Being A Girly, I’d Never Been Issued With Trousers

Amanda Darge

Dits and Pics

We’re collecting dits and photos from those that have served in the armed forces to create an online exhibition to share stories and memories.

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“I was working in Italy, in the Intelligence Department. At the time, we were losing lots and lots of our officers, foreign officers, to the war in Bosnia, and they were all being removed from the department. And my boss tasked me with doing intelligence reports on behalf of one of the German Colonels. So I took over the intelligence reports for Algeria and countries like that… and then it…just got worse and I was getting more and more areas to do intelligence reports for and I was a PO WREN Writer, I wasn’t Intelligence, I just sat there and did my very best. 

And then they were sending two people out to Bosnia to set up a cell with the Commodore and I volunteered. And I had a word with the Commodore and he said, “You can’t go.” He said, “You’re non-gun-carrying and you’re non-combatant.” And I said, “I know…You’re not in date to carry a gun.” And he went, “Ooh, no, I’m not.” And I said, “Nobody here is in date to carry a gun because no one has been on the ranges.” “Ohhhhhh…” So, I got to go. 

But of course, being a girly, I’d never been issued with trousers. So I had no military uniform. So they went into the underground tunnels at Matera, south, and they got some of the World War Two kit out. So I had a hairy shirt, really a World War Two shirt. I got my World War Two trousers. I got putties, but there were no boots. So I went to an Italian supermarket and bought myself boots. A really, really ramshackled attempt. 

And the Commodore had told me and another PO Writer that we had to go out and set up an office in Sarajevo. And we got there when the UN was coming out. So we joined as UN and then very quickly went across to either IFOR or SFOR, I can’t remember because I’d now been a couple of times…and we couldn’t get there. We were being bumped off all the flights by senior officers. 

So my friend Pete and I used our intelligence and we flew Civvy Air. So all the officers were flying on Hercules and we flew Air Italia to Vienna, and we then flew on Edelweiss Airways from Vienna through to Sarajevo. Sorry, Zagreb. And my friend Pete refused point blank to have the aisle seat because the steward on Edelweiss Airways was wearing grey leather lederhosen with an embroidered bib and my mate, the PO Writer wasn’t going to have some hairy legged bloke in leather shorts rubbing past him on a small plane. 

So we get there and it’s all good, it’s all good. We’re working really long hours, and there for two months, and then a short stint in Sarajevo and as I said, I went back later on. And we worked from half five every morning till seven at night, every single day with one day off. 

But the two good stories I have is that I was the only female service woman out there apart from a small group of American service women who were drivers and there was an English Warrant Officer in the Army who I believe was Military Police, but I honestly can’t remember. And he took offence to the fact I wasn’t wearing a beret. Well, I’d never been given a beret. And no one thought about a beret when they went pootling through the stores in this underground tunnel.

And I said to this bloke, I said, “But I’m the only lumpy jumper here. Everybody knows who the lumpy jumper is, you know there’s such a shortage of women…” And anyway, he demanded that I get a beret. So I managed to borrow a bright green, emerald green beret from a man in the Int Corps, the Intelligence Corps. And I flounced, positively flounced into this Warrant Officer’s office, sat myself on the edge of the desk, because I thought, ‘you’ve annoyed me now.’ You know, you really have brought the wrath of a female service woman on you. And I produced the beret from the back of my trousers and said, “I can tie-dye this  and I will have a DPM beret” and he just looked at me and his face froze, and he just said, “F*** off!” Not another peep out of him, nothing, ever.”