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My One Life Regret



SWING THOSE ARMS!

PICK UP THOSE FEET!

LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT!

YOU SHOWER OF SHITS!

YOU SHOULD HAVE JOINED THE BLOODY NAVY!

WHAT’S YOUR NAME SON, TINKERBELL, YOU FAIRY!

DON’T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT, I’M NOT YOUR SWEETHEART!


We had just six weeks to go,

Apart from our sleep last night

We had been here in hell for just six hours,

Nothing prepares you for this life, this man

And without a doubt, this man was a bully,

Medical centre for injections we didn’t want.

Dentistry we didn’t want

Haircuts we didn’t need,

As well as making us late for lunch.


Corporal Stewart was a smallish man,

With a pronounced Napoleon complex,

A peaked cap that cut the bridge of his nose

And a very loud mouth,

He kept telling us he wanted to be our friend,

I’m not too sure that was true.


Lunch is over in just thirty minutes,

Now back to the barracks to change

Into our rather fetching royal blue PT kit,

Cross-country running helps with digestion,

According to our still uniformed Corporal,

How come he hadn’t changed?

Because he had fostered us out,

For the pleasure of two of the meanest muscle men

Ever to instruct physical fitness at an RAF Station,

They were to oversee our pain and torture

For the next few gruelling hours, they relished it,

One ran in front to kick up the pace

The other ran behind to kick up the arse.

It transpires that country running was a digestion aid after all,

Ninety per cent of us threw up our lunches.

The first ones back to the gym could have a fag break

I couldn’t breathe enough to breathe, let alone smoke.


This, was just the beginning of hell.


Over the next six weeks,

We got gassed in a small chamber,

We had to remove our masks to show our courage,

Shot at, though not directly,

Spent cartridges from our neighbour bounce off our helmets,

We marched every day,

We had PT every day,

Cleaned every day,

Made bed packs every day for inspection

Make it good, it’s best left alone, intact,

Sleep on the floor, covered by a thick coat,

We went to church on a Sunday for a nap.

Or cleaned toilets because we got caught napping

Marching, marching, marching, even more marching.


Some young men didn’t succeed, so left,

Others were back flighted to start again

The air force doesn’t want you to fail,

They wanted you to try

Because trying is a success in its way,

But you had to try it their way

Learning to do everything as ordered,

No questions, no asking why,

Being a team, looking after the guy next to you,

Closing the gap if he fell.


RAF recruits march at 120 beats per minute

But our Corporal wanted Ghurka pace of 140,

Your whole world moves faster at Gurkhas pace,

We practised, we were rubbish,

We had trouble at average speed, let alone Ghurka speed,

But we practised, and we practised,


I learnt to eat three meals a day,

How to sleep standing up,

I purchased my first shandy,

Learnt how to mine sweep,

When you walked around the bar,

finishing off other guy's beers whilst they weren’t watching,

Slowly getting drunk,

I learnt to say thank you to the Officer

For my weekly pay packet of just £12,

I was making all that work, blood, sweat and tears

Yet I still had to thank him.


We got shown horrific videos,

Men getting shot, sometimes by friendly fire,

Deciding whether to stay the bleeding or keep walking,

The worst videos showed what happens to a person,

Shot using the same rifle we used,

It made those trips to the range scary.

I just wanted to keep on walking,

We saw films of nuclear bombs exploding,

Russians coming over the hill,

Life expectancy became measured in minutes, not years,

What happens if you get sucked into a jet engine?

Or you’re standing behind a jet on a test,

These films are still with me in my nightmares.


But now, six weeks have passed,

On the final day,

Our passing out parade,

Uniforms gleaming,

Boots so shiny you could upskirt the WRAFs,

Rifle polished and tight into the shoulder,


SQUAD,

MOVE TO THE RIGHT IN THREES,

RIGHT…….. TURN,

BY THE LEFT, QUICK MARCH.


We shifted as a unit,

We were one body, moving to a single beat,

Onto the parade square, with parents and friends watching,

We performed impressive drills,

Our rifles moved from shoulder to shoulder,

with the precision of the hands of a Rolex watch,

Inspected by someone so far up the officer's chain

that his orders came directly from God,

Then it was over, parade finished, parents clapped,

We had one last thing to do,

March back to barracks, be dismissed,

Catch our trains to training stations,


SQUAD ATTENTION,

MOVE TO THE LEFT IN THREES,

LEFT……. TURN,

BY THE LEFT, QUICK MARCH


Then a miracle

Corporal Stewart, the hardened man, mellowed.


RIGHT, YOU WONDERFUL YOUNG MEN,

LET'S SHOW THEM WHAT WE CAN DO,

SQUAD……. HALT,

AT GHURKA PACE

QUICK…… MARCH.


We moved effortlessly,

140 paces per minute,

We were on fire,

We passed stunned officers,

Stunned parents,

Stunned newer recruits.

Arriving at our barracks to rapturous applause,

Even my dad was proud,

I think that was the only day he was ever proud of me,

But this wasn't his day

It was our day, my day,

We were now a fighting unit

Ready for any action.


I have never been more proud of myself in my whole life,


I served happily for nearly six years

Made countless friends

Countless memories

Then I met her,

Loved her,

Quit because of her

My decision was too hasty

A year later, she broke my heart

When she lost her love for me

I had nothing, no-one

I should have, at that point,

Re-enlisted, but I didn't

I will never know why

That was to be,

My one life regret,

It was then,

That regret hasn’t diminished today.

But you don't move forward,

If you’re looking back


I will be forever proud,

To have served.

Per Ardua Ad Astra.





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