Salisbury Plain


After another day’s training, we were on the parade square as the Sergeant and an Officer melted away to leave Corporals Wild and Savage prowling at the front. It was early evening and the atmosphere grew tense. Anything could happen with these two in charge. We were brought to attention and turned to the right. Standing there, a few peered around to see what the Corporals were doing.

“Right you lot, hands in the air, both of them, come on!”

Cautiously, we raised our hands.

“Now, walk! Go on you fuckers. Walk!!”

A few shuffled along and we all started to move with our arms up. As we walked, the Corporals laughed.

“Bloody hell, look at that Corporal…” one cried “… it’s the Marines!” They laughed manically.

The Paras were still laughing about the surrender of the Royal Marines at the beginning of the Falklands War. I thought it was a bit unfair given how outnumbered they were on the day, but the Paras and Marines both think they’re the best. The fact is they are elite fighting units and each have earned the right to wear their berets.

Toward the end of the course, we went to Salisbury Plain and gathered in a forest clearing for some fieldcraft. A Sergeant addressed the recruits.

“You have ten minutes to fuck off and then we’re coming after you,” he yelled.

Fully briefed, a whistle was blown and we all duly fucked off. I ran through a quarry, up a path at the other end and out onto open land. It was totally exposed. There wasn’t much in the way of immediately obvious hiding places. The path met a dirt track running for at least half a mile in each direction before there was any cover, so I would have to find somewhere to hide nearby. Running alongside the track was a ditch and there was some long grass flopping from the side of the track into the ditch. I walked along the ditch occasionally kicking the grass to see if it dipped inwards. After about fifty metres, there was a fissure in the mud wall about 30cm deep with some thick grass cover. I parted the grass carefully and crawled in. It was tight, but there was just enough space to lay sideways. I settled down and waited. During the day, I heard recruits getting caught, punched and marched back to the quarry, so I remained still.

I was still there late in the afternoon. It was too uncomfortable for sleep, but at least it was a respite from the shouting. All I could see was the grass in front of my face and the bottom of the ditch. I saw two Paras walk along the ditch, but they passed without incident. A couple of hours later, I wondered how long this exercise was going to last. We weren’t told when it would end and I thought that I might get into trouble. After another half an hour of silence, I got out and peered around. There was no one in sight. I began backtracking to the forest clearing and strolled into the middle of the quarry. A shout came from high up on the tall rock face.

“Stop where you are!!”

I stood still until some Corporals walked toward me. With them was Corporal Harrison. He did not look happy and approached me tapping his temple with a finger.

“Are you a fucking idiot Stanford?” he bawled. “You’re meant to be hiding. Not gallivanting around the countryside. There were only two of you left and I had twenty quid on you winning.”

2 Comments on “Salisbury Plain

  1. You have tapped into a great fear of mine, having to hide from a predator and fearing for my life. I’m sure it’s a primal fear…as always, you write it so well, bringing the fear alive. I shall have nightmares tonight!

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