Be very careful what you wish for
By Roy Oswick
Following the granting of independence to the island of Cyprus, the role of the military police changed and reverted to the usual general duties type of policing with regular foot and mobile patrols in the garrisons, towns and cities, and we had much more time for leisure activities, sports etc.
At the time of this story I was stationed at Episkopi Garrison and although we were enjoying the much more relaxed atmosphere and the extra time off, we were also missing the excitement of being under pressure on active service.
As it happened we had a newly promoted 2nd in command who had not as yet seen any active service but who expressed his enthusiasm to do so and to be much more active. He would often share time with us and listen to us by then ‘old sweats’ relate our tales of do and dare and he would often express his regret that he had missed out on the action.
One morning following the usual duties inspection and parade the duty sergeant told me and two others who shared my tent, and with whom I was detailed for mobile patrol that day, to be back in camp by 1030hrs for an interview by the officer commanding.
We were somewhat confused as none of us had asked to see the OC and could think of no reason that he would want to see us.
However at 1030 hrs we paraded outside the OC’s office and were met by the RSM who directed us into the OC’s office. Once inside, the OC who was seated at his desk said:
“Right chaps I won’t keep you long. just want to say that the Regimental Sergeant Major and I have given a great deal of thought to your request, we both think that you and the 2nd In Command are barking mad, but we also know how much you like to be busy so I have signed the papers and I think you start training next week is that right RSM?”
“Yes sir they report to the garrison regimental physical training team to start pre-para training”
“Thank you chaps, thank you RSM. good luck” and that was that end of interview back outside and totally confused.
“Right you lot, it seems that the 2i/c has taken note of you forever moaning about nothing exciting happening, and seeing as para provost are looking for volunteers, he asked the O.C to put his name forward, and to help you overcome the boredom that you dislike so much he put your names forward as well, looks like being a very busy few weeks for you lot, first you have 3 weeks pre-para here, and then if you pass, off to Aldershot for the full para course. the 2 i/c will be in soon so you can talk to him if you are not happy”
We decided that a mug of tea and a sandwich were called for and trooped off to the mess. It is true to say that none of us knew what to do and felt that we had been suckered. The problem was, what to do about it. after a while the 2 i/c came in and sat down with us, “So guys what do you think? be bloody great won’t it? I doubt that any of us will be bored now”.
Now the reality of what we were about to embark upon had sunk in and one by one we gave reasons why we thought that we were not really cut out to be paratroopers.
“But I thought that you were looking for a bit more action and told the O.C just that. Of course I suppose you could always fail the course, we know it will be tough, pity though to miss out on the extra cash”
Almost as one the question came from our lips, “extra cash, what extra cash?
“Well after passing out you will receive £12 a week jump pay and to keep that you only have to jump 8 times a year, that is the same as a full corporals pay, and how long is it going to take for you all to get promoted to full corporal?. Still your decision. In the meantime we will have to take part in the local pre para course so, see you all Monday morning 0600 hrs and we will take it from there”
We three spent the weekend discussing the situation and by now the news had spread throughout the unit and we had taken on the aura of superstars.
The upshot was that we had to decide whether to lose face and drop out, and lose the opportunity of earning extra pay, or see it through.
Typical of most men we decided to give it a go and so began another phase of my army career. As it turned out both the 2i/c and one of the others were badly injured on the first real parachute drop that we carried out and they were never again able to go back to para training. Myself and the one remaining went on to serve in many theatres together over the next 22 years. Often during the years when I would think to myself “How did I get involved with this lot” and then I would think of the things my mates and I would say in our tent after Cyprus became independent and I always came to the same conclusion.
Always be careful what you wish for!