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Gütersloh Fireworks

From Paul Williams, ATCO Gütersloh 83-86:

Although I wasn’t at the Centenary reunion my ears were burning as Gerry Humphreys was recalling some of the Summer Balls at Gütersloh. When I was the entertainments member on the Mess Committee I tried to come up with something different. Although Gerry was reminiscing over some of the highlights, let me share one occasion which could have turned out better.

The decision was made that the next Summer Ball would include a firework extravaganza, to take place on the green outside of the Officers’ Mess. A lot of preparation was required before the event and as I had a ‘contact’ in the trade back in the UK, I hired a Mercedes estate car and made arrangements to meet my colleague at the western end of the Blackwall Tunnel, whereupon we would transfer the fireworks from his car to mine.

Glitch number one; he arrived in a 4-ton truck and it soon became clear that the boxes of mortar tubes, detonators, fuses and fireworks would not fit into the Mercedes. Quickly re-assessing the situation, by discarding ALL of the packaging from the fireworks, the Mercedes was jammed full and the load covered with blankets. How I got onto the ferry I will never know, perhaps the night crossing helped and border control on the continent wasn’t exactly stringent and the German registration plates probably helped. Anyway back at Gütersloh I unpacked the Mercedes and transferred everything into my room in the Mess.

Glitch number two; this didn’t go down too well the following week when there was a Station Commanders’ inspection of the Officers’ Mess and he peeked into my room – the Fire Officer had an ‘apoplectic fit’ and turned a shade greener than YODA. Needless to say that yours truly had to relocate the goods into a vacant Mess garage and hope that the fireworks didn’t get damp before the big event.

The day of the Summer Ball arrived and I had dug all of the trenches, placed the mortars into position, briefed personnel on the firing sequence and set-up the zip wire. This was going to be the piece-de-resistance; at the end of the aerial bombardment, a IV Sqn Harrier would fly down the zip wire firing rockets which would destroy an enemy tank.

Glitch number three; I miscalculated the fuse lengths for the set piece which concluded with the Harrier emptying its salvo of rockets before the tank had finished returning fire. The upshot was that the tank blew the Harrier to bits, much to the amusement of 10 Field Sqn and Army officers at the Ball. Ah well, nobody’s perfect but the fireworks were great.