Showing posts with label Army. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Army. Show all posts

Sunday 6 October 2013

A great weekend driving tanks

A handsome chap....takes after his Dad!
This weekend we headed to our favourite county - Dorset.  The main reason was to visit Chris at the Royal Armoured Centre, Bovington, where he's half-way through his Phase 2 training.  But it was also an opportunity to visit Weymouth, where we spent a lovely couple of years in the early 90s.

Friday 4 October
I finished work at midday and the first job was to drop Toby off at the kennels on the canal and feed & water the chickens.  Jobs done, we headed off for Dorset, via the Mid-Cheshire Van Conversion unit (see our separate blog on this life-changing decision!).  It was the usual manic, Friday afternoon drive, not helped when the 'Shat-Nav" took us through Bristol city centre.  We finally made it to the Premier Inn at the Dorchester Brewery Centre (like a mini Gunwharf Quays) and, dropping off our bags, went to eat at Carluccio's, enjoying calamari followed by a shared steak with a bottle of red wine.  Then it was time to crash out as we had an early start tomorrow morning.

Saturday 5 October
Up early, we were too full from last night's dinner to bother with breakfast. So after a cup of tea we headed off for the Bovington Families Day.  We parked at the Tank Museum, then took a mini-bus ride to the RAC camp, where we were met by Chris, looking very smart in his combats and 9/12 Lancers beret.  We headed up to the lecture hall where Lt Col Nurton introduced the day and talked more about the Phase 2 training.  After that the families broke into 3 groups.  We first headed off to watch a demonstration of the different types of armoured vehicles driving on the range.  First up was the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank - it was smaller than I imagined, but I still wouldn't want to meet it down a dark alley!  Next was the Warthog which I've seen in action with the Royal Marines.  Finally, it was Chris' weapon of choice - the Scorpion.  This is a small, but power-packed and fast Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked) - CVR(T). It travels really fast and brakes even faster!  After the demo we had the chance to clamber over the vehicles.  Chris explained how the Scorpion works and the maintenance tasks he's learned.  Cathy wasn't so sure about being strapped into the Warthog though!  After that we had a demo of the Military Annual Assessment Test, then we headed off to visit the PRI shop, where I treated Chris to a 9th/12th hoodie and t-shirt (I had a t-shirt also).  We also visited his room - very neat and tidy!

Lunch was Pay as You Dine (PAYD) - but free for us.  PAYD came in during my last year in the Royal Navy. Basically, rather than having a standard food charge deducted from monthly salary, you have to pay for the food you eat. It's aimed at providing more options and choice as to where and when you eat.  Although Chris had moaned about the food, it was actually very tasty and filling.

After lunch we headed off to see what they learn when it comes to driving and maintenance. Having looked around some of the latest vehicles, we went off to the Simulators, where I had the chance to drive a Challenger Two tank!  The simulator was very realistic and my 20 minutes driving flew past - I really got into it.  After that we headed off to the CIS school, where we learned a bit more about the Bowman system and operational comms.

The final part of the day was a demo of fire and manoeuvre, based on an attack on an FOB in Afghanistan.  This involved a section of 8 soldiers plus a Scorpion CVR(T).  This was great to see and after the final closing speech by the CO, we visited the tank museum with Chris.  Saying our farewells, I dropped him off at the camp, before we headed back west.  It was a great day with him and lovely to see where he lives and what he gets up to.  Good luck with the rest of your Phase 2 training Chris - maybe see you in Germany next year!

On the drive back we decided to head into Weymouth to have fish & chips on the beach - these were very tasty!  It was warm and sunny and there were people swimming in the sea at 6pm - in October.  We had a walk around Weymouth - some of the shops from our time living there 20 years ago were still open, others were long gone.  We returned to Dorchester and headed out for a drink before crashing out.

Sunday 6 October
Sunday morning was bright, sunny and warm.  Having checked out we headed into town and enjoyed a Wetherspoons breakfast before driving home.  It was a great weekend and we felt very privileged to see Chris in his working environment.  He really impressed us with his knowledge and skills.  He picks up his car next weekend and we hope he has a safe drive north - he's come a long way in 6 months.  Keep going mate, crack on and we'll see you in Hohne next year!

The Challenger Two reaches the top of the Knife Edge

Road Rage?  Bring it on!


Chris' weapon of choice - Scorpion CVR(T)

Time to explore

See Mum - the widget gets put in here!

And this is where we keep our sandwiches

Strapped into the back of the Warthog

Makes a change from strapping him into his child seat!

Paul in the Challenger Two MBT simulator

Paul on top of the Knife Edge

It was a very tight fit getting in, but easier getting out

The boys on patrol

Weymouth Bay - one of our favourite spots

The clock tower

Sunset over the Dorset cliffs

Fishing boats in the harbour

A tall ship in the harbour


That blue house looks rather compact and bijou!

Fishing stuff

Lobster pots at dusk

One of many fishing boats

Attention on the Upper Deck, Face Aft and Salute .... Sunset!

Fish and chips on the beach

Saturday 22 June 2013

Passing Off with pride

Yesterday we attended Chris' Passing Off Parade at ATR Pirbright.  He and his fellow recruits have worked extremely hard over the past 14 weeks, starting as wet behind the ears civvies and finishing as trained soldiers.  They've learnt to live and fight in the field, shoot, apply first aid, casevac wounded colleagues, clean, iron, march, tab, run - in fact anything a soldier needs to do.

We stayed overnight in Farnborough and the next morning drove to the camp. On arrival we waited with other families by the NAAFI before moving to the parade square seating.  One of the Corporals was the 'warm-up act', getting us to practice our cheering and clapping!  Then we had to give three loud cheers, which was the signal for the Royal Logistics Corps band to strike up and commence the March On.

As the band appeared and the two platoons marched on, the cheers and clapping clearly did it's job - we could see the pride in their faces.  Once in position the Inspecting Officer, Brigadier Davies, OBE, MC inspected the platoons.  He stopped to talk to Chris, asking him which regiment he's joining and whether he'd enjoyed his training. Once the platoons were inspected they marched forward for the prize winners to collect their trophies.

The Brigadier then spoke to them all to congratulate them and tell them they were now professional soldiers and part of the Army family.  After a few prayers from the 'Bish' they formed up for the March Past.  I think we both filled up as they marched past the dais, with cheering, clapping and a few tears!

After that we returned to the NAAFI where Chris finally joined us, so we could congratulate him and I could buy him his first pint in 7 weeks! We went for lunch in the cookhouse and then he went off to clear up the block and bring his bags down.  Finally he escaped from Pirbright to head home, once we finally fought our way through the Friday motorway traffic.

It was a great day. We are immensely proud of his achievements, but more pleased for him. He's overcome many hurdles over the years to get to this point and has shown true grit, determination and courage to get to the end of Phase 1 training; another 30 potential recruits will have failed for everyone one that achieves.  Chris now has a couple of weeks off before reporting to the Armoured Corps Training Regiment in Bovington, Dorset, for 6 months of trade training.  After that he'll join his regiment in Hohne, Germany.

But now, he's no longer Recruit Jackson - he is now Trooper Jackson, 9th/12th Lancers.  And we're very proud of him!

Standing Easy as the Brigadier addresses them

First pint in 7 weeks!

Off to the pub for some Father and Son bonding!

Monday 6 May 2013

Families Day at ATR Pirbright

Chris is now half way through his Phase 1 Basic training at Pirbright. Since he left on the 18th of March we've had the expected highlights and lowlights texts and FB updates, but he seems to be cracking on - fingers crossed!

Last Thursday - 2 May - was the half way point and Families Day.  Cathy and I travelled down the night before and stayed in a Travelodge in Farnborough. It was a long journey to make after a full day's work, so the Wetherspoons pub next door was a welcome site when we arrived just after 10pm.  After a good night's sleep and a mediocre breakfast we set off for Pirbright. The organisation and welcome was very good and we joined the rest of the families at the Cafe before making our way to the Lecture Theatre. Here the Lt Col in charge of 2 ATR welcomed us before Major Lewin, the OC told us what the recruits had  been up to for the past 7 weeks. She also introduced the other staff, including the Sergeant Major in his kilt!  After that we were split into 3 groups.  We started off with a weapons display then moved on to watch some PT.  After that we moved on to witness some fieldcraft, which was where Chris was "on stag" with helmet & SA80 in a basha - trust him to be lying down on the job!  We also got to see the new rat packs - much better than in my day.

After that we moved to the church where the Padre (or Bish in Naval parlance), along with the WO2 from the Welfare Team talked to us about pastoral care. After that it was off to the parade ground to witness all the recruits being presented with their regimental beret and cap badge - a proud moment for them all.  Chris looked very good in his 9th/12th Lancers beret.  After a pep talk from the Major, followed by a stern talking to by the Sergeant Major (the demon drink, don't take drugs, don't be late back on Sunday), they were all quick marched off to the barrack block to get changed and escape for the weekend. Our return journey was marred by breaking down on the M6, but following a breakdown truck lift home, via the Anderton MOT Centre and the Stagg Bar, we eventually got home and Chris could relax with a beer.

He spent some time catching up on sleep and some shopping on Saturday - when he 'forgot' to take his wallet so I had to pay!  In the afternoon some family came over for a BBQ and then is last night of freedom. Sunday morning I drove him to Crewe station to catch the first train back via Birmingham - how he ended up in Colwyn Bay I shall never know!  I think remedial map reading for him!  He eventually made it back 2 hours adrift but seems to have blagged it.  Today it's been very hot and sunny in Barnton, so I would imagine his 4 mile combat run in Surrey was a bit warm!  Tonight they all get drug tested to make sure they listened to the Sgt Major - anyone who fails will be discharged.

We thought the Families Day was very well organised; all the staff were friendly, approachable and seemed to want all the recruits to be successful. Chris now has another 7 weeks of hard graft, but interspersed with an adventurous week in Sennybridge, Wales, so some fun time too.  We have everything crossed that he will continue to "crack on" so we can travel down again for his Passing Off Parade on 21 June - that will be a day to remember.