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A SII Land-Rover in dire straits

by Takeo De Meter

I dont know if this is the place, or the time, to tell this. But it involves a Land-Rover, so maybe someone may be interested. If not, don‘t read it.

Some years ago, in a place not too far from continental Europe, there was a conflict that was not what it seemed, nor was it about what most people think it was about, but that does not matter right now. Anyhow, I wound up there and one fine (?) late afternoon I woke up, cold, hungry and totally pissed-off lying under a piece of canvas in the shade of some rocks, smack dab in the middle of nowhere. We had moved all of the previous night and slept during daylight. We knew that the locals would not be friendly and that may explain why I started by scanning the area through the telescopic sight of my rifle, rather than through my binoculars. One just never knows. All I saw was a couple of sheds about 500 metres away, so we burrowed in the shadows and started to think about moving again after sunset.
My group had been thinned over the past days and only four of us were left, one of which whom we had to carry because a nasty little plastic anti-personnel mine had badly wounded his left foot and both his legs. It also had sent some shrapnel into my shins and this had also considerably affected my mood for the worse. We had no radio left since it had been lost in the skirmish we had escaped two days earlier. In short, we were on the run, trying to make it to safety. Safety was some 90 clicks away, not an easy task with a man to carry.

As the sun was going down, my #2 nudged my elbow and drew my attention to something glaring in the last light of the day. He handed me his binoculars and I found myself staring at what looked like a run-down and battered SII. One windshield pane was missing, the remaining one reflected a weak reddish glow from the setting sun. Hmm, that thing must still be running or how would it have gotten there ? So I got some ideas since we were very low on everything: no food left, about 3 litres of water, some 20 rounds for my Steyr sniper rifle, two full 13-round mags for my HP Browning and about 10 full mags between the others for their FALOs. And our wounded man would stand a far better chance if we had some form of mechanized transport. So we drew up a simple plan.
In order to make this little contribution look a bit less worse than a bad war story, I will spare you most of the details of how we despatched a some stinking rats but 20 minutes after sending the three men who had come with the Landy into martyrdom to the eternal delights of heaven, my #2 sat at the wheel of probably the most rickety-rackety, baling-wire-and-broomstick-repaired Land-Rover on earth. The engine had fired up all right but it seemed not to be capable of any speed over 50 Km/h and it made a serious effort in asphyxiating us by blowing exhaust gasses through a blown downpipe gasket and through a large hole in the footwell on the passenger side. The moon lit the track better than any Lucas electrics would ever do so we sortof saw where we were going. Our wounded comrade in the back had a kinda soft ride for the lack of shock absorbers but the truck transmitted the potholes very efficiently anyhow so he got the last of whatever morphine we had in our emergency packs.
The track was the one we wanted and the one that we had tried to follow on foot, at a parallel distance so we didn‘t have any major orientation problems.

We traveled with some relief in our minds, knowing that we had 4 full jerrycans of gasoline and more left in the tanks under the front seats. We would make it easily, we thought. Yea, right. We easily made it to a patch of soft sand that had blown over the track and got in up to our axles. Now this may seem big off-roading fun, but I swear to all the gods that is is NO fun when you are running for your life and you have no damn shovel. We eventually got out of it using a lot of elbow grease,hand digging, rocks, high revs and a neverending logorrhea of swearwords.
Back on the road, about an hour later, the engine suddenly shut off, for no good reason at all. Checked fuel. Fuel ok. Check ignition. No ignition. Why not ? Open distributor and find that rotor has broken in two and fallen off shaft. Ment rotor by tying it together with duct tape found in tool locker. Truck runs again, but misfires all the time. Top speed is now some 30 Km/h. Keep truck running, don‘t stop for repair refinements, keep going as it is, if it were not for a bullet -coming from behind- punching neat hole in windscreen. Tell driver to zigzag and get in back with other rifleman to return fire.
Return fire to what ? Pitch dark out there and they‘ve not got their headlights on. Bastards must have night vision instrument of some sort and they can see us. How far are they behind ? Good question. Muzzle flashes give away position of party in pursuit of us and they are too damn close for comfort. Trooper fires burst in general direction towards the back and enemy muzzle flashes seem to point up in the air, must have hit something by sheer luck. Driver tells me engine is running hot. All we needed.
So we continue and I am praying to the Sun Goddess that we may live to tell when all on a sudden I hear the driver emitting a loud „Sheeeeeeet!“ Next thing I know, I am flung out of the truck and hit the ground hard.
Somehow, we had made better time than we thought and reached our lines much earlier than expected. My driver had hit the brakes when he saw the roadblock too late, the brakes had not responded for sand-abrased brake linings and we had hit a couple of sand-filled oil drums in the middle of the road at whatever speed that was left in our truck.
So we had made it, more or less unscathed and thanks to an old, shot up SII.

For all I know, the truck must be still existing somewhere. The injured guy recovered somehow and is still alive. My #2 bought the farm years later somewhere in the East and I don‘t know what happened to the other guy.
That‘s all, folks