Charlie 'Terminal' Moraine is a former special forces soldier who served in the legendary (especially since it's now defunct, along with most of the legendary British Army regiments) 53 Assault Reconnaisance Squadron in some of the world's hot spots (well they were hotspots if you were a special forces operative anyway) including Northern Ireland, Oman, Columbia at the height of the drugs war, and Chelmsley Wood in the West Midlands. The Puumaja Crew is proud to present, in serial form, his new book, 'One Of Our Boys Is Missing', covering his life story and over 20 years in the front line of one of the deadliest units since the Ottoman Janissaries.
Chapter two opens with Charlie's embarkation on a journey which was ultimately to culminate in killing loads of people, though nothing hinted at that yet.
So there I was, three months short of my eighteenth birthday, packing my kit ready for the trip down to Fedioukine Barracks, at Thrushingfold Depot in Oxfordshire. I had my travel warrant, sports kit, civvy clothes, and not much else.
The last few days at home I’d been doing a lot of reflecting; this is the point where, if this was on TV, a faded sequence of home movies would kick in - washing the car, with someone hilariously picking up a sud-coated sponge and throwing it playfully at another family member; my brother giving me a pummeling, then breaking off when he realized the camera was on him and hugging me and pretending we were the best of friends; one of my sister’s moodily slamming the door of her room in the camera’s face; no doubt the scene bookended with a fade-in of a jangly number by the Beach Boys or the Byrds.
But we’re not on TV and in the event it didn’t get much more sentimental than simply going out and getting lashed about five nights in a row. I was feeling a little bit unsettled, but I decided to repress this in the interests of playing up to what a hero I was and generally gobbing off about it. The last night came, to the pub as usual. I felt a bit guilty as my family had arranged a ‘going away’ dinner, which I proceeded to shovel down as I had an urgent appointment with John Barleycorn to get to.
The next morning, and with the mother of all hangovers, I did a final sweep of the house to check I hadn’t left anything, and felt my heart quite literally in my mouth, which made talking very difficult, as I came down the stairs and into the blinking sunlight, the taxi’s diesel engine idling, reminding me it was best to make this short. My mum and sisters presented me with an assortment of goodies - jam, books and the like, which I hid at the bottom of my bag and ditched before I reached the depot. I felt a few jabs of remorse, but the reality was I was going into the world of the military, a million miles away from the civvy world of jam and books, and I just couldn't risk the embarrassment of being busted as a secret reader. I did however find space for Quentin, my childhood teddy bear, and I'd even made him a little cammo suit. I had to keep him well under wraps though, and designed a secret compartment in my bag for the purpose - this was real contraband.
I'd like to be able to say that my father broke down when I left, chewing the flagstones in a display of abject anguish, and pounding his fists into the ground wailing 'why, why, why?' but in fact he just said 'good luck', and gave me a firm handshake. He was never one for goodbyes. But it was sad to be leaving the family fold, however dysfunctional they might have at times been, they were soon going to resemble the Von Trapps in comparison with the new 'family' I was joining.
All the neighbours turned out for my send off, and I felt like the most important person in the world, like Chistopher Columbus or someone, leaving for terra incognita. I reality I probably looked more like Christopher Robin, laden down with my little pack and sauntering off, naive, innocent, and with locks which were far too long and curly for my own good. As I shut the door of the taxi, I wondered when I'd next see them all again and how much I'd have changed (probably at Christmas and my hair would be shorter, and I'd be fitter).
The taxi pulled away, and, before I had time to warn the driver, shot over the give way sign at the crossroads at the bottom of our close, broadsiding into an early morning milkfloat, sending bottles full and empty crashing all over the place. The milk float driver was incensed, and in the ensuing argument between him and the cabbie I made my way back, feeling very foolish.
‘Come on I’ll take you’ my dad said – buying some extra time with the old man made things a little easier.
To be spun out some more...
If you missed the last installment, it's here