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WE WORKED, ATE AND SLEPT NEXT TO OUR TANKS.

MOST of us take the little things for granted.

A warm bed covered by a soft quilt.

Downy dreams beneath downy feathers.

It's not much to ask for, is it?

But Fred Flint didn't have anything that rewarding from 1947 until 1950, when he was doing his National Service in Egypt.

When the private in the Royal Army Ordinance Core was stationed in Tel Kaber, he was forced to bed down with armoured tanks.

The 78 year old Brummie chuckles wryly.

The memory remains fresh as it was fetid at the time.

"We worked, ate and slept next to those tanks," he recalls.

"All we had to kip in was those old Nissen Huts, with a basic bed. There were four of us in each billet.

"It wasn't much, but we made the best of it.

"If we had a mosquito net, that meant luxury!

"We might have been made to rough it a bit, but there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it was character building."

Fred lived up to his second name.

He was a man made out of unyielding stone.

As tough as the conditions became, he evolved into something tougher.

The weather was harsh-hot - Fred flourished.

Islamic terrorism was rearing its ugly head - Fred forced back fear.

However, there was one occasion when his confidence was severely dented.

When a friend and fellow soldier was shot dead.

Not by a secretive enemy; the man killed himself.

Fred found the body.

"He had shot himself with his Sten gun," he says. "It was just horrible.

I had never seen a man with the back of his head blown off. It was a big shock. Especially since I was close to him.

"In fact, he slept in the next bed."

Fred believes the man might have been caught stealing, and couldn't deal with the shame.

It proves just how rigid is the moral discipline that is instilled in soldiers from the beginning of their military careers.

Moral discipline that Fred believes is invaluable for any young man.

"Joining the army for those three years certainly did me the world of good. It taught me to respect authority and to appreciate it.

"You learn what it means to be responsible for a job, and that you have to do things right.

"There can be no half measures."

Back on civvy street, that training certainly came in handy.

The Woodgate man eventually became a vehicle manager, a highly responsible job.

But his passion for the army never left him, so he joined the Territorial Army.

"I guess I must just like the hassle," he grins.

Although he enjoyed his National Service, and recalls those days with fondness, Fred does not underestimate the danger he faced in Egypt.

"We used to drive into Palestine twice a week," he recalls. "Doing that I got bumped twice."

Bumped meant bombed.

Typical of a tough soldier, it is Fred's understated way of underplaying the great danger he faced.

"Some local terrorists would put a land mine on the road. They were home made, so they weren't too powerful.

"I was lucky and escaped with only minor injuries. My shoulder was dislocated and I was burnt down my right side.

"I just remember the explosion as a blue flash, really. I was knocked unconscious for about five minutes.

"At that time, there were lots of terrorists in the area.

"It was something we had to face down. Just as so many young men are having to do today in Iraq and Afghanistan. Having experience of that type of fighting, my thoughts go out to all of them."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Nov 11, 2007
Words:603
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