During the mid-80’s I served in the Parachute Regiment. I was lucky enough to spend a period on exercise in Fort Lewis, Washington State working with the US Rangers. The Rangers are one of the USA’s elite units and as such were considered to be almost as good as the Paras.
The US troops were extremely well equipped, but they tended to be body builders rather than athletes, a little gung ho and being totally unaware of things that were not American, a little naive. This coupled with their propensity to shout ‘hoorah’ at every opportunity meant that on the whole the visiting Brits saw them as slow, loud and a bit dim.
Differences in procedures made things even more interesting. The Rangers were bussed back to camp at night whilst their trenches were prepared by engineers using backhoes; the Paras, on the other hand, spent the night digging in.
The scene was set for some great wind ups and pretty spectacular banter.
One evening on a company scale exercise in which we had to attack a platoon size defensive position my Corporal whispered “Fix Bayonets” in a rather loud stage whisper just before our assault went in. There was a flurry of activity and the words “these f….g Brits are crazy’ were clearly heard drifting on the cool night air; by the time we arrived on the position there was no one there.
The exercise was hard work and rewarding. Both units benefited from the experience. My lasting memory was born out of a practical joke I played on one PFC which really took off; the following poem explains all;
Early Memories – USA I - Renewable Energy
It was morning in the forest
And the troops were dug in well
British and American
the aim to help us gel.
There’d been a lot of banter
In the preceding weeks
As we’d competed and compared
our differing techniques.
I reached in to my Bergan
and removed an electric razor,
I was ready for some fun
I’d thought up a real teaser.
I stabbed my bayonet into a tree
to make a small incision,
then slipped a lead into the hole
and started my ablution.
The Ranger who shared our scrape
could not conceal his glee
as I shaved my face with a razor
plugged into a tree.
He asked me to show him
this great ‘British’ invention;
and he begged to swap near all he had
for it was beyond his comprehension.
It quick became a standing joke
As we plugged things into trees
and not one of us would trade one
..... or tell of batteries.
John Carré Buchanan
23 April 2012