You sssstupid ttttwat!!!!

Picture the scene, Hohne Ranges and the weekend before Firing was due to start. The Challenger 1 tanks of C Squadron, freshly painted were parked an equal distance apart at a slight angle to allow the Loaders access to bag charges the following day during firing. The Regiment had only just got back to Germany after tours to Bovington, Lulworth and Cyprus prior to which they had been in Paderborn serving on Chieftains. They had completed conversion courses to Challenger but experience was not prevalent throughout the Squadron!

Crews were carrying out a variety of jobs finalising and checking things for the following day. The build up to the Firing period had noA tit!t altered for years. Weeks of training on the Gunnery Training System practicing techniques of firing and on the Classroom Instructional Mounting doing gun drills had been complimented with vehicle servicing, armament accuracy checks, inspections, cleaning and painting the tanks followed by briefings. On arrival at Hohne, more servicing and checks were carried out. The ammo bashing, traditionally (and rightly so) done by the drivers had been completed and the ammunition for the first days firing had been stowed on the tanks. In order to get the full facts of the story I have spoken to Dave 'Ludge' Lomax, pictured to the right, who was the Squadron Leader's Loader and this is his account in his own words!! Now up until now maybe the stories have been 80% true, but remember this is from the horses mouth!!!

"On the Sunday before firing, which was a glorious sunny day if I remember, all the tanks were lined up on the firing point. The tank crews were carrying out various servicing checks. My own tank, 0B, was parked on the firing point and we were just completing some checks on the main armament. Helping me was the Gunner, 'Goose' Green. 'Goose' was sat in the Commander's seat whilst I was in the Loader's side. We had stowed our ammunition and I decided that we would check that the firing circuits were working correctly. I needed to do this as I had been told by the Squadron Leader that we would be the first tank to fire in the morning in order to instill confidence into the remainder of the Squadron. The first firing practice was Confirmation of Accuracy by Firing and was a controlled shoot run by the Gunnery School, a place where special people go to.

The procedure for checking the firing circuits was as you know carried out using a circuit tester connected to the Firing Needle Assembly (FNA). I fitted a circuit tester to the FNA and placed the FNA into it's housing in the Breech Ring. With the gun in elevation I pulled the Loader's Firing Guard to the rear and set the Loader's Safety Switch to LIVE. Telling Goose to select MAIN on the Commander's Firing Handle I then ordered "CHECK CIRCUITS"

As you know, by looking down between the Breech Block and the Breech Ring I should have been able to see the 'P' bulb in the circuit tester illuminate when a firing switch was pressed. The bulb was illuminated but it looked very dim. I repeated the whole procedure with a new 'P' bulb and a darkened turret. The brightness was still very poor and this confused me slightly. Shaking my head, which is not easy within the confines of a Challenger 1 turret I pondered what to do.

I came out with the following theory. The tanks that we had been issued with had been in storage for a very long time. During that time the connections and cables had a build up of condensation on them, which attracted dust, so making the cable more resistant to an electrical surge/pulse. And that is why the bulb glowed dim. Goose although sceptical at first accepted my theory as I was a Gunnery Instructor and because of this I should have known better that to carry out what I did next. In fact as part of my Gunnery Instructor Pre Course Training, my Instructor Will Williams taught us Firing Circuits as a Demonstration Lesson , it was of course an A Grade lesson and during it he placed emphasis on the fact that although the lesson was pretty straight forward there were safety implications that should not be ignored. I wished that I took that into account...I really do!

 
A Vent Tube
 
 

This is a Vent Tube and will go BANG...NOT PHUTTTTT!!!!

 

Some years previously I had been shown a trick by Terry Ackrell, another Gunnery Instructor, albeit a bit of a dinosaur and we used to call him Terrydactyall! I showed Goose a spare Vent Tube and said "all we do is stick this on the FNA put it back in and fire!". Goose recoiled in horror, "Ludge are you sure.............every one will hear it" he said. I told him that I had done it years ago under the control of the aforementioned Gunnery Instructor and that all you hear is a slight phuutttt. He seemed happy enough with my explanation so I placed the Vent Tube on to the FNA and refitted it into the Breech Ring. I pulled the Loader's Firing Guard rearwards and once again Goose selected the right switches. With a small amount of trepidation I ordered "CHECK CIRCUITS". 'Goose' reported "FIRING NOW" and after a short delay and with both of us fully expecting a phuutttt........ KAARRRRRRBOOOOMMMMMM! The tank shook and smoke started flooding back into the turret. I was told later that a flame about 30 metres in length shot out of the barrel setting light to a passing gunfitter's beret!!!

 
Jessssuuuuuuussssssss H Chrissssssssssssssssssssssssst!!!!
 
 

Ludge checks the Firing Circuits!

 

I quickly removed the FNA and took off the fired Vent Tube and put it in my trouser pocket (a bad mistake as it was very hot and it left a Vent Tube sized scar on my leg which is still there). I stuck my head out of the turret, no easy task you understand, in the hope that nobody had noticed what had happened. I was out of luck as I witnessed a scene of total and utter carnage around my tank. Dick Taylor, recently returned from his tour at the Gunnery School at Lulworth had been alongside my tank boresighting. He looked in shock and was attempting to put out a small fire in front of his tank, which I later found out was a REME beret!

He was screaming something about "PROVE THE GUN". The fire picket had deployed and were attempting to put out flames as well. There were quite a few blokes running around clutching their ears. The tampion on the muzzle of the main armament and the large grey muzzle cover had melted and rivulets of melting plastic were dripping down on to the firing point. A large smoke cloud was drifting to the right and lots of people were shouting "TAKE COVER". My immediate thoughts were JESUUSSSSSSSSSS. The SSM shouted "LUDGE WHAT THE F***ING HELL ARE YOU DOING" I tried to confuse him and everybody else by shouting out that we had a problem with the FNA protrusion and gyro cal checks, and it just went off!

Why had it made such a noise and ignited half of the Hohne Range complex? I was reminded afterwards by Dick Taylor that while we were in Cyprus, Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot (APDS) ammunition had been replaced by Armour Piercing Fin Stabilised Discarding Sabot (APFSDS). Because of the requirement to increase the penetration effect the APFSDS round had an increased charge. To facilitate its ignition, a new vent tube with increased propellant was also introduced!
The old Vent Tube would just fizz in the barrel as opposed to replicating an Apollo moon shot launching!!

In addition, the reason why the bulb was so dim was because the new tank came with a new factory manufactured circuit tester, which was longer than the old one. So when fitted to the FNA and inserted into the breech ring, it went further into the breach block and so less light would show. Not for the last and certainly not the first time I was a twat...but don't mention LFME and Chris Devril will you " (Ludge, is Chris Devril your old Squadron Leader, the chap that you suggested was overweight and not so good at his job to the point that you called him a FAT USELESS TWAT and he heard you??????)

Dave was hauled in front of the Squadron Leader, David Viccars who called him a Sssssstupid Sssssspick Ttttttwwaaaaaatttttt and hit him with a section of the staves. DIV never spoke to him for weeks unless it was in the form of a FfffffffucKing long Fffffffffire Ooooorder!

 
DIV hits Ludge with a stave section!
 
 

Dave Viccars hits Ludge with a stave section !!!!!

 

As I told you Ludge during my A Grade lesson, in the event of losing the 120mm Circuit Tester proceed as follows:

  1. PROVE THE GUN.
  2. Ensure all switches are in the correct position to enable the firing circuit to work.
  3. Remove the FNA and stow safely.
  4. Insert a Yellow handled screwdriver into the FNA housing on the Breech Ring.
  5. Place the metal end directly onto the exposed nipple of the Breech Ring Electrical Contact (BREC).
     

    CAUTION:

    ENSURE YOU HOLD THE YELLOW END

     
  6. Rest the side of the metal shaft against the Breech Ring.
  7. Order "CHECK CIRCUITS".
  8. The assistant will press a firing switch.
  9. There should be a huge display of sparks, bright lights and a burning smell.
  10. Order the assistant to release the firing switch and ensure that the effects in Para 9 cease.
  11. Repeat if you dare for all firing switches including EMERGENCY.
  12. Dependant of the Charge state of the Trickle Charged Battery the effects in Para 9 may be less severe.
  13. Exchange the yellow handled screwdriver at the FAMTO and explain that it was caught in the traverse or something!

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