Brady Barracks (Bulawayo)…..The Spawning Of A Sapper

May 21, 2010

Probably about August 1974……Brady Barracks (Bulawayo)-Headquarters,1 Engineer Squadron (1RhE)

“Come on Sapper Craig……up here!!….next to me…that’s it…..keep up with me at the front of the squad…don’t slow down now!”

This coming from an Aussie (maybe Kiwi) Staff Sergeant Engineer Instructor…..who also happened to be a marathon runner and took us for a daily 5 kilometer morning run down the road next to the barracks that would eventually get you to Salisbury.

Fuck me I thought to myself…..I really hoped I had finished with all this PT and running bollocks……how wrong I was.

But it was different here.  The instructors were just about all ex-(or possibly serving) Royal Engineers….great guys, and helped a person instead of taking the piss.  I was getting to enjoy my reasonable fitness and was looking forward to beginning specialist training.  It was my first awakening that the Engineers were different from the Infantry, in fact they bordered on being human.

The first night at Brady Barracks deserves mentioning.  There were about 30 of us (I think) from Intake 139 that had been accepted for Combat Engineer training and we were crammed into quite a small barrack-room as our initial accommodation.  Living space was scarce at the Squadron in those days.  In fact our accommodation was almost right next to the HQ building and the tiny parade ground.

It must have been about 2 am when all hell broke loose in the barrack-room…..lights came on blinding us and the doors were thrown open.  Two Corporals bought us all to attention next to our beds……all of us in our underwear and some of us who slept in the nick standing stark bollock naked.  From out of the darkness an apparition appeared… rank or badges on his uniform…..the only distinct characteristic about the man was the black eye-patch he wore over his left (maybe right) eye.

He walked slowly up and down our barrack-room…….giving each of us an evil one-eyed glance and grin.

“They call me Little ‘itler”…….up to now he had said nothing and those were his first words.  I took it he meant Little Hitler, but being a Cockney he couldn’t pronounce his H’s bless him.

“For your sniveling, rotten sins you have been blessed with me as one of your instructors…….beware the man that crosses me because you will wish you were never born etc, etc, etc”………we were meant to be shitting ourselves I think although I was starting to get the feeling this was a wind-up of some kind.  Anyway I thought it best to play along with the game or I might suffer one-eyes consequences.  Little ‘itler continued his briefing to us…emphasising again the terrible fate that would befall us if we pissed him around during training or any other time for that matter.  Threats of being fucked-up so badly our whole family would burst out in tears comes to mind.

And then he was gone…..taking the two Corporals with him.  We found out the next day that this was in fact some sort of tradition.  The new intake that arrives gets “initiated” by the intake that is about to complete their National Service……..and some of the regular instructors take part for good measure.  All good fun.  I was quite happy with that and in fact “Little ‘itler” and I became great friends.  He was a regular Engineer Instructor and his name is definitely worth mentioning here……Vic Hydes……one of the good guys, a highly skilled instructor and fantastic man to work with.  We had some great times together and he got me out the crap a few times when I “forgot” to pay my Hi-Fi installment.  Vic, if you ever get to read this….I salute you and hope that you and the family are well!!

Just as a closer for this episode we got the outgoing intakes living quarters when they left about a week later……a much better arrangement with more space and nicer beds.

Our Combat Engineer (CEB 3) training was split into two phases, theory and practical.  All or most of the theory was carried out at Squadron HQ and consisted of the following subjects (if my memory serves me correctly): Demolitions, mine-warfare, improvised rafting and floatation, watermanship, field machines, knots and lashings, water supply and purification, bridge-building, field defences, obstacles, camouflage and concealment, roads and airfield, field geometry, survey, and a whole lot more Sapper stuff that I cannot recall right now.

I really want to get done and dusted with the training bollocks and get onto the real meat of my time as a soldier so forgive me if we move on to the practical phase of my Combat Engineer training in the next installment and be done with it.  I think you will find it interesting……I know I did.

10 Responses to “Brady Barracks (Bulawayo)…..The Spawning Of A Sapper”

  1. Jenu said

    FatFox…well done..very interesting.
    From then and what you do these days.

  2. Jenu said

    I really want to get done and dusted with the training bollocks and get onto the real meat of my time as a soldier so forgive me if we move on to the practical phase of my Combat Engineer training in the next installment and be done with it. I think you will find it interesting……I know I did.

    We look forward to the next instalment with keen anticipation.

  3. David Clarke SPR. 98538 said

    I was in intake 140 after Craig done similar training as the writer

  4. Neil Bence said

    hi started reading this and after abuot 6 words, knew you were 139 and i think i know who you are nicely written,

    • fatfox9 said

      I remember you well Neil. Good to have you aboard.
      Please also join my Sappers Forum. Go to and I will approve your profile.
      Thanks for dropping by and please come back regularly.
      PS: Were you with us when Trevor Robinson fell off the top of the RL at Umzingwane?

  5. 94019 Sapper Barry - Kev said

    Sitting here with a broken kneecap aged 61 wondering why I still do things that most people wouldn’t. Was that why Captain Cox used to send me….of all the others in the base camp……to breach the minefield. Or….was I just more expendable than the others. All you said brought back good memories of intake 135. Poor ol Vic. I was always in trouble with him. I used to laugh too much apparently.

    • fatfox9 said

      Hi Kevin…thanks for the kind comments regarding the blog. Aye……we had good times. Im in contact with Vic if you would like his details. A good man still today. Please stay the journey with me.

  6. George Bullock said

    amazed by everyone’s recollections of so long ago – I was in 130 intake but I only have faces not names except for a school friend from Milton, Rob Scott.

    • fatfox9 said

      Yep, the grey matter gets less useful as we age George. I went to Milton Junior and then Gifford. Thanks for joining me on the journey and I promise to post a new adventure very soon. All the best for 2017!

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