“F*&ING ’ELL, THE SHAME, THE SHAME” By Chris Nelson, 8/9 RAR
During 1979 I was a soldier in 8/9 Battalion. I was a Pipe Corporal in the Regimental Pipes and Drums of 8/9 Battalion and had the privilege and thrill of being chosen to go overseas to Scotland to take up position of Acting Pipe Sergeant with the Royal Scots’ ‘The Royal Regiment’ based at that time in Collington Barracks just out of Edinburgh. It was like a dream come true for me as the Edinburgh Festival was on and the Royal Scots were performing in the famed Edinburgh Tattoo. I arrived at RAF Base Brize Norton in the UK and was met by a dapper- looking Royal Scots Captain dressed in tartan trews, black jacket and glengarry hat. He reminded me of the actor David Niven, with the exception that David Niven would never get as pissed as this bloke obviously was.
I assisted the little pissed captain onto the train and we sped away towards Edinburgh doing 125 miles per hour, hence the name of the train – The 125. The captain disappeared into the bar area for the rest of the trip. I didn’t mind sitting on my own as I couldn’t understand a word the captain said anyway as he was speaking in Braille with a thick Scottish accent.
On arrival at Collington Barracks I was met by Corporal Dave Robinson, whom I could nearly understand, and was shown into my barrack accommodation. He explained the huge arches between the buildings were for elephants as it had been built during the Indian Raj and at one time back in the early 1800s they may have wanted to keep elephants there. What a strange different Army this was compared to my Colonial Grunt Battalion.
On my first day I was fully rigged out in full Highland dress, which I wore with great pride. The tartan was Royal Stewart with black jacket, full plaid, cross belts, epaulettes, dirk, sgian dubh and black glengarry. I was told by all and sundry that the Royal Scots’ first battle honour was at Culloden against Edward’s Proud Army, where they killed ‘cartloads of Pommies’ – their words.
Being a Pom myself, I found my Australian accent became more pronounced and I told them that I was born in Melbourne, Victoria rather than Grimsby, Lincolnshire. A quick flick of the pen in my AB83 sorted out any chance of getting caught out.
Oh, how I remember the day I stood on the left-hand flank of the massed Pipes and Drums of the Scottish Division. The Gordon Highlanders, The Argyles, The Queen’s own Scottish borderers, The Scots Guards were all there, and there I was as the Pipe Sergeant on the extreme left front in pride of place. Me –Moose NELSON – from 8/9 Battalion Enoggera.
As we prepared to march out through the castle gate, I was told by the Senior Pipe Major Andrew Pitkiethly that the Queen was aware of the Australian on the flank and that Colonel Storm, the announcer, had mentioned the fact that a visiting Australian soldier was acting Pipe Sergeant for the Royal Scots, the Senior Regiment. I was very excited and my head swelled bigger than normal. As the huge kettle drums sounded, we marched out proudly into the glare of floodlights and the roar of the huge international crowd. The massive shouts and cheers of the packed arena and thousands of flashbulbs going off made it all seem unreal and made me feel like a movie star. I played my pipes and did my drill in brilliant fashion, enjoying the special and exciting feeling of having thousands of eyes on me.
It was my job to wheel off right and start to form the giant circle of pipers during our performance, and as I was marking time to the ancient tune of Highland Laddie, I felt the right-hand side of the elastic snap on my bright red underpants. My stomach contracted into a tight ball and I began to sweat even in the freezing cold as I could feel my undies drooping down my bare kilted leg. I could see my old dad in my mind’s eye, slapping his forehead, saying, “F*&ing ’ELL, the shame, the shame.”
At this stage, my red undies hadn’t quite fallen off so in an attempt to stop them falling off in front of the whole audience, including Her Majesty the Queen, I clamped both bum cheeks together very hard and tight and literally grabbed my undies in this manner for 20 minutes. I continued marching around the arena like a large plaid-covered duck with a pained look on my face and both eyes bulging like ping pong balls.
I forgot the tunes I was supposed to be playing and just went woodenly through the movements. When we marched off the parade ground and came to a halt up in the castle proper, away from the public, I relaxed and sure enough my red undies fell to the ground around my ankles.
It was then that numerous other Kilted Soldiers laughed so hard that some fell over holding their stomachs in uncontrollable mirth. I still write to some of my mates in Scotland and they always remind me that to wear the kilt, it pays to dress Regimental. I had to shout the whole Royal Scots Pipes and Drums a beer that evening.