why I called you into my office first thing this morning Sergeant Hill, well you’ll be pleased to know that your promotion to Staff Sergeants has just come through, so you can take your uniforms straight down to the tailors Staff, and have the Queens crown tailored above your strips, congratulations!” stated Blossom.
“Thank you Sir, Just one more request Sir, enquired Bomber.” “ Yes Staff, what is it,” “I would like to request a posting Sir, to 160 Provost Company to be near to my family, I’ve been with Special Forces now for a number of years and I think it’s time I went back to ordinary Military Police work Sir, also the wife’s been getting morning sickness just lately so it looks very much like I may have a family on the way, so I would like to spend more time at home if that’s possible Sir.”
“OK Staff I will see what I can do about your posting, but I’ll be sorry to lose you, and I know the rest of Red Troop will feel the same way.” Commented Blossom.
Julie was finding it really hard to come to terms with Fletcher’s death, and found herself crying for hours on her bed at night, but she eventually decided to tell Bomber that she was pregnant with his baby, although she knew it was Jack Fletcher’s baby and not his. It was safer this way and what he didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him she thought. Julie knew he’d find out sooner or later anyway due to her constant bouts of morning sickness.
A fortnight later Bomber’s posting came through to 160 Provost Company Aldershot, and the lads had arranged for a farewell party for him in the RMP Cherry Tree Camp Corporals Club the following evening.
Corporal Tiny Lanham presented Bomber with a pewter mug on behalf of the RMP Corporals Mess with his name inscribed on it, which was the general tradition when any member of the RMP left the Unit, and a good night in the bar was had by all.
Bomber said his farewells the following morning and climbed into his BMW, turning left out of the main gate heading through Colchester Town Centre and the south of England for 160 Provost RMP Aldershot.
A Holiday Abroad
Bomber was welcomed into his new RMP Unit in Aldershot by his father-in-law Major Bambridge, although Julie was none too pleased as she hadn’t expected her husband to transfer down to Aldershot, because she was still grieving for Jack Fletcher and try as she may, she couldn’t find herself falling in love with her husband all over again, which put her into a deeper depression.
Her father Major Bambridge took his daughter Julie’s depression to be all down to her pregnancy, and believed everything would work out fine when the baby was eventually born. Both her parents were over the moon about their future grandchild, and her mother was always out on a shopping spree buying new cloths and nursery items for Julie’s forthcoming baby, but even this didn’t seem to interest their daughter.
Julie was now seven months pregnant and Bomber suggested to her parents that he take Julie away on a little holiday to Egypt to help her get over her depression.
Major Bambridge agreed that this would be a good idea, but was concerned for the health of his daughter and her unborn child, due to the air travel, and the extra humidity when they arrived at their destination in Egypt, but Bomber assured them that he would take great care of them both, and also reminded her parents that this would be the last chance they would have to fly out on any holiday due to Julie’s progressive pregnancy.
Fortunately Julie was looking forward to the trip to Egypt because she had always wanted to see the Tutankhamun tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The mystery behind the young kings death had always intrigued her and the thought of seeing all the precious items from the year 1323BC and especially the golden kings death mask in the Cairo Museum quite excited her.
Bomber applied for forces leave and the couple booked the holiday and caught a flight out to Cairo two weeks later. The Ramses Hilton hotel was one of the most luxurious and expensive five star hotels in Cairo, but Bomber had planned it that way so it would look like nothing but the best hotel in Cairo was good enough for his wife Julie to stay in.
The following morning a trip had been arranged to take them to see the Tutankhamun antiqities at the Cairo museum, Julie loved the tour and actually started to come out of her depresion, and at long last started to comunicate with Bomber, although his hatetred for her, for her betral was still too strong for him to bare,and he was now committed to finding a way of disposing of both her and Fletcher’s baby.
Unfortunatly with all the walking around in the 30c degree heat of the day, Julies ankels started to swell up and she was told to rest and drink more bottled water by the hotel doctor.The water system in Cairo was still rather primitive and everyone was informed by the hotel staff that under no curcmstances were they allowed to drink the tap water in case they contracted any water based diseases.
This was music to Bombers ears which gave him the opportunity he’d been waiting for, and allowed him to change Julie’s clean bottled water to dirty tap water with an added little extra tough of dirty water from the River Nile.
The following day Bomber had organised an eight day cruise for the couple on the River Nile, leaving from Luxor to Aswan so that Julie could visit the Valley of the Kings, the Karnak and Luxor Temples, Edfu Temple, Kom Omdo, and the beautiful Philae Temple in Aswan.
Everything was now going according to plan, and on the River Nile cruise return journey Julie took sick just as Bomber had predicted. Must be the curse of the Tutankhamun tomb, Bomber sniggered to himself cruelly, just as the doctor was sent for to urgently attend to his wife who was now shaking uncontrollably with fever.
On arrival at Luxor Julie was urgently admitted to the local hospital for suspected food poisoning, but after putting up a tremendous fight she sadly lost Fletcher’s baby, the hospital doctor administered penicillin to combat Julie’s fever, but she was allergic to the drug and unfortunately due to the combination of losing her baby and the trauma of the penicillin injections, Julie passed tragically away.
Bomber was overjoyed, he had completed the task he’d set out to do without one blemish to his good character, and whilst pretending to be in deep shock at the loss of his beautiful wife, he even informed the hospital administration staff that he was going to sue them for failing to check that his wife was allergic to penicillin.
Her father Major Bambridge was devastated when he heard the news from her grieving husband over the telephone, and flew out immediately to the hospital in Luxor.
An investigation and post mortem on Julies body was carried out, but it was found to be a combination of a deadly water based typhoid germ, and penicillin which had finally lead to her inevitable death. The investigating police officer concluded that Julie had probably taken a drink of untreated water whilst on holiday, from the hotel bathroom taps whilst standing in the showers, or cleaning her teeth.
Julie’s body was flown home, and arrangements had been made with the Davis Funeral Home in Aldershot ,to prepared it for burial. The funeral took place a week later, and the entire company of RMP160 Provost along with Bombers old ‘Red Troop’ pals turned out for the funeral service.
Bomber soon grew tired of pretending to grieve for his wife Julie and the miserably sad atmosphere which was generated from living with the Bambridge family, so he applied for another posting to Edinburgh Castle. Fortunately the Edinburgh Military Tattoo was due to take place any day and Staff Sergeant (Bomber) Hill was welcomed with open arms to his new unit due to the shortage of staff for the security of the castle over the Military Tattoo period.
Bomber loved the posting to Edinburgh, and was so relived not to have to pretend to be grieving for the loss of his wife anymore, although he kept in regular contact with the Bambridge family to avoid suspicion. He had even made arrangements to take one of the local RMP female staff out to dinner on his days off.
A Relationship soon blossomed and Bomber had never been so happy, or in love since his courting days with Julie, although he was very careful to avoid any talk of marriage to his new girlfriend, WRAC Royal Military Police woman Angela Waters.
It was now the summer of August 1980, six years later, and Bomber had been promoted to Warrant Officer II. The couple were still together and still very much in love, so Bomber who by this time was feeling safe and secure asked his girlfriend Anglia for her hand in marriage.
Julie’s father Major Bambridge RMP, had also been promoted to Lt Colonel and had just retired after 22 years of loyal service with the Royal Military Police, proudly receiving the MBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. and Bomber feeling rather smug, heartlessly invited the Bambridge family to his wedding.
Chapter Twenty One
The Falklands War
Warrant Officer II ( Bomber) Hill was 40 years old when the Falklands War broke out, and British troops were sent in to retake the Falkland Islands from the Argentina Forces.
The conflict resulted from a long-standing dispute over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich islands, which lie in the South Atlantic east of Argentina.
The Falklands war began on Friday, 2 April 1982, when Argentine forces invaded and occupied the Falkland Islands and South Georgia.
The Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force, and retake the island by amphibious assault. The resulting conflict lasted 74 days, which eventually ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982 which return the island to British control. During the conflict 649 Argentine military personnel 255 British military personnel and three Falkland Islanders died.
The conflict was a result of a protracted historical confrontation regarding the sovereignty of the islands. In the period leading up to the war, and especially following the transfer of power between military dictators General Rafael Videla and General Roberto Eduardo Viola in late March 1981.
Argentina had been in the midst of a devastating economy crisis and large-scale civil unrest against the military junta that had been governing the country since 1976. In December 1981, there was a further change in the Argentina military regime, bringing to office a new junta headed by General Leopoldo Galtieri , who was made acting president.
Brigadier Basilio Lami Dozo, and Admiral Jorge Anaya, were the main architects and supporters of a military solution to the long-standing claim for the Falkland Islands, calculating that the United Kingdom would never respond militarily. The Galtieri government hope to mobilise Argentine’s long-standing patriotic feelings towards the islands and in doing so divert public attention from the countries chronic economic problems and the regimes ongoing human rights violations.
Tension had built up between the two countries over the sovereignty of the islands on 19th of March when a group of Argentine scrap metal merchants raised the Argentine flag on the island of South Georgia, an act that would later be seen as the first offensive action in the war.
The Royal Navy ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance was dispatched immediately from Stanley to South Georgia in response, subsequently leading to the invasion of the South Georgia Island by Argentine forces on 3 April, the Argentine military junta suspecting that the UK would reinforce its South Atlantic forces ordered the main invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to 2 April.
Britain was initially taken by surprise by the Argentina attack of the South Atlantic islands, despite repeated warnings by Royal Navy Capt Nicholas Barker and others. Barker believe that Defence Secretary John Nott’s 1981 review in which were described plans to withdraw HMS Endurance, Britain's only naval presence in the South Atlantic, sent a signal to the Argentines that Britain was unwilling, and would soon be unable, to defend its territories and subjects in the Falkland Islands.
Warrant Officer Bomber Hill had now been put in charge of a small unit of Royal military Policemen alongside a British invasion force consisting of a SAS force and landing forces from the Royal Marines, and Para Brigade
The submarine HMS Conqueror had arrived earlier and was patrolling just west of the Falkland Islands on May 1st when she spotted the light cruiser ARA Genrakl Belgrano.HMS Conqueror fired three torpeddoes, hitting the Belgtano twice and sinking it. 323 Argentines were killed, and two days later in retaliation, an Argintine fighter sent from the Argintine mainland fired an Exocet anti ship missile at HMS Sheffield which was mooored as one of the supporting vessel in the bay, setting her ablaze.
Attempts were made by the naval crew to put out the fires which were now engulfing the whole ship but to no availe and the ship had to be abandond with the loss of 20 British lives.
Over the next few weeks HMS Ardent, HMS Antelope, HMS Coventry, and the MV Atlantic Conveyer, which was carrying a cargo of helicopters and supplies were sunk by Argintine aircraft fireing Exocet anti ship missiles.
Bomber and his unit alongside the British invation forces of 4,000 men commanded by Brigadier Julian Thompson, landed at San Carlos Water on the nortwest coast of East Falkland on the night of May 21.Their landing had been preceded by the SAS who raided the nearby Pebble Island’s airfield.
Brigadier Thompson began pushing his men south, planning to secure the western side of the island, before moving east to Port Stanley.By the 27 May Bomber and the RMP unit along with a further 600 men under the command of Lt Colonel H. Jones outfought over 1,000 Argintines around Darwin and Goose Green, ultimatly forcing them to surrender.
A few days later, British Commandoes defeated Argintine commandoes on Mount Kent. In early June, an additional 5,000 British support troops arrived under the command of Major Genral Jeremy Moore.
Genral Moore began his assault on Port Stanley on June 11, and after heavy fighting on the high ground they succeeded in capturing their objective. The attacks continued two nights later and Bomber and his men fought alongside troops who managed to take the towns last line of defence at Wireless Ridge and Mount Tumbledown.
The Argentines were now surrounded and were encircled on land as well as out at sea,. Realizing his situation was hopeless the Argintine commander Genral Mario Menendez surrendered his 9,800 men on June 14 which effectively ended the conflict.
The Argintine defeat led to the removal of their president Genral Galtieri three days later, and his downfall lead to the end of the military junta that had been ruling the country with an iron fist for the past five years.
For Britain, the victory provided a much needed boost to the national confidence, reaffirming its international position which assured another victory for the Prime minister Margret Thatcher in the following Genral Election. Bomber was overjoyed to see out the end of the Falklands War,and glad to have come out of the conflict in one piece and still alive, although he had sadley lost one of his men in the battle for Goose Green.
During the war Britain had suffered 258 men killed and 777 wounded in addition 2 destroyers, 2 frigates, and 2 auxillery vessels were sunk., but for the Argentine forces the war cost them 649 men killed 1,068 wounded and 11,313 captured in addition the Argintine Navy lost 3 submarines a light cruiser and 75 fixed-wing aircraft.
Bomber sailed back into the UK at the beginning of September 1982, and his wife Angela was at the Chattham dockyard to wellcome him home with open arms. His promotion to (RSM) Regimental Sergent Major, and his new posting back to his old unit at 160 Provost Company Aldershot had just been recieved from the Ministry of Defence, which was now to be Bomber’s last posting before his retirment from the Army and the Royal Military Police.
Chapter Twenty Two
Soon after returning victoriously from active service in the Falklands war Bomber received his South Atlantic General Service Medal, along with his ( LS GCM.) Long Service Good Conduct Medal from the Provost Marshal, Brigadier F. Thomas CBE.
The Aldershot Military Garrison covered some 500 hectares of land with a garrison population of approximately 10,500 personal, and as the RSM for 160 Provost Company Bomber’s Military Police officers were responsible for policing the whole of the Aldershot military area, along with some 2,700 hectares of adjacent open military training area land which completely surrounded the Aldershot area.
This was a major responsibility for RSM William ( Bomber ) Hill, and RMP patrols had to be sent out every day to patrol these military areas. The units SIB Branch (Services Investigation Branch) detectives, who were also based in their own office department at 160 Provost Company, dealt with all aspects of serious crime within the Garrison, but general policing along with local traffic and speeding enforcement patrols were Bomber’s uniformed police officers responsibility.
Six Military Police Vauxhall traffic patrol cars, had been put at RSM Hills disposal , and these vehicles were now installed with the latest stolen vehicle and radio equipment and permanently based at the Aldershot RMP unit.
Bomber loved his challenging job at 160 Provost Company Aldershot, and was respected by his Officer Commanding and all the NCO policemen under his command, although things could be rather hectic when the Aldershot Tattoo was staged on the open Aldershot Queens park showground once every year.
The signing of all routes entering and leaving the showground were the units responsibility, Bomber had to make sure that his officers controlled the flow of traffic in and around the arena politely but firmly.
Bomber still kept in touch with his old Red Troop pals, and Corporal (Tiny) Lanham had now been promoted to Staff Sergeant and was serving with his RMP unit based on Hong Kong island, when Bomber received the sad news that Tiny whilst on border patrols in the New Territories out in the Provence’s, had tragically been killed when the army Land Rover he was travelling in left the road and crashed down a tropical ravine.
Bomber and the rest of his surviving pals in Red Troop were devastated, and it was only one year later that Corporal ( Sick Leave ) Silver, recently promoted to Sergeant, and now stationed at RMP 2 Division in Germany BAOR, collapses and died after having a heart attack on his way to work.
Bomber recalled how after returning from Oman (Sick Leave ) had taken up running to keep in the peak of fitness, and had recently got married to a girl from his hometown, apparently he ran the six miles to work every morning and also ran back to his married quarter at the end of his working day. The strain eventually took its toll on Sick Leave’s heart, and he unfortunately collapsed and died only half a mile from his unit.
John Torchy Barnett had also left the RMP and ‘Red Troop’ at the end of his active service tour just after the Oman Dhofar Mirbat War in 1972. On returning to Bahrain he had been offered a position as Chief Security Officer to the Amir /King of Bahrain Sheikh Issa Bin Sulman Al Kalifa, and jumped at the chance to further his career, and Barry Woody Harper had retired at the end of 1981 to start his own carpentry business and was now doing exceptionally well.
Corporals Roger Rasher Bacon, Billy Bing Crosby, and Robert The Dog Lang, had remained with Red Troop, but had now been posted to the troubled Northern Ireland.
Although Bomber felt no remorse for taking the lives of Fletcher and his young wife 10 years previously, he often thought about how things would have turned out if his marriage had succeeded with Julie. His wife Angela unfortunately couldn’t bare him any children, after losing their first born to a miscarriage, but he had been blessed with a good life with her so far and they shared so many happy times together.
By the summer of 1988 after 22 years loyal service with the RMP Corps RSM ( Bomber) Hill was due to retire from the army, but he requested a further years service with the 160 Provost Company he loved and this was granted.
He had purchased a small two bed roomed thatched cottage with the money he’d saved during his 23 years service in the army which had a number of out buildings, and four acres of land that his wife Angela loved. The cottage stood next to its own small lake and was situated in the surrounding countryside just outside Winchester.
Bomber planed to renovate the out buildings and turn them into holiday accommodation lets, stocking his lake with fish to attract the holidaymakers and the local fishing fraternity, which would give the couple an extra income all year round.
On the 26th September 1989 at the age of 41 and after 23 year service with the colours, RSM ( Bomber ) Hill cleared his office desk in 160 Provost Unit Aldershot, and finally retired. He never forgot his old pals in the RMP and kept in regular contact with them meeting up once a year at the RMP Reunions, which always took place in his old RMP unit at 160 Provost Company RMP Aldershot.
As the years rolled by and Bomber grew older, due to his retirement he had more time to think about his passed life, and he began to recall the two murders he’d carried out which now started to haunt him constantly day and night.
It was on Bomber’s 60th birthday that he unfortunately suffered a mini stroke which caused damage to his left eye and left him with double vision. He was then required to go for tests to his local hospital, the Winchester District Memorial Hospital. The hospital was situated in the Winchester city centre, and had been opened since February 1999.
Shortly after Bomber had taken these tests, he was required to attend an interview with his local doctor, Doctor R Patel, who had recently immigrated from Pakistan and was now serving his medical career with the Winchester NHS.
The doctor informed Bomber that his eyesight would eventually correct itself but as a result of the tests he had just under taken they sadly confirmed that he had now contracted a very aggressive brain tumour which unfortunately could not be medically treated and would inevitably lead to his death. Bomber was devastated and enquired as to how long he was expected to live, but the doctor informed him sympathetically that he should put all his affairs in order as he had very little time left, and would die within the next few weeks. His wife Angela was grief stricken but had to carry on, vowing to help her husband through his ordeal the best way she could.
It was then that Bomber finally decided to put pen to paper and clear his conscience, giving graphic details of the two murders he’d committed years before of Fletcher and his wife to the local Winchester police department.
After sitting for hours in his armchair by the fireside, thinking about his passed life and now experiencing a feeling of great relief due to revealing his terrible deeds to the local constabulary in the form of a letter, he put on his hat and coat, walked the mile to the local village, and reluctantly dropped the letter into the post box.
Just as Bomber arrived home ,and whilst hanging up his hat and coat on the hall coat stand, his wife came running excitedly down the hallway, flinging her arms wildly around her husband waist hugging him, and shouting out at the top of her voice.
“DARLING, OH DARLING! EVERTHINGS FINE NOW, DOCTOR PATEL RANG FROM THE HOSPITAL WHILST YOU WERE OUT, THERE’S BEEN A MIX UP WITH THIER FILES AND SOME HOW THEY MANAGED TO GET THE WRONG PATIENT,WHICH MEANS YOU DONT HAVE A BRAIN TUMOUR, YOUR NOT GOING TO DIE, ISN’T IT WONDERFUL NEWS DARLING!”.
Or is it ?