This has nothing to do with my writing odyssey but I thought I’d write something about my old regiment and my relationship to it.
In case you didn’t know, I was once a soldier. I left school at 16 and joined the army to see the world and kill people.
Luckily I only managed the first half of that last statement of intent, but for seven and a half years I was employed by her Majesty the Queen to guard the frontiers of democracy against the Communist threat and impress the local German population with my drinking prowess and pathetic chat up lines.
I left the army in January 91 after meeting the future Mrs Jones and stayed in Germany, the rest is history.
I never felt any real close bond to my old regiment, 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards and was more than happy to leave that chapter in my life behind me. I made new friends and though I worked as a civilian for the army for the nine years after I left, I didn’t bother trying to keep in touch.
I watched my old unit from afar, tutting and shaking my head or nodding in approval at the people I saw rising through the ranks to go on to become the Colonels and RSMs of the Regiment. However, that was as far as my interest went; I was a civvy and had my own life to lead, my own plans and hopes and QDG was an all but forgotten period in my life.
It was the invasion of Kosovo that changed my ideas.
Kosovo, the break away Serbian state that demanded independence due to its large Albanian population was a where the Cold War finally came to ahead. For the first time NATO and ex-Warsaw Pact armies would face each other on the battlefield and my old unit, QDG was at the vanguard of the NATO advance.
I couldn’t read enough about it.
The first Gulf War was a wash out. After bombing the crap out of the unfortunate Iraqi army for 3 weeks, (or something like that), the coalition moved in. Though there were losses, the Iraqi ground forces had suffered so much from the enemy bombardment that resistance was negligible and there were more problems with how to house and feed the thousands of prisoners than there were with mopping up the resistance. The war came and went but I could only concentrate on my new drum set and the plans I had for world domination through the power of my drumming...
However Kosovo fired my imagination. The Serbian government had issued statements saying that they will not give Kosovo up. The Russian extremist Vladimir Zhirinovsky told Western reporters that if NATO attacked Serbia then Russia would roll over Western Europe. It was hot stuff and I was glued to my television as the build up around the confrontation grew. And at the heart of my interest was the regiment I had all but forgotten about.
1999 was also the year that, for the first time since leaving, I thought to myself, “What have I done with my life?”
I was working at DPD, (starting at 4 AM) in the mornings and then in the afternoon I worked the buiding sites. I had just left my band, which had kept alive all my hopes in life and was stuck in a rut which saw me getting up at 0330 and then sometimes working through until eight or nine at night, just to get by and pay my bills. I grew my first grey hair in this year, so of course, the blithe, unfettered days of QDG and all that I had left behind played a large role in my thoughts.
History shows that nothing happened. Just as the first Gulf War had been decided by airpower, NATO bombs broke the will of the Serbian military and government. Never the less, my interest in my old regiment had been awakened.
Since 1999 I have kept in contact with my former employers. I’m in the Regimental Comrades Association and have found, through Facebook a whole Squadron of ex military buddies who had simply vanished from my radar.
The weekend just gone saw a group of lads from the Sergent’s and Officer’s mess come down to Wolfenbüttel to visit tour old haunts.
The faces I knew then as young troopers are all now senior NCOs and Officers but the banter hadn’t changed and it sent me back to those carefree, happier days when my only goal in life was to get on the ale with the lads and see my wagon through its next inspection.
It was great to see the unit that I left all those many moons ago still has a vibrant zest for the ridiculous and wanton in these all too sad days of political correctness and I hope to have more contact with the lads of 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards..
Pro Rege et Patria is the regimental motto, but as my mate Steve Burman once wrote, “Pro Rege et Patria but Pro Quaffing’s the norm.”
Who are you, who are you?
The Blue Army.