Right Out of Joint
Racoon, Right Out of Joint, The Army Quarterly and Defence Journal, Volume XCVII, October 1968 and January 1969
The Major cleared his throat, stroked his luxuriant moustache and spoke. "Good morning, gentlemen. As Chairman it is my pleasure to welcome you two representatives from the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force to this joint planning conference for Operation SOAK AWAY. My name is Major Largeboot and perhaps I may be permitted to say at this point that, although a Brown Job, I did attend the Royal Air Force Staff College, so I have a keen inter-Service outlook."
"Well, that is rather strange, in fact," said the Lieutenant-Commander. "My name is Anchorage, but I too have external connections, so to speak, since I did in fact attend the Staff College at Camberley."
"Shiver my timbers!" exclaimed the other. "Strange indeed. My name is Wingspan and though, of course, you have no way of guessing it, I attended the Staff Course at Greenwich."
"Bang on!" said Largeboot. "I'm sure it will make the world of difference to our joint work here today. Now to business. Operation SOAK AWAY."
"I think it might save a lot of time, in fact," said Anchorage, briskly, "if I tell you chaps now that I have in fact already worked out the problem. It's quite simple, actually. Two up, bags of smoke, regulation pause of two three and hit them for six right in the F.D.Ls. Then neutralize, harass and destroy them with the 105s and finish up by dominating no man's land."
"Belay there!" said Squadron Leader Wingspan. "Don't you feel that is perhaps a bit excessive? I rather favoured a landing party from H.M.S. Dockworthy. Nothing quite like twenty pairs of bell-bottoms to quieten the place down. Pick-helves, of course, and then if that doesn't work, a platoon of Royals with a string band, followed by a football match against the locals in the afternoon."
"Wizard, old chap!" said Major Largeboot. "But both of you have forgotten the ground support. Now I was thinking in terms of a squadron of Hunters Mark 6, 12 U.E., with Decca Nav-Attack Head-Up Displays to do the trick. With a bit of top cover and flak suppression thrown in, I reckon that, using S.N.E.B. from 1,200 feet, there's a 17% probability of causing 50% casualties to a platoon of infantry dug in with 0% overhead cover."
Wingspan looked interested. "Really"' he said. "Never knew that."
"Let's cut out the frills and get down to details," said Anchorage impatiently. "First of all, morale must be high and admin good there's no point in our discussing high-flown mathematics if Private Snooks on his flat feet hasn't got his blankets and overcoats. How are they going to be brought?"
"L.P.D. of course," said Squadron Leader Wingspan. "It so happens that I've got the charts here with me — we can get to within 5 miles of the coast when the monsoon is from the Nor-Nor-West and chopprr them in."
"Just not cost-effective enough, old boy," exclaimed Major Largeboot. "You can get 931,723 greatcoats in a C5A. Land on a football field. Twenty-eight landing wheels, you know."
"Look," said Lieutenant-Commander Anchorage sharply. "I'm not interested in your technicalities when my soldiers are cold and hungry. You B1ue Jobs are all the same. No doubt the first thing you'll want to do when you land is crash into your bunks and rest for 19 hours."
"You're adopting a very single-Service viewpoint on this, old boy," said Major Largeboot. "Typical of the Army. All gummed up with tradition and gaiters. I suppose you'll be wanting the Mess Silver flown in next. You're a disgrace to the colour of your uniform."
Lieutenant-Commander Anchorage flushed, picked up his papers and moved towards the door.
"I shall deem it my duty to report your non-cooperative attitude to my General — Rear-Admiral Gannet," he said, and walked out of the room.
There was a moment's silence. "Well, there's a thing!" said the Squadron Leader. "Terrible how blinkered some chaps can get. Suppose we'd better adjourn, Largeboot. How about a rum below decks?"