As a manager in a large international engineering company I was privileged to have, in my workforce; many old veterans ranging from Dunkirk vets, bomber pilots, navy men and even a sales rep who was actually involved in the infamous ‘wooden-horse’ escapes.
One of my ‘characters’ was an old Jap fighter – our toilet-cleaner (ablutions manager) – who went by the nickname; The Red Devil; because of his claim to be “Ex-Paras” hence the red beret he always wore.
My managing director had a terrible stammer and asked me to act as guide to a delegation of Japanese industrialists. This was at the time when they were investing in creating factories and jobs in the north-east. In other words; they were working for us! My MD confessed that he had great difficulty in speaking English let alone Japanese.
And so, I was put in control of ten polite and smartly dressed Japanese managers fully equipped with cameras. Many were the apprehensive glances we attracted during the factory tour. However, I proudly demonstrated the world’s largest specialised machine, only to be contradicted that they had a larger one in Japan. Our smallest, fastest and most powerful machines also had to take second place to those in Japan. This I knew to be untrue but in the interest of maintaining the peace; I just smiled and nodded (coward/diplomat that I was).
All through the tour, I was aware of a red beret that kept bobbing up from behind machines and boxes. My dreaded thoughts of a vigilante-led international incident was realised when Tommy – the Red Devil – armed with his sweeping brush at present-arms position, suddenly confronted the startled delegation. Tommy rattled off some instruction in Japanese and the delegation instantly fell in line. Tommy headed the squad in the direction of the toilet block with me tagged on at the rear.
In the Men’s Toilet, Tommy assembled the bewildered Japanese and spoke in commanding English:
“Listen up, you lot!” he snapped. “We don’t give a toss if you have the biggest, fastest, or even smallest machines in the bloody world. Cos I know, for a fact, that you have sodall like these in Japan. Cos these were Made in Britain – see”.
At that point, Tommy flung open the door of his broom cupboard to reveal a poster of a female with the largest breasts I had ever seen. Not another word was spoken for a few minutes. Our visitors feasted their eyes of the awesome spectacle before them. The cameras flashed and Tommy came to attention and saluted the poster.
One Japanese spoke out; “Corfluknell. Lukadati’s odat!” or words to that effect.
When I asked Tommy to translate, he said: “Dear me. Look at the mammary glands on that lady.”
Tommy again addressed the delegation and asked if they liked the poster. Every man nodded his approval. The Red Devil proceeded to roll up the poster and presented it to the lead delegate. He then opened the door and ushered the Japanese out of his domain. Tommy winked at me as I followed my charges – “One thing you can count on, Boss; it might take us years after the battle but us old soldiers always get the last laugh.”
My managing director forgot to stammer when the grinning Japanese showed him their souvenir from England. However, I reckon that poster did more for international relations than any politician could have done.
After years of hatred, Tommy got the last laugh before he died – even if he did have to sacrifice his ‘two secret weapons’ – The Little Devil.