P Company – Log Race and Result
The final event involved an eight man team carrying a one hundred and thirty pound log over undulating terrain for just under two miles. This race represented carrying a quick ammunition resupply. I was originally at the back at the slightly thinner end and thought this was fair seeing as I was one of the smaller ones on the team. Then a Corporal moved me to the front, which was heavier and was supposed to dictated the pace. But if the blokes behind me were faster, I’d be in trouble.
A thunderflash went off. We sprinted to our logs and put our hands through the looped rope handles. Four recruits on each side. We lifted the log and ran. With sandy ground underfoot, we went hell for leather over a flat stretch and then uphill. It was sheer agony. The rope was cutting into my wrist and it felt like I couldn’t breathe. Other teams around us had fallers and their logs temporarily hit the ground while recruits either got up or were taken off the log. If they didn’t get back on straight away, it was a fail. All our team managed to stay on their feet and we reached the top of the hill, turned and headed off down the winding path toward the finish.
The last few hundred metres were a sprint and someone on our team screamed for us to speed up. The pace quickened and my lungs hurt. I forced my way through the pain. The Corporals were at the finish line and we came in second place. That was the hardest event for me. It took about twelve minutes, but we weren’t told any of our marks. I was relieved just to be standing at the end. My performance wasn’t as strong as I’d wanted, but I was proud to have done it. My knee throbbed with pain.
I was exhausted and lined up in my cadre. There were nervous faces all around and I was feeling the pressure. The Corporals and Sergeant Hunter huddled together at the front, collating our marks. Eventually, we were brought to attention. Sergeant Hunter shouted “SHUN!!!” We all snapped our left legs up and stamped them into the ground. I stood rigidly with my eyes concentrated just above him.
“Listen in!! There are three grades here: Elite or 100% pass, which means you’re… the… FUCKING… BEST. Marginal pass, so you’ve done well enough but you’ve failed two tests. That said, you must have passed the battle march and trainasium. And fail, our polite way of saying ‘FUCK OFF.’ I’m sure you’re interested in the proceedings, so pay attention…”
“Goodall… marginal pass!”
“Kavanagh… elite pass!!”
(Come on Patrick… I said in my head).
Shit, I looked over but he stared into the tarmac.
Rog held his head up with eyes closed.
(You can do this …)
“… marginal pass.”
(Yesss, well done mate!)
I breathed in and looked down.
“… elite pass!!”
I’d done it! I had actually done it!! Relief swept over me. The other names seemed to fade away.
We were split into our graded groups and the instructors congratulated us. Corporal Steele strode forward and shook my hand vigorously. He grinned and gave me soldierly thumps on the back.
“I knew you’d do well Stanford. I fucking knew it!”
I thanked him and smiled, surrounded by the bustle. Sergeant Hunter slapped me on the head and beamed. I was caught up in the moment, but then felt sorry for my mates who’d failed, especially as they were on the sidelines and watched us being praised. I caught Patrick’s eye and gave a nod to say ‘You’ll be alright.’ Rog was pacing behind him. Our group had been cut down to just Dane and myself. I turned away and thought about the sheer resolve it took to get through P Company.
Out of the original seventy recruits who began training at that drill hall in the North of England, only sixteen passed. This was made up of eleven marginal passes and five elite passes. Less than 25% passed in all. It was with a mixture of sadness and pride that my efforts ended in a first-rate result. Whilst most of the recruits were bigger and tougher-looking than me, I was amongst the fittest.