FIRE!

Discussion in 'Postwar' started by David Layne, Jan 21, 2022.

  1. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    It was June of 1973 and as a British subject serving in the United States Army and being a member of the 7th Army Parachute Team, it was a great thrill when our commanding officer Captain Harper announced that we were going on the road to England.

    We were scheduled once more to go to Aldershot and work as guests with one of Britain’s most prestigious regiments, The Parachute regiment and their freefall Parachute Team, the Red Devils.

    We were once again to participate in Aldershot’s “Army Day” where the two teams jumped into Aldershot’s Rushmore Arena as part of the show.

    I was familiar with the elite soldiers of the “Paras” and their exploits from my childhood so it was of great interest to me that I was able to compare the Army that I was familiar and serving with, to the Army of the country of my birth.

    No two Armies are alike and these differences manifested themselves in many ways, mostly humorous. One of the stories that I recall needs this long preamble before I can tell it.

    It seemed that when I was in Vietnam the majority of Army personnel were smokers. This includes flight crews, those who indulged would often do so when they were in the air.

    This would be at a time of long flights from point A to point B or something similar, a time of relaxation when nothing was going on.

    This was not discouraged at all by higher command in an “Official” capacity but would have been left to each individual unit’s Commander’s discretion. My own unit’s call sign was “Pipesmoke” because our Commander smoked a pipe, on the job!

    That veritable workhorse of the Vietnam War the Huey had an ashtray mounted in the bottom center of the control panel for the pilot’s use. In Army nomenclature it was known as the ASH receiver.

    It was always fun to send FNG's (flipping new guys) to check on all the radios to include, and empty, if necessary, the ASH receiver.

    As our flight commenced, if we were going any distance sometimes the pilot would announce, “Smoking lamp is lit” as he lit up his own smoke, at other times, we in the back took the initiative and lit up as we felt the urge.

    In Vietnam, there were no doors on the Hue or they were pinned back. Those crew members in the back who smoked (the Crew Chief and door gunner) would flick their discarded butts out into the wind stream (take that Charlie.)

    In Germany where doors were installed on the Huey the crew would use an empty soda can as a butt can that was discarded after landing.

    Our Company had a pilot that carried with him a beer can with stones in the bottom of it to keep it stable. The can had a hook made of safety wire that was attached to it and it was then hung near the ASH receiver where he used it as a tobacco spittoon.

    At the conclusion of my tour in Vietnam I was stationed with an Army Aviation unit in Germany. After a few months I was able to transfer from that unit to the 7th Army Parachute Team.

    All of the more senior members of the 7th Army Parachute Team and the majority of our Aviation support were Vietnam Veterans and we bought with us many of our habits from Vietnam, smoking in the aircraft being one.

    Which brings me back to the differences between the two militaries.

    When at Aldershot we did smaller parachute demonstrations, mainly for military spectators where we would present a baton, “passed in freefall” to some dignitary or other.

    As I recall on one of these demonstration jumps, we had a British Army Air Corps Westland Scout for a jump ship. The Scout was piloted by a Sergeant (I figured same rank as me) and carried four of us, two Red Devils and myself and one other from the 7th Army Team. It was on one of these demos that took a little flight time to get to, a military establishment at Old Sarum in Wiltshire, time enough for us to relax during the flight.

    I’m afraid I am the sort of person that has always been full of mischief and one who would seldom turn down a dare. Of course, I had a good idea that smoking was not allowed on British aircraft but encouraged by two Red Devils and knowing I could always plead ignorance I lit up.

    I don’t think I got down more than a couple of drags down before the Sergeant piloting the Scout turned round, with eyes wide open and a look of terror on his face he proceeded to yell at the top of his voice FIRE! FIRE! FIRE!

    Needless to say, I hurriedly extinguished the cigarette as my team mates chortled in delight. We all knew that once we had exited the Scout, we wouldn’t be seeing that particular pilot again.

    I’ve often thought after the event, what would have happened if we had all bailed out when he shouted FIRE! He would have had some explaining to do!

    One of the really big differences between the U.S. Army and British Army is noted here. Back then and I believe to this day British Army Air Corps pilots can be Sergeants and Corporals. U.S. Army aviators were and are either Commissioned Officers or Warrant Officers.

    The differences between the two nations and the commands given to the troops during Drill and Ceremonies were always notable and a difficulty.

    At the conclusion of a parachuting demonstration, before attending to their gear the two teams would “fall in” with their respective team mates at what the Americans would call “Parade Rest.”

    The two teams would be lined up in single file facing the audience or the dignitary that they were to be presented to, the British in front and a few paces behind them their American guests. At this time the two teams would be called to attention by a senior British Officer or N.C.O.

    This is the point where it became interesting. The American command to attention is a two-part command.

    The command is preceded by a preparatory command such as Squad, Company or Platoon, etc., and then immediately following “Attention” pronounced “ten-hut.”

    On this command the American method of coming to attention is to bring the two heels of the feet swiftly together with the toes apart and the feet at a 45-degree angle.

    The British would generally have a preparatory command similar to “Squad (generally drawn out,) Squad ‘Shun." They would then raise the right foot and leg to a 90 -degree angle and bring the right foot crashing down next to the left foot.

    As can be seen there was a timing difference between the British and American commands, so much so that they almost always ended up with much foot shuffling and embarrassed grins from the Americans. Vive la différence
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2022
    timuk, 4jonboy, Slipdigit and 4 others like this.
  2. Blutto

    Blutto Plane Mad

    I've always had the view that the Army regarded pilots as merely airborne lorry drivers. That was reinforced when I read a paper some years ago, in which it stated that it was thought easier to train competent artillery observers to be air observation pilots rather than vice versa.
     
  3. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    Edited a duplicate trying to edit the original. I can't seem able to find a "delete this post" icon.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2022

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