William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD
BIG LEADER AND THE TROUSER WEIGHTS
Summer Training Session: Sennelager – 1961
It all started following heavy rains in the training area the sky had cleared and big leader exited his reconverted dental van a deuce and a half like a Winnebago with a self contained room on the back. Winnebago’s were invented some 10 or 15 years later, but our Battalion Commander was outfitted well ahead of his time. Big Leader looked quite dapper in his bush jacket complete with WW2 ribbon bars and his slung binoculars with map board in hand. He was quite refreshed after a good night’s sleep, whilst his troops lived in half shelters and slept on ponchos under heavy, wet; woollen blankets in the mud on the ground, big leader had white sheets and a pillow and slept on a bed in the back of the CO’s Field Office. Oh the fine privileges of rank.
Prior to going out to watch the 106 anti tank live firing exercises, the Old Man stopped by the BOR tent (Battalion Orderly Room Tent) where he left a note for his Batman with LCpI (Unpaid) Bilko Wilson who’s main reason for being there was to type up the Field Routine Orders (Part 1 Orders) and the Fire Picket Lists for the Regimental Sergeant Major. The note stated that the CO wanted a new pair of trouser weights made as his old set wasn’t packed by his Batman and was still in a drawer back in Deilinghofen. The Old Man had received an invitation and he was to attend a Mess Dinner with the British Green Howard’s later on that night. He wanted his bush pants to look sharp beneath his copiously girthed belt.
The CO’s Batman (an infantry word for Orderly) was chosen for the job mainly because he spoke “German” and could act as an Interpreter for the Old Man when travelling to such exotic places as Putlos on the Baltic etc. and the old man spoke no Foreign Tongues.
Speaking German was Wally Heckell’s only redeeming skill. He was, according to our CQMS, SSgt Zump the Pump Zumperelle, dull low normal in intellect, with the emphasis on “dull” and “low”.
When given the note from the CO, the Batman shrugged and turned to the Orderly Room Clerk, “vat is makin’ desea vaits mein kaporal?” Whereupon he was advised to go to the QM tent and get a large pair of black boot laces, then proceed to the TDM (Temporary Dump Munitions) and pickup a few boxes of .9mm bullets and return to the HQ tent.
On his return the puzzled batman was instructed to clip the nibs off of the laces, pull out the cord from the black cotton sleeve and insert the bullets into the empty sleeve; 20 inches of hollow lace was required for one weight.
He went into the back of the CO’s Office/Bedroom Van and proceeded to make the weights. 2 hours later he emerged with the weights duly sewn up with his housewife (soldier’s mending kit) and proudly presented them to the Junior NCO who upon inspecting same found that the batty Batman had placed the whole bullet inside the lace sleeves!
Asked what would happen if the CO stamped his foot, the Batman shrugged. The haggard young NCO told him the old man would shoot his nuts off, to him take these back and redo the job – remove the lead from the bullets and only put the lead inside the laces!
“Ach, vee vouldn’t vant mein Commandant to shuteing his knackers zo ich muss be makin’ a nudder set veits.”
While LCpI (Unpaid) Bilko Wilson read a Carter Brown pocket novel, Wally der Deutcher returned to his work and using his bayonet he pried each piece of lead out of the bullet casing, poured the powder into the ashtray and tossed the casing into the waste paper basket in the van. He dutifully placed each lead round into the sleeve until the 20inch mark was reached then sewed the ends together. Task completed he put the weights on the CO’s pillow, and wandered off to the mess tent for supper.
1700 hrs: Big leader’s jeep entered the lines. He stood up, bush cap jauntily on the back of his head, Churchill Cigar in his teeth, binoculars properly hanging out front and map board firmly clutched in his right hand; the picture of Military Leadership riding into view.
His desk was inside the back door as he opened same he placed his cigar into the ashtray on the desk. What happened next resulted in the Firing of Wally, who promptly reported that, “Mein Kaporal ist der vun vat tol me to take deesa leads off ana deesa bullets”.
Bilko didn’t mind being a Rifleman, he had been there several times before and the pay was the same anyway. The old man wasn’t injured, just frightened. He pulled his arm back as the flash lit up the inside of the van which took a couple of days to clean up and repaint.
The last that we at HQ heard of Wally was he was employed full time in the Sergeants Mess as Latrine Orderly and they say he did not too bad a job of keeping the brass on the urinals shined to Rifle Battalion Standards.
Once the BOR marquee was torn down, and packed and the grounds policed for butts. The RSM came along with an Arm Band that looked somewhat familiar. “LCpI Willson, you will be in charge of the Rear Party here in Sennelager and please try not to let anyone blow up the CO’s van before we get it back to Fort MacLeod.”
The trip back was slow but we managed to stop at a Gasthof and pick up some snap caps of Dortmunder Pils which made the journey more pleasant, indeed.
©Copyright 2004 by William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD