Human Ice Cube
In Jan 1998 i'd been with the TA just over 6 months, and was on a Battalion Training Weekend on that most fun of places, Sailsbury Plain. We'd arrived on Friday night and bivvi'd down under our poncho's. We'd just been issued the new sleeping bags which actually kept us warm, unlike the old '58 ones that were designed to make you freeze, and my god did the air turn blue when we had to creep out of them at 0530 the next day! We spent the day practising patroling and the evening playing around with pen-flares. At 0000 something nasty hours, I was kicked out of my lovely warm pit and told that it was my turn on 'stag' (sentry duty). I'd prepared for this by wearing as many warm clothes as I could under my combats, so I thought i'd be ok as i'd only be out there for 4 hours...how wrong I was.
As anyone who's ever spent any amount of time on the 'Plain will tell you, it's fucking freezing at the best of times! The whole country could be in the grip of a heatwave, but I guarantee there's a group of squaddies somewhere out there who are freezing their tits off. And the wind! It literally goes straight through you, to the point where, about 10mins after i'd relieved the other bloke (and repositioned the snow a bit to act as a windbreak), I was shivering faster than the grass skirt on a fat Hawaiian hula-hoop champion. But no matter how cold I was I HAD to stay there (the old line "Hold until relieved" was running round my head). So there I am, in a damp hole in the snow, middle of winter, waiting to be relieved. 4 hours go by...and no-one comes. To be honest i'd only looked at my watch twice, and my mind was starting to wander somewhat, due to the cold, but i'd stay there until someone relieved me...
Meanwhile, back in the bivvy area...everyone was up and had PT'd, eaten breakfast and they were going through the days activities and assigning us various "things" to do. They called my name...I didn't answer. The guy who i'd relieved said that he last saw me as I relieved him from stag...the penny finally drops when a Lance Jack (forever known to me as "that bastard") jumps up and shouts "****, I was meant to relive him at 0400! He's still out there!". Cue a stampede consisting of both medics, my Platoon Sgt, the QMS, the OC, Joey and our RSM (both ex-2Para, Falklands), all heading towards me. They arrive but I hear nothing, as i'm so damn cold my brain has almost switched off-i'm conscious but i'm not there! I remember very little of that morning, I vaguely remember being thrown in my sleeping bag and being force-fed endless cups of tea, and eventually cigarettes when I could hold them (I was later told that it took 4 of them to lift me off the floor as I was practically frozen to it, and that they had to physically prise my hands off of my rifle).On the way home that night I still wasn't too good, so I was taken to the local hospital and they confirmed our medics diagnosis of Hypothermia. It wasn't the full-blown version, but it was severe enough to give me 2 nights in hospital and a further 2 weeks off of work. According to the hospital if i'd been moving around that night i'd have been screwed, but because I stayed in one place and didn't move my organs were able to keep working, albeit at a very reduced rate (I think my testicles finally returned a week afterwards!)
When I went back I took half a dozen boxes of Cadburys Roses ("Thank you very much" etc) for the guys, to say thanks, and was given something in return-typical squaddie humour, it was an ice-cube mould! I've still got it, and perversely I now enjoy the cold! Especially in the middle of Dartmoor in the middle of November...lovely!
Herbert 'Bert' Dye-1916-1997-Royal West Kent-Royal Berks-RAOC
Robert V Dye-1947-1964-129.SQDN ATC
Herbert Holmes-7th City of London (Civil Service) Rifles-the 'Shiny seventh'-1915-1918
Holmes, RE-Cfn-25087291-150 Rec Coy-103Bn-REME (V)