October 20, 2006
The pick of the bunch this morning was that of the improbably named Lieutenant-Colonel John Pine-Coffin, known by his troops in a display of that searing wit the military are famous for, as “Wooden Box”.
P-C (as I prefer to call him) was serving in Cyprus when he came across a number of heavily bearded men hiding in a monastery, He suspected that they were Eoka terrorists in disguise so he asked asked his sergeant to apply a politically highly incorrrect test and give their beards a sharp tug. The beards all stayed firmly in place (we aren’t told what happened to the tugs) and P-C had to make a swift tactical withdrawal. The Telegraph continues:
“A series of staff appointments followed. In 1963 he was in Nassau when he was ordered to investigate a party of Cuban exiles that had infiltrated Andros Island, part of the Bahamas. His seaplane landed in thick mud and Pine-Coffin decided that his only chance of reaching dry land was to strip off. On coming ashore, plastered in mud and wearing only a red beret and a pair of flippers, he was confronted by a party of armed Cubans. Mustering as much authority as he could in the circumstances, he informed the group that they were trespassing on British sovereign territory and were surrounded. The following morning, when the Royal Marines arrived to rescue him they were astonished to find him and his radio operator in a clearing standing guard over the Cubans and a pile of surrendered weapons. He was appointed OBE” As usual the Telegraph leaves out the important details- how did he disarm them, was he still wearing the same attire when ‘rescued’ and others.
The other military obituary I enjoyed a while ago was of a a man who had escaped several times while held in POW camps during the war. The writer commented that, while consigned to an old people’s home (what an abomination!) he never forgot his duty as a soldier and escaped on several occasions.