Sunday, 20 November 2016

Sunday Morning Short Story - Bimbi and the Mortar

You may have read the short story, Bimbi’s Letters, well here is another short story involving my friend Bimbi.

We did 82 mm mortar drills and generally this was a fun time for most of us, learning and firing new weapons from different countries, and then putting our knowledge to the test by teaching others. We were learning from all the different branches of the army. If I taught someone to fire mortars, they would teach me the ins and outs of a 12.7 mm and so on. We were getting fit by running to and from the training ground twice a day, and the hot sun was burning us white boys as brown as our troops.

One morning we decided to hold a refresher course on stripping and assembling the AKs, as we had not practiced that for quite some time. Shit, we may as well have never done it at all, for most of the troops had forgotten the first move: how to get the hoofdeksel off! No fun for anyone the next few weeks. They had to get this right or they would literally die the first week in combat. We hadn’t even begun practicing with live ammo yet, that promised to be fun.

Finally some stock that arrived was some 82 mm mortar ammo. We were sick of dry runs so we should have been happy. The problem was that the wooden crates fell apart when we touched them. The actual bombs were also covered in rust. I have a piece of paper at home with Russian writing on it from those boxes; the date is 1952 and the last time they were inspected was in the early 70s. (We opened that lot in the 1990s!) Well, we cleaned that lot up and practiced for quite some time with them. Very few miss-fires, till one day one of my mates, Bimbi and myself were letting Sergeant Ze get on with it while we chatted on the back line. We all heard this half fart, half-spitting sound come out the one tube. From then on, everything seemed to move in slow motion. The bomb had left the tube and was already coming down; it landed as we all were diving to the ground, bounced exactly three times and lay still, 20-odd metres from us.

Obviously it never went off, or I could not be writing this. The killing range of a bomb that size on open ground is huge. The weight of the HE bomb is 3.05 kg and HE stands for “high explosive”. When we had recovered from the shock we called in a couple of sappers to blow the bitch. Every time we had live practice after that, it was a nerve-racking experience.

You can find a full account of this adventure in The Chronicles of The Mexican Horse Thief I- Angola
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