MoD corporals have nothing on my bootcamp in East Anglia

When I heard about a British soldier suing the Ministry of Defence for £1.5 million because he was told, among other unrepeatable things, to “man up” when he complained about being cold and wet, it took me right back to my sojourn at a stately pile in East Anglia.

Stop. There is a point to this. It may have looked fabulous – the bedrooms had coffered ceilings – but it was a bootcamp worthy of GI Jane or Charlize Theron in Atomic Blonde. If Charlize had really let herself go and was quite whingey about it.

I have no idea whether Benard Iyegudu, 40, who served with the Royal Logistical Corps, has a valid case against the MoD. He says his non-waterproof clothes “rapidly wetted out” during a “command leadership course” at Longmoor, Hampshire, in November 2018 – and, as a result, he developed trenchfoot from being made to lie on wet and cold ground.

I can’t recall whether my bootcamp billed itself as military-style, but the training was led by a Welsh former NCO who bullied us, yelled at us and punished everyone with a set of burpees when I was a little bit late back from the loo. Sorry.

He was epically horrible, accused us of indulging in “pity parties” (mea culpa), refused to engage when someone cried, and rolled his eyes if anyone begged for special treatment (also mea…) on account of having once broken their back.

“You are walking,” he pointed out, with Easter Island implacability. “If you can walk, you can run. If you can carry a handbag you can carry a stretcher loaded with sandbags.”

But, gradually, his approach changed. The shouting segued into urging. The in-yer-face derision gave way to far more supportive derision, if that’s a thing?

Back then, we thought we had somehow won him over. It turned out the very reverse had happened; he had won us over.

We had reached the psychological tipping point where we were pushing ourselves, rather than going through the motions because a nasty shouty man was haranguing us.

When he yelled at us to demonstrate “character”, I yelled back and said that, as we were all women, technically he should yell “attitude”. And you know, he did as we shed pounds and gained stamina.

What did I learn at the end of my week? I obviously learnt lots about my inner resources and the kick-ass lady boss deep within. But, to be quite honest, my main takeaway was that no amount of hardcore cardio can make up for the luxury of lingering in the Ladies.

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