Bullshit and Brains
Based on a true happening. During my Army days I had many friends in low places. Bombardier ‘Greasy’ Grice was but one of them. Names have been altered to protect the innocent and guilty alike.
‘Ah, Bombardier Grice, just the man.’
‘Can I help you, sir?’
‘Yes Bombardier, the mess cook has burnt his hand rather severely, bloody fool. We’ve packed him off to hospital.’
‘Oh dear, sir’ said Bob ‘Greasy’ Grice. He suspected what was coming and was already looking to take advantage of any opportunity.
‘I’m told by the Battery Sergeant Major that you’re rather a dab hand with field rations. I’m afraid I’ll have to appoint you mess cook for the duration of this field exercise, or until a replacement cook can be found.’
‘I see, sir.’
‘To cap it all bombardier I’ve just had word that the Brigadier and the Colonel expect to dine with us tonight. It really couldn’t have happened at a worse time.’
Greasy Grice eyed Major John Thetford-Beavis, his battery commander, speculatively ‘if I might make a suggestion, sah?’
‘Well sir, for a hundred Marks or so I could nip down to the nearest village and obtain some proper supplies, sir’ he paused to let this idea sink into the officer’s consciousness. ‘After all sir, we don’t get many opportunities to impress the brigadier, sir.’
The major thought for a moment and decided that making a favourable impression on the brigadier could do his career no harm at all. ‘You know bombardier you’re absolutely right and I suppose the mess funds can stand it.’ The money was promptly found and handed over.
Bob grabbed four of his most trusted Gunners and drove the major’s Land Rover down the lane, his nefarious mind working like a whore on pay night.
Suddenly he spotted a golden opportunity and pulled over.
‘Right, two of you out and pick me those blackberries, you others into that orchard and grab some cooking apples. Look sharp now.’
Bob looked up the drive towards the farm. He was planning an unobserved approach to the hen house and pen at the side of the building. There, strutting about in all his magnificence was the biggest, most beautiful rooster he’d ever seen. He knew a bit about chickens having once been fostered on a farm. The bird was a prize one.
Keeping out of sight of the house Bob climbed into the pen and grabbed the cockerel. Tucking it under his arm he limped painfully up to the farmhouse and knocked on the door.
‘Jah, Mein herr?’ queried the farmer’s wife looking Bob up and down suspiciously.
‘Sprechen sie English, bitte?’ Bob asked in his broad Yorkshire accent.
‘Nein’ she replied and then called over her shoulder ‘Helga?’
Helga was a bright young girl about 15 years old ‘Mother says how she can help you und vie are you holding the cock of my father?’
‘Ah’ said Bob struggling to keep a straight face ‘I’m returning it to you. It was on the road and I almost ran over it.’ He handed the bird to the girl with exaggerated care. ‘I can see it’s a very valuable bird. I’m so glad I managed to miss it, just.’
‘Are you alright?’ asked Helga looking concerned.
Bob rubbed his neck twisting it from side to side as if in pain. ‘Oh yes, I managed to get the Landrover out of the ditch without too much trouble and there’s no real damage done’ he said in a tone which conveyed that the just opposite was true. ‘I’m just glad your bird is OK.’
Helga translated for her mother who looked from the bird to Bob, her mouth agape ‘Mein liebe Gott!’ she exclaimed ‘Bitte, kommen sie hierein mein herr.’
‘She wants you to come in’ said Helga waving him into the large kitchen.
Five minutes later, the cock having been restored to his adoring hens, Bob was ensconced in front of a blazing fire with a cold beer in his fist. He was telling Helga a tale of woe about how he’d been ordered to provide a dinner for his officers and he’d had to scrape together a few marks to buy food for them. Would they, by any chance, be able to sell him some as the village was a good few kilometres away and he didn’t speak German.
Bob produced a pathetic handful of loose Deutsch marks and pfennigs from his pocket and proffered them, his face a picture of hopeful innocence. Gerda, the farmer’s wife, asked through Helga how many officers had he to feed.
‘Oh, only twelve or so’ he said cheerfully, doubling the number.
Gerda scurried away and produced a huge pile of wild boar steaks plus plenty of fresh vegetables and some flour, sugar, milk, butter, eggs, coffee and even a couple of bottles of home-made wine which she placed in a large cardboard box.
Waving away Bob’s offer of payment she explained that the cockerel was her husband’s pride and joy and saving its life would leave them forever in his debt.
‘Oh, donkey-shin, donkey-shin’ Bob’s eyes reflected his deep gratitude. He smiled as benignly as a bishop bestowing a benediction before finishing his beer and bowing his way out of the kitchen with many more ‘donkey shins.’
His lads were sitting around smoking and looking bored having completed their task of foraging some time ago. ‘Where the hell have you been Bom?’ they asked in chorus.
‘Bloody hell lads’ said Bob sounding aggrieved, ‘I’ve been buying food of course. These farmers drive a hard bargain you know, tight sods the lot of ‘em. Ninety eight marks the buggers charged me for this lot.’
Shaking his head in feigned disgust he loaded his ill-gotten gains into the vehicle.
‘Still’ he brightened ‘it’s all fresh and there’s enough for all of us. It saves us a long trip, too.’
The lads of course moaned because they’d wanted a trip to the village and the chance of a few beers. Bob had other plans for them. He needed them bright eyed and alert to serve the meal that night.
Back at the camp Bob worked hard and produced a really delicious meal for the officers rounded off by a superb apple and blackberry crumble with lashings of home-made custard. The wine he saved for himself.
Afterwards, whilst his men were washing up, Bob was called to the mess to receive the congratulations due to a chef of his calibre.
Thereafter Bob hung close around the back of the mess tent eaves dropping. He knew the officer clan very well and had a sneaking suspicion of what was coming next. Well, not if he could help it.
Sure enough shortly after the guests had left his suspicions were confirmed. He heard Thetford-Beavis say ‘You know old Grice really surprised me tonight, I think I’ll appoint him our cook for the rest of the exercise.’ This was greeted by a wave of assent from the other officers.
Bob smiled wryly as he slipped away.
‘Jones’ he called to one of his trusted gunners ‘go to the gun limber and fetch me some Swarfega and a nail brush.’
‘A nail brush Bom? Where the ‘ell am I supposed to get one of those, ‘Arrod’s?’
Bob thought for a moment ‘Where’s the Battery Sergeant Major?’
‘He’s gone on a reconnaissance Bom’ said Jones.
“Reconnaissance” Bob knew meant that the BSM had buggered off to a Gasthoff for a few beers.
‘Right, go to his tent and rescue his toothbrush, ok?’
‘Yes Bom’ said Jones hurrying away.
Bob scrubbed his hands until they were immaculate, his nails gleamed and the usual traces of graphite grease that got ground into the creases of his skin were no longer in evidence. The toothbrush was duly returned and Bob awaited the summons to his Battery Commander’s presence.
‘That was a superb meal bombardier; the Brigadier was most impressed and asked me to thank you once again.’
‘Oh great sir, I’m glad you all enjoyed it sir’ Bob beamed.
‘We enjoyed it greatly Bombardier, so much so that we are going to let you carry on cooking for the duration of this exercise’ he said in that condescending tone some ‘old school’ officers adopt when addressing the rank and file. ‘I don’t think we’ll bother the Catering Corps for a replacement.’
‘Oh, that’s wonderful news, sir’ Bob enthused, his face glowing with pride. ‘Do you know sir, I really love cooking. Mixing that crumble was absolutely fantastic. I mean just look at my hands now, sir. Rubbing that flour and butter together for the crumble really gets all the muck and grime from under the fingernails, sir. All the gun grease is gone, too, sir. It’s magic.’
The major’s smile froze on his face as he looked down at Bob’s immaculate hands. ‘Er, er.. yes, yes I see.. Well, er, we’ll talk about it again in the morning, Bombardier.’
Next day it was decided that, after further consideration, the officers had deemed it unfair to put upon Bob and that he should be allowed to continue his excellent work on the guns.
Greasy Grice, the Battery’s biggest and best bullshitter, smiled contentedly.