Exercise Sky High 1978
In the autumn of 1978 Air Svy Troop went on an adventurous training exercise in the north west of Scotland designed to get them out of Block 101 and into some fresh air – very, very fresh as it turned out!
The main party travelled by train taking the sleeper from Kings Cross to Inverness and then on the incredibly scenic route across the Highlands to the Kyle of Loch Alsh where we met up with the road party. The sleeping compartments had been booked in the name of '19 Topo Sqn' but some railway wag labelled the compartments '19 O'Bottom Sqn'…probably ex RCT, no wonder the trains never ran on time!
Our accommodation was a couple of huts at Balmacara, a few miles south of the Kyle, which were okay if somewhat austere – still – we came from the huts of Barton Stacey so no change then!
The accommodation huts at Balmacara.
Part of the deal for the use of the huts was that we were to do a number of days work for the National Trust of Scotland. This took the form of clearing culverts and ditches on tracks way up in the hills and, whilst it was hard work (and a million miles from pushing a dot), it was quite satisfying. It was during this phase of the exercise that the Regimental 2i/c, Dick Ellis, visited for a couple of hours having made the day-long trip north before almost immediately heading back south again.
I can only remember three of the ‘adventurous' pursuits. We were taken by 3-tonner to the palindromic hamlet of Glenelg where we visited the famous brochs and then started to walk back to Balamacara up over the high ridgeline. However, the farther we walked the stronger grew the wind until near the crest it was blowing a full Scottish gale and so we took the easy option of finishing the downhill bit in the truck. On returning to the camp we found our cook desperately hanging on to the window frame in the main room which had blown inwards in the gale.
Cook Viewing Potential Fresh Meat.
Our second walk was a 20-mile circular one that involved a 2500ft ascent taking us to the Falls of Glomach, Britain's second highest waterfall. On the last leg Brian Higgins fell ill and collapsed with breathing difficulties. We managed to get the Land Rover to him and whisked him off to the local GP who diagnosed a severe chest infection to be treated by antibiotics and a week's rest in the local guest house where the landlady cosseted ‘ the poor wee lad ' with magnificent home cooking.
The final highlight was a day on the Royal Navy tender that looked after the Sound of Raasay submarine training range – recently famous for the grounding of HMS Asute , the Navy's latest very high tech submarine. The civilian crew said that they augmented their ‘meagre' pay by fishing for mackerel which were incredibly plentiful and they happily lent us their fishing tackle. However, the sum total of the Troop's catch was six small fish so unlike Higgins – we soldiered on with compo that night.
Dick Ellis, Regiment 2i/c, watching ditch maintenance.
Most evenings we went to the bar of the Balmacara Hotel and ‘relaxed' allowing us to get to know our new troop commander, Alan Milne, and likewise, for him to get to know us – warts and all!
In all, Ex Skye High was fairly typical of adventurous training exercises during the Seventies and Eighties – not too adventurous but generally good fun away from Barton Stacey.
Setting off to Glenelg – Tony Giannotti, Tiny Crossland, Taff Owen, Tony Higgs, Tony Harder (why so many Tonys?).
Catch of the day – Tony Giannotti, Bob Hughes, Alan Gordon, Derek Ireson, Taff Owen.
Jock Stockley (SQMS), Tiny Crossland, Tony Harder coming down from the Falls of Glomach.
The Troop with ‘PVR Now' seeming to be the spirit of the times.
With thanks to Alan Gordon for this contribution.