Sunday, January 3, 2010

6th February - 14th March 1972 - Norway

Last week in January 1972
Lt Timmothy Hoddinott was sent to Norway, in advance of the Troop, to undertake Special training
6th February 1972
The troop boarded HMS Albion at Arrossan, at 18.00hrs, we were berthed in S2 Deck.

This deck was crammed full of bunk beds, four beds high, with 2 feet between each bed and the top bunk was 2 feet from the overhead pipework and steering gear. there was 2 feet between each row of bunk beds, very tight to stand in, if everyone was trying to get dressed at the same time. It was so crowded, that blankets were not required, it was always hot down there. If one man caught a cold, by morning, everyone had a cold.
It was always very "stuffy" through the physical heat and smell of so many bodies in one space.
In rough seas, the nightmare was getting out of bed and slipping on sickness, worse still, was those above being sea-sick, without leaving their bunk.
The first day was spent exploring the ship, finding our way up and down 9 decks, plus the quickest route to the Galley (cookhouse), Flight deck or side Gun emplacements.

During Captains "Rounds" each day, 1500 men had to 'vanish', normally to the Gun emplacements or Flight deck. The Flight deck was our exercise yard, running round the deck, gymnasium area or weapon firing area.

Sign found on board.

A ship is called a "she" because there is always a lot of bustle about her.
There is usually a gang of men about her.
She has a waist and stays.
It takes a lot of paint to keep her looking good.
It is not the initial cost that breaks you, but the up-keep.
She can be all decked out.
It takes an experienced man to handle her correctly.
Without a man at the Helm, she is absolutely un-controllable.
She shows her 'topsides', hides her bottom and, when coming
into Port, always heads for the Bouys.
8th February 1972 -Bergen
Arrive Bergen at 03.00hrs, leave the ship.
Leave Bergen at 10.00hrs, arrive Voss at 17.00hrs - Bomoen Camp).

This was a Norwegian Army Training Camp, where we will learn to Ski, gis Snow holes and other Survival Techniques.

The Sleeping huts were gathered together in one corner of the camp, with the NAAFI, Canteen and Toilet Block in a line, next to the Sleeping huts.
The Camp Cinema was about 300 yards away, at the end of the line, whilst the toilets were only 30 yards away, at the start of the line.
Next to the Toilets were the Sauna & Showers, then the Cookhouse, then the NAAFI and finally the Cinema.
The town of Voss is 4 miles away, but everything in town, was far too expensive for many.
NAAFI - Voss
Scouse Hughes, Ron Gould, Blue Fenwick, Dave Green,
Pete Davey, Garth Freeborn, Georgie Stainton,
Ray Palmer.

Each bedroom had a wood burning stove, so the rooms were like Saunas, or blocks of ice.
Each day was the same, drive out to the Mountain Range, spending all day skiing, with an old Norwegian Skiing Instructor. His regular phrase was : "Use your legs like shock absorbers", with
his accent it was more like " Use legs like wock abworbers".
Voss and the Ski Routes

Also out there was 3 Troop, plus the Squadron OC; both troops got on well, despite 3 troop still being a Blue Beret troop, they were going through Commando Training, when they returned to Plymouth.

Skiing practise was on the "Nursery" slopes for the first week, then the intermediate slopes, which had a forest as part of it.
As you can see by the pictures, it was hard work standing on these planks of wood and to stop, it was easier to throw yourself to the floor.
Eventually, we started to 'master' the art of skiing and particularly, getting used to Langluf Ski's.
Drivers were given instruction on Snow-trac driving, the best means of moving around in such conditions. The Troops also learned to ski behind the Snow-trac, including the drivers.
With two ropes hooked to the rear of the Snow-trac, upto 8 skiers holding onto each rope, this took a lot of practise, for if one skier fell, he could bring down the others.
SKI Dress
Woolly string vest and long john underpants (thermal)
Standard Army Shirt - long sleeved.
Combat trousers
Heavy woollen Pullover
Double Quilted Combat Jacket
Thick woollen socks, worn over normal army socks.
Mittens (no fingers), covered with Army woollen gloves and covered with Windproof outer gloves.
An Army Balaclva was worn, which straps under the chin.
Sun glasses were worn under an Anti-glare clear glasses.


11th February 1972
Due to steering problems with a Snow-trac, which the Troop Fitter did correct, the Troop Officer decided it was too late to continue, we would set-up a 10 man tent for the night.
As there was 8 of us - 5 Sappers, Staff Sergeant, L/Cpl and Captain, the tent would be "cosy", with enough bodies to keep the tent warm.
Staff Sergeant Pickles did all the cooking and our meals were good, despite it being Compo Rations.
Compo Rations came in a variety of powdered and dried foods, Curries, Stews, even Desserts. Plus Processed Cheese in tins, along with 'hard tack' biscuits and tubes of Jam.
High energy boiled sweets and hard chocolate bars, including Rolo's which were rock hard, even after softening up the chocolate, the caramel was solid. Easier was the Lemonade Sherbert powder, to make a cold or hot drink.

16th February 1972
The Royal Scottish Battallion arrived, for Winter Survival Training.
They have this strange custom, carried out day & night, walking around 'punching' a tartan bag held under their arms --they call it a Bag-Pipe!

Snow-trac training really became the norm for us, every day we used the snow-trac to travel long distances, up & down valleys and through the dreaded forests.
Snow-tracs can turn extremely tight (being tracked), speed up and slow down fast, this combined with bumps in the track, deep hollows and dips, made for a side splitting series of laughs. It was so funny to see the positions, that the lads ended up in, wrapped round trees and bushes, some taking off over large bumps and landing on top of high bushes, or wrapped round trees -high up.
Due to the severe night coldness and Snow falls, transport had to be dug out each morning and engines run regularly, or at least for 2 hours every 12 hours. On really cold night -30, engines were run all night. This was very un-comfortable for the duty night driver, who had to sit in a freezing 3 tonner cab (heaters were not very good), especially the Air-portable Landrovers with soft tops, who had to keep the engines warmed up.

18th February 1972
The section of training, that all dreaded, skiing in full kit, meaning a pack weighing 60lbs, plus rifle.
To be useful to NATO, we had to be able to travel distances on skis , carrying personal kit and equipment, whilst being able to survive in tents, snow holes or even Igloos.

21st February 1972
Peter Davey decided to drive a 3 tonner down a Landrover route, far too fast for the conditions.
Pete lost control and the lorry veered off the road, coming to rest down the embankment, resting against sapling trees, with a full compliment of men and equipment in the back.
Bob Williams injured his left arm, trapped under Ski's and Burgens, he was raced to hospital with bruised Ribs and suspected broken arms.
Surrey Sills was also trapped under the equipment, but only suffered minor bruising.
Ray Palmer also suffered minor bruising, whilst trying to Surrey Sills out, whilst struggling, Surrey kicked Ray in the face.
The lorry suffered a twisted chassis and was a "write-off".

From there on, the whole troop "switched off", our troop Officer wanted us to do more than was possible, trying to boost our morale and improve quality of work.
Our Junior Officer - Lt Tim Hoddinott, a proffessional Skier, injured his knee, trying to do what was required, so the rest of the troop - rank amateurs, had no chance.
Troop morale sunk low, the troop had "given up", which caused friction between the lads and the Officers.
Skiing all day with heavier packs, containing Sleeping Bags, tents, shovels, etc.
Night out in Snow holes.
26th February 1972
The troop ski round the 9 kilometer ski course a few times, to get the "feel" of it.
Concluding with a full race round the circuit.
27th February 1972
Troop Fitter driove Staff Pickles and some of the Troop, to Bergen on a shopping trip, this was a 300 mile round trip.
28th February 1972
Troop Depletion:
12 lads injured - 6 lads unable to work.
Lt. Hoddinott - knee injury, unable to work.
3 Tonner badly damaged.
5 Snow-tracs un-serviceable, one was still stuck out on the ski slopes.

1st & 2nd March 1972
Oslo Ski Lift

Drive to Oslo the Norwegian Capital, to use their superb ski slopes - Downhill skiing.
We travelled to the top ledge by Cable car, then seperated into our two troops (Condor & 3 Troop), skiing to the top of the mountain and converging as one large troop.
Our general exercise was designed to impress the Civilians looking on, as 50 Sappers exercise near the very top of the Mountain, where civilians are not allowed.
One lad had a bad accident and was casavaced by helicopter.
After lunch, we were allowed to use the civilian ski slopes, what fun!
With 50 lunatics racing down the mountain, turning, crashing into civilians, falling over each other to avoid civilians, the mornings work was un-done.

The Civilians found they could no longer ski...through falling over...Laughing so much!!

3rd March 1972

Skiing all day and into the afternoon, camping out.
All night skiing, learning to do night patrols and Helicopter Night Training., return to base in the Helicopters.

4th March 1972
Day off for everyone - Shopping in Mjofell, purchasing souveniers such as: Deerskin rugs, Deerskin Slippers, Cows Bells, etc.
Troop Fitter tasked as an MP/Duty Driver and stationed with the Norwegian Police.
The Police were all 6 feet tall (or higher) and as broad shouldered as a toilet block, they rarely spoke - even to each other. The Coffee had to be tried - just to believe it, it was very strong, not only did it tarnish the teaspoon, but disolved it, if left for any time in the coffee.
On a couple of occassions, we went out to arrest Norwegian men; the Police just lifted these men up - off their feet, no words spoken until in the Police vehicle.
A Bad incident took place in the Town, 45 Commando RM ran "riot", smashing up Bars and knocking out any Norwegian men who tried to stop them.
It was an unfair fight really, Norwegians just slap each other to submission (Dental treatment is extremely expensive), of course the Marines did not know or care, they waded in fists flying, boots swinging.

As an MP, the Troop Fitter found it un-comfortable to hit his own men, with a Baseball bat, however, less punishment than the Norwegian Police would give.
Three Marines stole a car, throwing the elderly occupants out onto the road, they drove over the couple, then reversed back over them to make sure.
When the Norwegian Police closed in on them, the Fitter had to be restrained from hitting the Marines so often and so hard. Badly injured, they were handed over to 45 Cdo, who promptly sent them back to Arbroath - for Court Martial.

5th to 10th March 1972
The large Exercise up into the mountains, a 50 mile 'yomp' carried out with five days skiing and 4 nights in 10 man tents.
A "Safety" Snowtrac was to 'shadow' the troops, driven by Ronnie Gould.

Using the knowledge we had learned, we started skiing, removing a layer of of clothing as we became hot, or adding a layer during the frequent breaks, as we cooled down.
Each day we have to ski with full kit, plus four men assigned to each sledge (pulk), which contained spare sleeping bags, blankets, shovels, hexamine cookers and food.
The sledge would have one man strapped into the front harness, two others used ropes from each side, to pull or hold back the Sledge, with another man behind, holding it back.
On very steep hills, more lads tied up to the sides, to help pull, or slow down the sledge.

Each day we must cover a minimum of 10 miles, despite the weather or terrain, then set-up camp and cook a meal.
With only 4 hours of daylight, we spent that time skiing, setting up camp in the dark.
Norwegian Engineers even taught us how to trap, skin and cook a deer.
Norwegians have a Union in their Army, which impose limitations. Their trainees did not do a 50 mile yomp in the mountains, not until they had completed 3 months severe weather survival.
They refused to accompany us this time, though they did flank us, as we started the climb up.
For "fun", we used to sit on the sledges (would hold 6 men), then "ride" them down steep slopes, just like a roller coaster, only these can roll over and often did.
Due to the constant changing weather, from sunny to snow blizzards (white out - unable to see), with constant drops and rises in temperature, clothing becomes wet, making each of us want to give up at different times.
Snow storms "white-outs" were the worse, unable to see more than inch in front of your eyes, blocking out our snow glasses and making skiing almost impossible, having no sense of direction and far too much "fresh" snow to deal with.
We just had to "dig-in", just a foot below the surface, to maintain body heat, then let the storm pass-by.
During this exercise, we dug snow holes or caves, or simply put up lean-to's using bushes of dense trees.
Out on top of the mountain, during late evenings, we were treated to natures own "light show", known as the "Northern Lights".
These were short or long strips of lighting, usually yellow, green or off-white, with some red thrown in. They wavered across the sky, looping the loop, shone bright, then slowly faded. It was very soothing to watch.
When we reached the determined "pick-up" point, the wind was so strong, the helicopters could not reach us, without being blown across the 'Border'.
We had to yomp a further 15 kilometers, before the helicopters could safely pick us up.

After 5 days in the mountains, using only snow to wash with, it was a luxury to get back to Base Camp, to a hot shower and shave, plus fresh food.

11th March 1972
Shopping in Voss for the troop.

13th March 1972
Competing on the 10 kilometer Ski Race - 3 circuits of the track - race average was 55.32 minutes.

14th March 1972
Drivers only, leave Camp at 06.00hrs, drive to Bergen and board Civilian Ferry at 18.00hrs.
Sleep on board Ferry overnight.

15th March 1972
Troop flew home.
Ferry sailed for England at midday.

16th March 1972
Troop boarded coaches at the Airport, to head back to Arbroath.
Ferry Docked at 08.00hrs in Newcastle Docks.
Customs went through our personal kit thoroughly, all drivers lost their excess Cigs and Spirits.

In Arbroath, the troop was shocked to find our Spider had been looted, everyone had something stolen.

We un-packed our vehicles, cleaned them and our personal kit, handed in Artic Warfare kit, then re-painted our vehicles from Black & White, to Black & Green.

The troop found out who the "rear party" was and cornered them in the Dance hall, no Marine left un-harmed and a lot of our kit was retrieved - on fear of further reprisals.

Our troop had now fully "Bonded" together, we had gained respect from 9 Para and now 45 Cdo.

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