It was one of those beautiful autumn days. The sun was flooding into Jinnie’s bedroom and the air coming through the open window was pleasantly warm. She listened to the radio for a while and thought about going for a pre-breakfast run. She had no plans for most of the day, but this evening it was going to be her first experience of the Cambridge Officer Training Corp and she was a little apprehensive as Dirk clearly wanted her to get involved and she wasn’t sure what to expect. She didn’t fancy having a drill instructor shouting at her for having two left feet or a PT instructor calling her out for not being fit enough.
Before going out Jinnie popped into the kitchen to get a bottle of water out of the fridge only to find Jason and Nigel deep in a conversation that came to an abrupt halt when they saw her in her running shorts and tee shirt. Jason said she was looking good and Jinnie accented the compliment saying she was trying to keep up her fitness for the OTC. Nigel stared at her and as she went out of the door he heard him asking what the OTC was.
Jinnie ran about six miles according to her Fitbit. She had treated herself to it when she had opened an Amazon Prime account. Amazon was another of the changes since liberation it was just like Rhine only better. In fact, many of the things in the new “free” UK were better than life under the Germans.
Jinnie hadn’t realised how many things had only been available in the British part of the UK that had never been available in the German run areas. It seemed to her that many of the things in shops had been inferior German copies. One of the most obvious things was the range of food now available in the supermarkets. Lidl and Aldi had disappeared and two companies called Tesco and Sainsbury’s had rapidly expanded into the vacated stores and shelves were full of items from all over the world. It seems the newcomers had only been allowed to have a few small stores under the old regime and the Government in Edinburgh had pumped money into their expansion.
In fact, the Government in Scotland and the military leaders seemed to want to get England and South Wales up to the level of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Free Wales in as short a time as possible. A huge infrastructure program had been launched with new roads, railways, ports and factory construction racing ahead. The trains for the new lines were to be built in new British factories powered, in the short term, by new gas turbine power stations powered by fracking UK gas. In the longer term, there were plans for British built nuclear power stations, a tunnel/bridge to Northern Ireland and a huge expansion of farming. Britain was booming and the unemployment that had dogged the country under the Germans was rapidly shrinking.
After a shower, Jinnie was ready for her normal breakfast. In the Kitchen she found Nigel giving Jason and Carol a lesson in using spreadsheets on an iPad. She had heard about the small touch screen computer but had never seen one. She had a laptop that had been made in Germany and was one of the best ones available when it had been purchased but this device made it look archaic. It turned out that Nigel’s father had brought this one back from one of his trips to the US where he had been working with the US forces. Nigel told her that a shipment, especially adapted for the UK power system, was on its way and was going to be available on Amazon soon. Nigel had changed, he was coming out of himself and maybe he wasn’t such a geek after all, you just had to talk to him about things he was interested in.
Jinnie told the others that as it was such a lovely day she was going to the park to try to read up on some of the French books on her reading list. She would have liked to have started on some of the Italian stuff but until her first session with Professor Carracci she had no idea what she needed. It was then that Nigel showed them another one of his toys, a Kindle, electronic reader. Now Jinnie knew about this device and had tried to buy one when they had gone on sale in the UK but had failed miserably as they had all been snapped up in the first hour of the Amazon launch. Amazon kept saying more were on the way but no one had any idea when they would arrive. In the meantime Kindle were building up their library, adding many British authors to the huge number of American ones it already boasted. Nigel had all his Maths textbooks on his one small machine and compared it to the bagful of books Jinnie was going to lug to the park. Jinnie asked him what happened when the battery went flat and he showed her how he could pick up at exactly the same spot on an “app” on his iPad. She resolved to buy both devices as soon as she could, it was only money and she had plenty.
That evening she set out for the UCOTC headquarters in Coldhams Lane. It was on the other side of Cambridge to Fitzswillliam College so she used her Mini and was able to use its built-in SatNav. She had played around with it a bit but this would be only the second time she had used it in anger, the first time had been when she had driven up to Cambridge on Monday morning. Her dad had been amazed with it, his British built German car had nothing similar, in fact none of the cars available before liberation offered such an option. After the war, the rumour had gone around that German military vehicles had been equipped with a SatNav system copied from American cars they had obtained by some nefarious means. In the first moments of the attack the Americans had shut down the commercial version of the GPS satellite system it used in Europe and the Germans had to return to paper maps. However, the allies accessed a far more accurate encoded military version of the same GPS system and knew where they were down to a couple of centimetres. Jinnie thought this was probably true given some of the accurate flying and bombing she had witnessed.
The SatNav announced, ‘You have arrived at your destination,’ and she found she was outside the UCOTC building. The small car park looked like it was shared by the Army Cadet Force building next door and was full. However, there was plenty of space in the car park of the giant Sainsbury’s just over the road so she parked there. She was greeted at the barracks door by the sergeant who had recruited her who said, “Good Evening Officer Cadet Walsh, follow the signs to the Quartermaster’s for your uniform issue.” He then added “Take my advice, don’t let them palm you off with any old tat, make sure it fits properly. You are going to have to live in the battledress on exercise and if it too tight or too baggy or the trousers are too long you can’t do anything about it in the middle of the Yorkshire Moors”. He concluded with a huge wink. She wasn’t sure how she should address him so she simply said, “Thank you, Sergeant,” and followed the signs.
Jinnie was issued with all sorts of things but basically got two different uniforms, combat dress to wear on exercises with helmet, boots, webbing, rucksack and other practical stuff and what she was told was barrack dress army trousers, shirt, pullover and belt. She was also issued with a navy blue beret and told not to put it on until shown how it should be worn. Following the advice she had just been given she swapped her combat trousers for a better fit. She then joined a group of about 20 other new recruits all feeling awkward in what she was told was her No 13 dress or No 14 if it was warm and she was allowed to leave off the sweater, that was short sleeve order. The combat gear was No 8 dress. Jinnie was thankful that she was allocated a locker in the barracks to keep her gear.
That first evening the new recruits went through an orientation exercise. They were shown how to wear their berets, girls with long hair were instructed on how to pin it up. They learnt a little of the Cambridge OTC’s history and how they had originally been formed in Napoleonic times to defend Cambridge from a possible French invasion. How they were the only OTC with battle honours. As OTC officers weren’t serving officers they couldn’t be used in modern combat, but back in the day their corp had been sent to South Africa and had fought in the Boer War and been awarded a battle honour. This unit was just one of five that made up the Cambridge OTC, the others were the University of East Anglia, Anglia Ruskin University, University of Hertfordshire and University of Essex. There was a regular army colonel in overall charge and regular army NCO were instructors. The OTC cadets all started off as Officer Cadets and could be promoted to Junior Under Officer, Chief Junior Under Officer or even Senior Under Officer. It was revealed that they would be divided up into troops and eventually a JUO would lead each section. But the chances of being promoted to SUO were pretty limited as most Units only had one.
The first year training would involve instruction in all basic military techniques, including, drill, map reading, camouflage, first aid, weapons training, small unit tactics, radio procedure, and fieldcraft. Jinnie was quite intrigued by the training, but fancy ‘drill’. Oh well, she thought, it was only a minor part of the curriculum. Finally, they were told that as Officer Cadets they would be addressed as “Officer Cadet ****”, “Sir” or “Ma’am”. However, the regular soldier instructors would not be saluting them as they were not commissioned officers. But they should salute officers.
The lead instructor then asked about previous military experience or other relevant experience. A few of the boys had been in the cadet force at their schools, Jinnie immediately mentally labelled them as public schoolboys and wondered if the instructors did the same. Several of the cadets were medical students and all had first aid experience volunteering with either St Johns Ambulance or the Red Cross, their names were noted. One boy said this hobby was orienteering and he knew how to map read. Finally, Jinnie and one other girl admitted to firearms experience. The other girl said she had grown up on a farm and had shot ever since she was big enough to handle her father’s shotguns. Now it was Jinnie’s turn, she didn’t want to tell the gathering that she had been in Berlin and shot two Germans, so she was very careful with her what she told the questioner. She said she had learnt to shoot pistol at a gun club, had represented them in competition and that she had then was just getting into competition rifle shooting when the fighting broke out. She added that she had carried a gun on missions for the English Resistance Army. She then released that nearly everyone else was staring at her. The sergeant who had told her he was the firearm instructor stepped forward and asked her to speak with him now while everyone else went for a tea break.
The sergeant, who said to call him Sgt Thompson, wanted to dig a bit deeper into her firearms ability and was delighted when she said the automatic pistol she was used to was a Glock. It was the standard issue army pistol, made under license in the US. Had she used the SA80? No, but she had handled an M4 but never fired it. She also admitted having handled plastic explosives. Then he asked had she been on active operations? How much should she admit to? She decided that if she held back on her experiences to the army it may cause problems later, so she gave him a quick rundown of her time in Berlin, the attacks on the railways and the gas works where she had shot two German soldiers. The destruction of the Welwyn Viaduct and working with special forces on the flattening on the German HQ unit hidden in the woods. The sergeant took it all in his stride. He told her that no training or exercises were scheduled for the coming weekend but would she be available to demonstrate her shooting ability at the indoor range on Saturday afternoon? She immediately agreed and was dismissed to get a quick cuppa before the final orientation session.
While at the break the instructors had obviously got together and had divided the intake into 3 Sections. Jinnie was placed in Able Section along with one of the medical students, the orienteerer, one of the ‘public schoolboys’ and 3 others. The instructors had obviously tried to spread experiences around the various sections. They were told that over the next few weeks they would all be assessed and the leading cadet in each section would be promoted to JUO and lead the section.
The second half of the orientation session mainly revolved around the social opportunities available. Some were loosely associated to army activities and others were purely social and they were able to make use of as many or as few of the facilities that they wanted. They were told that groups already existed for sailing and kayaking on the lake in the grounds of the neighbouring cadet force barracks, there were football, rugby, netball and in the summer cricket teams, that competed with other units and a fully equipped gym that officer cadets were encouraged to use to get their fitness up to the required standards. Mountaineering, fell walking, even organised ski trips were to be run this winter to Scotland and there were preliminary plans for a trip to Utah. Then there was the subsidised bar, where they were told drinks were cheaper than the student bar, that hosted quiz nights, occasional dances and bands. There was also a dining club that tried out local restaurants and anyone who was interested was asked to sign up for a trip to a newly opened Tapas bar on Friday evening. Most of these activities were open to friends and partners provided they were accompanied by an officer cadet. Finally, it was suggested that they dismiss to the bar and get to know their fellow cadets. Next week the session was due to start at 19:00 and the dress order would be No 13.
Able Section gathered in one corner of the bar and as she was driving Jinnie got herself a glass of Coke Zero. It was another of those imports from the United States that had replaced the German equivalent, Fritz Kola, which was no longer available. The English bottlers of Fritz had rapidly switched to Coke and Pepsi and a price war had broken out. Jinnie actually had a preference for Pepsi Max but Coke seemed to have won the battle for the barracks bar.
The section seemed to get on together quite well and were all busy digging into each other’s backgrounds and what they were reading at Uni. Jinnie was right the ‘public schoolboy’, Freddie, had been in the Eton Cadet Force, had a superior attitude and announced that this was just a stepping stone to his getting a commission as a regular Army officer. He claimed that as a natural leader he would soon be leading the section. Jinnie thought, but did not say, over my dead body. Jinnie rather liked, Dr Bill, as she nicknamed the medical student, on first meeting he was calm and sensible and Jinnie thought he would make an excellent doctor. The orienteer was called Mike and he was reading English, he said his aim was to become a secondary school teacher and Jinnie could just see him in front of a class of 30 kids. Maureen was reading Chemistry and was sponsored by a big pharmaceutical company, Leah was reading Civil Engineering and seemed to be nice, she wanted to design road systems. The final member of the Able Section, Lucy, was quiet but when she spoke she had a broad Yorkshire accent and didn’t mince her words. She was reading Physics and said she was told them she was going to be a research scientist.
When it came to Jinnie’s turn to introduce herself she was happy to tell that she was reading German with French, even if that wasn’t strictly true, but what was she going to say she was aiming to do? In the end, she settled for saying a job in the Civil Service, maybe the Foreign Office where she could use her languages. Then the questions started. Everyone wanted to know about the ERA. They had all heard about it but no one knew anyone who had been a member. The questions came thick and fast. How did she join? Did they train her? Did she shoot at Germans? Was she paid? What missions did she undertake? The questions were endless and she was very careful not to mention her time in Germany or that she had shot Germans. Instead, she told them of the attack on the Welwyn Viaduct and derailing a troop train not mentioning that it happened in Germany or that people had died. At closing time Able Section headed for their cars and some of the others had also parked in Sainsbury’s car park. She saw Maureen standing open-mouthed by her little old rusty Fiat as Jinnie got into brand new Mini. More questions to answer next week thought Jinnie.
In Chapter 6 – A shooting test.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file