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Red Army Soldier part 4

February 14, 2010
Written by: GW
By now I was in the Royal Navy, and at last I could afford my own season ticket, I also had the added advantage of gettign free or reduced rail travel anywhere in the country courtesy of my ID card, the only thing I had to avoid was getting caught, that would mean a spell in the cells or even worse detention centre and a dishonourable discharge.

Paul was still a big part of the Streford End, I had joined him and migrated from my peripheral standing spot to one near the core, courtesy of my exploits with the wooden wedge, I’d also picked up a new nickname thanks to the patch on my crombie I became known as joker, not a name I liked that much, but it was better than being called mate all the time.

I think the first thing that should be cleared up is the skinhead myth, yes there were skinheads in the Army, but they were only part of it, the seventies and eighties were made up of all types, the music you preferred had some influence over your style of dress too, the Army had as many Led Zeppellin fans as it did Slade fans (Slade were a skinhead band before they went Glam rock), I was what was termed as a suedehead, my hair was about a half inch long, sort of standard crew cut, the minimum length the Navy would allow.

Dress varied from full blown Levi’s/Wrangler look, to the more suave Modish style of Crombies, shirts and ties.

The rucks started as that, just rucks with fists flying all over place, when a bloke went down you invariably left him, rarely putting the boot in to a man on the ground, but soon weapons started to appear and it got a bit nasty at times, worst of all were the West Ham ICF ( Inter City Firm), they took to kncukle dusters, and fought dirty, kicking blokes on the deck, and not just body kicks, but in the face too. The favourite weapon was the butt end of a snooker cue, pool was very popular in pubs, and you could get a cue that came in two pieces, the butt end very conveniently fitted down a trouser leg and didn’t interfere with you’re walking or running too much, some though became evn more inventive, they would sharpen belt buckles to a knife edge, and thought it a good idea until they forgot about it whe they went for a shit and cut their own hands.

The West Ham ICF had started to brag that they were the boys, they had for once got the better of the Millwall lads in a ruck, and now they though they were kings of that castle, the word went round that the Army was going to do them on their own turf, the next West ham game would be one massive, you have to remember in those days there was no internet, mobile phones or anything like that, everything was organised by word of mouth, whispers in pubs, and the odd telephone call to round up the soldiers.

The first I heard was from Paul, our “Battallion” was to meet up at Paddington, no scarves, nothing was to show to give us away as United fans, we had to be model citizens on the trains and the tube, we all took scarves but tied them around our stomachs under our shirts and coats, there must have been a couple hundred of us at paddington, and to be honest we were not that inconspicuous, but stop and search was for the future, so we all rushed to the tube and headed for Upton Park, the nearest tube station to the Boleyn Ground, (Calling West Hams ground Upton Park is wrong, Upton Park is the tube, the Boleyn gorund is where they play). When we came off the tube we headed up the escalator, it was only 11am and the local residents were already boarding up shops and house windows, United were coming to town and they were taking no chances.
We formed a fairly orderly crocodile, following the leaders, who led usout into the sun an down the road, we walked for a good five minutes, turning the odd corner until we came out in front of what some would call a typical London dockers pub, not big, but big enough, it must have been chocker of West Ham fans, they were singing their heads off, and it was obvious they had been in there a while, while some went round to see if there was another entrance, the rest of us walked through the gap in the low stone wall, a few of the lads helping themsleves to a loose brick or two, well quite a few loose bricks actutally. We started to chant “UNITED! UNITED ! “, confident reply came back form inside the pub, United we heard them chant, some faces looked out of the window, we even got a thumbs from a couple of them… then the news came back that there was only a small door at the back, next we sent up a chorus of “Bubbles”, back came the reply from inside, then as normal the scarves came out, the next song would be our calling card.

We waited, silence,….then the chant went up “HELLO …HELLO …WE ARE THE BUSBY BOYS ” the pub went dead, faces appeared at the window, as we continued with WATPOAE, followed by the first brick, then another and another, the bricks continued to fly, not a single window was left unbroken, then the front door of the pub opened as those inside tried to get at us, but we were ready, the door was flung back in the face of the first, used like a battering ram to keep them back, some had the sense to throw the brick back at us, clambering through the windows, the bricks went in again, only this time people were heading them, it wasn’t glass you could here it was the dull thud of brick on flesh.

i never realised how many cockneys you could cram in a pub, there must have been a good hundred in there, if not more, and it showed, we got pushed back a bit, I stumbled over the wall and fell on my back, fending off boots from every angle, one caught me hard above the right eye, and just as the owner was about to stamp on my face, I saw Paul put a well placed doc martin in his groin, pulling me up into the meleé, the guy went down, and got a return boot from me in the cheek, I felt the bone break under the force, fists and boots were flying all over the place, but we felt we were holding our own, we were away from home, the numbers of the West Ham fans was begining to swell as the noise went up and it was soon obvious we would soon be outnumbered, we conttinued to battle it out though, bricks, boots and fists flying al over the place.

The ruck gradually turned into a maul, and was only really broken up by the sound of Police sirens, and the arrival of the vans, you’ve never seen so many run in so many different directions, Paul and I ended up running away from the ground, which turned out to be stroke of luck,as everyone else was running towards it, my eye was bleeding like mad, Paul reckoned I needed stitches in it, after asking a few questions and getting directions we ended up at a hospital, where I had five stitches put above my right eye, and no anaesthetic in those days, Paul told them he had found me, and reckoned I’d been set on, the nurses seemed to swallow it, and let me go after giveing me cup of tea and making sure I was Ok, all I can remember is a stinkin gbloody headache for days afterwards.

We made the game just in time, we reckoned we’d done the ICF in their own back yard, and felt quite pleased with ourselves, the team didn’t follow our lead though, we lost 2-1, and when we came out of the ground, it was escorts all the way, we were shepherded all the way by Police on horses, and on arrival at Paddington we met a show of force there too, and not until they had seen us onto our homebound trains did they leave the stations, Paul and I ended up in a compartment, typical British rail, no toilet, no buffet, just two bench seats, we were joined in there by a few more United fans, we nodded at them as they got in, four blokes and a girl, we started talking, the girl jsut chewed gum and stared out of the window, after a while she huffed, and stared around, “Anyone got any johnnies, I wanna feck !!” I’d heard of thing like this happening but had just thought it blokes bragging, one of the bloke produced a packet of three, she squealed with delight “Ow many ye got” two left he said,
The girl removed jeans and leant back, still chewing gum, two of the other skinheads had her there in the compartment, the one who was left out waas told to nip out at Reading and buy another packet !!

It was 10pm when we staggered into our local, bruised and a bit battered, we downed a couple of pints, went ove rmy story a few times, and hten headed home, I was knackered and needed my bed………….my Dad had other idea’s though.

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