Army Memories

When I turned 18 in 1975, I knew that I had to go into the army. During my first interview I was given the choice of staying a soldier or to follow an officers training program. The drawback was that I had to serve for six more months, but at the time I thought it was worth it.

Jan van Schaffelaer kazerne

My training was at the “Jan van Schaffelaer kazerne” in Ermelo

The training was brutal at times. What I hated most was being woken up in the middle of the night because someone outranking us had decided that we had to walk some more miles. And more. Many, many more. We were given only 5 minutes to get up and be ready for inspection. There were consequences for being (too) slow.

Enough was enough
I wanted it to stop. I knew in which room these decisions were made, and I also knew that no superior would ever leak times and dates. As soon as I was allowed to go home for a weekend, I picked up my soldering iron and constructed a low power transmitter on a frequency just outside the FM band. I carefully weighed size versus output power versus battery life, and ended up with something the size of a matchbox which could (in theory) transmit for weeks in a row.

The transmitter was constructed along the same lines as the one below.

Mini FM TXPlanting the device
There was something no sergeant or lieutenant ever wanted to miss: parties. During one of those parties I sneaked into the room with some sticky tape, crawled under the conference table and installed the bug. A short test confirmed that everything worked as expected.

I left the room, went to my buddies and switched on a transistor radio. We carefully kept track of everything concerning us and it soon paid off. We always knew exactly what they had in store for us, and when. Ha!

The device worked great for more than a month, but our mysterious ‘sixth sense’ hadn’t escaped their attention. In the end they did a thorough search and found my nifty little device. They immediately knew who did it – my hobby wasn’t really a secret.

I didn’t even try to deny it, and told them that I was proud of what I had accomplished. “You know, sergeant, you were the one who taught me that I had to try every possible way to win a game. I did just that.” He smiled, then laughed and kicked me out. “I’ll keep an extra eye on you from now on, you crazy little bastard.”

I wasn’t punished, but I never got my bug back.