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Coronavirus

Unfortunately due to the coronavirus, Callendar square shopping centre is closed for a minimum of 3 weeks, as all my stock is in the shop and don’t have access to the centre, all on-line orders won’t be processed till the centre opens again.

I sincerely apologise for any disruption this has caused and hopefully it will not be too long before we are back to normal.

Many thanks

Denny.

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New Opening Times

From the 11/02/2019 we will be closed on Mon, Tues & Wed’s each week and open as normal on Thurs, Fri & Sat, this is to allow me to concentrate on other ventures, sorry for any inconveniences that this may cause, however it is vital for survival.

Regards,

Denny,

Bathgate Army Surplus Store.

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When an Ex-Army Sergeant took on the West Highland Way

Alright there, troops? I’m not long back from doing the West Highland Way and a pal suggested it would a good idea to write up a wee blog about the adventure so that folks could learn about how an ex-serviceman tackled it…

West High Way
Denny tackles the west highland way

Like the vast majority of people who take on the 96 miles, I walked from South to North. I went with three keen walkers who’d done it before.

Day 1
We started off in Milngavie headed for Drymen. The section was around 12 miles and I enjoyed every bit of it, scenery, banter and all. I wore my Altberg boots and had layers to prepare me for the typical four seasons in one day Scottish weather:

– army issued Goretex waterproof trousers and jacket (these are similar)
– a Norweigan shirt, also known as a ‘Norgy’ or a thermal undershirt if we’re being posh
– army issued self-wicking t-shirt
small army issued rucksack with my thermos cup, water bottle, a torch and a first aid kit, with that all-important zinc tape

By the time we got to Balmaha, I was pretty tired and my feet had started to hurt. Nothing a couple of pints wouldn’t sort…

Day 2
We started off keen as mustard and I was enjoying the sightseeing. My three pals wanted to power on as they’d done the walk before but I was enjoying (and needing) a slower pace because at five miles in as my feet felt like they were on fire! I was starting to fall behind around this point but was determined to continue, so I stopped to assess the damage and consider my options, after finishing this leg we all met in the Drovers Inn bar for a feed and a couple of beers.

Day 3
SO MUCH RAIN – what a day. I swapped to trainers, hoping that would help my poor feet! I soldiered on and reached the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum, really needing some new footwear, as my trainers were soaked and I could not stand the thought of putting those Altbergs back on. I was seriously considering a bus to Bridge of Orchy by this point. My feet were hotter than Satan’s radiators and I had 15 miles to go! I bought myself some Sealskinz socks (I was to find out that this would be the best £40 I have EVER spent). I took myself off to the pub for a consolation pint, dried my feet, put on my Sealskinz and back on went the wet trainers. The horizontal rain was off-putting but I had my pint and went on my way.

When I arrived and caught up with my mates, they were amazed to see that I was bone dry beneath my army issued Goretex AND my feet were also bone dry underneath the magic socks!

Day 4
The best way to describe this day is wall to wall rain and a Devil’s Staircase to climb – which I was amazed to see mountain bikers descending it. It was miserable! It was a trudge and managed to keep up with my mates for a good bit but despite my miracle socks and trainers combo, my feet were hotter than hell. I was feeling quite scunnered, with surely the world’s sorest feet, so when someone stopped to offer me a lift at the end of the longest, windiest, steepest downhill road ever, I asked them how far away my hotel was – and when they said it was only half a mile to Kinlochleven, I gladly got in the car. Best lift ever!

Day 5
Kinlochleven to Fort William – the end was in sight and this was a good day, despite really changeable weather. This stage faces Ben Nevis – which never seems to be any closer despite how far you walk! In reaching Fort William – the end – I had an immediate bottle of Baltika in Wetherspoons, where I was informed that my eagerness for a beer meant that I was short of the official finish line by about four metres! I then went straight out and crossed it!

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Holiday period

The store will be closed from sat 30/9/18 and will re-open on mon 8/10/18, this is for a well-earned holiday, which I have not had for a while, however it will not be much of a break as part of the vacation will be walking the notorious west highland way.

Sorry for any inconveniences that this may cause but everyone needs a break now and again.

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How to survive camping in cold weather

If you’ve ever camped in winter you’ll know it can be cold enough to freeze off certain parts of a brass monkey!

I’m a retired Army Sergeant and I’ve camped in freezing conditions many times. I think the coldest was on a mountain in Canada, where it was -30 and we dug a snow hole to sleep in. I couldn’t feel a thing when I woke up and my fingers struggled to strike the match to light the campfire in the morning.

Amy Sargeant in Canada
In Canada

With this experience under my belt, here are my best tips:

Shelter against the elements

Unless you’re braver than me, you’ll need/want shelter! As soldiers, we often used to set up camp quickly, using a basha shelter. A basha is a bit like a tarpaulin sheet with poles; it is light to carry and can be angled against the elements, however, most people will use a tent. When choosing a tent, you’ll want a lightweight option that is easy to put up and packs down to a size that won’t hold you back.

An absolute essential is a good quality Goretex bivi bag, which is waterproof and breathable, such as this army-issued one. A bivi bag goes over your sleeping bag and the reason for this extra layer is that the LAST thing you want is rainwater (or even sweat) beside your skin/clothes and then it freezing!

Warmth

When you are facing an overnight in the bitter cold you need a special cold weather sleeping bag which can keep you warm in sub-zero temperatures. You will not get away with a standard sleeping bag! A few of the friends on our Facebook page suggest putting a layer between you and the ground by either using a sheet of radiator reflector foam or even branches from a fir tree. Another tip was to heat up the inside of your sleeping bag using a hot water bottle before you climb in.

I’d also suggest a really warm layer, such as a Softie jacket which is warm, waterproof and take a pair of good gloves, cold weather socks, sturdy boots and a hat, too.

Sustenance

Next up, you’ll obviously need food and water. You may not know this, but gas canisters can freeze, so for cooking, I always take a Hexi block cooker, which can be lit with a match or lighter. I also take a decent-sized flask for water, a mess tin, compact cutlery and something boil in the bag to eat.

Kit

The last wee piece of advice I have for you is to take a head torch. There’s nothing harder than setting up camp in the freezing darkness with one hand! And one last tip from the Facebook page? A hip flask with a single malt!

Do you agree with this list? Afterall, not too many of us are lucky enough to have a tipi with a wood burner like one of our good friends on Facebook (you’ll find a pic of his tipi in the comments of this Facebook thread).

Have you got any other cold weather camping tips? Share them with us…

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When B.A.S.S met The Beavers

When B.A.S.S Met The Beavers
When B.A.S.S Met The Beavers

It was a pleasure to be invited along to speak to the Beavers in the 31st West Lothian Scouts Group about army life. I’ll be honest – I was a bit out of my comfort zone because as a retired sergeant, I’m used to speaking to adults rather than kids, so it was a new challenge for me to think about what would interest them, how I could speak their language and how I could make things interactive and interesting. Reflecting on it, I’m pretty pleased with how it went for a first time…

After asking the Beavers what they thought the army is for, I spoke to the kids about what the organisation does, with an emphasis on helping people out in times of crisis, such as natural disasters and keeping the peace. It was a good message to get across as the kids thought that the army “fights the bad guys”.

We looked at what a soldier wears, such as webbing, sturdy boots and why we wear camouflage trousers and tops. We also took a look at what a soldier would need to carry in his/her daysack just to keep fed and hydrated for a day. It was lots!

I was able to demonstrate cooking a portion of ration pack bolognese on a wee camping stove, with the help of my nephew Paul who was dressed in a full ghillie suit for a bit of fun. The verdict on the spag bol? 9 out of 12 tasters liked it. Not bad! The kids were also interested in the tube of chocolate for spreading on army-issued biscuits and I left the vacuum-packed nuts for the leaders!

I had set up a basha shelter outside the Scout hall and we went outside (it was dark) to check it out. We discussed why they are different from tents and can be arranged into different shapes depending on the area you are in but that it would always be set up to fend against the wind and rain. The kids all took a turn of lying under it, on an army sleeping bag, to see if it is comfortable. They said it was! And we discussed why attaching a glow stick would help to identify or see your basha in the dark.

When we came back in from outside, the kids had a turn of marching with the heavy daysack on and agreed it was hard work. Many also wanted to try on the ghillie suit headgear for fun. I was pleased to issue every Beaver with a glow stick for their room – but most of the kids wanted to immediately snap theirs and see it illuminated!

Thanks to the leaders for asking me in – and for the beer!

If you would like me to speak at your club or at a gathering, please get in touch.