The Benson Paratroopers
(From Inge Wannell)

Our first stint at the USAF Base in Ramstein sure had an unforgettable beginning. Travel by USAF military aircraft no less, from an Airbase in the UK - eat your heart out you ferry-boat swabs ! Wow. Visions of luxury air travel something like Air Force I perhaps? Decadent luxury (yes please), pampering…. WRONG.

It was freezing cold and damp as we stood shivering, teeth chattering, on the tarmac. Let's get on the plane and get the hell dry and warm methinks. NOT SO FAST MY LITTLE BAA BAAAAA LAMBS! Up comes a sour-faced Air Force Serviceman rapping out instructions: "Regulations: All civilian passengers on USAF flights must be instructed in basic use of a parachute in case of an emergency". Then out they come. I've seen parachutes in films and on TV, they are light, pretty, airy things that float to earth like a graceful butterfly. WRONG AGAIN. In reality they are bulky, heavy, ugly rucksack things, clanking with straps and buckles - at least on terra firma they are, and as far as I am concerned - that's where they'll stay.

Jackie Davies - a tiny doll-like pretty young teenager - gets one clamped to her back first - she nearly collapses under the weight. I'm next. God, it's a dead weight like a sack of wet cement. The instructor shouts out instructions (that's what instructors do) at the rate of a rapidly firing machine gun. For me it's all academic. The only way he'll get me to jump from an aircraft flying at 10,000 ft (or only 5ft come to that) is either by administration of a general anaesthetic or by strategic placement of a USAF standard issue size 14 hobnailed boot.

By the way we had to sit all the way wearing the *$&=*>§ things - if I remember that ghastly trip correctly - not on nice soft padded aircraft seats, but in a sort of concave metal hole with ridges in it. No trolley dollies, no champagne, no delicacies, no heating.

Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed. (The Gospel according to IB)

We came back on a ferry-boat. Thank you God.

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