Robbo expertly, with the aid of Tommo manoeuvred the vehicle out of the hangar. Once it was clear, he led it off the tank park towards the LAD, walking about ten paces in front. The distance to the LAD from D Sqn hangars was approximately five hundred metres. It took them around ten minutes to make the journey. On their arrival Robbo halted the vehicle, by giving the necessary signal with his hand. He entered the hangar, and after a few short moments one of the hangar door began to open. After it had reached his full height, he returned outside. Getting the attention of the driver he pulled him forward, and as he drew level with the opening, he raised his right hand. This conveyed to the driver, that he needed to pull his left tiller or stick. This caused the left track to slow while the other gathered speed producing it to turn in the required direction. Once the rear of the Chieftain was roughly in line with the hangar bay, Robbo began to guide him back. When he wanted the right rear of the vehicle to move he would put up his right rand briefly. This indicated to the driver that he was to pull his left stick, as it was the opposite than when moving forwards. With minimum effort the tank was parked directly in the position it needed to be. Before getting Ian to turn off the Generating Engine Unit (GUE), he asked Richard to power down the gun kit. The GUE was required in order for the powered gun equipment to work. As soon as Ian heard the metadynes power off, he instinctively began to throttle back the GUE and close down. The hangar seemed unearthly quiet except for the banging of metal on metal. There were four tanks in separate bays each with their back decks open. A pair of legs could be seen protruding in the air from the engine compartment, of the vehicle next to theirs. Ian climbed from his cab and went directly onto the back decks. With very little effort he lifted up the armoured decking that covered the radiator that required to be changed. Robbo and Tommo were busy talking to two blokes who Richard assumed to be mechanics. Not knowing what to do with himself Richard made his way onto the back decks to see if Ian required any help. He was simply answered with a shake of the head, but he asked him instead if he would top up the road wheel hubs as they were slightly low that morning. Happy to help Richard jumped down and made his way to the driver’s bin which contained the tools he would need. It consisted of a ‘combination tool’ and a bar.
He methodically started from the front on the left hand side and loosened each filler cap as he went. Checking each one he closed those that were at the correct level. Returning to the drivers bin he removed a small silver can which had rag inside it. Removing the rag he filled it with OEP 220 oil and topped up the hubs that were low. Securing the filler caps he put away the silver can into the drivers bin. The whole process only took him about fifteen minutes, so he climbed back up onto the back decks where Ian was busy removing some bolt from the radiator.
‘Anything else I can do to help’ he asked in a helpful manner
Ian thought for a moment before replying.
‘Robbo mentioned the other day that the Tank Laser Sight (TLS), was running low on reticule ellipses. You couldn’t pop into Tech Stores over there and get a bag could you? Also if you ask for a long stand we need one for this radiator’
Richard thought for a moment before answering. His dad had told him of the jokes played on new members of the Regiment, and the comment about a ‘Long Stand’ struck a chord with him.
‘Nice try Ian I’m not that stupid’ he grinned as he replied.
The smile spread across Ians face, confirming that his ruse had not worked. He wiped the oil from his hands and stood up.
‘You’re not thick are ya’ he chuckled. ‘Come with me there is a job that you can do for me. It’s a bit time consuming, but it’s a favourite that gets picked up by the REME on our annual inspections’ he jumped down onto the hangar floor from the back decks, beckoning Richard to follow him. Walking to the drivers bin, he removed a red can with a nozzle on it.
‘This is a ‘Wesco’ he explained. ‘We use it for applying small amounts of oil to parts. If you look here on the end of this track pin’ he crouched down pointing to a silver circle around the end of the pin. ‘If you notice the circlip as it is called, has a gap at the end. What you need to do is drop a touch of oil in between the gap. There is another one on the inside, if you could do that for me that would be great.
Richard nodded his agreement and took the oil can from Ian, who turned and made his way back to the rear of the vehicle.
Starting at one end, Richard placed a piece of rag so he knew where he had started from. He diligently made his from the front applying a touch of oil in between each circlip. The process took around thirty minutes to finish one side. The left hand side complete he moved around the vehicle to make a start on the right. As he did so all he could hear was Tommo, Ian and Robbo laughing and joking at the rear of the vehicle. All right for some he thought to himself as he began to repeat the process on each of the ninety six remaining circlips. He was about half way through the final track when he was startled by Dave Walker’ their Troop Sgt.
‘What you doing there Richard’ he asked inquisitively.
‘Oiling the circlips’ Richard replied with pride.
‘Who told you to do that?’ he asked grinning
‘Ian’ answered Richard, wondering what the problem was. It soon became apparent with sound of unbridled laughter from behind the tank.
‘Ian get your arse round here!’ he shouted in the direction of the laughter.
Ians grinning face appeared from the rear of the vehicle. Trying hard not to show his satisfaction he approached the Troop Sgt.
‘What’s wrong Dave’ he asked innocently
‘You know what’s wrong you little twat’ he said jokingly
‘I didn’t think he would go for it’ was Ian’s only line of defence.
Richard now realised that he had been stitched up, and hung his head in embarrassment. Dave assured him that he was not the first, or the last person who had been caught out with this type of practical joke. It was a Regimental tradition for the more experienced members of the Troop to try and catch out new guys with this sort of stunt. This did not make Richard feel any better as he had thought that he would not have been caught out so quickly. It was only his first week and already he was a laughing stock. They were then joined by Robbo and Tommo who were still in fits of laughter. Tommo simply tapped Richard on the shoulder in a sign of sympathy. They then went on to list the other type of practical jokes that they and others had played on new boys. These newcomers were given the unenviable title of ‘NIGs’ which stood for ‘New in Germany’. It took varying different amounts of time before this title was dropped. In any case someone was always less experienced than someone else in the Regiment.
The types of jokes played on the guys included, getting someone to go to the stores for some tartan pain. Richard thought that you had to be really stupid to fall for this one. Another was to be sent to the LAD for the 120 mm silencer for night firing. They were also sold that if they traversed or turned the turret after so many times it unscrewed and would fall off! The list went on some more credible than others, and Richard wondered how some people fell for them.