Saturday, 25 July 2009


The Black Watch (RHR) is currently thrashing the Taleban and my chest heaves with pride whilst never missing a news bulletin in fear of deaths in that silliest of wars. Why am I so proud​? For most of my national service I managed to keep it a secret that I was in the army by wearing a shoulder badge which read “Military Observer”. I served briefly with a battalion of the Black Watch (RHR). I think it was the 4th/8th territorial battalion but I was always vague on details, not wishing to get too deeply involved in their activities.
At a time when my Mancunian accent could have been used to slice bread, I was asked by another sergeant, a snobby chap in the Education Corps, where I had been at school. With an early attempt at irony, I said, “Eton”. A failed attempt at irony, as it turned out, because he believed me and spread the story and I was treated with great diffidence in the sergeants' mess (soldiers are great snobs) and also by the officers. Most of whom wished they had been to Eton.
I did a fortnight's Z training with the battalion at its summer camp at Fochabers. At the time my only source of income was the £5 I got for a Saturday shift on The News of the World, so I had to send a regrets note to the War Office. I wrote that I couldn't join them on Saturday but would certainly be there on Sunday. Couldn't give a time, because it was a question of trains. I received a very rude reply so I thought, Fochabers you, and caught the night train from Manchester after my shift on the “News”.
Unfortunately at Edinburgh I discovered the highland express did not run on Sundays so I thought I would look up some relatives who had always hoped I was a figment of their imagination. Anyway, what with one thing and another, it was Tuesday evening before I arrived at the camp and they WERE cross.
My first appearance on my first morning with my battalion was in front of the CO. He did not make a good impression. He was about seven foot high, thinner than the cromach he brandished. (I still don't know why senior officers in Highland Regiments carry cromachs. I should think the incidence of sheep on a battlefield was pretty low.)
Anyway, he sentenced me to stay behind for two days after the battalion left for home. Actually we quite enjoyed it, because disreputable friends I had made were similarly charged. He left an officer behind who had all sorts of interesting things for us to do but we told him to Fochabers off and spent the time in Elgin. Though, not wanting to get him into trouble, we always slept in the camp.
I think the CO was puzzled by my discharge papers which read, “Sergeant Skidmore is a first class NCO”. But the 'sergeant' had been crossed out and 'corporal' written in its stead. 'Corporal' had also been crossed out and the final entry read: “Private Skidmore is a first class NCO.” Anyway, he posted me to "I" company. As always, I fell in with a glad cry to my natural home, which was bad company.
Some quite violent, but they welcomed me, knowing of my conspicuous lack of gallantry. One hard man did square up to me but he just shook his head and said, "It's nae worth it", so we went to the NAAFI.
We had a CSM McComisky who was famous for putting himself on a charge. This keelie said, “Are you no Sgt Major McComisky?""That's right, lad."
"Did you no pit yersel on a charge?"
“Ah dud.""Ye must have been af yr feckin heed."My little group must have been having a bad effect on the rest of the battalion because the chap with the cromach called a Commanding Officer's Parade. Put on music and everything. Obviously intent on a morale-building exercise.
"Chaps,” he said.
"Chaps?" said the man next to me. "Thinks he's bliddy John Wayne."
"Some of you, I know, are feeling resentful that you have been torn from your families and your homes to train with us. But look to your right and your left (we did and got a bollocking from theRSM for turning our heads) and you will see old friends, perhaps chaps you served with at St Valery (we averaged 20 years old)”.
The chap next to me was not strong on regimental history and thought St Valery was a catholic church. "Ahm nae feckin papist," he growled.
Then the CO advanced towards us, flanked by his officers, and we all nervously took a pace back. But he caught up with us in the end and beamed down at the keelie next to me, who, I should explain, was Glasgow height (where if you are taller than four feet you get posted out). He was usually invisible under a tam o' shanter the size of a cheese wheel.
"I seem to recognise your face," said the CO unwisely. Which was a lie, anyway, because none of us had seen it under his giant bonnet.
The T o' S went vertical and a pair of wily eyes appeared.
"Ave nivir seen ye in my bliddy life, Jock," he said.
I got home eventually and a few days later I got a very nice letter from the CO saying I was obviously unhappy in the regiment and they were posting me out.So when World War 3 breaks out I won't know where to go.
Knutsford Scout council member fears rain tax will increase bills
(from the Knutsford Chronicle)
YOUTH groups fear plans for a new rainwater charge will force them to increase subscription fees or cancel activities.
Tony Leadbeater, of Knutsford District Scout Council, said local groups could be forced to pay hundreds of pounds more in bills.
“Places like local Scout headquarters are going to be charged massive amounts for getting rid of rainwater,” he said.
Regulator Ofwat has told water companies to use a new way of charging non-domestic properties.
It wants them to pay for rain that falls onto the building and drains into the water system.
Many youth groups have previously been exempt from the charge.
However, under the new rules all youth groups with their own bases are expected to receive increased bills by next year.
The charge would be based on the size of the property.
Some fear their current charges of about £50 a year could rise to more than £500.
“They’ll either have to put the subscriptions up or curtail their activities,” said Mr Leadbeater.
“It’s not just Scouting that would be hit.”
Subject: AspirinThis is informative and you probably already know about this.Bayer is making crystal aspirin to dissolve under the tongue. They work muchfaster than the tablets
Why keep aspirin by your bedside?
There are other symptoms of a heart attack besides the pain on the left arm. One must also be aware of an intense pain on the chin, as well as nausea and lots of sweating, however these symptoms may also occur less frequently.
Note: There may be no pain in the chest during a heart attack.The majority of people (about 60%) who had a heart attack during their sleep, did not wake up. However, if it occurs, the chest pain may wake you up from your deep sleep.If that happens, immediately dissolve two aspirins in your mouth and swallow them with water.
Afterwards:- phone a neighbour or a family member who lives very close by- say "heart attack!"- say that you have taken 2 aspirins.- take a seat on a chair or sofa near the front door, and wait for theirarrival and...~ do NOT lie down
A Cardiologist has stated that, if each person, after receiving this e-mail,sends it to 10 people, probably one life can be saved!
Wouldn't forgive myself if I didn't send it
I am indebted to Mr Schultz of the U.S. of A for his kind words re my tribute last December to Colonel Warren.
That is extremely kind of you, Mr Schultz. It was a privilege to share Warren's last days with him. As you can imagine, he bore his trials bravely with dignity and with humour. Earlier this year I was diagnosed with cancer myself and his example enabled me to bear it better.
I arranged the first meeting since the war between Warren and my friend Lord Langford. Warren came to Wales to stay with Geoffrey. Over lunch I said I would like to write a sequel to Escape from the Rising Sun, which was Geoffrey's story. After lunch Warren summoned me to his room:
" If you want to write it, okay," he said, "but you had better hurry up, I will be dead in a year."
And he was.