Tales From The Lines (2)



The Brigade of Guards produces men of such a singularly unique DNA that the world in which they live is, at times, beyond the rest of the British Army. Some of them, Army legends like Academy Sergeant Major John Lord and Ronald Brittain, (The Voice), created the template for the modern RSM. Their proud descendants made a startling and robust contribution to my own feet not touching the ground in formative years.

"Show Idle threads!," one animated and angry Welsh Guards CSM screamed at me one morning. "Idle threads," I thought, "What the bloody hell is he on about." Of course, in their world, everything could be idle. "Idle hair, idle right hand, idle bootlace, idle man."  Which brings me in a roundabout and rambling way to the masters of idiosyncratic Guards-like behaviour, the Irish Guards.

Every battalion has a 15 year private soldier who works in the QM stores. In this case, we'll call him Guardsman Wullie McConachy of HQ Coy, 1 IG. A much loved character in the battalion from the rural South of Ireland, he could often be seen sweeping up leaves outside the QM's stores in his wellies as the other guardsmen would pass by on their early morning runs in their platoons. All would wave and say hi to Wullie, such was the institution he was in the battalion.

Having wrapped on two JNCO cadres, the QM decided Wullie should have one more crack at getting his first tape.

Soon into the battalion cadre, they were enjoying drill on the square with the future NCO's taking it in turn to take the squad under the watchful eye of the RSM.

Wullies turn came. Having successfully negotiated two left wheels and a mark time under Wullie's suspect leadership, the squad were marching confidently with heads high and all the swagger the Brigade can muster, toward the steps of the Officers Mess.

Unfortunately, Wullie just couldn't get that, "about turn," out on the right foot. The more he thought about it the more he froze. The squad, not wanting to embarrass their mate, started taking smaller and smaller paces until they were virtually on the steps of the Mess with the front door straight ahead, praying that Wullie would find the words.

The RSM, who also had a soft spot for his itinerant guardsman, could bear the desecration of his square no more and shaking, screamed out, "For fvcks sake Wullie, say something - even if it's just Goodbye!"