I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it (or Mirinda for that matter) but where we walk at Hankley is mostly MoD land. We quite often see little heads pop out of the heather, faces painted to match the flora and clothes perfectly camouflaged. Sometimes we see groups of soldiers just ‘hanging around’ or driving big army trucks. There is always used shell casings from rifles littering the paths. This makes it sound quite busy when it’s definitely not that! But last Sunday capped it all.
We were happily walking along, poodles cheerfully trotting ahead of us, when there was a couple of loud explosions in a wooded area on a hill across from us. As we turned a corner we spotted, what looked like, a couple soldiers chatting to a druid. They were quite a long way off.
The explosions had made the dogs a bit nervous and their tails were down as they walked very close to us. Suddenly gunfire erupted from in the wood. The soldiers and the druid started yelling things and a truck appeared on the ridge ahead of us.
With careless regard, the driver barrelled towards the soldiers and the druid, almost taking corners on two wheels. It’s important to realise that Hankley is almost all sand and the paths are a bit dodgy for walking, let alone driving. It reminds me of the Dakkar Rally roads. Anyway, the truck backed up a small path and the soldiers and the druid piled into the truck and it drove off.
This was all very exciting but it all happened quite a way off. Clearly the army was playing some war games and the druid was possibly a guy dressed as an Afghan or Taliban or some such.
When we reached the highest point and stood to admire the view a voice suddenly sounded from below us. A soldier was standing waving and yelling at us. He said there was going to be a few loud explosions in about five minutes. He wasn’t warning us off, just letting us know. We figured it would be a good idea to get moving on.
We walked along the ridge, towards two army trucks. I spotted little faces peeking up at us from the foliage and there was a little group of soldiers and people dressed up as Afghans or Taliban or druids, just chilling in the sun, not far from us. We quickened our steps.
After a while there was a sudden explosion where the soldier who yelled at us had been and all hell broke loose. Soldiers broke from cover, the group with the druids stood up and started milling and the big truck headed in to rescue them.
More explosions and a big puff of green smoke erupted from the back of the truck – presumably to cover the rescue. Gunfire sounded from the hill opposite and, from a quiet sedate heathland, we were transported into a war zone. Amazing. The poodles were less than enthusiastic.
After a while the whole thing was repeated on the original hill with explosions, gunfire, rescue by the truck and returning to the ridge. We presume they then settled down to run the hill top rescue again.
We figure they like having a few civilians wandering through their games as it gives it all a bit more realism. It gave me the smallest inkling of how it is in a war zone. Lots of noise, smoke and yelling.
I would just like to say that soldiers are amazing. Being an atheist, I can only admire the fact that they lay down their lives for us every day. These games help them to lessen the toll and I’m very thankful.