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6 October 1959 - 10 July 1968

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SCLI Memoir by - John Pover- SCLI

Regimental Policeman

Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry

How to avoid a International Incident


‘The Confessions of a Careless Corporal’

by John Pover

The amusing memoir by Angus McKay recalling his brush with the Russian Military brought memories of a similar event when I as a lowly Cpl in Public Relations (Happy Snaps) was tasked with taking half a dozen trucks carrying stores and a number of personnel from Berlin to West Germany.

The day before the journey in question I was briefed at BIB HQ and told in no uncertain terms to have nothing whatsoever, to do with members of the East German Volkspolizei, contact was to be exclusively with Russian and British Military only.

On arrival at the Military Police Post at the Berlin end of the Autobahn I was required to present the ID Cards of all those travelling which were placed on the desk below the high counter. I was handed paperwork to present to the Russian Military and again reminded to have no dealings with the East German Police. Following a few further details I rejoined my driver (who’s name, to my shame, I forget) and set off toward the Russian Checkpoint. Here I handed my paperwork through the hatch, presumably to be copied, then returned within a few minutes together with another Black Edged document.

A few yards further on we were stopped by a young member of the Volkspolizei who wandered up to my side of the truck demanding ‘Paper, Paper’ I of course, remembering my orders, from BIB told him to go away in somewhat less than diplomatic terms, using a combination of Cornish and Pigeon German that probably called into question the poor chaps parentage.

To cut a long story short after several minutes of this exchange I told the driver to press the accelerator pedal, an action which immediately saw the young lad un-sling his rifle and point it at my head. Being a brave ‘British Tommy’ I naturally gave him all the bloody papers I had in my sweaty hand, at which point he smiled withdrew the Black Edged paper the Russian Officer had given me, handed back the remainder, and waived me on my way.

After that little incident all went well until part way along the corridor I spotted a British registered camper van in a lay-by and in accordance with procedure pulled in to enquire if we could be of assistance. During our conversation the question of paperwork came up, the van driver going on about all the paperwork required to travel along that road. I patting my map pocket was about to suggest that I had all my men’s ID Cards when the awful truth hit me like a bolt of lightening. The Bloody ID Cards were still on the MPs desk in Berlin.

The Daily Mirror headlines were burning into my brain, “Diplomatic Incident in Berlin Corridor” “British Soldiers Held” “Corporals Cock Up Causes Cold War Incident” we quickly said our goodbyes and set off in great trepidation toward the West German End of the corridor, praying that I would not be stopped or asked for the men's ID Cards.

On reaching the British Military Police Post with my blood running cold and shaking in my boots I had to tell the MP of my catastrophe at which point he smiled, suggested that my parentage may be suspect and produced the ID Cards which had been rushed through by a Military Mission Car. I am please to report that no action was taken, I don’t believe those in positions of power ever knew of my cockup, an escape for which I owe eternal thanks to that Military Policeman.


Copyright Text and Image: John Pover

23783917 Cpl John Frederick Pover. DCLI/SCLI/LI. died 3rd July 2013 aged 71yrs.

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