The time I spent in Hereford was hell on my body, even though it was almost healed from my ordeal on the hills. I had no toenails left, and the blister scars on my feet were still visible and hurt a little bit, especially when I put them in my new jungle boots to break them in. I was, however, excited and looking forward to starting the jungle phase of the course. Of course I had heard all the stories of complete and utter hardship and suffering. But they always came from people who had failed the course. So in my own mind, what was the point in listening to someone who had never completed the course or who had been binned? Of course they were hoping to make it sound hard or they could not justify their own failure. No. “Sod them,” I thought. I’m going out with an open mind, a mind that is going to learn lots of new things. Soldiering in the jungle is pure: It’s boots, rifle, and belt kit. You either stick into it and survive, or you get spat out.

We sat in the quadrangle on our kit while the DS checked that we were all complete with the right stuff. It was not the normal green army-type kit inspection where you hold every last item up, and every time someone forgot something really important, they got shouted at. This was a simple head check and a chance to make sure everyone was ready. If you had forgotten something on this course, well then it was probably better you went back to wherever you came from. You should be past the stage in your career where you need such low-level supervision.

Once everyone was happy, our kit went onto a low loader in a container to be taken ahead of us out to the trees. We would be travelling with just our belt kit and weapon until we got there. We had a final night off and were to parade early the following morning, ready to be taken to the airframe—an RAF TriStar carrying around 40 hopefuls. The flight would be a long one, refuelling at Doha before continuing on to Brunei. There were all the staff minus the advance party—the students and the odd person going out there on post—so the flight wasn’t full and there was enough room to stretch out a bit.

I went into Hereford and had a couple of pints of the black stuff before going back to camp early to get a good sleep before the next 48-odd hours of travelling. All too soon the alarm was going off and I was out of bed—shit, shower, shave—ready to get the coach to Brize Norton. It was still dark in the car park and I wished I wasn’t so awake, as it was a couple of hours to Brize and I could have slept some more. Sleeping helps with the boredom massively while travelling, but it’s important to sleep at the right times, or else you can’t get to sleep when you really need to.