Monday, 5 March 2012
All done and dusted now, and the SNCOs of 45 Commando really know how to organise a good time for their guests. Friday night was the "meet and greet", buffet and beer, and lots of it. I got acquainted with the RSM, Steff Moran, and sonny boy had told him all about the vignette I am making as his leaving present to the Mess, and Steff said that he would like me to make something similar for him, asking how much it would cost.
He was wearing a nice red 45 Cdo tee shirt which I fancied, and I told him that that would be payment enough, but he had to hand it over there and then. Without batting an eyelid he asked me to go to the smoking area outside where he proceeded to swap tee shirts with me. What a sport. When we went back into the bar even the bar staff looked aghast, after all, no-one had ever taken the shirt off their RSMs back before. The photo shows us after the swap, and yes, our eyes are slightly glazed. I got to bed at around 2am.
Saturday after a brunch, we began the activities organised for us, in what can only be described as a blustery, rainy day, and our group`s first stance was the commando slide and abseil. For these we had to walk to the top of the artificial ski slope where the wind and rain really lashed at us as we waited our turn, but all went well and our next stance was to be the SAT Trainer, like a huge video shoot em up game where all the weapons in current use can be fired without the need for live ammo. The recoil on each is provided through the use of compressed gas, CO2, operating the working parts, and laser target acquisition tots up the scores on a computer. I had a go on the LMG and then on a weapon which I had heard so much about, the machine gun grenade launcher which can fire various explosive heads up to 2000 metres, and which has been used to good effect in Afghanistan.
Next we went for a ride in a BV , over the rough terrain course. This is an all terrain vehicle, capable of a 50mph top speed on the flat, and, we were told, able to climb a 60 degree slope. They can also negotiate water obstacles. The noise from the engine necessitates the use of ear defenders. The BV is used to good effect in Afghanistan as a mobile mortar platform.
Our fourth and last stance was the 25mm range where we fired 9mm pistol, SA80 and LMG (Minime) in a competition shoot. I got 89 out of a possible maximum of 90, and came second to someone who had never fired a weapon before in his life. Both my son and I suspect there was a bit of jiggery pokery going on.
In the evening there was the Regimental Dinner, and my son, being the most senior WO2 at the function was to take his place at the top table, and I, as his guest, was to sit beside him. All the other SNCOs were seated at their tables and stood as we were led in by a piper, this, I think, was because the RSM is Scottish. The meal was fabulous, worthy of any gourmet restaurant, in Marine speak it was "Hoofing". My son had the task of making the loyal toast to the Queen, something which he had never done before, and which, in Royal Marines tradition, is done sitting down, the only service in all our armed forces who are allowed to do so. We were piped out for a break in the bar, then piped back in again to find a small box on every person`s place mat. The boxes contained a reminder for us of a lovely evening, a pair of 45 Commando cuff links, which I will cherish for always. It was then back to the bar for a few drinks, well, more than a few, and when the bar finally closed, I think most of us were finding it difficult to speak coherently. HOOFING!!!