John-Ward Leighton


John-Ward Leighton: Jump CourseAirborne Course
15 May 1966 – June 27 1966

We came down by train from our base in Victoria, one rifleman, three Corporals and a Sergeant. Besides me there was Jim [Hans] my best friend, Reg, Gerry and Jerry. We had a pleasant two day trip and were picked up at the siding in Rivers at 05:00 hrs by an Army bus and taken to the Jump school, assigned quarters and had a breakfast got into uniform and reported to the jump school for orientation.

We drew rifles and rucksacks and were assigned to sticks and started on the endless double here double there and “gimme fifty”. Landing swings were my particular bugaboo and I could never seem to get it right. Our stick leader and instructor was an arty Bombardier and even though it’s thirty nine years since those days I would still like to have him by the throat and choke him till his fucking eyes popped out.

We got to the mock tower to practice our exits and I made four good ones. One more to go and then I would be home free for exits. I must not have had my equipment tight enough [it had to be so tight your legs went to sleep] and after literally running up the stairs one nut must have crept outside the harness. I exited and dropped the twelve feet [six feet further than the hangman] and crunch my right nut took all my rapidly accelerating weight. I arrived at the end of the cable out cold. They revived me and sent me back to redo my five perfects in a row with push ups in between just to take my mind off the pain.

My belly turned blue, and all the MO would give were aspirin for the pain. If you have ever had a groin pull you realise how the “gimme fifty” felt. The next four weeks were a blur of pain but finally we got to the evening before our first jump. The wind wouldn’t co-operate and the windsock stood right out from the pole. We were stood down and being keyed up and full of piss and vinegar went to Brandon and got drunk and wrecked a bar. I remember thinking at the time [the chairs and tables were bolted to the floor and the meatheads arrived pretty quickly] that this must have been a common occurrence.

They dumped us at our quarters at about 01:30 hrs and then came and dumped us out of our racks at 03:00 hrs. They spilled us out and lined us up single file and shouted in our faces and asked if we were too drunk to jump. “Hell no”, we screamed, “AIRBORNE.’”

The next sequence is a blur in my memory but somehow we got out equipment and chutes and got put together and waddled on to the aircraft and sat down. Then the command to stand up and hook up. Jim, my best buddy, checked me and I checked him, then red on, green on, GO! and we bunny hopped to the door.

I fell out the door like a sack of shit and went into a spin. When I got it straightened out I was about fifty feet off the ground and a half mile from the DZ. I landed without lowering my equipment and was lucky I didn’t get my rifle rammed up my ass. I made the mandatory five-point landing only it was my heels, my ass, my elbows and the back of my head. MY helmet saved me any permanent damage but I got my bell rung just the same.

I got up and got my equipment and rifle off my legs and then rather unsteadily released my harness and then stepped away and had a good puke. Then I checked out my rifle and put on my rucksack and bundled up my chute and ran back toward the sound of the bull horn.

It was a pretty quiet ride back to the hanger as I remember and we got another chute and went back up again. I recall that the aircraft smelled of puke and booze as we went through the drill again only this time I made a good exit and landed without incident. Needless to say but by this time I was stone cold sober albeit with a hangover.

Over the next two days we completed our seven jumps and attended the “PROP BLAST” parade where we got our wings. A proud moment and we left full of enthusiasm for now being in that very select club.