In Norway, I was tasked to make training film of military equipment operating under winter warfare conditions – short clips of, for example, modified grenades that didn’t sink into the snow, sledges adapted for transporting anti-tank weapons, winter engine covers for helicopters and so on.
Cold intense work involving a lot of contact with different types of combat units. I was billeted in a shared hotel room in Voss, a noted Norwegian ski- resort, taken over by the military as the centre for NATO winter warfare training. By comparison with the poor bloody infantry, or come to that the poor bloody artillery and every other poor bloody sod, we had a most comfortable time of it, for they, poor sods, were out there in the bitter incessant cold with little respite from the discomfort of wet ice and snow.
Although Voss had become a virtual military garrison with the slopes being used to train soldiers to ski and the small hotels and guest houses taken over by headquarters staff there remained a great deal of civilian workers and residents. There was even a good attendance of Norwegians on holiday although it can’t have been too nice a place to holiday, with the streets full of military vehicles and soldiers in winter camouflage suits.
I was out in the field most days, returning to Voss late in the evenings. I would eat with the units to which I was attached, more often than not at the Voss Airfield where the Army Air Corps were ensconced and with whom I was being transported around the various combat units.
Of course, I fell in love again. Gunn was her blunt sounding Viking/Lutheran name. She was a student working in the Hotel for her winter vacation. She was tall, as only Norwegians are tall, blonde as only Norwegians are blond, with the most beautiful blue eyes and great Wagnerian breasts. There was a Beatles song around at the time, Norwegian Wood, “I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me…” I chatted her up by asking her if she wanted to be in my movie, although exactly what role a tall Norwegian Wagnerian breasted blonde could play in a training clip of military equipment operating under winter warfare conditions was not entirely clear. I used to sing the lyrics of the song to her while we danced the slow numbers in the hotel disco. “She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere..” I even sang them in a slightly Scottish/Norwegian accent, but it was of no use. This Norwegian wouldn’t: It’s their strict Lutheran upbringing that keeps them off the booze and out of your bed. But she was very nice and we remained great friends. After we left she wrote to me for a year or so and her English had a poetic quality, somewhat like that of the French Manchester United player, what was his name, Cantona,. She was a poet in the Cantana sense. Here’s one of the cards we exchanged.
Scoop, I should confess, was a nickname I had acquired on foot of my photographic adventures, a bit daft I know, but it sounded terribly sexy in her deep Norwegian Viking accent. “She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh, I told her I didn’t and crawled off to sleep in the bath, And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown…”
But there was plenty of adventures out in the field.
An infantry unit, might have been the Marines, was testing wire guided anti tank missiles up the high mountains. The camera was trained on the missile operator and I followed the missile exiting the launcher and panned as it flew towards its target, camera swings back to the operator, who for some reason was frantically thumbing the wire guiding trigger in a bit of a panic, back to the missile.. It had performed a complete U-turn and was now flying back straight back down the range towards the firing position. Fortunately the operator regained control and guided it safely into the snow long before it reached us. Made a great training clip though.
A helicopter, a Scout, flying slow and low, following the path of a frozen river. Me on the river-bed, thigh deep in snow, filming the winter skid pad modifications. As it flew towards me it disturbed a small heard of great Norwegian Moose who panicked in a wild stampede, straight towards trembling me. The pilot saw the danger and used his machine to Sheppard the beasts into a panic stampede in the opposite direction. Training clip a bit too shaky to be of any practical use.
We all came home from Norway with deer skins, the officers with polar bear skins, lots of us had funny sealskin boots and traditional, rather silly, Norwegian cardigans and there were troll dolls on every locker in Tidworth, just to remind us thatNorway was once again, safe from the Soviets…
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