Tagged in: intelligence corps


Some Wizards

Once upon a time near a small dorf in Germany and almost surrounded by the dark and mysterious Guhor Woods was a secret place called Mercury Kaserne.

The Guhor Woods


It was so secret that not even the people who lived there knew what went on behind the wire fence beyond The Boiler House and LAD;  including most of those who inhabited it.

That was excepting for a small band of exceptional Wizards named Discs who, using the amazing powers of the E Book and the B Stick of Knowledge, worked their magic over the inhabitants of the realms of  Setroom and Pit.

These Wizards were sorely put upon by The Powers That Were who considered them to be A Blot on an otherwise Pristine Landscape. The evil forces of Geoff the Fletch,  Black Mac and their Mercurial Allies swore that these wizards would not prevail.  but, under the leadership of the Arch Wizard MacKinnon, and aided by the Gnomes of M, whose nimble fingers translated the results of the Wizards spells into the reams of paper tape required to disseminate them to the Gods of Cheltenham, they ensured that The Alternative Existence flourished in this dark land.

The Gods were exceeding pleased with the Wizards and placed them on a pedestal high above the forces of those who bore the sign of Mercury. These,  though prettily attired and immaculately pressed, had no appreciation of the aesthetic arts and thus were no match for the Wizards and their Acolytes.

Alas, however, as time went on, the Wizards were manipulated by The Powers That Were and were scattered to the four corners of the earth, or at least as far as Aynik or Maresfield. Many of them became Disenchanted and forsook their Wizardly Skills and were subsumed into  Civvystreet.  A few continued to perpetuate the magic and mystery of Discdom and SI and passed their skills down in the hope that sometime in the future the Wizards  would rise up again to become The Masters of the Kazerne.

Discs reunited – Roermond Station

Anyway,  The Cold War came to an end and it was discovered that the Power of the Eastern Block had been a figment of the imagination of the Powers that Were.  It tumbled down and with it the Kaserne on the edge of the Guhor Wood.

The Discs, however, were sure that there was still Magic and Wizardry trapped in the soul of this land.  So, following an edict from the legendary Jonibax, the Wizard of the Wand, the Ross and Jacko sent out missives to the Original Wizards and Gnomes, to bring them back together in the land of Hell, Alt and Jägermeister.

The Enchantress

Sadly the Arch Wizard MacKinnon had been taken to a better place and thus would not be a part of this pilgrimage.

So it was  a group of eight,   Romanis, Gnome of the North, Barnes the Wizard of the Wine, the Chinese Wizard May Ling (aka Bill ), Terry the Birgelen Bard, and the Keeper of the Keys Simpson, who set out on  Long and Difficult Journeys from Ireland and the Shires to meet together in the Metropolis of Roermond where, thanks to The Chud, there would be available a Minibus to whisk them across the Rothenbach and onto Haus Wilms where they were greeted by the Enchantress Birgit .

Thus began the mission to rediscover The Magic.  Of course this necessitated the imbibing  a modicum of the local brews and practising the local patois, which resulted in some interesting meals if not ales!

Normally viewed from this Angle

It had been decided that Roermond would be the first area for investigation and so, after a healthy breakfast, we ventured forth to rediscover the Sankt Pauli, Rooswinkle and other establishments we wot of.  Surprise, surprise, The Sankt Pauli, which should still have been festooned with fishing nets and shells, had become a smart block of apartments.

Lunch in the sun

To recover we traversed the Munsterplein, passed the Munster Cafe, and headed for the market where we discovered that the Rooswinkel had not only been turned into a kebab shop but had also closed down. Jacko discovered he had forgotten to pack keks and foraged in the Market whilst the remainder took over an adjacent cafe to ensure that the standard of Amstel had not deteriorated over the years.

Wizard hat

From there we investigated the river but, due to road works, were forced to abandon a riverside lunch and repair to the Munsterplein where the local band was taking up residence in the Bandstand.  Replete we summoned our loyal minibus and hied it to the Dalheimer Muhle deep in the heart of the Guhor Woods.  Here we were to meet up with Terry and Keith who had no interest in Roermond due to having spent all their youth hunting something intangible in Effeld and the woods; well that’s their story!


Dalheimer Muhle

It says something for the powers of the Wizards that the Muhle was only recently  reopened after falling into decline for many years.  We duly increased their profit margin considerably and Jacko was tempted beyond endurance to sample the Waffle, hot cherry and icecream.  This was just to keep his strength up for the Walk Through The Wood.

The Minibus was again summonsed to return the wanderers to the Wilms whilst three took off into the wood to walk the four klicks home.

Spargel feast

The evening was taken up with Dinner; it being the Spargel season this was much in evidence and is Not To Be Missed in my estimation.  It is a white and very large variety, not the spindly English type. This was also the evening of the Chelsea/Bayern match, which proved to be so boring that even the German guests were yawning.

We moved into the courtyard to engage in some scintillation conversation and drink more beer until we were asked to come inside as the staff wanted to lock up. One who shall be nameless had bought a bottle of Jägermeister and in the company Bill we retired to said persons room and consumed same.  It doesn’t keep well once opened!!


Bill and I were hopeful of a game of golf on Sunday morning at the Rothenbach GC which, although sited on the foundations of Block30, has thrived. Unfortunately it was the one Sunday in the year that they had decided to have a competition so this fell through! Thus we took a taxi to Maters, which despite the new conservatory remains much as it was all those years ago.

Rothenbach GC with the Chud

From here we walked back up to the site of the Kaserne and up to the golf club for lunch where we were met by the Chud who, though an ex member of The Enemy, had been a vital link in the chain bringing this gathering together.

Bills Hiring?

Bills Hiring?

He also acted as chauffeur for the rest of the afternoon taking a group round the old quarters in Wassenberg and Birgelen.  Bill discovered that he didn’t know where he had lived except that it was over 4 garages so we stopped at various locations and took pictures.

The rest of the afternoon was taken up with revisiting the site of 13  and trying to work out exactly where everything had been, especially the WRAC Block, of which many stories were told!

We once again repaired to the Wilms where The Ross was waylaid by his ex landlord who spirited him away, probably to extract unpaid rent. The rest of the party decided to eat in the Burgerstube in the village and this turned out to be A Good Thing.  Excellent food and beer and, once again, lively intercourse; though not with the landlady!

And so it all came to an end on Monday morning when our carriage transported us back to Roermond Station and the parting of the ways.

In all a very memorable reunion and my thanks to Eric for all his efforts, to John Chudleigh for organizing the Effeld end and too all who came for making it so enjoyable.

For The Bard of Birgelen’s poetic contribution Click here




We’ll blame it all on Ross!

All I did was to suggest to John B,  Eric and a couple of others that, as I was in Stow-on-the-Wold for a REME bash on the Friday, wouldn’t it be an idea to have a reunion of the “Fathers of Discing” and their acolytes the day after.

Well of course Eric opened up the rolodex and put out a QRV to all and sundry. Most of the sundry turned up, with the notable exceptions of Bill Mayling, who was apparently detained in a dungeon, and Dave Martell who was tied up with preparations for Remembrance Day.

Without Eric’s and Christine’s hospitality; they found beds for JB, Mike Cadwgan and me amongst their nearest and dearest, we would have been pushed to find rooms at any inn.

Sartorial elegance

Saturday began with a trip into Cheltenham to meet up the Romanises for lunch at the Slug and Lettuce, have a couple of beers and then potter about the town whilst Eric went off to collect JB off the train. Afternoon tea was taken in Waterstones and then off to chéz Ross in time to welcome Cadwgan.

The rest is history – a great get together in the Royal Union with Geoff’s brother presiding over the largest chicken supper I have ever come across.

We somehow avoided being asked to leave for any reason! This was probably a first for some of us.

Eric, JB and I plotted future events over some excellent whiskey until the early hours. Hopefully some of them will come to fruition.

On behalf of all who did attend and those who couldn’t but would have liked to I raise a virtual glass to Eric for organizing a memorable event.



Sandy McKinnon – Man to Remember

sandy service page

The picture says it all

On Friday we buried Sandy in his family town of Penicuik in Midlothian. Those who knew him were enriched by the experience; those who didn’t are unfortunate.

For those that were not aware of the cause of his passing Sandy had a successful operation on a brain tumour, however, inoperable secondary growths finally defeated him.

Although we did not see each other from 1964, when I left 13 Signal Regiment, until 2009 when we met again at Bangkok airport it could have been less than a week.  Both he and Kay made us as welcome as if we had been family.

His friends came from across the globe to pay tribute to one of the most generous people you could meet and they in turn reflected this generosity of spirit.

St Mungo's Parish Church

The service was held at St Mungo’s Parish Church and was taken by Reverend Peter Taylor who, having served with Sandy in 9 Signal Regiment in the late ’60s, left the army to take holy orders. Not that the two events could possibly be connected.

His daughter Fiona read for us and son Alisdair gave the eulogy. Rarely have I heard such a perfect reflection of somebody’s life.  No remorse; he reached out to everybody, and it was large congregation, with stories of events that had touched all our lives at some point in time.

Sandy was laid to rest in the Kirkhill cemetery with a piper in attendance. The weather was kind and the rain held off.

piper at the graveside

Piping him home

The family held the wake in the Craigienield House Hotel and an a personal note I would like to thank Kay and the family for inviting me and their friends for making me so welcome – a special note to Jim and Susan who introduced me round.

We moved to the family home from whence we eventually made our individual ways back to various points across the country.

A very moving day and a fitting tribute to a wonderful person.


Bangkok March 2009 - How I'll remember him

The Husky Years, 1980 – ’84

Heinsberger Volkszeitung 21 Feb ’83

Exhilarating, definately;  terrifying, sometimes: the most vivid memory of my husky racing period is bouncing down a mountainside near Bernau, in the Schwarzwald area of Germany, underneath the sled and with no way of getting the team to stop! It was probably one of the fastest runs I ever made!

How to start a team

To the questions:  “Are you still racing” and “Do you still have Siberians”, the answer is no.  The former is because one needs to live near the snow and to be extremely fit and the latter because, although huskies of various breeds are now common as pets, they are essentially working pack animals.

Press cutting from “The Field”

Having said this it was a wonderful period and I will be ever grateful to the support I got from the Royal Signals in particular, the Intelligence Corps and the army in general for sponsoring the vets bills and giving me the time off to train and race my team for the European Championships as well as a number of other club races. I should also include the REME whose workshop I borrowed to build my 8 dog travelling kennel which was based on a mini sun frame.

Playing Father Christmas in Helmstedt

Not only did I get a great thrill out of racing but there was also some great sidelines, the main one acting as Father Christmas taking presents to schools on the last day of term.

A little bit about Schlittenhundrennen, Sled dog racing:

All races take place over two days and results are based on the combined times for the two runs.  For the three dog class the distance is normally between 5 and 6 km and for 5 dogs 10 – 12 km.  The big teams, 7 – 12 dogs run over around 20 km. Most of courses are round mountain tracks so one spends a great deal of time running behind the sled rather than standing on it.

The Nugget Trophy

Trail Club of Europe – Championship points ’04


For anyone interested the European championships were staged at 4 venues, Tannheim in Austria, Bernau in the Schwarzwald, Bruneck in the Italian Tyrol and Saignelégier in Switzerland.

The Wire – March 81

One starts in the unlicensed class. To obtain a licence you have to compete in a number of races and finish within the average time set by the licensed teams. I got my licence after winning the Austrian and Italian 5 dog “Digger” class races in ’82. From there on one is competing for the Nugget Trophy against teams who can train on snow for most of the year.  The best 3 results out of the four races count towards the trophy and one receives 1/10 gram of pure gold for every minute one is better than the average race time. e.g. If the average time for all runners over two days is 65 minutes and your time is 55 minutes you earn 1 gramme of gold.

My best placing was 9th out of about 22 teams and for this I won 3 grammes of gold (worth about £80 at today’s gold price).

It was quite a wrench when I left Germany for the last timer and had to sell my team, but they all went to other kennels so I knew they would be well looked after. Christine took Bambi back to the UK as he was really too old to go to a new team.

Intelligence Corps Magazine 1981

In ’83 a reporter from The Soldier came to Bruneck and wrote an article on my achievements. This was after I had qualified for my licence and hence the 7th place in the licenced class

Soldier article

The Soldier Mar-Apr ’83


I would pay tribute to my ex, Christine, without whose dedication I would never have achieved the success I did and whose love of the dogs (and taking them to shows ) knew no bounds.

15 Intelligence Platoon – Borneo 1965-66

Centre, Ssgt Jim Roussell – 2nd from Right, Cpl Roger Sergeant – Right, Cpl John Norman – 2nd from left, Ken?

Just discovered that all the photographs had disappeared from my Picasa album and thus there was a blank slidshow on the 15 Int Pl page – Have now rectified this so click here to see it.


Picture of sartorial elegance - Terry and I

It is hard to make a riveting story out of a long walk along a canal unless one is Claire Balding or a waterways enthusiast. I can say without fear of contradiction that I am neither of these and, after the first six or seven miles, the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was enough to put most other considerations way down the priority ladder. Having said this I feel bound by a sense of duty to my many and very much appreciated sponsors to give some flavour of the weekend in general and the 15 mile hike from Bingley to Leeds in particular.
Saturday 19th June – Arrived at Leeds/Bradford Airport about 10am, after a pretty uneventful journey, to find the temperature around 10° and a gale blowing. This was not quite what I expected and certainly wasn’t dressed for. Rummaged in case at bus shelter and found cashemere pulli which helped a bit!

The Old Post office Leeds

Eventually reached Leeds station and discovered that the hotel did not open their check-in until 2pm. Luckily Leeds is a pleasant city with some great architecture and I was able to pass away the time visiting the central market and a couple of the malls and watching the Yorkshire world go by from one of the innumerable coffee  houses.

I eventually booked into my hotel, pottered about a bit and had just decided to have a couple of hours snooze when I had a phone call from Jim Malone, who was on the Skipton – Bingley section, asking why I hadn’t showed up. This was a strange query as I had never intended to be on the Skipton-Bingley leg.  An inexplicatble feeling of guilt overcame me so I felt duty bound to catch a train to Bingley and meet them.

I walked about  a mile or so along the canal, which included going up both the 3 and 5 rise locks.

5 rise lock, Bingley

It’s supposed to be flat!!!  I eventually joined up with the happy band and we walked back to Bingley and thence into the Foundry Hill Bar opposite the station for a (well earned??) couple of pints.  Great little pub with really pleasant staff and a great line in Saltaire Blonde Ale. Real Ale at around £2.00 a pint, “eh up” lads (and lassies)!  From there back to Leeds and a wash and brush up prior to dinner which Tom (or Julian if you prefer) organised in the bistro of the Queens Hotel; he being in residence there. (That’s an almost Caesarian Gallic Wars construction).  Dinner was excellent and made even more enjoyable by the waitress and waiter on duty in the restaurant.  Their efficiency and sense of humour are qualities that seem to be lacking in too many staff these days.  We had an extra couple of drinks in the bar to finish off the night – Well one does doesn’t one.

Start of the Final Leg - Bingley Station

A not too arduous start to the day, for me at least, meant breakfast at 7.45, and then on to Leeds station to catch the 9.00 train for the short trip back to Bingley, to start the walk back to Leeds!.  One could get dizzy with all this toing and froing . In the Bingley station car park we were joined by other members of the team who had been staying at various points West over night.  It was here I caught up with Terry Ireland whom I had not seen since ’64: might only have been yesterday, just picked up our last conversation which had involved beer and minis!

Only 38 bridges to go

We were blest with perfect weather, the sun was out but there was a gentle breeze which made it ideal for walking. Before too long the group split up into about three or four sections with the “professionals” out in front and the rest of  us in small packets chatting away about times past, or whatever! The great thing about going in the Leeds direction is that the locks are all downhill so that the only uphill bits are where the tow path goes over a bridge.  I have only admiration for those of the party who walked more than one section and am amazed at the two stalwarts, Julian and Kevin, who covered all 9 sections and 127 miles.  Of course it must be said that they practiced beforehand! But as  it was not a game it was not ruined (Apologies to Flanders & Swann).

The Ice cream barge

After about an hour or so we came upon an Ice Cream Barge, so designated because it sold the said product rather than being made of it.  Moored under a large tree it made the ideal point to take a well earned break and, we were told, there was nothing else along the path for a couple of hours at least.  Then off we set again past the factories and mills of Saltaire and Shipley.  My first wife was a Shipley girl but that is another story!

From here on it was a fairly uneventful walk until, about an hour and a half later we came across a canal side café.

Tom lays out the strategy

I had acquired a raw little toe by this time so it was a relief to stop, remove my sandle and, being much the wrong shape to do it myself, get Terry to apply a plaster.  During this break who should appear but Maxi Wilson, of 13 Sigs Fame back in the 70’s, who just happend to be out strolling along.  More reminisences!  As a hostlery this was not the the most efficient I have ever been in – It took nearly 20 minutes to get a cup of tea, by which time everybody was wanting to move on so I ended up with a scalded mouth.  Took my mind of my toe though!

We moved on towards Apperley Bridge which was our designate lunch stop and en route I was met by Lynne and Mick Shepherd, ex RAPC and 9 Sigs rugby player extraordinaire, who had driven up from Nottingham to make a donation to the cause.  We had not met for, probably, fifteen years so there was more catching up to do.  We arrived at the George and Dragon and somehow, due to excellent real ale coupled with lively conversation, I  forgot to order lunch and so it was that I left foodless for the afternoon stint.   This was probably a good thing as rumour has it that it is not good to do too much exercise on a full stomach!


Terry having teamed up with the lead group I joined Andy and Kamie Beer to form a mutual support section for this session.  This is one of the prettiest stretches of the canal, passing through Rodley, with its period terraces on the bank, and Calverley Bridge, where an old friend whom I met whilst on my Greek Interpreters course in Corfu in ’72, has a riverside cottage.  By this time we were beginning to feel the strain and we were counting down the bridges.

225G at last

But they got there first!

The start of the industrial skyscape of the Leeds suburbs were a welcome sight and when we found that bridge 225A was followed by 225D it elicited positive euphoria. Then, there it was, 225G and the end of the line. So about fifteen minutes later, and some 7 1/2 hours after leaving Bingley, we joined the first group at Wetherspoons for more excellent real ale. It is a pity that they did not run to foot baths as well!

The final resting place - Wetherspoons Leeds Station

I did it - honest!

Unfortunately a number of the party had to disperse home and Tom succumbed to an attack of terminal tiredness so it was a small party, Kamie, Helen, Maria, Andy and me that attended a final dinner an adjacent Indian Restaurant.  For the first time I can think of I cannot remember the name but I do remember the outstanding chicken liver starter and generally authentic food.  It also had a good line in Red Wine.(if anybody who was there can enlighten me as to the name please do it in the comments.) It was a pleasant way to end an exceptional weekend.

I had to be up at 4.30 am to get a taxi out the the Airport for my 7 o’clock flight.  Monday was definitely a day to be forgotten.

The most important part of all this  is the “unofficial” final tally of sponsorship which amounts to just under £5,500.  This is a really impressive total and is a credit to all those who took part, those who supported and especially to all those of you who put their hands in their pockets when asked.  On a personal note I would like to give special thanks to Julian (Tom) McMahon for involving me in this enterprise.

Also thanks to Kamie and Andy Beer, Julian, Maria. Laura and Tom for their photographic contributions

SEE THE SLIDESHOW -click on the pic to go to full size


Old army colleagues have organised a Charity walk along the canal from Liverpool to Leeds, a total of just over 127 miles, from 12 – 20 June. In my wisdom, or probably lack of it, I have agreed to be one of the the official “finishers” on the Bingley to Leeds leg, about 17 miles!

Canal above Bingley locks

The proceeds of this walk are being split 50/50 between Macmillan Cancer Care and the Birgelen Veterans Association sponsored charity, Raphael Geiser.

All of the participants in this venture are meeting all travel, accommodation and subsistance costs themselves so all sponsorship money will go to the charities and not be lost in “administration” costs.

I would really appreciate if you would sponsor my small effort on behalf of these worthy causes, no matter how little, it all helps.  If you would be willing to commit to this venture please use the comments on this post or contact me via email, snail mail, or of course in person as I am sure to have a sponsor form with me!!

Cheques should be made out to “Birgelen Veterans Charity Walk 2010” and sent to me at:

32 Farmley Crescent
Co Antrim
BT36 7TX

We are unable to claim tax relief as treasury rules do not allow for the support of two charities at one time.

Once again I would ask for your support for this worthy cause.

For detail of how it went click here

My Sponsorship form

BVA Release