Incidents which had occurred both during day and night began to happen more frequently. On one occasion while Richard was on night shift and just tucking into the pizza just delivered, he was disturbed by the sound of a Troop from B Squadron. The Troop was occupying a location on the edge of the ‘Buffer Zone’ at Bravo 24, approximately four kilometres to the east of SDC.
‘Hello, Zero, this is Bravo 22, we have a situation at grid 356785. One of our foot patrols has wandered into a minefield, over.’ The silence was deafening, as Richard looked at the Royal Signals man, on shift with him. Richard’s heart began to race, before he calmed himself down, ordering the Signaller to go and bring the duty Watchkeeper. The Signaller looked at him, with eyes open wide.
‘Are you fucking stupid, you prick? Go and get the duty Watchkeeper!’ he repeated, this time in an agitated fashion. This caused the youngster to jump into action. He sped out of the room, the door banging closed, behind him. Meantime, Richard got on the air and asked the B Squadron Troop if they had any further details. It transpired that the Patrol Leader had decided to give one of his younger members a bit of experience, allowing him to navigate the patrol, on their intended route. It wasn’t until they were around 50 metres into the minefield, that the Patrol Leader called a halt. In the darkness, he had spotted the tell-tale triangular signs, hanging from wire, suspended between two pickets. He asked the young guy to pass his map back and, checking it, he confirmed his position. They had, indeed, strayed into a sodding minefield, which had been laid during the 1974 war.
‘What’s happening, do we have an update yet?’ Paul Goath, the RSWO asked, over Richard’s shoulder. Richard went on to explain the story, as he had been given it from the B Squadron Troop Leader. The RSWO nodded that he understood and said that he would take over the situation. Leaving the exchange, he retired to the Ops room. Richard gave an inward sigh of relief, happy the responsibility had been passed on. There would come a time in his career where the buck would stop with him but, for now, he checked his logs, to ensure he had written everything down, as it had been given. This would be be used if a subsequent enquiry transpired, if things went ‘Pete Tong’.
For the next hour or so, all unnecessary radio traffic was minimised, so the air was kept free, for the developing situation. Paul frequently asked the B Squadron Troop involved for any updates. These were fed back, by their Troop Leader, who was receiving situation reports on their own Troop frequency. After two long, anxious hours, they were given the news that the patrol had been able to manage to retrace their steps and that they were clear of the minefield. The RSWO acknowledged, put down his handset and joined Richard, in the exchange room.
‘You probably got that, Richard. You can record the incident as closed. Make sure you enter the time in your log. Well done on your prompt action and for staying calm. I’m off to bed, now. I’ll be in my room, in the Sergeants’ Mess, if you need me again.’ He gave Richard his telephone number and left the building. The remainder of the night was quiet, allowing Richard and the Signaller to tuck into their cold pizza.