- P.P.A. 'H' Patrol History -

What went before.

It was in the middle of the 80ís, short after I had left my military services, that I bought a Willyís jeep which I restored completely by myself from a wreck to a new one. When it was finished I started to look for a club whose members drove with these vehicles. Here in Belgium we have different similar clubs, for instance: 101 AB, Hell on Wheels, Yeomanry, Patton Drivers, S.A.S., Indian Head, etc....... I entered the club which was called: Historical Collectors Group Vehicles North Belgium Yeomanry, short Yeomanry. I chose that club because it was the closest nearby, and soon I was a member of that club. I enjoyed that time. Several people became good friends of mine. Some of them left Yeomanry after a while, I was then 2 year in that club, and other people came in. The club was still growing and growing. Infact the club went too big and smaller groups were created within the club.

I had no good feeling about this. My friends were gone and the others, which I didn't knew very well, left you behind if somebody had problems with their vehicle on the way. Everyone was on his own at that period and that gave me a bad feeling of leading a club or group of my own. My idea of leading a club was: work together, a very high standard of teamspirit, help eachother when somebody has problems, enjoy it, have fun, etc... It's sad to say when you have a group of about 150 members, you canít even find someone to organise an obstacle course or assault course for children on a meeting....

Once upon a time we were at the military domain in Leopoldsburg (Belgium) for a meeting, organised by another club, where I met the Historical Collectors Squad Special Air Service, short S.A.S.. I observed these men for a while and went up to them where I spoke with Dirk B. which was dubbed "Bruno Two" and Jan P., dubbed into "Viking", both founders of the club H.C.S. - S.A.S..
"Bruno Two" a colourful interesting man of medium length and always ready for a joke but also for a serious talk, was an ex-paratrooper and knew very much about Special Forces. He had a collection of about 50.000 different signs and capbadges of different armies from around the world. "Viking", it speaks for it self, looked like a real Viking. A very interesting, slim character of medium length and who also knew very much about Special Forces, was a schoolteacher. Both became more than very good friends within the next months .

We spoke about my problem, the working of a club, the meaning of teamspirit, etc... Those two people had something what I missed in the club Yeomanry. "Bruno Two" and "Viking" told me: "It's sad that you're already a member of a club. You would be a good member for the S.A.S., but we don't take members of another club away. They will be angry at us if we take you away.". Very sad for me but I agreed with their opinion. It was not a real problem for me, because I spent more time with the S.A.S. on a meeting than with my own club a few meetings later. I drove with Yeomanry to a meeting and when I was there I parked my jeep next to or in the neighbourhood of the S.A.S. vehicles and lived or slept always in or beside my jeep.
Like people say....., "Life goes on!". A few months later at a meeting in the Belgium Ardennes I sad down at the campfire in the S.A.S. camp and told "Bruno Two" and "Viking" that I was planning to start my own group or club. It would be a small one, only good friends, a high standard of teamspirit, knowing what they are doing, etc... A few weeks later I left Yeomanry behind me and soon I was on my own. Here I was, one man, one jeep and without a name for my club.
 

At a meeting, my jeep and camp... all in one.

On my own.

The following weeks at home I searched in books, looking for a good name for my club of an existing unit in WWII. Mostly I found information of big units or compagnies who belong to a big army. I searched for something new because here in Belgium you've already had 101 AB, Hell on Wheels, Yeomanry, Patton Drivers, S.A.S., Indian Head, etc... I searched for a small unit like the S.A.S., not that I haven't respect for bigger units. I have respect for all men, women, military or civilian who fought in WWII. Smaller units had also done a good job in the war but most of them are unknown to the present day. I feared that if I took the name of a big unit, in the future, I would have got the same problem that I've seen in Yeomanry and that was not my intention. In an article I found the name of a small unit which was called Popski's Private Army, who did work behind the enemy lines in Africa and Italy but nothing more. The next meeting I asked "Bruno Two" if he knew P.P.A..
"Yes", he said, "very unknown, a small unit like the S.A.S. in Africa, Italy and I believed also for a part in Austria. Sadly I havenít a lot of information about P.P.A. and I also don't have the capbadge of it. I think the commander was a Belgian.".
"A Belgian !?" I said.
"Yes, a Belgian! He had Russian parents but he was born in Belgium and I think he has the Belgium nationality. His parents where Russians thats for sure.".
What was that !!
What would you say if I called my club Popski's Private Army, I asked.
"I think it's a good idea, Popski worked some times with the S.A.S, almost in the same way as the S.A.S., you are mostly with us and want a club like ours. Yes it sounds nice.".
Now I was sure of it, I would take the name Popski's Private Army for my club because it was a small unit, unknown and the commander was a Belgian. Yes I would take it!

I rebuild my jeep replicating an Africa look, I build him like a S.A.S. jeep, not all the same but almost and painted it in sandcolor. Here I was, with a desert jeep, desertclothes, a black tankberet without capbadge. After a few meetings I went with the S.A.S. to the War and Peace Show at Beltring, England in 1992. There I found a special band of friendship with the members of the S.A.S..

At the War and Peace Show in Beltring,
with various members of the S.A.S. and friends.

First, at noon on Saturday, "Bruno Two" came to me in our camp and told me: "Kurt, I found someting and if you want it, you can buy it from me even if I like it too".
"What you mean Bruno Two?" I said.
"Look what I found here." he said and he opened his hand I saw a real silver capbadge of P.P.A.. My eyes went far, far open, my hair stood up and cold shivers rolled over my body.
"Waaawww....., what's that!" I shouted and told him that I was sure, I would buy it from him.... very sure, and thanked him for what he did.
"No problem boy..., your welcome, but if you find another one.... think of me because I also don't have it in my collection.", and I promissed him to do that. I put my capbadge onto my beret and now I could show that P.P.A. was my club.

"Viking" asked me for a drink and a toast with the other members of the S.A.S. for the finding of the capbadge. I agreed and we toasted to P.P.A. and the S.A.S. with a glass of whisky.

The second reason is that they saved my life a few hours later when I almost drowned that night. At that evening, we went to a nearby pub and again the S.A.S. toasted for the passed day. Normally I'm not a great drinker but I had a reason and we toasted with "Rusted Nail" a mixed drink made by the S.A.S., a part whisky and a part Drambiue in one glass. After to many glasses I spoke English like nobody else. Normally I couldn't or just a few words like: thank you, how are you, yes and no. Later I learned that I've made a whole conversation with the barkeeper's wife that night. Before we went to the pub, "Bruno Two" had told me:
"When we turn back, go 20 meters straight ahead, then right for about 50 meters, over the small bridge and always straight ahead for about 450 meters, there is our camp.".
At 02.00 oíclock I left the pub and, .... somebody turned off the lights!. I had a black out. The only thing I heared was a voice who said to me "Always straight ahead...., always straight ahead....".

Next morning I woke up, completely wet and thirsty. I rolled over in my sleepingbag, stood up, looked around and saw a few members of the S.A.S. and they applaused for me and shouted: "Always straight ahead...!", and they laughed.
I went to them because I had only one question.... "What happened to me?". Barend P. who was dubbed into "Barny", son of "Viking", a powerful and colourful interesting person, always ready to help somebody, said to me: "I left the pub a few seconds behind you and saw you going straight ahead on the road. The following moment you were gone. I ran after you but I didn't saw you. I looked in the little canal and the only thing I could see were your feet, just above the water. I jumped in after you and got you out of the water.".
Dad and "Bruno Two" came on and said.... Always straight ahead and laughed. I put you on my shoulder and took you with us and laid you on your sleepingbag at the camp". I looked to my clothes, then to "Viking" and he nodded and said:
"Thatís what happened my friend". I couldnít remember a thing and it were the only 8 hours that I missed in my live. I thanked "Barny" for what he had done and the only thing he said was:
"Your welcome, I'll never left a friend behind.".
He had the same thoughts as a club member as I did, but I'm sure that this was not on my mind the moment at the canal side.

The next day we went to Belgium and I was very happy with my capbadge, so I could begin to expand my club. I gave order to make T-shirts and stickers. "Bruno two" copied the capbadge and made 10 out of polyester for me. Now I had a desert jeep, desert uniform, and a beret with P.P.A. capbadge and I was happy with it, but it was months later that I officially started up my club...

Source: P.P.A. Preservation Society.
Photos: P.P.A. Preservation Society.

 

 
   

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