The pair of ex-Ghurkha security guards rounded the corner of the building and spotted our party within milliseconds.
“Intruders! Code Red, boss! CODE RED!”
The voice shouting into the walky-talky had an amusing mixture of professional urgency and childish excitement.
We had entered the vast fenced grounds of the abandoned military hospital with the utmost stealth, hugging tree-lines and sending scouts ahead to check for patrols. That was hours ago though and we had explored every nook and cranny of the large main hospital block. Now we had grown cocky and strolled around the grounds showing little concern for the possibility of being caught. And caught we were. Sure, we could have ran and given the guards a little exercise but, honestly, the route in was a bit of a pain in the arse and we were perfectly happy to be walked to the front gates and let out. So, we wandered the site looking for access to some of the smaller buildings, knowing there were guards wandering around and seeing how long we could get away with it before inevitably being seen.
When we were eventually seen, the hapless guards seemed to think themselves inside some Andy McNabb novel. You could almost see in their eyes the replaying of Die Hard movies and hours playing Splinter Cell. As we carefully and politely explained we were simply amateur photographers who like old buildings, they looked visibly disappointed. We were not the expertly-captured explosive-planting terrorist cell that they had clearly pictured us as when they saw a group wearing black, carrying rucksacks and strange equipment (or cameras and tripods, once they got a closer look).
But, maybe the ‘photographer’ story was a clever rouse on our part?
“We’ll need to see some IDs. I’ll also need to see the contents of your bags. Do you have any weapons or sharp objects?”
“Sorry mate, haven’t got any ID on me.”, I replied. I sometimes wonder what sort of terrorist or hard-core criminal would wander around with a valid ID. Surely that sort of stuff would be covered in Al-Qaida 101, no?
Anyway, as we reached the front gates, a big white van sped towards us and screeched to an abrupt halt. It had dogs in the back and a large burly gentleman in the driver’s seat. He seemed to be running the show and is presumably the recipient of the slightly overenthusiastic “CODE RED!” radioed in earlier. He got out of the vehicle and adopted his most intimidating face and pose as he prepared to deal with this supposed high-level threat.
He looked us over, assessing what immediate action was required to contain and deal with the threat. He looked around and past us searching for something to warrant the guard’s excitement. He looked us over again and looked back at the guards, his expression dropping with the disapproval of a man who does not appreciate having his time wasted.
“You have to be f**king kidding me!”
We were questioned with a few trivialities and explained that we were just some friends who like to take pictures of old buildings and what a lovely old hospital it is and we really are terribly sorry if we caused any problems. The ‘dumb tourist’ – works a treat when dealing with security. Give them just enough apology and subservience without giving away anything you don’t need to.
“Yeah, just got in about twenty minutes ago. No, of course we have not been inside the buildings – they look a bit dangerous.”
“We got under the front gates, using that big gap at the bottom.” another member of our party offered as he scanned the area around us. After agreeing to demonstrate how we would have got in (God knows why that was necessary but it was quite amusing) we saw the head guard stare intensely at one of the two who caught us. The under-gate entry point was a little bit of creative story-telling since we clearly didn’t want to give the real hard-won entry route away – That would just spoil it for others who came after. But, it turns out that the “RED ALERT!” guard was also the one who would have been stationed at the guard hut…right at the gate when we were supposed to be making our way in. We had accidentally created a version of the truth whereby we (all 6 of us) go right past the single point that hapless guard was supposed to be watching. I expect he got a bit of a wrist slap after all of that but I only have so much sympathy after all of his dickish bag-search nonsense.
By this point the guard told his boss they were going to take our names and perform bag searches in an apparent attempt to regain some credibility – he just ignored him, opening the gates for us to leave.
So, yeah, old derelict army hospital, nice rooms, lots of history etc. etc. The getting caught was by far the most entertaining part of the visit so that’s what I wanted to write about this time, for the rest see the photos!