Two comma four

On Sunday afternoon there was a post on Facebook about the dreaded “Two comma Four” that was used as the standard fitness test in the SADF waaaay back when I was a conscript in 1980/81. The cut off time was 12 minutes and the first 2,4 we ran in 3SAI was in pt shorts and takkies. I remember it well, we had a one pip loot that would mark the turning around point (theoretically 1200 metres away) and then we would be on the downhill stretch. On your marks, get set… fokof! 
And so it started. A regular test of our fitness levels, and in 61 Mech it was compulsory for everybody to run it, whereas in basics only us roofies seemed to run it. We ran and ran and ran and ran and ran, further and faster than we had ever run before. Far from the perimeter fence of our high school and the the 3 rugby fields that we sometimes ran during PT. Far from Phineas Mackintosh Park in Mayfair where we tried to fitten up for the army in those last days of our school careers. That road was endless, and there was no sign of that sodding lieutenant! At some point we realised he was not there and we started to turn around and run back to the start line. I seem to recall walking a bit, but coming in at  under 13 minutes. 
We ran that 2,4 twice in PT gear, after that we did it in “Staaldak, webbing en geweer” which weighed a gazillion kilos and which became second nature to us, almost like a pair of underpants but heavier and on the outside. I know my times improved dramatically, and by the time I moved to Kimberly and 11 Commando could easily run it in under 12 minutes. That course took us through the middle of the camp and around the one parade ground, still in staaldak, webbing en geweer. 
When I ended up at Jan Kemp Dorp our fitness dropped, and our stamina was more in keeping with 4 hours of guard duty. Those were fun days, although in winter we really suffered. Shortly before we left some of us started to run the 2,4 for fun, and even then could do it under 12 minutes.  
The next major run we did was shortly before we went to the border when the whole company ran 3,6 kilometres in De Brug, and I believe we all made it under the allotted time, but we were buggered by the time we had done it. 
When we hit the border we used to run the chalk road from our tents to the tar road and back first thing in the morning (about 3,8 kilos). It was hell, partly because of the blistering pace and the early morning heat, but also because we ran it as a squad and that was difficult. When we got back to our tents we would then have inspection and company parade and those meticulously shone boots were all white from the morning run in that chalk road. 
It was hell. 
Trust me on this.
Today? I would probably not even manage 1 kilometre, although I am very walking fit. I was never a runner, and I never will be.
ps. cpl Slegter, cpl Strydom, and cpl Akker: you three are a bunch of “obscenity delete-eds”
DRW © 2016 – 2019 The image of the platoon running comes from social media, I do not know who it belongs to, but wanted to use it as it is very representative of what we faced back them. If the photographer will come forward I will gladly acknowledge you. 

Terrorism and the results thereof

I have been watching the recent developments in France with dismay. Make no mistake, I abhor the loss of innocent lives and I am in favour of using the maximum force to eradicate those who perpetrate it.
However, things are not always as they seem in conspiracy land, and herein lies the conundrum. The usual tub thumpers are frothing and foaming and portioning blame without looking rationally at what they are doing. Part of the doctrine of terrorism is the choosing of soft targets, eliciting the maximum sympathy and disgust and then blaming the people you are angry with for the loss of those innocent lives. EVEN THOUGH THE INNOCENTS HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT IN THE FIRST PLACE! It does however help to prove your point as a terrorist, because once you pick up the gun/bomb you are really declaring war on non combatants. Terrorists very rarely choose military targets because those tend to shoot back.
The rise of religious fundamentalism has always been with us, especially in the Middle East, It is part of their lives, Feuding people who have been at it for decades and who continue feuding even though that have forgotten what the original feud was about in the first place! 
There are also those who see a conspiracy everywhere, and who then blame it on the usual suspects who occupy offices and departments of government and who wear black hats and trenchcoats. And naturally there are kooks and fringe groups who blame it on complete populations or groups because it suits their agenda. 
Then there are those in the middle, who sheepishly follow what they read on social networks or the media. “I saw it on the news/facebook/twitter therefore it must be true.” 
There are really only a few who know the truth and motivation. And often they get taken out by security forces or themselves in some mad death wish, and invariably in one sectors mind martyrs are created and in others justice is seen to have been done.
Apart from those physically affected by these acts the rest of society goes on its way, although their freedoms may be somewhat incurred and they will get delayed even longer at the airport by security. Sabres will be rattled, and maybe a few countries get invaded and the United Nations will continue to avoid the issue because the lobbyists on one side are more effective (or richer) than on the other side. 
I come from a country where we had a terrorism “problem” (for want of a better word), and we lived with the paranoia and heightened security that goes with it. Lots of civilians died, and fingers were waved, people were detained and the people in black hats and trenchcoats got more power to arrest and detain without trial and point fingers at those who were in opposition. I remember walking to work on morning in the  early 1980’s after a particularly heavy bout of rampaging and killing had broken out and hearing somebody shouting about how a woman had been hung on a station and how revenge was the order of the day. We were all hotheaded in those days, having just come from National Service, and were ready to pick up our R1’s and go hunt down those responsible. In all the years since then I have never read anywhere that this “hanging” ever happened. And I do remember reading how our own security forces were behind some of the bombings and mysterious deaths that occurred. Somebody had been spinning us a yarn.
My best advise to those who feel the urge to go out there and form a lynch mob is to stay at home and go read a book or eat a sandwich. The media frenzy will drive the hotheads into action, and there will be a baying for blood. Guess what? that is exactly what those responsible were hoping to achieve in the first place. It is exactly the sort of frenzy that makes arms dealers rich and shady corporations richer, it plays into those who are overflowing with hatred but living off the fat of the land in a country they profess to hate. It is the same madness that makes people hang dachshunds because their names were German or who burn synagogues and paint slogans on the windows of Jewish shopkeepers before shipping them off to the “final solution.”
The actions in France are playing into the hands of those who are not happy with the influx of “refugees” into Europe, as well as those who think that their religion is right and the rest are wrong. And before you join the ranks of those who wield pitchforks and burning torches make 100% sure that the person you are setting fire to is not an innocent who just happened to be going about their lawful business, in fact, make sure it is not your son, or daughter, or your co-worker or the kind shopkeeper who always smiles when he sees you. Make sure that when you get home and are busy washing the blood off your hands make sure that you do not boast about your barbarism to your children, because you may have deprived their classmates of a breadwinner. And, when you read about your “exploit” in the newspaper do not be proud of it, because be rest assured somebody will retaliate and when you look again we are burning witches and Billy-Bob because he is different.
Remember that tomorrow you may be Billy-Bob or that strange old lady with the beard who talks to cats.


The Death of a Soldier.

A few weeks ago I bought some wooden Poppy Crosses at the Poppy Shop. The intention being to plant some at the Mendi Memorial in Hollybrook. I haven’t gotten down to physically doing it yet, but it is in my plans. However, events from last week overtook my plans following the tragic murder of a young soldier in London. Like most ex-servicemen I was shocked, and frankly read some of the reports with horror at the sheer brutality of the perpetrators. I was also amazed to read about the 3 Women who stood up and showed their mettle. Somewhere a debt is owned to them. 
But out of this horror many things have happened, and the public outpouring of grief has been widespread. Tributes are being laid at war memorials all over the UK, and many people are suddenly realising what being a soldier is about. I won’t comment on the politics involved, and I wont condemn anybody. 
I did not have any flowers, but took one of those poppy crosses up to the Cenotaph in Southampton.  Along the way I stopped and picked some flowers from the local park (don’t tell anybody) and laid them down for Lee Rigby. A soldier, who has paid the price for being a soldier. Who now stands amongst the ranks of those who do not grow old, as we grow old. 

I expect the repercussions will still happen, the final page on this incident has not been written, if anything it is just a small introduction. Sadly, another entry has been made in the Roll of Honour, and another life has been lost. 

Stand at ease Drummer Lee Rigby, your duty has been done.
© DRW 2013-2018. Images recreated 08/04/2016