Bush War Call Up Incident.


Talks are afoot about ending the Bush War but we cannot sit back and I find myself on yet another army call up and on yet another weeks patrol. This time the bush, although not thick is still well forested but flat as a pancake. We get dropped off and have to move to a safe location, preferably some sort of rock outcrop before dark. There are 8 of us, 6 being African soldiers. Dave has to use the compass to negotiate our way through the bush. He is behind me eyes down and concentrating on the map. I take point. He seems to have found a good place to head for. After an uneventful afternoon and some excellent compass work we arrive at a small outcrop just in time for supper and to bed down for the night in a reassuringly commanding position.

I cannot sleep – hours pass I have no idea what the time is and despite getting a good days exercise I cannot settle down. I am sort of dozing when I hear voices. Surely not – I listen carefully just in case a combination of bush sounds is playing tricks on me. Nope, I can hear voices so I wait a little to see if there is a chance they will skirt around our rocky outcrop. Not a chance – they are heading straight for us and I, appearing to be the only one awake, weapon now firmly in hand, am almost out of my sleeping bag ready to alert the rest of our patrol to the circumstance of an eminent clash. Then I hear a voice telling others to keep the noise down and it is with some relief that I recognise it. It is the NCO of another patrol who had taken a different direction when we were dropped off earlier in the day. I have no time to wake the others and I cannot guarantee that his patrol will not open fire if they think they are compromised. What do I do! I whistle. The NCO, who’s senses I remember were always very sharp, calls a halt and says “did you hear that?” I was relieved he had heard me as I know sound carries a long way at night. Now that they are stationary and obviously listening, I whistle again. Their NCO, urgently, “get down, get down”. All goes very quiet. Now would you believe it was me that took charge of the radio that night. I call up the NCO of the other patrol using his name. He is surprised. I explain it was me that whistled, that I could hear them and that they were heading for a rocky outcrop, upon which we were ensconced. He is surprised but relief all round! I wake the nearest guy and tell him to expect company and this is passed around our patrol. Within 5 minutes the other patrol had joined us and we all eventually settled for the night. I dread to think what the outcome might have been had we surprised each other in the pitch black of an African night. What more can I say. I soon fell asleep after that! Another God moment!

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