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Why join armour?
Well for a start, a third class ride is better than a first class walk. My armoured vehicle is my mobile home. Hence I never had to carry my pack, actually it always hung off the gas axe being a VM (Vehicle Mechanic) in a fitters vehicle. I was detached from RAEME to a Recon unit. The crew slept inside the vehicle, no setting up hootchies etc. The cooker was permanently mounted on the sponson in front of the crane. Each night before bedding down the pot was filled with water and the the person sleeping closest to the pot, rolled over in their sleeping bag and lit the gas stove. First in the daily routine was brew, shaving and washing etc from our rather large pot of boiling water. Each crew was the same.
Until 2 Regiments amalgamated. I was sent with another of the VM's to support the unit we were amalgamating with. They were not a Recon unit but an APC unit. So what I thought, same vehicles. So Fic and I were given work in between exercises, a good chance to catch up on maintenance on our Fitters track. We had 4 days so we were offered workshops rather than field repair, whipped out the power pack and repaired the heat exchanger, gave it a good steam clean and put it all back together. When we started this job, the Major incharge of the workshop said to us, "take your time fella's, I've given you till Wednesday next week to have it finished." Our reply was "Sir, we'll be driving this out the door tommorrow." The reply from him and his subordinates was "BULSHIT!!" One of the workshop Craftsmen looked at our log book when we had the power pack out and said hey boy's you're overdue for a new engine. Did we have some conning to do. No it goes fine, that's why we're here fixing the heat exchanger. Why were we so keen to keep this engine? The answer is simple. Due to pollution requirements they are fitted with N50 injectors. We had N56's that we installed ourselves, un beknown to the Army. We had the fastest fitters track in the fleet and in a battle run started off at the back, where RAEME was supposed to be and overtook all the other vehicles and would lead the way. We had a top speed of 55 miles an hour!!! On a down hill run we got nearly 60 but we wondered if the speedo was playing up a bit although it was revving hard. Any way we got to keep our engine. At 11 the next morning were driving out the door with thanks and headed for our next task of supporting the APC unit on a big joint exercise.
All was normal and we made many new aquaintances, (which is what we had been sent there to do). On my first out scrub experience, we were sitting in a hide and had bedded down, I was with the RAEME crew from the APC unit, Fic and I took turns and we were swapping around vehicles and crews. I was in their Fitters, which by comparison with ours, was loaded up to the hilt with spares and drove like a SLUG. Bedding down for the night the water pot was put on. All locked up and the usual daily routine was carried out in the morning. With all of my vehicles crew having finished with the boiling water, I opened the back door and tossed the remaining water on the ground. I looked up and saw all the infantry sitting there with their Hexie stoves waiting for their cups canteen to boil!! I was not used to having infantry around me coming from an LRV unit and I quickly retreated and combat locked the vehicle as there were about 100 grunts ready to kill me. The next morning I made a peace offering by handing them the left over water!!
As far as work in the field goes:
Kits were made for things that had to be changed in whole as a unit such as the 3 drive shafts in the M113A1 series. Raeme field repair guys have a reputation as being slack as we played War with the crews all day and at the end of the day we would get a list of problems and be up all night fixing them whilst the crews were snorring away. We would sometimes finish at 3 or 4 in the morning. The crews would wonder why we would grab sleep whenever we had the opportunity.
With this in mind many considered us slack and did not see what went on while they were asleep. Hence the reputation. Most mods were done on base at field repair level, still with what was available to us. If things were also quiet on exercise back at rear echelon, the mods were done there too. Remember you haven't got a lathe or other things and we could at base order materials in also. There were interim measures to fit things such as quick disconnects (QDs) to the fuel lines until the lines were moved in BASE OVERHAUL at Bandianna where they have all the equipment in the world. That later mod (at Bandianna) was far neater. Remember too that it was illegal to use some vehicles on ex without the mods, such as the lateral thumb guards. The vehicle was grounded until they were fitted, whether it looked pretty or not, they had to be there. Some of these things are really a tribute to the improvisation and ingenuity of the tradesmen given an oxy set and a fitters track with nothing but what's in his tool box. Some of the range wrecks can even supply raw materials for mods, how's that for recycling!!
My thanks to Alex.
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