The Oldendorf Fox - The True Story!

The following story is my recollection of what became known as the Legend of the Oldendorf Fox (it goes without saying that my memory is not what it was and this happened at least (at the time of writing) 25 years ago, so therefore a few minor details maybe slightly wrong!). I need to thank the then Troop Corporal, Andy Fisher (Stavros) for checking the story for me.

It was in Germany during 1983, on a huge Divisional Field Training Exercise (FTX) called Ex Eternal Triangle where the Regiment along with the remainder of the Division deployed to an area centred upon Hannover to practice drills and procedures in the environment that we were expected to die in should the Soviet Union and it's 3rd Shock Army decide to cross the inner German border! The incident described happened near a small village called Oldendorf, which was close to Celle.

 
Oldendorf
 

A Squadron were advancing on a broad front when 2 Troop Sergeant, Abby Fice broke down. The Squadron Leader, Rod Brummitt, impressed upon the young inexperienced 2 Troop Leader, Paul Jacomb (Jake) the need to keep the momentum going in order to maintain contact with the retreating enemy force. Our orders had been to make best speed to a grid that the Squadron Leader had passed some time ago, the order remained - get there quick to cut the enemies' ability to cross the River Weser. Sadly, we had become geographically embarrassed and Jake had been lying for some time to the Squadron Leader when telling him where we were. He had hoped that we would eventually make the grid in the time that we were supposed to without anybody finding out. The problem was that we had strayed deep into the neighbouring Battle Group's boundaries.

Jake spotted a track through a large wood which, if followed would bring us back into the Regiment's boundaries, which were clearly marked with a thick black chinograph line on the large FTX map that Jake had managed to now get wrapped around his head in the onrushing wind as we made best speed along the track. Turning sharply left onto what was marked as a disused railway embankment, the two tanks, C/S 12 leading soon found the going slightly harder. The drivers of the tanks, Neil 'thank god your name is not Buckingham as you would never be able to spell it' Smith and Gerald (Taff) "When we captured Gerald he was of course wild..Wild?..I was absolutely livid"Anderson continually having to use the gears, up and down trying to keep the engine revs up. The tanks initially managed to negotiate the difficult terrain well, the drivers working hard at selecting the best route and they were helped with continuous words of encouragement from the two commanders, who were mindful of the rather steep embankment on the right hand side. All was going well, until Jake's Panzer, already in first gear, became more and more sluggish, eventually grinding to a halt. It immediately began to sink deep into the finest German mud. Meanwhile Andy Fisher's tank also came to a halt. The early morning still air was heavy with the smell of burning clutch smoke, purple (ish) engine smoke rose slowly from the hot engine decks and there were serious curses coming from Jake as he announced loudly to his driver, Gerald, that he was a total Welsh twat.....!.

Actually, albeit very true, this was not especially sensible, as Gerald's reply also contained a number of well directed expletives, followed by a threat to give Jake a right seeing to in true Valley's style! I am not totally sure what this meant, but at a guess I think it meant that he was going to force Jake to stand in welly boots, bend over and sing Land of My Fathers whilst getting a serious rodgering from behind!

 
Oldendorf
 

While the Llanelli Male Voice Choir warmed up for this task, the two operators, Andy 'Albert' Copp and myself started to make a brew for our respective crews. Jake and Andy quickly confirmed where we were, (miles from where we ought to be!), what we were going to do about it, was it was worth trying an attempt to free the tanks from the mess we were in and most importantly how and what to say to the Squadron Leader!

A quick plan was hatched as follows:

a. An attempt would be made to free the wagons using the unconventional method of revving the bollocks off the engines and then kicking them into reverse gear. This will undoubtedly make any REME personnel cringe, but needs must!

b. No contact would be made with SHQ for at least 20 minutes in the hope that by that time if we were still stuck, it would be at least a bit nearer to where we should have been at that time. Jake had resigned himself to a serious telling off at some stage from the Squadron Leader who was noted for his sharpness and his dislike of the young 2 Troop Leader!

c. Local protection in the form of sentries and cam nets would be dispensed with as nobody knew we were there.

d. Jake would have a large tot of rum in his coffee as he would need it to mask his fear when he eventually had to tell the Squadron Leader what had happened.

e. Jake would start to look at his long term career prospects closely on return to Paderborn.

f. I would make a mental note to buy a camera at the earliest opportunity.

g. Gerald would have to wait for his turn with the 'sheep'!

Phase 1 of the plan was set in place immediately. Gerald and Smiffy both got into their cabs and re-started the Main Engines. The remainder us sat back in the wood line and enjoyed our brew, offering advice and encouragement as required. The woods reverberated to the sound of the two mighty Leyland L60 engines revving up to 1500 rpm, at which point they were kicked into reverse gear. With a positive moaning of twiflex bolts under huge strain, something breaking and a gerrrrrt big cloud of black smoke emitting from the two large main engine exhausts, the revs died completely and the tanks remained stuck, well they might have moved a couple of inches......but then rolled back into the hole again!

Jake took a swig of neat rum and mounted his tank, resigned to the fact that he was well and truly in the crap. Placing the headsets gingerly on his head he reported to SHQ the fact that we were bogged. Luckily, very luckily, the Squadron Leader was dealing with an out of control and totally irresponsible 1 Troop Corporal who obviously never had his tactical head on, and with a rather terse "ROGER OUT TO YOU...13A Acknowledge that 12 is bogged.......Out to you....(sigh)...Hello 11B whatever are you doing in that Out of Bounds area!". Jake burped, took another swig of rum and announced "Where did you say the wellie boots were Gerald!"

The engines were switched off, a radio watch was mounted and a meal was put on! We spent the remainder of the day maintaining a radio watch and sleeping. The evening was beginning to draw in, the chill in the November air was beginning to become very noticeable. In the distance a straining Chieftain engine could be heard, it's exact location difficult to pinpoint, until across a field we could see the A Squadron ARV (Armoured Recovery Vehicle) making it's way to us, large billowing white smoke clouds pouring from its engine compartment implying that all was not well. On arrival, the Commander, Ginge Lenthall, a Recce Mech well qualified to announce to us that there was no way he was going to attempt to pull us out with his ARV and it's engine problem and that he would ensure that the Brigade FRG (Forward Repair Group) Recce Mechs would be tasked ....which might take a few days!!!!

Armed with this information, we decided that we just as well make ourselves as comfortable as possible. Bivouacs were put up and hot water put on for a wash and shave. After ensuring that SHQ were informed that we were now in the hands of the Brigade recovery assets, which combined with the fact that the battle had moved on to another area some 60Km away, we were told that the Squadron Quartermaster Sergeant (SQMS) would deliver water and rations to us after which there would be no need to keep a listening watch on the radios.

The SQMS duly arrived with his 'packet', not venturing to close so we had to walk some distance with empty jerry cans which were filled to the brim at the water bowser. We were also given compo ration packs, fresh rations, bread and some beer and happily returned to the tanks. After stowing everything we sat and pondered what we were going to do while we waited for the FRG. Thankfully we did not have to wait long.

Centurion ARV

The FRG Centurion ARV (built in 1949'ish as pictured to the right, and no it is not a model!!) with it's Rolls Royce BH 12 Cylinder petrol engine purring nicely, came into view and unlike the Chieftain ARV it was not billowing out clouds of white engine smoke, just a light wispy grey haze emanated from the back decks as it came to a halt. Again, not venturing to closely with the vehicle, it's Commander dismounted. and armed with his helmet, gas mask, a map and the thickest military style glasses possible he slowly approached. He introduced himself as Henry. A SSgt of many years service he looked very old, certainly older that his ARV! Adjusting his glasses he sighed loudly and proceeded to assess the situation, constantly shaking his head and repositioning his comb over with his grubby hands. He muttered what sounded like "F***** Tankie W******!" under his breath. His glasses continually misted up and he appeared to be at a total loss on how to approach this problem. He was offered plenty of comments and advice by Albert Copp, who seemed to be quite proud of the fact that we had managed to get so far before becoming bogged. Henry told us that he required another ARV to assist, which was currently on task elsewhere within the Brigade area and it was unlikely that an attempt would be made to recover us until the morning due to safety concerns and the difficult situation we were in.

Jake decided that we might as well venture into nearby Oldendorf for a pint and a decent meal. This was really in recognition of the fact that he had lost his wallet in a hide the night before. He and Gerald had walked back some 5 miles and managed to find it, without anybody knowing of their whereabouts. What Jake did not know was that Gerald had the wallet all of the time, and he announced "Oh Oh Oh....here it is Jake" as he pulled it out of his pocket, and then Gerald also produced the wallet as well! Never the less, Jake was chuffed that he had found the wallet which contained his credit cards and MOD 90 ID Card and felt that he ought to buy us a beer.

A democratic decision was made to leave the two newest members of the troop on sentry detail for security reasons. The remainder of us were rapidly putting on our ‘best’ black coveralls, splashing Gerald’s Brut 33 all over pretty liberally in order to attract the birds that we imagined to be in the village and more importantly to keep the mossies away. Moments later we were ready and with Jake's cigars and wallet we walked to Oldendorf, passing Henry and the Cent ARV crew sat on the track having their evening meal. Albert thought he heard someone mutter "F***** Tankie W******!".

We went into a small restaurant on the edge of the village, all of us looking forward to a proper meal that did not taste of petrol or compo! A porcelain crap was also on the agenda, days of straining and leaning against a shovel were forgotten as we took turns in using the 2 cubicles. The smell was not nice....in fact it was pretty disgusting, matched only by the fact that Gerald decided to leave his 'scheme' skiddies on top of the cistern as a present to the cleaner..poor soul!

Having had a good clear out, we queued for the shoe shine in the reception area, which looked like a grinder with two buffers wheels on it. Our boots initially rather muddy were soon shining enough to make any Guardsman proud, unfortunately, also leaving a line of mud up the wall!

German Barmaids...I would put up with the hairy armpits!!!!The waitress introduced herself to us as Gondola, who actually was a Goddess with huge baps. Gerald greeted her in his normal idiotic manner "Mein Name ist Gerald und ich bumse Schafe". This greeting is of course (unknown to Gerald) a reference to a well known Welsh tradition involving:

a. A pair of wellington boots.

b. A sheep.

c. A male voice choir.

Gondola looked shocked, in fact it was like she had seen a ghost but to her credit, she gave her baps an excited shake and proceeded to push two tables together in order to accommodate six.

We immediately ordered six Grosse beers. She returned after a short while with them and they were immediately downed in one. "SIX MORE BEERS....AND GONDALA...GET YER BAPS OUT FOR THE BOYS!" was the cry followed by "Steak mit Pomme Frits all round!", the alcohol was going to our heads rather quickly.

Erwin Rommel..a mate of HansWhile eating our meal, a German chap who was slightly the worse for wear came over to our table and introduced himself as Hans (that do dishes!) He started talking about the Panzer Corps, and I thought he must have been attracted by the black coveralls. He got his wallet out and offered to buy us drinks which we agreed to of course. He showed us a picture of himself stood next to a Panzer 3 in the Western Desert and explained that he had been part of Rommel's Afrika Corps fighting the 8th Army. He also maintained that the ball had crossed the line in the 1966 World Cup Final. Gerald agreed although he never had a clue what Hans meant and then proceeded to sing a song about the Pontypool Front Row. Hans then announced that he wanted to try on a pair of of black overalls. I quickly exchanged clothes with him in the washroom, which was still stinking pretty badly. We emerged, thankfully breathing in fresh air, Hans now sporting my black overalls while I looked rather suave in a tweed jacket and a hat with a feather in it!

I noted that his wallet was in the inside jacket pocket and it was full with Deutschmarks. I thought I would get my round in which I duly did.......with Hans' money!!! After a few more beers mostly at the expense of our new friend, we decided that it was really time for the Jake to settle the final food bill which as we explained to him was tradition in such circumstances!!

After getting the bill, it was rather amusing to watch Jake go through a couple of different colour shades whilst he realised that this was not going to be a cheap night. After his credit card limit, which was already almost at breaking point was increased we all went into a disco next door, where we proceeded to completely frighten all of the local birds off. We got really hammered with Hans who was quite happy with me spending his money and the more beer he drank the more he looked like a proper tankie LCpl called Williams!

At the end of the evening he invited us back to his house for more drink and supper. He lived in an annex a twat!to a small farmhouse, entry was gained by walking through his bedroom. On the wall was a dartboard and a large poster of Kevin Keegan who was playing football for Hamburg. His house was small and he lived on his own, which was just as well as he had 6 pretty drunken Tankies in his house. Hans was a Poultry Farmer, so he volunteered to boil some eggs using his Ronco Egg Boiler, but only after I had re-swapped clothes with him. It was while he was making our supper that things really did get out of hand:

a. Jake took the opportunity to use Hans' phone to ring his bird in the UK!

b. Somebody drew a moustache on the Kevin Keegan poster in his bedroom with a black Lumicolour, (which with his curly perm made him look even more like a twat!).

c. Somebody threw Hans' darts into the ceiling.

d. The deep freezer was ransacked, as was the vegetable rack (the contents were put into a box outside the door).

e. Hans' flower pots were watered in an unconventional manner!

The Pontypool Front Row, Geoff Wheel, Bobby Windsor and Charlie FaulkenerRealising that it was getting out of hand, Andy Fisher brought an end to proceedings, and we left, leaving Hans still buttering bread to go with the boiled eggs ably assisted by Gerald who was still singing a song about the Pontypool Front Row!

As we were running down the road giggling like school kids, we noticed that Gerald was missing. I ran back to get him, and as I entered the house through the wide open door, I was met with a sight that was strange to say the least. Gerald and Hans were sat together on the sofa with their feet up on the coffee table, Gerald's arm resting around a very drunk German who was dipping bread soldiers into a boiled egg whilst wearing a wig and smoking a large cigar. Gerald was telling him all about the Pontypool Front Row!!

The morning dawned and it was a lovely Autumn day, though we all felt like shit. Breakfast was actually fit for a king, as we had fresh rations, all liberated from Hans' freezer and larder the previous night. There were chops, chicken, steak, tomato's, eggs and potatoes, complemented with Compo sausages of course!!

Danny 'Big Bird' Ireland, who had remained on guard duty the previous evening made some brews and as he was walking towards the remainder of the Troop, the brews perilously placed on a large piece of cardboard, he was shocked by an explosion! Smiffy had placed a lit thunderflash into the back passage of a still frozen chicken from Hans' freezer. With a loud bang it exploded and a large piece of breast arced through the air, hit Big Bird on the shoulder, who reacted as anybody would, by announcing as he dropped the brews..."SMIFF..... I AM GOING TO HAVE YOU!"

Still with sore heads we welcomed Henry and his crew back to what was now becoming a local visitor attraction. It seemed that word had got around the local villages and plenty of Germans had come for a look. One of them, who clearly had consumed almost as much beer as us the previous night announced that he would go and get his horse to pull us out....tvat!!

Senior REME officers and some Royal Engineers arrived with a plan to fly hardcore in to build a road to get us out, however, this was not required as Henry came up with a stoke of genius! He reckoned by bogging his ARV in a nearby field and by cutting down roughly the equivalent amount of trees as a half hours work in the rainforest, he could drag the two tanks out at a bit of an angle through the clearing, thereby avoiding the rather steep embankment. His ARV would then be recovered by the second ARV which would remain on hard ground.

GazelleThe senior REME man present, (CREME who was a full Colonel) thought that this was all too difficult and decided that he would leave it to the experts and go back to making sure that the REME Remfs (Rear Echelon Mother F*****s) he commanded had repaired the General's personal mobile bath unit. His Gazelle helicopter which was parked in a nearby field was started and as CREME strapped himself in, 'Henry remarked that he did not like Chieftain as it was too automated but he would not mind having a go in a Gazelle! I mentioned to him pointedly "That will be the Gazelle which does not have a crash gearbox Henry you twat!". With straining motors it lifted off the ground, turned and flew away. Watching though his glasses, Henry was told to avoid looking directly into the sun as he might burn his eyes out! He replied with a grunt and what sounded like a muttered "F*****g Tankie W******!".

At this stage Andy Fisher did say to him that it was not personal and it was simply West Country humour. I am not convinced that he agreed with Andy, but cracked on with the task in hand. At this stage the second Brigade Cent ARV arrived. It positioned itself on the track whilst Henry and his Cent drove as quickly as they could into the sodden field before he too became bogged. Henry was delighted that he had managed to get close enough to allow the steel hawser from his ARV to reach the tanks.

Henry produced a ball of bailing twine and tied one end to the front of his ARV and trailed the other end through the woods to the rear bollard of one of the tanks. As he was doing this, Albert, who was lying in his sleeping bag on the back decks, seriously suffering from the previous nights activities leant over and said to Henry “You will never pull it out with that!”. Henry clearly annoyed, stood up straight and promptly knocked himself out on the bracket that held the spare track links on! As he fell to the ground Albert though he muttered what sounded like "F*****g Tankie W******!".

Henry eventually came around, a large bump causing his comb over to look odd. Mind you the rather badly fitted First Field dressing made him look even more like a twat! His glasses were slightly bent as well. Andy Fisher reassured Henry that we were on the same side and that Albert was really very sorry for his daft comment. Henry accepted that Albert was correct in his assumption that the bailing twine was not going to be used to pull the tanks out but was to allow him to see which trees required cutting down. After this assessment, a chain saw and axes were produced and soon a large pile of freshly cut German pine was stacked up to one side.

Once the trees were cut down, the steel hawser was pulled out and was connected to the rear of the first tank. The second ARV connected it's hawser to the rear of Henry's ARV. Henry was ready, and with a final sweep of his hair, which dislodged the First Field dressing in turn causing a trickle of blood to fall down his forehead. Henry removed his glasses and wiped the trickle of blood away and was heard to mutter "F*****g Tankie W******!".

Henry ordered everybody to stand back as the driver of the ARV closed down and started to winch in. With a loud clunk, the first tank started very slowly to move backwards, it was then that Smiffy remembered the Quill Shafts!

"STOP...STOP.......the Quill Shafts are still in" shouted Smiffy. "STOP WINCHING" ordered Henry....."F*****g Tankie W******!"

 
Oldendorf
 
 

Neil is just about to remember the Quill Shafts!!!

 

Smiffy could not find the Quill Shaft removing tool, Doc the gunner announced it was there yesterday, to which Andy Fisher was heard to mutter..."F*****g Tankie W******!". Eventually we found it and removed the offending items. Henry continued to supervise the recovery and after a couple of hours both tanks were out of the wood, sat on the track and kit re stowed ready to move to a RV for a transporter to pick us up and take us to rejoin the Exercise.

Two world wars and one world cup!We cheerfully waved to Henry who of course was still bogged in the field and was being recovered by the second ARV. "F*****g REME W******!" we shouted collectively as we pulled away. At the end of the track we turned left towards Oldendorf. Entering the village we passed a small farm, outside of which was a very angry looking old man who was stood shaking his fist. "F*****g Tankie V******!" he mouthed as Andy threw up a smart salute singing "Two World Wars and One World Cup do dah..do dah " into his microphone! As we settled down for the short road move to the RV I said to Andy, "Do you know what nobody will believe this story when we tell it, from now on call me the Oldendorf Fox!"

Well that is it...the Legend of the Oldendorf Fox...a truly memorable event witnessed sadly by so few and what is more we only have one picture of it........F*****g Tankie W******!!!!!

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