war stories - NBC

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NBC - Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Warfare

Make no mistake about it, NBC warfare is a ghastly affair and many people in the Military consider it a 'dirty' way of waging war. Contrary to popular belief it was used right at the beginning of organised warfare. Bodies of people who had died of some of the more hideous diseases were catapulted into besieged cities or dumped into the water supply, as were anthrax ridden animals. Science has only found more efficient ways of creating and delivering the nasties.

My first taste of this side of warfare was on my Basic Training Course, dressed in our 'Noddy Suits' and respirators we were taken into a chamber filled with CS gas - officially described as a non toxic smoke. Here we went through several drills, then as a demonstration of how good our protection was one by one told to take off our respirators. Some people merely had to state their Name, Rank and Number then let out into the fresh air. Some of us though had to do other things. My particular task was to sing a couple of verses of 'Zippity Do Dah'. It was great. Zippity Do Dah, Choke, Zippety Day, gasp,cough, my oh, wheeze, my, what a wonder, wheeze, choke cough ful day. After being dragged outside we had to stand like scarecrows till the wind blew the smoke particles off of us. We were warned not to rub the itches or try to get rid of them by washing, but there are always people who don't do what they're told and we had a great time watching the people who didn't go a nice motley shade of beetroot.

A couple of years later I became an instructor and the training course for this was fun. People who become instructors in the Army usually really enjoy the subject the're teaching, and are very enthusiastic. One of our instructors certainly was. "I've got 17 spare canisters for my respirator" he'd say, "and if you're stupid enough to use up the two you're issued with I f****** wouldn't even p*** on you let alone give you one of mine, in fact I'd raid you're rucksack to see if you've got any spare ones". This certainly was an enthusiastic devotee of staying alive in a chemical environment. "My wife knows more about chemical warfare than you lot" was another saying of his. I bet his homelife was fun.

During one lecture the lesson was stopped and the instructors bought in a couple of ultra violet lights. It was explained to us that before the lecture had started some very fine efflorescent dust had been sprayed about the room and that it was designed to demonstrate how a contaminate could spread, to us it seemed a great way of seeing who had been scratching their balls, picking their noses or for some reason had their fingers stuck in their ears. One chap in particular looked as if he'd been sat at the back giving himself a whole body massage.

One way of livening up proceedings was to make the gas chambers fun. We were informed that NBC defence lacks the glamour of say squeezing a machine gun trigger until the barrel starts glowing, making huge craters everywhere, or crashing across the landscape in some very big and powerful machinery, also, some people find the thought of chemical warfare very disturbing and if they don't pay attention to the lectures then perhaps it won't happen to them. One day someone organised a 'boat race' - a drinking game where you drink a glass of beer and put the empty glass on your head to signify that it's empty, in a CS filled chamber. Now that was real fun, well it was, until people started throwing up.

Talking about throwing up, one day a few of us attended a TEWT - technical exercise without troops, these are designed so that command post staff and others can practice drills. These TEWTS were conducted under various conditions and could get very stressful. Decisions taken in these command posts, if made in battle, could affect the lives of hundreds if not thousands of men. This often made people nervous as it wasn't your physical prowess that was being tested but your brain, and it was very good at pinpointing people, who under certain conditions, may become affected by 'the fog of war'. Newcomers to these usualy spent the previous couple of days reading manuals and familiarising themselves with proceedures, old hands just went out and got drunk, sometimes though people managed to overdo it. This particular time, the people running it decided that things were going a little too well and informed us that we'd been DFd (our radio transmissions had been picked up and our general vicinity calculated by the enemy) and that we'd come under a heavy chemical attack. So we donned our respirators, and carried on. Unfortunately one of our number had a very bad hangover and after spending about half an hour in a hot sweaty rubber tasting respirator his body rebelled and he suddenly threw up. Those of us near him have a very vivid memory of his respirator suddenly bulging outwards and then vomit filling up the eyepieces and finally breaking the seal between his face and the rubber before he could rip the thing off.

On the instructors course we spent a fair amount of time learning procedures to be used when fighting in a nuclear contaminated battlefield, as if anyone would want to be stupid enough to do such a thing. One particular item bothered me, how come when we worked out the dosages that soldiers are expected to be able to withstand, why are they a lot higher than those normaly credited to civilians? Are we going to be fed a diet rich in lead before going to war?

In our training we use non-toxic agents, apparently other Armies use a diluted form of a 'live' agent. By all accounts the Russian Army once lost part of a regiment when someone supplied them with undiluted nerve gas.

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