A trip down memory lane.

  TopCat® 00:15 07 Jul 2007

Someone once said that everyone has a book in them but sadly not everyone has the courage or inclination to put their thoughts and ideas down on to a printed page.

Here in these forums we are fortunate to have a wide range of members of all ages and professions that undoubtably have a host of interesting life experiences to write about. If only we could get them to do so, that is! That's the idea behind this thread and I do hope you can add some interesting stories that will make it worthwhile for our fellow members. I thank you for your time in this and look forward to reading your contributions. To start the ball rolling I relate this occurrence that I shall call: We Are Not Amused! Part One.

During my time at Regents Park Barracks, in the sixties, I was often called upon to accompany some members of the Royal family as chief mechanic when they were transported in the various military limousines based at RPB. This barracks also held the Queen's baggage vehicles, highly painted and polished Fordson trucks and a large quantity of general staff limousines.

Rather like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, the recovery vehicle we had to bring in any breakdowns was a petrol-engined Scammell with air-assisted steering like this one: click here so great care was needed when suspend towing any limousine, I can tell you. Being in charge of that machine leads on to the story I now relate.

One morning I was detailed to go with said truck and a trailer to the Royal Mews. I was to pick up a horse box and transport same to Windsor Castle. After a slow drive through the rush hour in low gears I arrived at the Mews and drove in to the main exercising courtyard.

There were carriages and fours moving around, horses and grooms going up and down doing their thing and lots of people moving about the place. I parked up as best I could and switched off the noisy engine. Didn't want to frighten the horses too much! A gentleman in top hat and grey morning suit came bustling over - I suspect he was a retired major-general, no less! - and on learning my mission he directed me towards the boiler house.

On opening the large doors I saw the wheel-less horse box was parked right up against a boiler and, beautiful as it was, I could see that the immaculately carved woodwork had badly warped with the heat over a long period. I found out later that it had been presented to the Queen by a president of an Iberian country.

I could see that we would need to winch it up onto the trailer so we unhitched it, turned it around and pushed it close to the boiler house. It was then just a matter of turning the Scammell round and re-hitching again. I pressed the engine starter, the engine turned over and then there was an almighty bang from the exhaust system which reverberated all around that exercise yard. Unburnt petrol vapour from a very hot engine had ignited in the equally hot exhaust! Horses were rearing up everywhere and shocked people, policemen and grooms ran around all over the place trying to see what had happened. Even the top-hatted gentleman had got a move on! :o) We quietly got on with the job as though nothing had happened, winched up and loaded the horse-box then made our way to the exit. A knowing and smiling young policeman at the gate said we had rattled a few windows that day and livened the place up a bit in the process. He wished us a safe journey and we set off for Windsor, glad we had escaped a possible term in the Tower!

  TopCat® 00:17 07 Jul 2007

On arriving at Windsor Castle we were directed to a very large covered garage area and shown which bay the box had to go in. There was some beautiful cars in there parked serenely in their bays but the question was would the Scammell and trailer get up the ramped entrance and squeeze through it. Nothing tried nothing ventured, so I drove slowly up the ramp. The Scammell inched it's way through the entrance with the top rear corners of the cab just scraping the stonework and then we were through. Once again the trailer had to be unhitched, turned around and man-handled over to the vacant bay. Then it was just a matter of connecting up the truck to trailer, winch secured to horse box as a brake and gently allowed to slide down the trailer ramps on to wooden rollers. It was rolled into place and let down on to the floor. Job done, we gathered up our kit and squeezed our way out again and set of back to barracks. A little bit of panel beating, some green paint and the old Scammell was good as new.

My boss, the major, asked if things went OK and I told him it had. We never heard any more about the Mews courtyard drama. We also never got asked to help the Royal establishments again, either. I wonder why? :o) TC.

  Forum Editor 08:46 07 Jul 2007

to Princess Anne.

  GANDALF <|:-)> 09:20 07 Jul 2007

Princess Anne once served tea to me.


  laurie53 10:29 07 Jul 2007

Well it is the weekend, and you did ask, so this might raise the odd smile

Before reading any further those of you who are not of a certain age must try to imagine that you are back in the 1950s. All males did national service and there were vast amounts of servicemen, in uniform, everywhere, particularly either side of weekends and bank holidays.

I, as a very young member of the Royal Air Force, was at a training base in the south east of England.

About 300 of us, all from the same bunch of entrants, so all pretty much up for the same sort of devilment, were coming back from London by train one Sunday evening. This was a special troop train – as I said vast numbers of troops were on the move on weekends, and special trains were not uncommon, particularly around military areas.

As it was late October, one or two of the more enterprising souls had bought some fireworks with which enliven the journey. It had been a long hot summer/autumn and there were soon plenty of embankment fires blazing merrily to mark our passing. In addition, all the Tube and suburban stations we sped through had been liberally bombarded with all sorts of semi - lethal devices, much to our amusement, and the consternation of the recipients.

The transport police decided they had had enough of this and determined to pull the train in at the next station. Since this was a special train we were not expecting to stop anywhere so there were about 200 fireworks, blue touchpapers glowing nicely, ready to be hurled from windows when suddenly the running boards were full of Old Bill.

I swear by all that it most precious to me that up until then I had not touched a firework, but the thrice-damned fool beside me gave me his firework and said, ”Get rid of that.” Like an even bigger fool I took it, knowing full well that the door beside me was blocked by a very large person (who later turned out to be a Detective Inspector).

I failed in my attempt to get it past him, and it rolled down the door jamb and exploded on his right foot.

Now I know he had scorch marks on his trousers (but who wears light coloured trousers in October?), and that his foot probably tingled a bit (bangers being bangers in those days —they’d take off a hand. let alone a finger!) but the only real damage was to his bootlace (which disintegrated and filled the compartment with little black fibres, which kept us sneezing for hours) and I still think that 14 days in the cooler, and a fine of £1,000+ at today’s prices was out of all proportion, though the fact that I was a trainee weapons and explosives engineer did not lend much credibility to my protestations of innocence.

Actually it was quite easy to get locked up in those days and at 16 I was actually locked up in an English military prison for wearing my national emblem, sent to me by my parents, on my national saint’s day!

I would like to be able to say that after this I was a model of good behaviour, but I was a bit accident prone, and I could go on to tell you about how I managed to get a 1,000 lb bomb dropped into the local doctor’s garden, luckily it was full of sand and not high explosive. I also managed to drop a (full) 400 gallon fuel tank in Northern Ireland, and send a 60 lb missile three miles into what is now Yemen, but those stories must remain untold or I shall reach the character limit!


  wee eddie 10:31 07 Jul 2007

Many moons ago PA went to stay with my Aunt and Uncle for several days during the Annick Horse Trials. During the Trials it was serious stuff and early nights all round.

However, we were all roped into helping to exercise the houses and I got to ride the great "Columbus" along the beach. I'm not a brilliant horseman so I was extremely flattered until I discovered that they were so doubtful of my skills that Columbus was the only horse that was too sensible to be affected by an incompetent rider. (I'm not that incompetent as I have ridden in Hunter Trials, but was well below the standard of the others).

To get to the point. We had an End of Trials Dinner for about 16, or so, local folk on the Saturday evening and as I was standing in for the Aunt's two sons I was placed on the Princesses left. Now my Sister and love each other dearly and are very close, however we bicker, in a good-humoured way, constantly so the Aunt put us at opposite ends of the table.

Anyway, to cut the story short: I don't know which of us started by saying something contentious that the other heard, but a couple of tongue-in-cheek compliments flew up and down the table.

A couple of minutes later, PA turned to me and said, something along the lines of: "Marvellous; people are so polite when we're around, I didn't know that others did that. My brother and I do it constantly." Everything became considerably less formal after that. She's charming.

  Strawballs 12:16 07 Jul 2007

Was it a small 2 bed house or a big mansion that you were exerciseing?

Sorry couln't resist it.

  Macscouse 12:20 07 Jul 2007

Back in the early 70's, I was responsible for the repair of the VIP cars in Berlin.Daimlers and Austin Princess limousines headed the list. I was woken at 0430 one morning, with a Serious Defect Signal being pushed into my face by the Orderly Officer. All Daimlers were to be taken off the road forthwith due to problems with the steering box. Trouble was, Princess Anne was due to land at RAF Gatow at 0930 that morning. Panic stations. By 0630, i had driven 6 different vehicles, picking up everyone who was anyone and bringing them to the Workshops, where the Daimler was placed over a pit.There were nine senior officers, from the General down, in the pit, looking at the underside of the Daimler. There was no room for me, until the general chased them all out of the pit.
I confirmed that the defect did involve our vehicles, and that they were VOR.
Consternation among the General staff, until I said that if the vehicle was kept under 30MPH, then it would be safe to use.
I happened to be out on a road test in a Landrover about 1000, when around the corner came six Berlin Police outriders at 80 MPH, escorting said Daimler at same speed, and pushing me and some other motorists off the road. I went back to my office, and gently hit my head against the nearest wall, and never mentioned it to anyone.

  spuds 14:08 07 Jul 2007

Not so much writing a book myself, but waiting for an old dear friend writing his memoirs, of the times he served in the Israeli Army as a commanding officer. His life's experiences and the history of Israel as he knew it, were just totally fascinating.Where ever you travelled in Israel, he knew the history and the people, and many many people knew him.

TopCat. Reference to the Scammell 'Tug'. A friend of mine owns a large heavy haulage company. He started his transport life being a driver's mate for Pickfords Heavy Haulage. Later he set up his own transport company, and acquired the Scammell from Pickfords, eventually keeping it as a collector's exhibition piece, and entered it in many shows. I wonder where it is now, because I believe it got rid of it about 10 years ago!.

Regarding Royalty. I have had peas and dumplings with Prince Charles, when he visited Barbados once. Also had a couple of jovial casual remark from Princess Anne. Doe's that count!.

  Macscouse 14:27 07 Jul 2007

Picture of the Beast brings back memories.First met one in 1962, and had to have blocks fitted on the pedals for me to drive it. In Berlin, we had a Magirus Deutz 26 Tonne air cooled Recovery truck. It could lift another of these trucks, and by using wind down jockey wheels at the back, could travel at about 4mph with it.Used this on the Berlin Corridor, and as it was fitted with blue lights and martin horns, could clear a queue at the checkpoints in ten seconds flat. We had authority over all other traffic on that Autobahn - Oh, the power we had then.

  Stuartli 15:03 07 Jul 2007

I once took part in a series of celebrity camel races on the beach in the resort where I live.

When my turn came to compete (there were two riders and camels in each heat) I found I had been paired with Geraldine Rees.

Never saw her for dust.....:-)

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