|Testing a Goat demolition device on a Churchill Tank at Hankley Common.|
In bygone days Hankley Common was a name familiar to members of JPC, Recruit Coy and the Battalions. Located on the Hampshire/Surrey border, the DZ and Infantry Training Area was a first step for the young crows from Depot Para, and a regularly used place for the blokes of the regular and TA battalions. Being close to Aldershot it afforded only short travel back to camp. After completing a days jumps, and if you could get the 41 Sqn RCT drivers to stop, The Golden Fleece in Elstead offered time to spend a couple of beer tokens on the return to camp.
Some years ago it was discovered that amounts of WW2 ordnance had been buried on the area, then forgotten about, this closed the DZ for parachuting. A subsequent Brigade relocation followed so even after EOD gave the all-clear, parachuting was a to remain a thing of the past: Hankley no longer sees the limited sticks exiting the belly of the beast on its short air corridor. The area currently remains a largely "no-dig area" so how confident were EOD they had cleared it? Shell scrapes and tactical twigs now replace the need for wriggly tin, sand bags and a sharp '58 shovel. The occasional bit of Para cord or container release does surface when it's dry.
Few other indications of its previous use remain, Cadets and Hats now permanently inhabit its sacred grounds. The DZ Huts, Med Centre and Pig-pens are still in use, the balloon square is now used as car parking or Ex Control when the hats don't want to get their tents dirty on the rough. Two signs remain as a reminder of its past glory, "NO A OR B VEHS UNLESS CONNECTED WITH AB OPS". These signs are often defaced or turned by the lesser envious types (probably the hats) but as a regular visitor to the area this contributor accepts a duty of care in maintaining the warning signs.
Further into Hankley's past life is a replicated section of Atlantic Wall. Built by Canadian Engineers in 1943 the wall was used in pre D-Day exercises to measure the amount of explosive required to penetrate the French coastal fortifications. Recently sectioned as a site of special interest the wall sits through the changing seasons being invaded by brambles, nettles and the worse type of creeper, a bored ACF mong. Other reminders of this period remain, dragons teeth and other wire and concrete structures, all showing the force used to destroy them 60+ years ago.