We set up in the men’s mess and offered a prize to anyone who could beat the reigning champion – Sgt Paley.
The 2 protagonists would set up opposite each other, straddling a bench. In order to avoid anyone cheating they had to hold each other’s hands, and with a dessert spoon held between their teeth they would take turns to bash each other on the head. The guy being hit had to put his head down to allow his opponent to strike, but this also meant he could not see what was going on while he was being struck.
In the spirit of fair play (!) the challenger would be allowed go first and so Paley would lower his head, and the guy would try and hit him as hard as he could. It was then that the challenger realised that no one can get enough leverage with a spoon held between your teeth to hurt your opponent. Much to the challenger’s surprise when he lifted his head he would see Paley rubbing his crown and gritting his teeth as though he had been seriously injured.
The challenger then lowered his head in turn, and Gerry’s assistant (Mick O’Toole), who had retrieved a soup ladle from the kitchen, would give him a fair sized “BOP” on the head. Your man at this stage would look very bemused and when Gerry lowered his head in turn the challenger would try all his might to inflict a telling blow – but knew in his heart that the spoon just moved in his mouth and no injury was inflicted. When he had received a second “Whack” from the ladle our man would cop on that there was a fix and get very upset much to the amusement of the gathered multitude who, of course, could see what was going on all the time.
So one night after the Paley challenge a second match took place which is the one pictured above. In this photo we can see my hand with the ladle coming in from the left to “bop” the guy on the head. This fellow however was not for giving up and took quite a few heavy blows before we took pity on him and declared him the winner.
The next morning I was the orderly sergeant when I spotted a soldier with no cap on. “Where is your beret, soldier!”, I roared to be told that it no longer fitted his head such was the size of the lump that had come up from the bashing he took the night before. We had to excuse him from the parade and hide him during morning inspection. I think the swelling had gone down enough by the next day for him to parade as normal and I don’t know if, or when, he ever found out that he was victim of a set up.