22 February, 2009

THE EARTHING SPIKE


I have recently remembered another rather amusing incident from my national service days. As you may possibly recollect from my previous narratives, I was put in charge of a mobile multi-channel radio link.
Amongst the equipment were two mains electric generators. Powered by the Volkswagen flat four engine (as used in the Beetle) they were very reliable and efficient but for one small but highly annoying fault. This was that the insulation was not quite up to standard and was capable of delivering a shot of alternating current to the unfortunate recipient unless adequately earthed.
This earthing was effected by the use of a purpose made metal spike which was connected to the chassis of the unit, in order to remain effective the soil around had to be kept moist and a special plastic container was kept filled with water to this end.
Anyway, one summer I was out on a NATO exercise with my detachment, we were encamped in a forest clearing somewhere in Northern Germany. The weather had been dry for several weeks, and, as most of Northern Germany has a sandy soil, the earth spike required constant attention.
Now we had recently acquired a new Troop Sergeant (I shan’t mention his name here). This individual was most conceited and bombastic - you now had been there, done it, bought the tee shirt, etc etc That particular day I instructed my electrician/driver to fill the plastic container and water the spike. The Sergeant immediately said not to bother and, completely ignoring my warning about possible consequences, he would see to it himself, whereupon he walked down to the generator, unbuttoned his fly and relieved himself on an earthing spike which, due to the soil condition and the dry weather, must have been charged to at least fifty volts.
I have never heard a grown man make such a shriek as the Sergeant did on that day! Strangely enough, after that he became oddly quiet and meek. I wonder why??

Henry Dallimore
Pottsville Open Writers (POW)

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