I was on day-time Guard Duty, patrolling the perimeter
wire from the Treaty Road, Main Gate, to the Airfield. At night this
was a three man job – one on the search light and two others
patrolling. However, in daylight hours, it was deemed that one man,
with rifle, would deter terrorists from breaking into the Unit!
Now all National Servicemen liked a good “skive”,
but Guard Duty was not a “skive”, just a monotonous slog
– those were my thoughts, until I noticed “The Gantry”.
It was a metal monstrosity, 26 feet high, straddling a railway line,
inside 107 MU. Laid in the 1940-45 war years, the line was a spur,
from the main Suez-Port Said track which ran parallel to the Treaty
Road. During the war aircraft parts were delivered and the railway
wagons would stop directly under the gantry where a winch and cable
from the platform above would lift the huge containers onto motorised
transport. Now obsolete, this contraption dared me to climb its vertical
ladder to the platform.
Yep, I could have a smoke and a “skive”
up there, instead of patrolling up and down continuously – just
lie back, relax and scan the whole wire – rifle at the ready
of course! I slowly climbed the ladder and at the top discovered the
last rung was, actually, level with the nearest girder! Also I would
be facing in the opposite direction because I could only cock my left
leg astride it, then sitting down, edge my way backwards 8 feet, to
the platform!! I stood on the top rung and gradually let go with both
hands …. and looked down – wrong move!! My legs locked
and I started to twitch. The rifle slipped around my shoulders and
seemed to weigh a ton. How did those geezers in the war get up there?
Must have had the agility of steeplejacks! ….. “Try again,
Tex – get that leg over and it will be easy”. I did try
and even stood on the girder, but my hand was tightly clenched on
the ladder. Then a subtle idea struck me …. I began to think
of Doris Day …. But I still couldn’t get my leg over!!
By now I was sweating and had similar pangs to “Gyppo Tummy”
Dejectedly, I descended the ladder and looked up at the platform.
“You blinking thing!” I yelled. Do you believe me? –
you’re right! What a load of ‘cobblers’, but what
I did shout in exasperation is between me and “The Gantry”!!!!