P Company – Assault Course and Steeplechase
I got an early night and slept well. At 5:30 a.m., I was up and my muscles ached. I went to the shower block to get ready for the day and inspected my knee. The swelling had come up again overnight, so I took some pain relief and strapped it back up. After a quick breakfast, we marched over to the assault course, which would be three circuits around the course, about a mile in all. Each circuit had eighteen obstacles, ranging from ladders to netting – both horizontal and vertical – to wooden beams for jumping over. Anything under seven minutes would earn a pass. I felt positive.
Making good time around the first circuit, I slipped over walls, traversed horizontal poles and crawled under and up rope netting. Using the vertical ropes for pulling and horizontal ropes for my boots, I could ascend the ten metres at speed, haul my legs over the top and descend quickly. At the three-quarter mark, I came to an obstacle with two horizontal logs, the first was a metre off the ground, the other set back another metre and about one metre higher. One of the Lads was just ahead of me and a Corporal was at the obstacle.
The Corporal screamed. “Come on, it’s only Stanford behind you!!”
The Lad peered over his shoulder and got to the obstacle before me. He stood on the first log and leant over for the second as I kicked off the first log and jumped to the higher one, which smacked against my waist. I grabbed it, thrust my legs vertically over and landed feet first on the far side. It was a technique I practiced with Scotty in my schooldays and it stood me in good stead. The Lad was still struggling to get over the second log whilst the Corporal watched in silence. I showed them a muddy pair of heels and smiled to myself. I finished well up the field and stood with hands behind my back in a line of recruits. Our breath frosted in the cold air. We were on a muddy track bordering a forest. A Corporal noted my time down. I slowed my breathing.
The steeplechase was next. An individual timed test with recruits running twice around the cross-country course of just over two miles, which featured a number of manmade and water obstacles. I enjoyed this test, sprinting between each obstacle. On the second circuit, the main water obstacle had a horizontal bar just off the ground and the water was lower on the other side. The Corporals shouted at about half a dozen of us not to touch the bar so we’d get completely soaked and covered in mud. I sprinted into the obstacle and launch myself over head first and did a sort of half-somersault as I landed on the back of my head in the water. I emerged from the brown water and heard a shout.
“That’s better! Do it like that you fuckers.”
I stormed through the remaining obstacles and stood in line at the finish, panting for breath. I was amongst the leaders, which boosted me. Times were taken down, but again we weren’t told who’d passed or failed. That was on purpose, I guessed, so we don’t know where we stood.
That was the end of the first phase of P Company until the next weekend. I slept on the coach all the way North and spent the next week doing my best to recover and kept my knee in good order. I couldn’t train that week as it hurt too much. But the swelling reduced as the days went on.