Mortified by a mortar

THIS WEEK IN 1989: Students call for less ‘dis’, and more ability

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I was walking around Farlington Marshes last week with my pal Barry Jeffries, a retired Chief Petty Officer from the navy. He told me that in the late 1950s he was trained on the marshes on the firing of mortars.

Eventually the marshland was taken over by wildlife and the navy moved their training to Longmoor Army Camp near Bordon and Liphook.

On their first visit a party of matelots, which included Barry, along with an officer, trooped off into the sparse common-land to fire their mortars. After a while, and in the middle of nowhere, they came across an army half-track personnel carrier-type vehicle.

‘Ah,’ said the officer, ‘this must be for us?’

With that they all retired so many hundred yards and fired their mortars at the half-track, completely annihilating it. The officer told his party of ratings what a good show they had put on.

Shortly after, a lorry turned up with some army boys and asked the officer where their half-track was. The officer explained that the navy had used it for target practice.

The army boys gasped. ‘You what! It wasn’t a target, idiot. It had broken down and we’ve just been to get some spare parts.’

This left one very red-faced naval officer... and that is why you’ll never see a naval uniform up in Bordon.