We had a practice on Tuesday night for the parade next Tuesday night where `B` Company of 6th Battalion The Rifles will be removed from the Army’s order of battle and will cease to exist. The members of the Company who are not transferring to other Companies within the Battalion will then ceremoniously remove their beloved green berets with the Bugle cap badge that has been worn for many years, and place it in their trouser pocket. With the next command they will replace the head dress with a pale blue beret and become a new unit. A unit which will have been born on that very morning with the permanent staff being the only members until the body of men and women who marched on to the square as Riflemen are taken in to the fold of their new family. The unit will be 675 (The Rifles) Squadron Army Air Corps, and the family will be 6 Regiment Army Air Corps.
I applied for the Army Air Corps (Junior Leaders) when I was still at school. 8 places were available and I was given one. I spent my 16th Birthday at Bovington Camp in PT kit on an initial basic view to the Army to see if it was something that you really wanted to do and I really wanted to do it. I had a plan, work hard and progress. Apply for pilot training and succeed. Serve my 22 and extend if possible. Save like hell, (I now realise that maybe this would be an ambitious task with the nights out!) and then start my own charter piloting company on discharge. We had to do an orienteering phase of our visit to the Barracks as a test to see fitness and back then I was fit, (and not paralysed obviously, this was a hobby I took on later in life), but at the end of the run the creases in my arms went really red. I had mild eczema as a youngster and this was not good for fuels and oils and as a result I was told my journey ended right there. As for my plan for life, I haven’t had one since.
When I was told that our beloved Company would be disbanded it was of course sad news. It was like a part of me was going to die. We had experienced changes in the past, when I joined we were `B` Company The Rifle Volunteers but this was due to a recent change only the year or two before I joined when it had been `B` (SLI) Company 6 LI; (`B` Somerset Light Infantry Company 6th Battalion The Light Infantry).
In 2007 while serving in Helmand Province we changed to `B` Company 6th Battalion The Rifles but the key thing was that we had retained the immediate family name of `B` Company and whilst for most of you reading this it will not mean anything but for those who have served or are serving, they are more likely to relate to it.
Two units who will definitely be able to relate to it are 12 and 617 Squadrons of the Royal Air Force based out of Lossiemouth who are both being disbanded I believe at the end of this month just like us. 617 Squadron being the famous Dam Busters.
Whilst sad at the fact of what was the best Company in 6 Rifles being disbanded, I had a little comfort in the fact that although it had taken 23 years, this twist of fate meant that I would become a member of a unit of the very Regiment I had wanted to join as a child. I signed the paperwork to transfer over to the Army Air Corps and had spoken to the regular staff who had moved in to our Army Reserve Centre to begin the take over process, about my staying in the Army Reserves if I transferred across. I can still teach despite my paralysis although some of the subjects I may need a demo troop as I would not be able to demonstrate some of the movements, there may even be a job flying a desk, a job where by you can not deploy to the field as it requires a desk pilot permanently. Whilst I was never a desk jockey as I loved being in the field teaching or doing my job, now things have changed and I don’t want to leave yet. The Army Air Corps would give me a much better chance of surviving the discharge than being in the Infantry and so it was a no brainer to sign to transfer. On Tuesday though my OC had to come and give me some news which would almost certainly bollocks things up in more ways than one. It would appear that I am unable to go on strength with the Army Air Corps as I am non deployable. It would seem that once again I would have the chance of the blue beret within inches of my grasp only to have to watch it slide away. I have loved my role in the infantry, the ups and downs, the promotions and the bollockings (of which there have been many!) and the relationship with the Bugle. The Bugle that even now sends shivers down my spine and always will, but even the gift of the gab that I am able to apply at times is not good enough for me to convince anyone that my wheelchair classes me as mechanised infantry. So now the small chance that I had of maybe being able to avoid a medical discharge if only a delay in it has now gone, all I can do now is hope.
I did not stay for a drink on Tuesday evening as I did not want for the “Parents”, (my word for the Officers, Senior NCO’s I have always affectionately referred to as “Adults”), to feel in any way awkward about the discovery that had been made about my not being able to transfer or feel that they would or should come and talk to me about it. At the end of the day, there is clearly nothing that they can do and so it is a case of “dry your eyes princess and suck it up”. I will still attend the parade next week to watch the rest of the Company don their new head dress and will indeed parade with them, something that my OC and the RSM have told me they want to happen. Whilst I can not march on with them as the pace is too fast, besides which I will make it look untidy, I fall in at the rear of 4 Platoon with their Platoon Serjeant and when the Platoon Commander and Platoon Serjeant take up their positions for the Platoon to march off of the parade, (they are becoming part of HQ Company as an asset and will therefore not be Army Air Corps), I will about turn and leave the parade to the rear where I came on from. At least I will be a part of the parade which is testament to how the Battalion and Company respect and look after their own.
Wednesday saw my Daughter off as the teachers were on strike for some reason, which was nice in a way as Alison had suggested we go for a `st-roll` as neither of us could remember the last time we had due to the weather. As my Daughter was off I asked if she wanted to come with us and take `Duke` for a walk, he could accompany `Jack` which would be nice, I was really pleased that she said “Yes”. It was nice to be out again however I did get carried away in places and had to wait for the ladies, at least Alison had my Daughter to talk to while I buggered off cutting my own detail. In the chair though it is difficult not to go on ahead as the inclines can slow you so far that the “walkers” end up having to wait for you, also, if you slow down or stop it can be a bugger to get going again. The timing could not have been better though because I reached the end of the cycle path which comes out opposite `Pickle’s` nursery, at exactly the same time as Wifey rocked up in the “Chicklebus”.
I have had notifications for my FaceBook a few times today where Battle Back have posted pictures of the skiing group. The snow looks amazing, Jon is back looking like a child who has not seen snow for a very long while sporting a mischievous grin and I know that Ash will be chuffed to have his mate back, no doubt the two of them will have the group in fits of laughter. I look at the pictures and I will not hide the jealousy. I loved the time I spent out there with Battle Back, I loved the time I spent with Ash, Kev and Hannah and have some great memories of the experience. I chuckle at some of the memories that pop in to my head relating to some of the pictures, some of the slopes we would be going down eventually got the comical comment from Ash “Do you need to turn your valve on?”. This was due to a couple of “nervous wee’s” that I had to take on a couple of the bigger slopes and as such the comment became a standing joke. I know that the group that are out there now are having an absolute blast and if I could be back out there, I would in a heartbeat.
Friday is fast approaching and I will be returning to Tedworth House to get measured for my hand cycle. I am really looking forward to getting the bike as I know it will improve my upper body strength and I hope to reduce my belly size too, aside form this though I will be able to go out with my family and I hope occasionally I will be able to hook up with Steve too and go a little distance. When I am confident in it I may be able to think about using it to raise money for charity by way of another challenge, we shall see. For now though I am still trying to sort an abseil, who the hell would have thought it would be so hard to sort out eh? Once the unit change over has happened though I can talk to my mates about taking the Overlander on a little challenge which will determine another challenge that I intend to do. Watch this space.
Have a look at Battle Back and see the work they do. www.facebook.com/battle.back
Anyway, that’s all for now.
Good evening all.