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Military Memories

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At the graduation of the Swiss Army Medical Corps Summer Boot Camp in Basel, 1961, I was definitively in the best physical form in my life. What I had learnt there as a medic and as a team player has served me well for the rest of my life.

Here two short episodes:

Memories Militaries
Memories bittersweet awaken again,
Of course, they are not just quite the same.
For we had hob-nailed boots those days,
Marching 40Ks ‘round mountainous ways
Until in the barracks square we came
(Boot Camp Orders—always the same.)
“Corpsmen platoon: “4-men Formation; March!
“Pull-yourselves-together! Tight-muscle-your-A … !”
Till finally, finally, thunder the beat
Of 34 pairs of hob-nailed feet.
Scraping those nails on concreted ground
Sparks like lightning followed the sound. 

Live Wire
I also remember a situation during an exercise night patrol. We had our first “break” about thirty minutes out of the barracks as we usually do. It’s called the “Schiflihalt” (piss-stop) and is about five minute long, so the men can empty their bladders and then continue the patrol without a rest for an hour or more. The order is to be silent so as to avoid warning the enemy—the “enemy” being the good burgers (citizens) sleeping soundly past midnight.

It was a moonless night and we could just make out the track we were walking on, a hill with grazing cattle, the slight tinkling of the cows’ bells of the beasts still grazing, when one of our fellow corpsmen yelled out a terrible scream, which was cut short suddenly. He had pissed on a live single wire fence—and had fainted because of the pain.

Well, we were medical soldiers on a training patrol, so we did what we were trained to do in such a case and made the poor fellow comfortable on one of our stretchers. As an exercise, we were “supposing” to collect the wounded from a mountain village some 15km uphill and to bring them back on stretchers to the collection point, where the medical convoy would then bring them to the base hospital.

Afterward, we jokingly said he had faked the whole situation so that we had to carry him up the mountain. I believed it was genuine. All I really know is, rather him than me—with that live wire!


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