Turkey – September 1973

Ex. Deep Furrow

E Troop E21/R241

A NATO JATFOR exercise requiring secure multi-channels to DCN Stanbridge, UK


The unit were co-located with a huge US Army base built in the middle of a sunflower field, on the side of a bare hillside in the middle of nowhere about 20 miles from Istanbul.

This was a very challenging exercise because for once there were severe technical problems on the ground from the start. On day one the Houchin Generator put its piston through the motor casing leaving a glorious hole and a lovely view on the generator innards. However, we were pretty stupid as the genny was dumped next to the Transmitter cabin, right where thousands of Americans could view our misfortune as they walked past.  Unable to borrow from the Americans (they used only 110 volts) we had to hope that the other generators would hold out.

Then the unthinkable, the transmitter started to play up. There followed much repair and testing  to get it up and running , Mick Birney Dave Parr, FoS Paul Cook and others spent 24  hours working on it. The fault was diagnosed as failure of a capacitor breaking down. Also the auto tuning failed, this meant tuning the transmitter using hand drills, however one of the pins that connected the tuning rods kept breaking due to the torque required to tune it. Mercifully, the transmitter limped through and we were both pleased and lucky to get away with it.

Other memories are one of SSgt Ray Heeley who lost at cards playing with Americans, he even went round borrowing cash to get through, a bit of “others getting their own back” as he loved to clean out our own troops playing poker on other exercises.

The 14 Sigs guys got friendly with the American “Prime BEEF” regiment. Beef stands for Base Engineering Emergency Force. These were a cross between the Engineers and Pioneers. Helpful bunch of guys who liked a beer or two. One of the GI’s trade description was “Entomologist “, his job was to spray the camp where there were mosquito’s and bugs, see the Americans think of everything! They even had a carpenter workshop on site to do all the posh panelling in the HQ. At the end of the exercise they built huge wooden containers to fit all the tents in to ship them back to their unit in Germany, when asked where the boxes are they came in, the answer was “burnt them.” Our American friends were really very poor singers after a beer or too.

The GI’s did not have separate tents for girls and some of the conversation we heard is unprintable.

The American set up was awesome with gravel roads , rows of huge deep freezers in a line by the cookhouse, hot showers , huge marquees all over the place ,rows and rows of tents,  a Doctors tent called “Doc Chow and his medicine  show” and even  “ a Clap Clinic”.

Eye openers for us Brits were the toilets which can only be described and the world’s largest “thunder-box”, two back to back lines or hand crafted thunder boxes built into one huge box, with no privacy panels so going to the loo was indeed a very social affair indeed. Us other ranks wondered where and when our officers went as we never saw them partake in a recreational poo.

Another eye-opener was the Americans dug bit pits at end of the exercise  and threw all cables ,wires,  light fittings , wooden panels from the generals tent , when we think of our own “stores “this was an awesome site .

Us Brits were a bit of an underclass as we had to have meal vouchers as the kitchen was run by the Americans and they paid for their meals on entry to the cookhouse.

Many of the 14 Sigs guys went back to the UK minus pullovers and camouflage jackets   , which our American friends loved so we swopped then for their wooden cots which make far better beds than the British issue. There were comment back at Worcester QM on so many soldiers buying woolly pulley’s and combat Jackets claiming they had been stolen!

Most of the troop managed to get a trip into Istanbul for a site seeing visit. Some even managed to make use of the local train service to get to and from Istanbul. It was a bit unsettling waiting on the platform surrounded by Turkish conscripts with rifles, who looked about fifteen, and holding hands with a friend!

(Detail from Brian Etheridge – edited by Orph)

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