David Machin
Back to alumni stories

David Machin - Devon on Ashburton, 1967

I was lucky as I was asked to go on OBC after a few of my fellow apprentices turned down the opportunity; I did have a vague idea of what it was all about and jumped at the chance. It was 1967 and I was 19 and set off for Holne Park with Hawkins climbing boots and loads of "proper gear" purchased from the Army and Navy stores.

Due to a mix up with dates for the course I arrived three days early and strangely enough a few hours later, so did two more students. With time to kill and being given digs and scrounging a few snacks from the school's catering staff we spent time going into Ashburton on the schools bikes making friends with the locals..great people..Scrumpy was 6 old pence (a Tanner) for a half...STRONG stuff. Cycling back to the Outward Bound School on our last evening of "freedom" we were rather noisy due to being "Scrumpified"..and were stopped by (as we found out later) the School Commandant Lieutenant Colonel (cannot remember his name) & he gave us a monumental "knees like jelly"-"talking to". So, the course started, I was placed in Gilbert patrol & after getting to know one another we voted on a Patrol Captain & I got the job. There were 9 Patrols all named after famous Cornish/Devonshire seamen of which were made up of 12 "squaddies"...108 guys.

The course began & we all had tasks to perform which included cleaning the dorms, mending school bikes, washing up after breakfast and accompanying the camp commandant on his rounds/inspection. This was all after a jump into the river Dart..head under..to wake us up! We were then taught many, many outdoor skills for basic survival in the wilderness. I'm sure all OB school students will be familiar with the many skills we had to grasp..Orienteering, rock climbing, cliff rescue, surf canoeing, pot holing, four man trecks from North To South Coast of Devon/Cornwall & a solo overnight treck across Dartmoor to mention just a FEW. After one canoeing expedition down the river Dart, we spent the morning surf canoeing on Slappton Sands or maybe Blackpool Sands (wow is it really 48 years ago ) after expedition canoeing there (2 man canoes) from Totness I think. I was teamed up with a guy whose father was a very high ranking officer in the British Army. Well, we managed to capsize our canoe and had to be rescued by Camp Commandant Lft/Col ?????. This was a very scary time as the estuary current was extremely fast and was dragging us along at a furious rate of knots. We managed to be thumped into a buoy and clung on until the rescue launch picked us up...Lft/Col insisted on calling me Capitan for some reason.

When we reached Slappton Sands we surf canoed which when we got the hang of it was quite spectacular. We then gave a mock beach rescue for the local gazette with photographers & a big write up whereby one of us (Me) had to swim out a long way & wave our arms as if in distress for help. I swam so far then called for "help" as I was actually looking "UP" at the waves which were 3 times my height & were dragging seaweed off the bottom...I must say at this stage I was..well..scared. Instructor shouted to swim out further..I did so..not far enough it seemed..Instructor shouted Machin..#### ### further..at this stage I felt a proper rescue may be needed. After a proper job with safety ropes, harnesses, crowd & beach control with loud hailers & Land Rovers we trekked off to Pendeen Watch for a couple of days. The whole course was indeed an absolutely fantastic experience & with the Outward Bound motto "To Serve to Strive and Not to Yield" has given me guidance I will never forget.

My course was in 1967..Gilbert Patrol..D65..some of the guys I remember by names or bits of...
Peter Chiswell from Midsomer Norton he sang self composed songs whilst we were pot holing to the melody of "It's a long way to Tipparary"
Daniel Galvin from Ireland
Richard R Arthur...his dad was big brass in the British Army
Rob from Wales a well read young man who talked in his sleep
Big Geoff from Wales whom I followed through Maggots Crawl
Instructor Ian Howes
Commandant... Lieutenant/Colonel ?????? Can't remember
A good few police cadets
One guy from The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority...UKAEA & one guy from Birkenhead who in no way considered the Big swear words as swearing, so the other 11 of us in the patrol did his punishment of press ups for him..most amusing.
Hopefully there are guys out there who will read this and remember our experiences together and may be able to jog my memory. My regards to you all. David Machin.