Sunday, February 26, 2006

Sweating on being released

Photo shows: Sgt.Tom Atkinson goes home as part of Group 28. Names supplied on request!

The time was late 1946.

My current position was that of Tech Corporal for A Squadron, 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. As such, I was responsible for all the ‘Technical’ stores in the Squadron which included, Tanks, Armoured Cars, Motor Vehicles of all description and the spares included thereof.

I knew that I was shortly due to be released from the Army under the current Python scheme that enabled men who had served more than 3 years 9 months abroad to be sent home and released from the forces. Understandably, I was concerned that nothing should hinder my release and ‘nothing’ included any shortfalls in the equipment that I had previously signed for.

For some time now I had been training a young Lance Corporal to take over my place and I’d given him the task of checking the quantities of all the spares held on our Store Truck against the inventory for the same holdings.

One day he reported to me that we were one verey light pistol short of the six that we were supposed to be holding according to the manifest. The verey light pistols were held as part of a tank’s small arms store and were used, in emergencies, to either send a pre-arranged message or identify the tank’s position to other squadron members. I had even used one myself in front line action some months earlier.

The short story is that I was one pistol short and I had to do something about it.

Amongst my ‘un-official’ spares was a German very light pistol, very much the same size as it’s British counterpart but un-mistakeably different to the eye. Some hard and quick thinking was called for.

I solved the problem by covering all the pistols in axle grease then wrapping them up with strips of oilskin so that only the registration number was visible. The German pistol soon had it’s own number erased and replaced by the ‘correct’ British number and the six pistols were left hanging up on adjacent hooks.

Not long after this event we had an un-scheduled inspection by a top-brass Brigadier who inspected all of the Regimental stores, including my own stores truck.
He clambered up the wooden stairs of the truck and with his aide-de-camp sniffed around the stores that were on display. His eyes caught the very light pistols and he demanded to know what these mystery parcels were.

I explained that experience had taught me that the pistols were soon affected by corrosion and so I had covered them in heavy grease but left the numbers visible for quick inspection.

“Bloody good idea Corporal !” he said and telling his sidekick to ”make a note of that will you” he soon, to my great relief, clambered back down the stairs.

Almost sixty years after the event I still wonder whatever happened when the pistols were eventually un-wrapped and the cuckoo in the nest was revealed !
I also wonder if the rest of the units in the Division ever had to wrap all their Verey light pistols in grease !

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