During my time in the Army I discovered a bit about the power of the written word. For instance while based at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot during the early eighties a few of the characters in the unit got together and produced a subversive paper entitled “Not The Part One Orders”. Part One orders were the daily information sheets posted around military units giving details of duties etc, and a popular comedy television show at the time starring Rowan Atkinson was “Not The Nine O’clock News” which took a funny and satirical look at current affairs. The paper was a big hit with the staff at the hospital and those involved in its production were revered as anti-heroes, as well as being sought by the powers that be. When I arrived in Hong Kong in the late eighties a similar paper was produced within the British Military Hospital called “The Bonk”, which affected unit morale in much the same way.
So shift forward to 1990 at 32 Field Hospital RAMC, situated in the North East Saudi Arabian desert with no radio and no television to entertain us, cold weather and less than ideal living conditions prevailing, as we sat around waiting for the war to start. During a large staff meeting with the Commanding Officer (Colonel Lynch), holding fort, the Adjutant (Captain Starling) asked that very important question;- “Sir what do you think about those subversive papers that sometimes get produced and their effect on unit morale?” To his credit Col Lynch merely stated that in his opinion, he had never seen one that was bad for unit morale. Well I must admit upon hearing that I figured it was my duty to produce such a paper and help boost unit morale, and started thinking about how I could pull it all together.
What you have below is the first thing wot I wrote and scribbled down, which duly ended up in the first and only copy of what I called “The Snifter”. To set the scene for you, our Commanding Officer was quite a short chap, so he “copped a bit of stick” for being as we now term it vertically challenged. In my opinion he was actually one of the better C.O’s I’d worked under and tended to lead by example, but that didn’t mean I could go easy on him.
The toilets built out in the Gulf were basically a wooden hut with a bench the full length of one side. Cut out of the bench top were 4 or 5 holes with toilet seats bolted down around them. Beneath the hole was a large bucket lined with a plastic bag which it was some poor buggers job to empty on a regular basis, (probably me if I ever got caught writing a subversive paper like “The Snifter”). Anyway at any time you could be in the toilet doing what you needed to do and suddenly be joined by one or two other people.
So as I lay on my camp bed one night trying to think up something to put into the subversive rag I was planning to write. I suddenly came up with something that had me laughing out loud. Printed below is what I can honestly describe as my first ever published writing.
The Top 20 Things You’d Like To Say To The Commanding Officer As He Sits On the Toilet Seat Next To You:
20. So its true you are one of the Diddy Men. (A famous UK comedian Ken Dodd went on about little people called the diddy men who were very small in every way).
19. Ha you’re only in here because you’re too short to reach the roses. (As well as the communal toilets there were also pipes stuck in the ground extending up to just below the level of most men’s groin with a funnel at the top acting as a urinal, these were termed Desert Roses. It was also the title the Commanding Officer gave to the Hospital, so I have the idea that he was also taking the piss a bit).
18. Phew! I always wondered why they called you a windbag.
17. You wouldn’t have to strain so hard if you took your NAPS like the rest of us. (NAPS were pills we were to take every eight hours as part of our chemical warfare defence. The unfortunate side effects were to cause diarrhea, frequent urination and in some cases permanent erections. So now you know the true story of where Viagra came from).
16. Don’t you ever take your bloody helmet off. (The C.O. was famous for always wearing and never carrying his helmet, maybe because one of the habits of an angry British Soldier was to lie in wait on the roof of a tent or container a bash anyone they took a dislike to with a tent pole or very large metal tent peg as they passed by below).
15. Excuse me sir, but your shit stinks.
14. If you wipe it any more you really will be a shiny ass. (Clerks and officers who spent time sitting down at work were always referred to as “Shiny Asses”)
13. Wouldn’t you like to know I pissed on your garden last night. (The C.O. famously took hundreds of packets of seeds with him to the Gulf and instructed all the wards and departments to construct gardens outside their respective areas in the sand. Some of the staff never realized that by giving them something to moan and whinge about the C.O. had effectively stopped them looking for things to moan and whinge about. The less insightful among the staff then took to sabotaging the C.O’s Garden at the front of the hospital at every opportunity. I must admit to feeling sorry for the poor Nursing Officer who was doing her utmost to look after that garden and encourage it to blossom no matter what was heaped upon it.)
12. Mickey Mouse boxer shorts and you expect us to take you seriously.
11. Nice to see you’re up to date with your paperwork shorty.
10. So you’ve got zits (spots) on your bum too.
9. Well I’m off now, so there will be no one to lift you down off the seat once you’re finished.
8. A uridom! So that’s how you last your long boring ‘O’ groups. (An ‘O’ group was a briefing of some kind and the C.O. garnered a reputation for long boring ones. A uridom is a condom linked to a catheter then to a collection bag. It can be used as an alternative to catheterization.)
7. Ha there’s only enough bog roll (toilet paper) left for me, and I’ve finished while you’re still grunting.
6. Ha, how’d you like to fertilize your garden with this baby?
5. Bet you wish your feet could reach the floor don’t you.
4. Ooh look! I’ve just given birth to your baby brother.
3. You can fuck off if you think I’m gonna wipe yer arse for you.
2. Don’t ask me how I am you berk, it’s obvious I’m desperate if I’m sharing a bog (toilet) with you.
1. Do you know sir, that’s the first time I’ve heard it coming out of your arse and not your mouth.
I was never aware of anyone being tasked to discover my identity, but it was fed back to me from a reliable source that the C.O. was unhappy at not receiving a copy of his own. I quickly surrendered my own copy to his tent in secret and made sure he received all subsequent issues hot off the press.
Here’s hoping that my admission to my part in the production doesn’t get to affect my pension.