How I Drove Noddy Round the Bend. PETERBOROUGH

Article excerpt

FOR 20 months of my two-year stint in the Life Guards in Windsor doing my National Service (1957-9), I was a Land Rover driver, often conveying officers about.

Soon after completing our basic training, our squadron was sent on an exercise to Barnard Castle, near Carlisle. I was driving 'my' Land Rover, carrying Captain Beaumont, the Officer in Command of this exercise, leading a convoy of six one-ton lorries.

Unfortunately, Captain Beaumont had a speech impediment and a head-shaking twitch. As you can expect with those two drawbacks, he was known as 'Noddy Beaumont'.

One day during the exercise, our squadron was out in the wild and barren countryside of Cumbria travelling down a narrow, rock-lined road looking for an even narrower track that would lead to the site where we were to camp for the night.

'T-t-take th-the next left t-tturn, Thorpe,' commanded Noddy.

There was no clear indication as to the exact position of the narrow track i was supposed to turn into and, consequently, i missed it. The convoy of one-tonners followed me.

'I t-t-told you t-to turn l-l-l-left there, Thorpe,' stuttered Noddy somewhat angrily.

'Sorry, Sir, I didn't see it, Sir,' I mumbled apologetically.

I drove a few hundred metres down the road until I came to the entrance to a narrow lane that I could reverse into and turn around.

But attached to the rear of my Land Rover was a trailer full of tents, camping gear and supplies.

It's hard to believe now, but even though I'd had four years' driving experience prior to being called up at 21, I had never reversed a trailer before.

As you can imagine, it took me many embarrassing back-andforths on the narrow road before I'd repositioned the Land Rover facing the other way -- having been watched every second by all the lads in their 'trailer-less' lorries parked on the road waiting their turn to spin around. As soon as the last one-tonner had fallen into line behind my Land Rover, Noddy ordered me to carry on.

Probably because Noddy believed I now knew where the track entrance was, he kept quiet until I'd driven past it once again. Noddy then threw a stuttering tantrum at my incompetence.

'Why, why, why did-did-did you d-do that, Thorpe? Are you b-bblind, boy?' he demanded in a loud, frustrated stutter. He was behaving as if I'd just sawn off his leg.

'i w-w-wanted you to go d-ddown that track, you f-f-f-fool.' He now showed worrying signs that, very soon, his high bloodpressured red face would explode. My lame excuse, covering poor eyesight, befuddled brain and lack of concentration was: 'Sorry, Sir. i didn't see it!' I then had to carry out another clumsy and completely amateurish back-and-forth, 15-point turn for the amusement of all the other one-ton drivers who were by now parked in readiness to turn right once I had organised myself. …