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Fire Piquet

{{forumThread.upVotes}} Created by Ronald Hargreaves 03 April 2012 16:11 6574 views Link  
Ronald Hargreaves 03 April 2012 16:11
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

My father died in 1987 and I am transcribing the 200 or so letters that he wrote to my grandparents whilst he was serving with the RAF for National Service. In late June/ early July 1952 he had to do Fire Piquet for a week at RAF Khartoum. This is his description: "This stunt lasts for 7 days & is just like being on jankers except that you dont wear webbing. You go on parade every morning at 6 oclock to hoist the flag, at 5.30 to pull it down & at 10 oclock at night to prove that you havent run away. You cant leave camp for a week & youre not supposed to go to the NAAFI. What a bind isnt it." Does anyone else have any memories about Fire Piquet duties and what it involved besides raising and lowering the flag? Elaine Hargreaves
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Michael Pavitt 03 April 2012 17:57
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet.

Quoting: Ronald Hargreaves My father died in 1987 and I am transcribing the 200 or so letters that he wrote to my grandparents whilst he was serving with the RAF for National Service. In late June/ early July 1952 he had to do Fire Piquet for a week at RAF Khartoum. This is his description: "This stunt lasts for 7 days & is just like being on jankers except that you don't wear webbing. You go on parade every morning at 6 o'clock to hoist the flag, at 5.30 to pull it down & at 10 o'clock at night to prove that you haven't run away. You can't leave camp for a week & you're not supposed to go to the NAAFI. What a bind isn't it." Does anyone else have any memories about Fire Piquet duties and what it involved besides raising and lowering the flag? Elaine Hargreaves Yes indeed it was a bad number.Reporting at 1800 after normal duties we manned the guardroom.Those that were married and lived in married quarters just opposite the camp gates were not allowed home even for meals for the whole seven days.At night we patrolled the hangars carrying pickaxe handles.In A fire call we rushed to the water tower to start the water supply booster pumps and assist.One weekend we had to erect a canvas swimming pool for the Officers Mess summer ball. Not a nice duty. Hope this helps.
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John (Scouse) Hirons 03 April 2012 18:04
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Originally Posted by
I just had to rub it in but being an MTD I was excused fire piquets & Station Guard (except at Akrotiri where we stood guard).
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..... 03 April 2012 18:22
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Originally Posted by
The night duties were the worst for me as we walked around the camp, as Scouse said, with Pick axe handles . quite what we were supposed to do with em i dont know. We had 2 hours on and 4 hours kip but had to sleep in your gear including Greatcoat, webbing belt and boots. We also had a Flt Ltnt. who when he was duty officer used to make the Fire Piquet drill on the Parade ground during the night. ( he was a Bloody Lunatic, i could write a book about this madman). I think there will be some good stories to come out of this and hope we get some more extracts from this mans letters.
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Michael Pavitt 03 April 2012 18:37
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Originally Posted by
Quoting: john daly The night duties were the worst for me as we walked around the camp, as Scouse said, with Pick axe handles . quite what we were supposed to do with 'em i don't know. We had 2 hours on and 4 hours kip but had to sleep in your gear including Greatcoat, webbing belt and boots. We also had a Flt Ltnt. who when he was duty officer used to make the Fire Piquet drill on the Parade ground during the night. ( he was a Bloody Lunatic, i could write a book about this madman). I think there will be some good stories to come out of this  and hope we get some more extracts from this mans letters. More of the madman please,we had one as well,used to make the fire piquet parade with the defaulters at 2200 although we had done no wrong.Said I had dirty greatcoat buttons and gave me an extra parade at 2300!
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Ronald Hargreaves 04 April 2012 10:38
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

Were you seconded to Fire Piquet duties for the duration or was it in addition to your regular duties? Another short extract about his experience from 4 July 1952: "Im still on Fire Piquet, but more than half way through. We finish at 8.30 on Monday morning & only have 8 more parades. They are the biggest bind of the lot. We have to change into long trousers every night, wear our blue socks & sleeves rolled down. By the way weve had a fire too. One of the tar boilers went up in flames on the new runway, so there was a big panic. It was quite an experience though & at least I had a ride on a fire engine for once. We managed to put it out, in time, but I was black when I got back. All in a days work though I suppose." More thoughts, comments and memories please! Elaine Hargreaves
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Roy Sloan 04 April 2012 11:51
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

Hi Ronald, Like some of the other lads, I did fire piquet at RAF Akrotiri in 1965. I was on 103 MU but it appeared that all the newly posted in airmen did their stint. It lasted a week and was in addition to your normal work. I only did it once during my 3 year tour. The one bit of excitement came when we got a call to a domestic fire on married quarters. A SNCO and his wife had gone to the Sgts Mess and their young son had put a pan of chips on and needless to say, a fire ensued. It had just started to spread to the wall behind the cooker when the firemen saved the day. Kind Regards Roy.
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Mike Pass 04 April 2012 13:03
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Originally Posted by
Hhhmmm!!!!

Roy. I think it is Elaine that you would be addressing. My experience of FP was typical of the second half of my service! The Glorious Airyplane Army liked to pretend that my colleagues and I did not exist. This suited us, admirably but one of the discip seniors at RAF Gatow did not share this view and enjoyed rotering our group for FP. However, the whole thing was usually farcical. We would report to the Guardroom for duties and be assigned to Station Cinema FP. This involved mincing up and down the foyer until the main feature started and then pewing down in the back row to watch, ensuring that you did not stub out your ciggy on the carpet as this would have been bad form given the nature of the current duty!!! That was about it apart from kipping in the Guardroom...........EXCEPT! I found myself reporting one day, for FP and instead of receiving my duty armband (which carried many perks once we had established them!) an SLR was thrust into my face, literally, with the standard RAF empty magazine. I have seen more EMPTY magazines than most of you have had Lobster Thermidore....full ones; forget it! Apparently and we were not supposed to be given foreknowledge of exercises, we were to take guard posts for a TACEVAL (Tactical Evaluation). Said exercise involved attempted incursory manoevres by the SAS. Attempted, my ars*! How the hell we were going to stop Herefords finest?? I doubt if I could still do it now but I managed Halt! Who goes there, friend or foe, I surrender in five eights of a second....beat that! The most surreal part of the episode was that the trooper who took my surrender (I felt really French, being able to surrender, by the way) had a very distinctive cadre to his voice and after I had been tied, gagged and given the mandatory flour sack face hat to wear, I remembered that this was the same guy who had trained me in self defence techniques (their idea of self defence, that was!) a few years earlier. So, much for anonymity then........................
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Ronald Hargreaves 04 April 2012 16:23
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

I really appreciate all the coments and the background it adds to my Dads letters- I hope you are all passing on your memories and stories to your children and grandchildren! My questions may seem a bit obvious, but the first time I knew of the letters existence was after my Dads funeral when I was handed a shoe box by my mother and discovered that I had an account of his service from arrival at Padgate for basic training to demob in Khartoum , and I only wish that he had written more detail about what he did, he never talked about it as far as I remember. Re the armband (Mike); Was this issued at the beginning of your stint for the duration or was it issued daily? I assume that it identified you as part of that weeks FP, and what were the perks? Elaine Hargreaves
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Mike Pass 04 April 2012 17:41
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Originally Posted by
Hhhmmm!!!!

Elaine, if I remember correctly, we only had the duty for one day at a go, though I could be wrong; or lying! So, we would have had the armband throughout. As for perks, they were not what one would call 'official'. We would sail to the front of the mess queue, get free tea and coffee in the NAAFI club, preferential service at the bar, that sort of thing. The down side was that, during my Gatow tour I did FP three times. One included the exercise that I mentioned and the others both featured The Sound of Music at the cinema. I was not a fan in those days. Amazing how we change. Since I remarried Val and I have appeared in half a dozen musicals and have been to many, including the Palladium run of......you guessed it! The Sound of Music. That's life for you!!!! Last edited by Mike Pass
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Nobby 04 April 2012 19:07
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Originally Posted by
Ok, let me try to throw some light on this topic. First of all, you have to set the scene of wartime establishments where integrated fire alarms, and street alarms hadn't been invented, and on most "stations" i.e. RAF bases the telephone was a rare aquisition and located only in certain offices within the station complex. The powers that be decide that additional security against fire is necessary, so they create that body of men drawn from all the other trades [Unlike the Army, the RAF had no large groups of manpower to be assigned as everyone in the RAF was assigned to a specific trade, or job]. So the "Piquet" comprised men  [usually!] who were rostered on duty for a week at a time and who patrolled the station armed with nothing more dangerous than a pick-axe handle and whose role was to  shout "Fire, Fire Fire" in the event of discovering one, or to set about any unauthorized foot-pad they may come across with controlled zeal using your pick-axe handle. In later years the piquet might have been armed, though with typical air force logic being "armed was a bit of a myth because no ammunition was issued and magazines were empty! Now in my day, [from 1957 onwards]  all those on this duty were, drawn from other trades, so what you had was a group of not exactly thrilled lads who in their daytime role could be engine fitters or air-frame fitters, all highly skilled people but available so subject to the old air force adage of "if you couldn't take a joke etc".  In all of my experience, the  parades etc had been dropped, and the piquet had moved to the Fire Section where they slept, and went off to their normal duties every morning, for a week. There were a frictions resulting from this arrangement in that the Fire Piquet guys didn't want to be there, and the Fire Section neither wanted them, nor needed them, and I knew of many incidents of firemen turning out to a fire or crash alarm and deliberately leaving the unskilled, unhappy fire piquet behind. No one was that bothered! A fire crew represents a group of men trained to act as a team and each knowing his role, so the last thing they want is spare bodies running around essentially getting in the way. So the firemen had a tacit agreement with all the unfortunate "linies' seconded to an unpopular duty that they were welcome, but please keep out of my way! In another air force, when I gained the authority to do so, I scrapped the duty of Fire Piquet as being from another age; with very little opposition I might add! Last edited by Colin Hall
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Roy Sloan 04 April 2012 19:36
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

Elaine, please accept my apology for wrongly addressing my post on this thread. Thanks for pointing out my faux pas Mike. Kind Regards Roy.
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Poet – 04 April 2012 20:42
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Originally Posted by
What I didn't see mentioned is the fact that a member of the Fire Piquet carried out the job of "stick man" opening and closing the main barrier to allow  entry.   On the first F P Parade the smartest turned out was excused duty for the evening.  On one of these occasions as "stick man"   I had the sad task of allowing entry to the camp 15 cwt which had twice been called by the Local Constabulary to collect the bodies of 2 R E Bomb Disposal men killed when one of the MInes they were clearing exploded and their bodies blown out to sea to come in with the tide on the beach.  Both times I had to get the Duty Medic from the Naafi to accompany the driver.   By the way these were mines laid on the cliffs of Norfolk and 27 men lost their lives in their clearance.  The other point was that all recruits when training were taught the basic Fire Fighting training so knew how to use a mobile bowser and hose unit. Last edited by dennis shrubshall
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Nobby 04 April 2012 21:51
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Originally Posted by
Dennis, a National Service experience of Fire Piquet was possibly very different to that of later years. I was at Cottemore from 1960-62 and cant recall if we had fire piquet or not, I certainly dont ever remember seiing any and from discussion on another thread I understand the practice of fire piquet had largely disappeared from most operational stations by the mid-1960s. Reduced RAF manpower overall led to many objections from the likes of Squadron Engineer Officers, and particularly aircraft servicing to the allocation of valuable manpower to what was seen as an archaic and pointless duty!
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Poet – 04 April 2012 23:09
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Originally Posted by
Colin the young lady was asking ostensibly about Fire Piquets and also referring to her Dad's time and I merely stated my experience.  I recall many times you have explained that you were not an "irk" for long so It may not have come within your experience.  However National Servicemen did whatever was required of them and may I re-iterate on half-pay having left their career of choice to serve the country. Last edited by dennis shrubshall
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Nobby 04 April 2012 23:45
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Originally Posted by
Quoting: dennis shrubshall Colin the young lady was asking ostensibly about Fire Piquets and also referring to her Dad's time and I merely stated my experience.  I recall many times you have explained that you were not an "irk" for long so It may not have come within your experience.  However National Servicemen did whatever was required of them and may I re-iterate on half-pay having left their career of choice to serve the country. Last edited by dennis shrubshall I was an airman for ten years Dennis [out of twenty five], which is a lot of experience, and most of it overseas. I do know that National Service members were often used as spare labour when assigned to other duties, even Fire Piquet, which in itself was an extra duty. Last edited by Colin Hall
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Mike Pass 05 April 2012 07:40
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Originally Posted by
Hhhmmm!!!!

Dennis, was your choice of spelling for Erk deliberate? If so, I am having a little chuckle WITH you. Colin and Dennis, I for one received elementary fire fighting training on most of the stations that I was posted to and in my profile you will note a fair number. At no point did I/We consider ourselves to be even within viewing distance of the skills of trained service firefighters but were more than capable of containing, extinguishing and closing off a number of levels of live fire events.
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..... 05 April 2012 12:06
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Originally Posted by
Quoting: dennis shrubshall Colin the young lady was asking ostensibly about Fire Piquets and also referring to her Dad's time and I merely stated my experience.  I recall many times you have explained that you were not an "irk" for long so It may not have come within your experience.  However National Servicemen did whatever was required of them and may I re-iterate on half-pay having left their career of choice to serve the country. Last edited by dennis shrubshall Quite so Denis. At the time of National Service the R.AF. naturally did not want to spend time and money training someone who would only with them for 2 years. That does not mean that they were thick although most of them were doing unskilled jobs , Back in civvy st. lots of them had  been in extremly highly skilled and highly paid positions. Quite a lot of young men in the 50s went into the Forces for long periods who couldent make anything of them selves even though jobs were quite plentiful. At Bridgenorth i still remember at the Weekends when some of the Officers used to hire horses from a local stable and ride around the Camp and the envious looks as Cpl. Scammell rode around on his Own horse and in immaculate riding gear. He was the son of the Scammell "Iron Horse" empire and also a Nat. Service wallah. Last edited by john daly
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Ronald Hargreaves 05 April 2012 12:37
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

Gentlemen Many thanks for your replies! Another question. If FP was in addition to ones regular duties, would you be on call 24/7 or were there enough people involved that you were assigned to watches for the duration? Dad writes about the flag raising and lowering and having to report for parade at 10pm If the above applies, would that have been for all the FP or just those on duty at that particular time? Elaine Hargreaves
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Poet – 05 April 2012 13:43
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Originally Posted by
Mike as an N S Radar Operator that was what we were to the regular |Serviciemen and was spelt thus. There was no "j" in front. Young lady the F P assembled at 18.00 hrs for inspection by Duty Officer and lowering of the flag was carried out at that time by the Corporal R A F Police Your duties would end the next morning at the main gate at 08.00 hrs when once again the Duty officer would witness the raising of the flag. You would then have breakfast and carry on your normal duties.
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Ronald Hargreaves 05 April 2012 13:50
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Originally Posted by
Thank you Dennis! Gentlemen, please remember that I only have my Dads letters to work from, so any information, however trivial it may seem to you, is extremely useful to me and helps me understand what being part of FP involved. Elaine Hargreaves
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Mike Pass 05 April 2012 16:01
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Originally Posted by
Hhmmm!!!!

Dennis, sorry my friend but I have never seen it spelled Irk in any literature. Erk is, to my belief the only correct form.......I have been wrong before! I think it was in 1966 but it was so long ago that I could be wrong about that also!!!!!!! Elaine. Whilst duties in the forces tended to follow a set pattern, particularly in the Army; the RAF tended to individualise somewhat (dependant on who was running the stations discip section). For example and relating to FP. I have never been involved in ensign raise and lower. The last time that I was, was during my time in the Scouts!!!!!
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..... 05 April 2012 16:12
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Originally Posted by
I too have never seen erk spelt any other way (I have the scripts of "Get some in" and in there they spell it erk.) Elaine this Fire Piquet was only a small irksome  (?) duty which although  a bind was nothing much more than that. An airman was on it  usually for a week. As your late Father wrote so many letters home perhaps you could let us have some more snippets please. Regards J.D. Last edited by john daly
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Michael Pavitt 05 April 2012 17:48
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet.

As a JNCO I was in charge of the fire piquet responsible to the orderly sergeant.One night the Orderly Officer charged me with checking all airmen returning to camp for posession of their 1250 I.D. card and put them on a charge if they could not produce the same.For some of the time he stood with me but when he left I inspected a number of laundry lists,fag packets,and other detritus presented to me if I knew the offenders!It ended up the next morning with the corridor of Station Headquarters clogged up with about a dozen airmen while I presented the Adjutant with them.They were all admonished, a minor punishment!   Last edited by Michael Pavitt Last edited by Michael Pavitt
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Ronald Hargreaves 05 April 2012 17:54
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

I think it would be better if I started a new post if Im going to give more snippets from the letters- Ill post one about "mis-use" of an ID card. Elaine
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Poet – 05 April 2012 19:33
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Originally Posted by
Mike I have re-read my post and you are correct and I can only give you a magnanimous apology for my error which would also have made it clear to you why I mentioned perhaps "j" missing from the front. It was late at night here so thats my excuse and thank you kindly for pointing me in the right direction. lol You nearly all had "erks" for mates Jerks you steered away from walks away singing " What kind of fool am I " Thanks MIke
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Scouse 05 April 2012 23:20
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Originally Posted by
Gentlemen and ladies I think I may claim to rather a longish Fire Piquet. It started in March 1971 and ended on 19th January ,27 1/2 years later, enjoying every minute of it. Whilst doing fire piquet in the forces many times I don't remember seeing any fire equipment except some rather long-handled sticks with big flappy bits on the end know as "Beaters".  I ended up as an  O.I.C of some of the biggest stations in Merseyside, so in all honesty being on fire piquet didn't do me the slightest bit of good.As for the saying "when in Rome" let the Professionals do the work short-cuts are more of a danger. Last edited by thomas fleming
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Ronald Hargreaves 06 April 2012 11:50
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Originally Posted by
Fire Piquet

From reading some of your replies it seems that at some bases that fire piquet and guard duty were one and the same or that there was a blurred line between the two. This is Dads account of Guard Duty at Padgate in October 1950, which suggests that FP was part of the duty at that camp: "I'm writing this letter in the "Guard Room" while waiting to go on guard. We came on at 4 o'clock this afternoon & we finish at 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon. That's 24 hours on duty. We do 2 hours on & 4 hours off. We go on at 8 until 10, then have a four hour break & go on again at 2 o'clock tomorrow morning until 6 o'clock. You can tell Bob if you like & make him jealous. All this morning we were practising sentry duties & part of this afternoon. All our buttons & webbing had to be spotless, so last night was a busy one. We have to stop everybody coming into the camp & get their passes & stop everybody going out. It's quite an important job. We will most likely be working in the cook house on Friday on usual fatigues or else on Fire Piquet." This is Dads account of Guard Duty at Locking in December 1950: "This Friday I'm on guard again. It's not the same as Padgate though, you just walk around the camp all night to see if everything is alright & everything's all locked up. It's a lot better than standing still all night with a rifle. There are no gaiters neither, only a webbing belt, torch & a truncheon." The last comment seems they were a little more sophisticated with their weaponry rather than being armed with a pick axe handle, and also that Guard Duty/Fire Piquet varied from base to base as has been previously suggested in other posts. Elaine Hargreaves
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Syd Jones 10 April 2012 20:56
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Originally Posted by
Well I always thought that he RAF were a bit of a funny lot! A week on Fire Piquet? In the cavalry, at least in my lot, we did the thing much better. The FP did parade behind the guard. But in denims and working boots. After the parade we marched off to the cookhouse where we peeled the next days taters. Once that was done we went back to our billets, the Naffi or whatever. Job done... finished. Cheers, Syd.
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Scouse 10 April 2012 22:58
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Originally Posted by
Yes Syd, that was exactly my experience when stationed in Catterick.
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Mike Pass 11 April 2012 09:33
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Originally Posted by
Hmmmm!!!!

Well as I said, I never did a week............there again I was a little sharper than most!!!!
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Fr Admin 11 April 2012 12:08
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Originally Posted by
Although a different Service, The Army Fire Piquet at Worthy Down was as follows: 24 Hours as Camp Guard 24 Hours as Fire Piquet 24 Hours as Quick Reaction Force On Fire Piquet we had the the fun of Practice This involved parading at the Guardroom, in teams of 6. we would then be detailed of to a small fire cart, which contained Hoses, Axes and ladders. We would get told there was a fire at such and such location on camp and let loose on foot, dragging the cart behind us. One the one occasion i had the pleasure of this duty we ran with the cart to our "Practice Fire" and came to a flight of stairs leading down to a lower level, the lead man screamed stop but the cart was too heavy and going way to fast. So we all just let go an jumped and watched as this cart flew through the air. Landing well on both wheels and heading off in its own way towards a row of classrooms.
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