VARIOUS

2021

This page will be for used for John’s A -Z Monthly Quiz’s and “Items of interest” until the virus has been crushed.  Also see…. https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Down

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The 3rd Part of The Boy’s Brigade History and my time as Boy in the Brigade.       

After leaving primary School at an early age of eleven I then went on to my Secondary Morden education at Rowan Road School for Boy’s in Mitchem, Surrey. It was a large two storey brick-built Building with a large pitch tiled roof, the school was built I believe round about the nineteen thirties. The girls were situated on the upper floor and the boys on ground floor each had separate playgrounds and playing fields. I made a friend and classmate with a chap called John Walker (no connection with whisky company) he was quiet a very tall lad and made me look tiny next to him, although my nick name in class was shrimp and other rude names that I cannot repeat.    

He mentioned to me that he was a member of the Boy’s Brigade and told me all about the Brigade as what it stood for and what was involved, and he asked me if I would like to join of which I agreed and said I would speak to my parents first and would let him know when I would come along and join.  

I arrange with John to go along with him on their meeting night which was parade night and was in a hall attached to Pollards Hill Baptist Church and the Company was the 13th East Surrey Company, I was introduced

to the captain and some of Warrant Officers, Lieutenant’s and the NCO’s and Boys of the Company.

The captain gave his name as Mr Aplin and said he oversaw the Company and that I should call him either by Mr Aplin or Sir or was often referred in the BB as the Skipper.    

Then Captain Aplin handed me over to one of his Warrant Officers for him to brief me and explain about the Founding History of the Boy’s Brigade and the Object and motto and what it meant and I had learn it, and about what the uniform consisted of and the wearing and cleaning of uniform. 

He also explained to me about that we had to attend Bible Class every Sunday morning, and once a month there would be Church Parade where all boys would have to attend in full uniform, and that we would March with the Band around the local streets then into Church afterwards. 

He then explained to me that Tuesday Night was Parade Night and Badge Work and Wednesday night was Band practice and Thursday night PT.   

More Next Time to my time as Boy in The Boy’s Brigade, Malcolm Gibbons.   

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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President John Elms Rugby King!  (don’t mess with him)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Unbeaten Season

 After leaving the village school..l in 1948 I moved to Spalding Grammar  School. This was a Rugby Union playing school. During the season 1952-53 I started playing football for Holbeach United (a semi pro club) youth team. I continued playing for them until I went into the army in March 1956. We had a very strong team winning the local youth league on two occasions together with several cups. Some of the team later played as professionals.

During my time in the army due to there being few facilities I only played a handful of matches of both rugby and football. Following my discharge I signed for a football team in the Peterborough league. In only my second match I received an injury which ‘went wrong’. After recovering some of my friends persuaded me to turn to rugby and I started playing for Spalding R.F.C.

So in late 1958 I changed codes. At this time Spalding had a very strong club and played at a good level i.e. Leicester 2nd XV etc.

I started in the 3rd XV but by the end of the season I was getting selected for the 1st XV mainly as a back row forward. Such was the strength of the club at that time the 1st XV went through the 1960-61 season unbeaten. All thirty- three matches were won with 609 points scored and only 56 against. At that time only 3 points were awarded for a try compared with 5 points now. We made the national press on at least two occasions the Daily Telegraph and the Times. This was a record never again equalled by the club. By the time I retired in 1978-79 I had played just over 550 matches for the club (not all 1st XV)  

I was very fortunate never receiving any serious injuries. I received a special award on my 500th appearance and towards the end of my career was 3rd  XV captain finally retiring at the age of 42.

The 1960-61 unbeaten season is unlikely to ever happen again and is an achievement the club will always be proud of. During my career at Spalding I can proudly say that I scored a hundred tries at various levels together with a number of penalties and conversions when called to do so.

 

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More Malta memories

This is a recount of a visit to St. Martin’s College during the 2016 Malta Reunion.  The first section has been written by Janet Barkway and is followed by a section written by the college.

Peter Robinson, Chairman of Malta branch was asked to liaise with St Martin’s College to set up a visit and a talk by some of our World War II veterans; due to a George Cross Association Council meeting, neither he or Pat Scott could take on the task.

So suddenly I was “copied” into an email, and after a few emails to fix up the arrangements, two teachers arrived at the Preluna Hotel, Sliema, to take us to school, not too early; the veterans were suited and booted, proudly wearing their medals, shoes polished and their preparation homework done – they were ready for the off, along with Lindsay Thacker and myself to keep them ship shape !!

Well, what a welcome we had in the library, the librarian had a vast array of books on Malta at war on display, quite a distraction for us all, even she had no idea of the number of books they had on the shelves. The idea was that the veterans would talk to the students who were study

ing Malta at war in the 1940’s in relaxed groups about their experiences and answer questions put to them by the students, in rotation.  

What wasn’t expected was the number of other students who came down during their own break time all of whom wished to be involved and listen to the veterans and contribute to the questions.

It was a huge success, RAF veteran, Walter Chadwick was so impressed by a young boy called Malcolm who was clearly very well informed and had a passion for the subject; in Walters own words “I was happy to listen to him !’.

Ivy Bateman was a popular veteran, the girls adored her, asking many questions about her husband’s time in Malta whilst she was at home in England without him for quite a few years.  Ivy met a young boy who is to attend Liverpool university this year to study history, this impressed Ivy.  Ivy was also very active herself as a British army driver

Alan Sandall, Royal Navy veteran, had forgotten his medals (he got a hundred lines !!) but despite that, at one point had pupils waiting for seats to interview him, we have the pictures to prove this !!

Such was the interest and evident pleasure of the project and the visiting veterans, Lindsay and I found it difficult to move the students along so that those waiting could get their turn, so much so that we had to appeal to the teachers for help!!

Jack McNulty, Royal Marines, was another very popular veteran; he met a young Russian student whose grandparents had perished in the war.  Typically Jack played down his role and array of medals, Lindsay had to deal with confusion here, it appeared Jack, ever the joker, had told the students that he got his medals from a PAWN shop; three boys were confused or intrigued until Lindsay explained the difference between a pawn shop and PORN …thanks for that Jack !!

Unfortunately, Lindsay and I had not expected such a large number of students and we had only taken a few large paper poppies to hand out, so rather discreetly we had to eke them out amongst the girls, who indeed were thrilled.

At the end of the session, revived with tea and a biscuit (staff break time), we were all presented with books about Malta, Walter was presented with a book of poems written by the students at the college .

The director of the college came to thank us all before we left, this time our veterans had plenty of questions for her, and she was indeed delighted to learn how well the event had gone.  It seemed that the staff themselves had been impressed with the informative questions that had been put to the veterans by the students So after a photo call, school was over for the day and we were driven safely back to the Preluna Hotel.  What a very enjoyable time it was and we all loved every minute.

Incidentally there was a report and a picture in The Times of Malta, unknown to us, however back copies were found for all the veterans to take home to their families.  Fame indeed for the 2016 reunion veterans!

The following is a write up by the college themselves:

St Martin’s College recently welcomed four British World War 2 veterans.  Students met Captain Jack McNulty, Mr Alan Sandall and Mr Walter Chadwick who served in the British army and navy and were stationed in Malta for some time during WW2.  The three gentlemen, whose ages range from 89 to 96, were in Malta for the annual reunion that is organised by the George Cross Island Association.  They were accompanied by Mrs Ivy Bateman, who served in the British army in the UK, and whose husband had served in Malta.

The aim of the event was to assist students in appreciating the service and experiences of those who served during the 1940’s Siege, as well as to bridge the gap between generations.  Students had the opportunity to speak to the veterans and learn more about such an important part of recent history from first-hand experiences.

The veterans’ visit was complemented by an exhibition in the school library of books related to World War 2.  Furthermore, as a commemoration of the event, every participating student was given a British coin that was used in Malta in 1942.  The event was organised by the students’ history teacher and coordinator of the humanities department, Mr Paul Portelli.

St Martin’s College would like to thank Mr Peter Robinson, Mrs Janet Barkway and Mrs Lindsay Thacker from the George Cross Island Association for their kind help and efforts in making this visit possible.

 

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John’s October Quiz

 We intend setting a monthly A to Z quiz now….26 questions each with a corresponding letter of the alphabet as a clue….some easy some more challenging.
> Have a go. See how quickly you can answer them. 20 is a good pass mark.
> Let us know what you think.
> Good luck!

> A….Circus gymnastic performers
> B…Capital of China

> C…Harlen. American mystery author. Adopted for TV with The Stranger.
> D…Motown. American motor city.
> E…Premiership team nicknamed the Toffees.
> F…Steepest in the UK is in Hastings. Starts Old Town ends Seafront.
> G…Sacred Hindu river.
> H…Muscle at back of the thigh…knee to hip.
> I….Island with monastery and nunnery on West coast of Scotland.
> J…Musicians improvise together.
> K…English monarch 1016.
> L…Cheddar like cheese…..Red ???
> M…Famously made with Seville oranges.
> N…UK model born London 1970.
> O…Author and TV presenter….Thursday Murder Club and Pointless
> P…Black and white Chinese bear.
> Q…Bohemian Rhapsody group.
> R…Seen in Daily Express from 1920 wears a yellow check scarf and matching trousers.
> S…Clark Kent
> T…Berber dish in this pot.
> U…USSR….what does U represent.
> V…indoor cycling arena.
> W…Famous novel by Zadie Smith.
> X….Photocopier.
> Y….What sort of Doodle Dandy was James Cagney.
> Z…Japanese WW2 fighter plane.

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NEW QUIZ FORMAT MONDAY!

Answers to Quiz No 32 Scroll down!

 

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Some more of Joe’s Army Life, Joe gets his “chips”

Well, my last missive was regarding Belize.  I have been hard pushed to write something else that may grab your attention for 2 mins.  I then realised that there was something else that we do that isn’t in any book or pamphlet, it’s called CIVPOP.  I have done it twice and had fun on both.

I’m sure that all realise that N Ireland was running for most of my career in the Army, and I started to visit there from 1974 until I left.  However, before we go to NI we are trained in Urban warfare against, what is in essence, a Guerrilla type enemy.  These are people who operate by stealth, Terror and crime.  Dressed in clothes that everyone else is wearing, so essentially becoming invisible from day to day.  So how do we train, we build a village and run exercises in it to get the unit that is going in the right frame of mind.  We generally know where we are going to be deployed, the unit already there puts together a brief to let the newbies know what is going on, who to watch etc.  RUC officers from that area and base come over to England and work with the unit whilst they are training, giving corrections and advice on the spot.  And we go in to be the Civilian Population, so they have someone to arrest etc – CIVPOP.  And the training area is in Lydd Camp.

My first taste of this was not very memorable, except for the night I was tasked to do something.  When I got to the control room a member of the WRAC was waiting to, for this little phase she was my pregnant wife, and we were told to go for a walk around the village for 45mins, the pregnancy was in fact a litre of petrol in a container attached to a detonator, at the time I had a “Dr Who” scarf very long, as it was cold we wrapped the scarf around our necks and together we strolled around for 45 mins, the brief was if no one stopped us we had to but the bomb on the post office door handle, well no one did so the bomb was placed.  We went back to control just across the square, got a cup of tea and settled in to see what would happen.  About 15 mins later the control staff triggered the bomb, we were greeted with a 50-foot jet of burning petrol and plastic shooting straight up into the air, at which a very pale WRAC I’ve been carrying that around under my jumper for 45 mins.

The second time I did it I was the CQMS (Company Quarter Master Sergeant) basically I was in charge.  The village as was came with all things you might find in NI, so we had a bar, fish & chip shop and other bits.  The WRAC detachment that was with us immediately took control of the chip shop, and every morning I would go down to the local farmers and get a £4.50 bag of potatoes (25Kg), take them back up to the base, where they were chipped and got ready for sale that evening, at 20p for a plate full, I was very surprised a just how popular that shop became, still not sure whether it was the chips or the ladies.

The bar was just as busy, not only by us, but the troops used to come in to do their checks.  So, people where in and out of the places virtually all night.  Then, the dreaded call from The Paymaster, who had come to check the books and ensure everything was going ok.  Walked in, to a very stern-faced Company Commander and Paymaster, who went on to inform me that under the rules and regs that I was allowed to make a profit in this situation of about 5% (I think).  I don’t recall how much that actually equated to, but then informed me that I had made £750 over the top of what I should have, and what did I want to do about it.  Definitely one of those times that one is completely stumped, so said the first thing that came into my mind, “I suppose letting me have it, is out of the question” I’m sure that no one will be surprised to find out it was out of the question, got to try though haven’t you.  In the end we agreed for it to be put into the company funds.  I actually thought they were going to court martial me. Well, the Chips were free to all for the remainder of the exercise

 

From our Parade Marshall & Treasurer Joe de Zille

 

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John’s Quiz No 32

Political insults….and humour.
1. Which PM was described by a fellow Tory “I cannot stand his lowlier than thou attitude”?
2. Who did Tony Benn describe as “the Archie Rice of the Labour Party”?
3. Who did French President Mitterrand describe as “mouth of Marilyn Monroe and eyes of Caligula”?
4. Which US President said “kissing babies gives me asthma”?
5. Which Labour leader was described as “ a party leader worthy of assassination “?
Healthy supplements….so it’s said!!!
6. Which berry is said to improve eye health.
7. This “human like” root relieves stress and adds energy.
8. A little of this in food helps to keep healthy hearts and lowers blood pressure.
9. Created naturally in the body by sunshine.
10. This spiky green plant builds immunity and can aid digestion.
TV
11. Famous Vet from All Creatures Great and Small.
12. Host of House of Games now a top author.
13. Plays Inspector Geordie Keating in Grantchester.
14. Character played for many years by Michael Le Vell in Coronation Street.
15. Sadly passed away

 

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John’s Quiz No 32

Political insults….and humour.
1. Which PM was described by a fellow Tory “I cannot stand his lowlier than thou attitude”?
2. Who did Tony Benn describe as “the Archie Rice of the Labour Party”?
3. Who did French President Mitterrand describe as “mouth of Marilyn Monroe and eyes of Caligula”?
4. Which US President said “kissing babies gives me asthma”?
5. Which Labour leader was described as “ a party leader worthy of assassination “?
Healthy supplements….so it’s said!!!
6. Which berry is said to improve eye health.
7. This “human like” root relieves stress and adds energy.
8. A little of this in food helps to keep healthy hearts and lowers blood pressure.
9. Created naturally in the body by sunshine.
10. This spiky green plant builds immunity and can aid digestion.
TV
11. Famous Vet from All Creatures Great and Small.
12. Host of House of Games now a top author.
13. Plays Inspector Geordie Keating in Grantchester.
14. Character played for many years by Michael Le Vell in Coronation Street.
15. Sadly passed away recently….played Boycie in Fools and Horses.

Answers

1. John Major
2. Harold Wilson
3. Margaret Thatcher
4. John Kennedy
5. Neil Kinnock
6. Bilberry
7. Ginseng
8. Garlic
9. Vitamin D
10. Aloe Vera
11. James Herriot
12. Richard Osman
13. Robson Green
14. Kevin Webster
15. John Challis

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Jennie comes to Deal Pt 2

The old pier that had been cut in half by a Dutch ship, having dragged its anchor during the 1940s war years had badly damaged the pier. Following this, the pier was demolished to evade enemy  invasion. Following the war, ships wrecked by enemy action lay in the Channel and on the beach. These also had to be removed. During one of our August visits, the demolition was in progress. This was achieved by explosives. With each explosion most of Deal violently shook, afterwards many fish, all dead, were washed up onto to beach. Not a nice sight, I may add!
A few years later the building of our present pier started, a little further away from the old pier, which was opposite the roundabout on the seafront. I could see divers going out in rowing boats to lay the footings. In those days divers used the traditional diving gear, heavy boots, bulky body wear and diving helmet. The present pier was opened on 19th November 1957 by his RH Prince Philip. As far as I know, this is the most modern pier in the country and the last to be built.
All this though, did not spoil our enjoyment of lovely Deal. During hot sunny days, the family sat on deck chairs on the shingle as close as we could to the shore line. Delicious  Walls Ice Creams and fruit lollies were available from a little light blue and white kiosk situated on the beach adjacent to the promenade. I spent many a happy hour paddling my feet and a couple of times, if warm enough, donning my bathing suit and venturing right into the sea – lovely. Also during the warm weather, many jelly fish the size of tea plates swam close to the shore line. Pleased to say, these were harmless.
During rainy days we would venture into the town, window shopping, followed by a sit down and a nice cup of tea, coffee or milkshake.
Contd……….

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‘I ain’t got a name?!’

I may have mentioned it before, but you are going to have to read it again I am afraid!  I was raised in a Salvation Army and Baptist family, hence my abstaining from the demon drink etc!  Growing up in South London just after the war, Second World War I hasten to add, I was often given a wicker basket, a purse with money and a shopping list and sent out to the local shops.  The last thing my late Mother used to say to me was don’t go into St Luke’s churchyard.  Now I always was an obedient son so where did I go?  Yes you have got it in one – St Luke’s Churchyard!!!  Most probably your next question might well be why did I venture into the churchyard?  Well in that churchyard lived a man who was known to all and sundry in the area as mad Jack.  He very rarely wore clothes; mostly he was clad in newspaper sitting on one of the benches feeding the birds.  Not just one bird, but literally dozens used to come and cluster around him as he distributed crumbs and seeds that he had found somewhere or the other.  I sat and listened to Jack for as long as I dared and really he taught me a great deal about birds, plants, trees but most of all that everyone has a place in God’s plans for the world.

Jack made me realise that it is very easy to fall on hard times, not always your own fault either. The inevitable happened in that one day, on a shopping trip, I popped into the churchyard and found Jack’s bench unoccupied and I never saw him again.  I guess that he passed over and received what in those days were known as pauper’s funerals.  Hold onto that thought, for I shall return to it! As a family we moved away, but I never ever forgot Jack and all that I had learned from him.  Eventually I ended up attending a Methodist Church and discovered a wonderful place in the East End of London called the Whitechapel Mission.  There they tried to help the wonderful people of the street family and I started to collect clothing and food to take to the Mission. People call them hobo’s, tramps, vagrants and lot of other names that I would not like to repeat here.  However to my mind, and experience, it is easy to fall on hard times and end up unemployed and eventually homeless.  Sadly a great many of the street family people are ex of the various military services, proud of their service but looked down on by society around them.

At my home Church we were sent a minister who really sang from the same hymn sheet as me as they say.  He cared for all people, whatever their problems and saw the good in all of them.  I was smitten by his ministry and, after a rather disgusting funeral for my dear father in law in Kent which really made me angry, I felt the call to ministry myself.  I left the Metropolitan Police with a degree of sadness I must admit, hard to leave colleagues who supported me as I had supported them through some pretty awful situations, but I knew in my heart of hearts God was telling me to move on.

I was indeed fortunate to be accepted for training in Birmingham, a city I really enjoyed, the Brummies were lovely welcoming people.  My first Circuit after college was in the Thames Valley but then I received a call from our President of Conference that they wanted to move me!  Where you may be thinking?  Well it was the Whitechapel Mission where I was able to walk in the footprints of some wonderful men and women who had cared for the street family!  At that time the Mission was striving to care and provide for around eight hundred members of the street homeless community who needed the opportunity to wash, use decent toilets, have a meal and get clean clothing.  To do this the Mission was supported by Churches of all denominations all around the United Kingdom, plus a number of livery companies in the City of London. I was so naive when on the first Monday there, I walked down from the minister’s flat, which was above the Mission right opposite the Blind Beggar Public House where the infamous Kray gang operated, and found the volunteer treasurer who after introductions, asked me what I was going to about money?  In my innocence I thought that money came from central funds – no way – I had to help to raise it and at that time it was around £3,000 per week!  I nearly passed out there and then and went back to our flat and asked Christine if I could borrow a stocking as I wanted to use it as a mask when I went around to the bank to do a withdrawal!!!  To be serious I immediately started contacting Churches, Clubs, RBL and Rotary Clubs to name but a few places.  Thus started my wonderful trips to Churches in corners of the United Kingdom telling people the story of the street homeless family, and thankfully the money started to roll in, plus offers of clothing, food, toiletries and a great many other items.

I really enjoyed the work in the Units meeting the folk, but one man has stuck in my mind all over the years, when I asked him his name he replied ‘I ain’t got one’ which rather shocked me but over the time Christine and I worked there we got used not knowing names of some of the folk because they wanted it that way.  One of my saddest duties was every Friday morning when I went to a graveyard in the East End and buried what some people called the unwanted dead.  To me however, they were all God’s children and entitled, at least, to a decent caring funeral and I did a very large number of them in my time at Whitechapel, young old, male and female.  All too often the coffin said something like male no further details!.  So I had arrived at the place where pauper’s funerals were conducted, although by then they were known as contract funerals.  Those you who know me well will appreciate that I could go on forever and a day about Whitechapel and the wonderful caring work there but I have a feeling that our illustrious chairman might take his red pen out! (NEVER!)

So this will be it for now!

Blessings John L

From our Branch Padre Rev. John Lines MBE

 

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Graham By Stuart Gemmell

VC, GCB, GCMG

Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Graham, VC, GCB, GCMG (27 June 1831 – 17 December 1899) was a senior British Army commander in the late 19th century and an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

 

Early Life

He was born in Acton, Middlesex, and after studying at Wimbledon and Dresden he was admitted (1847) to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and completed his military training in the School of Military Engineering at Chatham.

 Victoria Cross

He was 23 years old, and a lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 18 June 1855 in the Crimea, Lieutenant Graham, accompanied by a sapper (John Perie) showed determined gallantry at the head of a ladder party at the assault on the Redan at Sebastopol. He also went out on numerous occasions to bring in wounded officers and men.

 Later Service

During the Second Anglo-Chinese War he again displayed great courage and skill and, although seriously wounded in the storming of the Taku forts (21 August 1860), subsequently entered Peking with the victors. Following his return to England in 1861, he was for 16 years commanding engineer successively at Brighton, Aldershot, Montreal, Chatham, Manchester, and York. In 1877 he was appointed assistant director of works for barracks at the War Office.

In 1882 he accompanied Sir Garnet Wolseley to Egypt as brigadier general, and his forces had a great share in the victorious campaign against Urabi Pasha. In 1884 he took the field against Osman Digna, whose army he defeated at El-Teb and Tamai. In the meantime, he had urged a plan for the assistance of Gordon, which, however, was not accepted. Graham led a second Suakin Field Force which arrived at the port on 12 March 1885. Its purpose was to suppress Osman Digna’s forces which were active in the area, and to supervise the construction of the Suakin-Berber Railway. The field force engaged in two actions: at Hashin on 20 March and at Tofrek on 22 March, before the British government changed its policies, shutting down the railway project and leaving the Sudan in May 1885.

In his book “The Battle of Tofrek, fought near Suakin, March 22nd 1885”, written shortly after the battle for the purpose of correcting erroneous statements in both official and press reports of the battle, William Galloway was strongly critical of General Graham’s planning of the Tofrek expedition on three counts:

  1. Compared to the expedition to Hashin on 20 March which Graham commanded himself, which had been protected by four squadrons of British cavalry and a regiment of Bengal cavalry acting as scouts, the Tofrek expedition which he delegated to the command of General McNeill had only one squadron of Lancers plus a company of Mounted Infantry to provide warning of enemy activity.
  2. Whereas Graham had the protection of a battery of Royal Horse Artillery able to shell the enemy at long range, no artillery was assigned to McNeill’s force.
  3. Whereas the ratio of men to transport animals had been over 5:1 in the earlier expedition, it was no more than 2:1 for the later one, resulting in greater difficulties in keeping controlling of the animals.

Galloway was even more critical of Graham for a last-minute change to McNeill’s marching orders. Instead of following an established track in a south-westerly direction towards Tamai as originally planned, Graham personally instructed McNeill to march westwards into uncharted territory, which turned out to be thickly covered by a jungle of mimosa bushes with long low-lying branches covered in sharp thorns. This caused progress to be both slow and difficult while affording the enemy excellent cover for the surprise attack that they launched later in the day.

Graham was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1896, and a colonel commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1899. He is buried in East-the Water Cemetery in Bideford in Devon in a grave adjacent to that of George Channer VC.

The Medal

His Victoria Cross is currently owned by Graham’s Great, Great, Great Grandson Oliver Brooks and is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum (Gillingham, England).

Works

He published several scientific papers and a contribution to the Fortnightly Review, entitled “Last Words with Gordon” (1887), and prepared a translation of Goetze’s Operations of the German Engineers and Technical Troops during the Franco-German War of 1870–71 (1875).

Reseached by our Youth Liasion Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex Royal Engineer.

 

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        The 2nd Part of Brief History of The Boy’s Brigade 1883 – 2021 

In 1909 William Smith quietly left the B.B. Camp at Tighnabruaich Kyles of Bute  in Scotland and travelled to London. He returned the following Friday morning to resounding cheers and applause for he was now Sir William Smith having been knighted by King Edward V11 for his work in founding the Boy’s Brigade.    

In 1933, the Brigade celebrated its Golden Jubilee, and as part of this in the September of that year , a huge Camp was held at Dechmont, West Lothian, Scotland. Each Company was allowed to send two lads to represent their Company. 

Also, as part of Jubilee celebrations the largest Open-Air Service was held at Hampden Park Football Stadium, Glasgow, where 130,000 gathered inside and 10,000 outside. As a result of the publicity associated with the jubilee, new recruits increased in 1933/34 to total of 10,000. 1943 Diam Jubilee The Boys Brigade Trust Museum

To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in December 1943, a Royal Review was held at Windsor Castle, and the reigning monarch, King George V1 Inspected a large gathering of Boy’s and Officers, but due to war time restrictions, the event could not be advertised, but in spite of this, a further 9,000 new recruits were added to the membership. 

 The next major B.B. event was  in 1954 this was to celebrate the Centenary of the birth of Sir William Smith. This took the form of a “Festival of Boyhood”, it was held at Wembley Football Stadium, and was by attended by 3,000 Boys. 

The first International Camp, also in 1954 was held on the playing fields of Eton Public School and total of 2,500 boys and privilege of attending.  By now the Brigade numbers had risen by the late 1950’s and there were 91,934 boys on the roll, in 3010 companies in Great Britain, and another 48,000members spread across the world.  1954 Festival of BoyhoodThe Boys Brigade ArchiveTrustMuseum

On July 2nd, 1983 , as part of the Centenary Celebration, the Golden Jubilee Casket from 1933 was opened at Ibrox Football  Stadium, to read the “mystery”, message left there in the Jubilee year.    

In 2008, as part of the nationwide celebrations for the 125th year of the Boys’ Brigade, a target was set to open 125 new companies. Also, in 2008, the Brigade was all allocated a space at the National Arboretum Memorial Gardens at Lichfield.  A collection was made from varours Companies across the country, one these companies that I knew of and was  part of the East Kent Battalion was the 1st Margate Company, the War Memorial Stone was dedicated on June 21st, 2008.  

The Annual Returns for 2008 showed that Brigade numbers stood at 70,000 boys in 16,000 churches. By 2013, 100 new companies had been enrolled and actual numbers of boys has increased.  The Boys Brigade in 2021 is the biggest Christian Youth Organisation in the UK & Republic of Ireland, the present numbers are 40,000 Children & Young People, 11,500 Volunteer Leaders and 1,200 Companies.         

More next time about my time as a boy in the Boys Brigade, Malcolm Gibbons.

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Veteran’s Breakfast Club Re-Starts!

 

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A message from King George

Our President John Elms has sent me this interesting item printed on stout card approx 7″ x 10″ and given to children at the end of WW2 8th June 1946. I believe there is an ongoing debate if it’s his or Anny’s!!

(Free space provided to enter your own family’s record)

Thank you John a fascinating keepsake!

 

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My Malta Part 2

My Malta Part 2

At the inception, the Association was fortunate to have as our President, Admiral of the Fleet, The Lord Lewin.  Sadly, the Lord Lewin died in January 1999.  The current President of the GCIA is Judge Dr.Joseph Galea Debono B.A., L.L.D.

One of the many important events The Lord Lewin attended as President of the GCIA was the inauguration on the 29th May 1992 of a 10 Ton Bronze Bell (known as the Siege Bell) which is situated overlooking Grand Harbour. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG.KT. Prince Philip was also present along with the then President of Malta, H.E. Doctor Tabone.  The Siege Bell is a memorial to the 7000 people who lost their lives in the WW II Siege of Malta and was the brainchild of a member of the Malta GC Branch of the GCIA, the late Mr Philip Pullicino. Listen to it here. https://youtu.be/8nlBNfO8ZAc

  • Funds were raised in Malta and UK by all the GCIA Branches. Both the Malta and UK Governments gave big contributions in cash and in kind.
  • The sculptor was Michael Sandle
  • The Bell was caste in the UK and its chimes are the same as the main bell of Cologne Cathedral. 
  • The cladding of the Siege Bell Monument is Gozo stone The idea to have a UK monument came from a GCIA member who felt that it would be fitting for a memorial to be erected in London as Valletta had its Memorial – the Siege Bell. On August 15th, 2005 the then President of Malta, Edward Fenech Adami, laid the first wreath at the foot of the newly-erected monument.
  • An organising committee was set up under the 
  • chairmanship of the Hon. Tim Lewin, son of the late Admiral Lord Lewin, who had been GCIA president when the Siege Bell had been erected in 1992.
  • From Mgarr Harbour by sea and by road from Sicily, a block of stone cut from a Gozo quarry is now standing in the grounds of All Hallows Church by the Tower of London. It stands some three metres high and on each of its four sides is a plaque setting out part of the story of the sacrifice of some 7,000 Maltese men and women and Commonwealth and Allied servicemen and women who lost their lives in defence of Malta.

Dr Fenech Adami had previously attended a service of thanksgiving to commemorate those who served and died during the Siege of Malta, along with over 500 invited guests from the Royal Navy, RAF, Army, Merchant Navy, representatives of the US Navy and other wartime allies.  The Malta G.C. branch was represented by four veterans: Lt. Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE (founder of the Malta branch of the GCIA), Major S.J.A. Clews MBE, Capt. A. Sant Cassia, and Mr. Walter Sullivan. 

After the service the congregation gathered outside around the monument and, on the arrival of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, who was at that time the George Cross Island Association Patron, President Fenech Adami made his dedication address recalling the bravery of the Maltese people and the Allied servicemen and women. Dr Fenech Adami led the wreath-laying ceremony and was followed by the Duke of Edinburgh, who laid a wreath on behalf of the UK armed forces. Wreaths were also laid by representatives of Commonwealth countries and the Allies. Lt Col Pace Bonello laid a wreath on behalf of the GCIA. Malta’s High Commissioner in London at that time and Mrs. Michael Refalo, and former High Commissioner George Bonello Du Puis were also present. More info here http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

Edward.

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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Joe hits Belize!

Hi Everyone  I hope this finds you all fit and well.

No real adventure for this one, but my thoughts went to a little known posting that most of the Infantry type battalions had to endure.  The place is Belize.  Where you may ask, it’s a small country on the bit of land that joins North and South America.  On the east is Belize its neighbour is Guatemala.

First thing about Belize – it is tropical, typical humidity is 98%, its Hot

Its western border is a dead straight line from north to south, its so straight that a helicopter can fly up it without touching the controls, or even look where you are flying.  I kid you not I was on a heli and watched the flight crew having a coffee and chat.

Guatemala does not recognise the country and their maps do not show it at all.  Which leads them to periodically flex their muscle and threaten to take over the country (hence the British Army being stationed there)

The army use it for their jungle warfare schooling.  Jungle fighting is probably the most frightening thing I have experienced, the realisation that all our training on targeting and shooting was completely useless in this environment, it was about reaction time, and fighting the jungle at the same time as any enemy you may encounter.  We used local natives to show us the ropes, nice people, but boy did these people know how to booby trap, I would not have liked to chase them through the jungle they were lethal, especially as they usually turned up with a knife and a few bits of string.

Generally the people are nice and welcoming, sharing food is always a good way of leaving friends, not enemies, behind you.

No posting is complete without mentioning the local booze.  The local beer was ok as long as it was cold, tried one once that was warm never did it again. The local spirit was called Number one barrel, which I believe was eventually found to be basically poison, probably after some air mechanics managed to get a helicopter off the ground after trying out as fuel.  So of course we drank gallons of the stuff with a splash of coke in it.

Not going to bore you to much, suffice to say we provided security, medical facilities and help to the population.  And had to put up with the humidity for 6 months at a time, I have never been so glad to get back to UK and the good old cold.

From Julian de Zille our Branch Parade Marshal

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Jennie comes to Deal

I first came to Deal in 1945 when ten months old. I can vaguely remember my mother holding me in her arms near to the water’s edge – thus started my love affair with Deal and the sea!

My parents came on holiday to Deal every August, it was a welcome break from our home in the suburbs of south west London, a place called Tooting Bec. My grandmother always liked to be away on her birthday, this being 13th August.

Our journey began at the Northern Line underground station of Tooting Bec. We then progressed to the main line station of Charing Cross, a journey of about twenty minutes. In those days all main line trains were powered by steam. The steam engines were very large merchant navy class, bottle green in colour. The carriages were red and cream. Most of the carriages had a side corridor, where compartments seating eight were entered through a sliding door. There were netting shelves above the seats to accommodate smaller luggage. The journey took two hours, passing through miles of Kentish hop fields, golden corn fields and orchards. On arrival at Deal we made our way to the guest house in Sondes Road. This would be our home for the next two weeks. Guest Houses then offered full board accommodation. The bedrooms had marble wash stands in each, the landlady would enter the room early in the morning bringing in two large jugs containing hot and cold water. An early morning cup of tea would also be brought to the bedroom if requested. The lavatory and bathroom were situated on the landing, to be shared by occupants of that particular floor. Most guest houses then had no on suite! A gong would be sounded to inform guests the breakfast, lunch or dinner was ready. The beach at Deal and shallow sea area,  just following the war were littered with wrecks and barbed wire.

The old pier had been cut in half due to a ship dragging anchor, thus colliding with it. To be continued…….

 

 

 

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The Boys’ Brigade 100 years not out!

 Malcolm Gibbons mentioned something dear to my heart in one of his musings recently – The Boys’ Brigade!  I joined the Boys’ Brigade or BB as it is often known as a young lad and have been involved ever since.

The Boys’ Brigade was formed in Glasgow in October 1883 and soon spread around the United Kingdom and to many places in the Commonwealth. My Company in Croydon was one of the very few in England that had a pipe band and we were very proud of that, great to march to church behind the band with skirl of the pipes – really wonderful!  In 1993 I was privileged to be chosen to go to NJew Zealand as part of the British contingent to the International Celebration Camp to be held in Mystery Creek near Hamilton, New Zealand.  So you can say I was truly up the creek!!!

Yet another one of my many collections is Boys’ Brigade badges and one of my proudest possessions is the International Camp badge which I really do treasure!  New Zealand is a truly wonderful country, wonderful people and scenery beyond compare, I really did enjoy the month over there, if I can find the details I might bore you all in a  future rambling!  You have been warned!  Blessings John L

What a lovely “warning” we look forward to it!

 

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Dover Patrol 25th July

This years ceremony at Leathercote Point was intended to celebrate the memorials 100th anniversary, due to Covid restrictions it was decided to hold a “normal” annual ceremony.

Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL was the reviewing officer, he also read Nelson’s Prayer. Mr James Rouse a trustee of the memorial read a moving tribute to the men of the Dover Patrol ships and said that in 2022 a full scale re-dedication of the memorial would be held.

The service was lead by Rev John Lines MBE Padre of Downs Branch Royal British Legion, Chairman Edward Barkway said the Exhortation. Town Mayors of Deal, Sandwich and Walmer attended, five Standards were paraded along with representatives of Deal Wrens and Royal Navy cadets from TS Lynx, sixteen wreaths were laid.

In his closing remarks Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports Admiral of   the Fleet Lord Boyce said the event was particularly poignant as his Father had served on Mine Sweepers in WW2,  he thanked the Downs Branch, in particular Vice Chairman Malcolm Gibbons, for organising the event, the Standard bearers, the Trustees and the band.

Music and bugler was supplied by The Snowdown Colliery Band.

Photo’s from Janet Barkway Many more at

 https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

And https://no7bcm.smugmug.com/Nicspics/Dover-Patrol-Memorial

 

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Local hero V C holder & Olympic Gold!

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, VCKBECBDSO

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, VC, KBE, CB, DSO (12 December 1888 – 28 April 1978) was a senior British Army officer and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, and the winner of an Olympic Games gold medal; he is the only person to achieve both distinctions.

Early Life:

Philip Neame was born on 12 December 1888 in Faversham in the County of Kent, the son of Kathleen Neame (née Stunt) and Frederick Neame (b. 1847). He received his education at Cheltenham College, and the British Army’s Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, Kent.

 Early Military Career:

On graduating from the Royal Military Academy, Neame received a commission as a second lieutenant into the Royal Engineers in July 1908. He was promoted to lieutenant in August 1910, whilst serving with the 15th Field Company.

 First World War:

The declaration of war in August 1914 found Neame with the 15th Field Company in the Gibraltar Garrison. The company joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front in October 1914.

During the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914, Neame experienced first-hand in the trenches the inferiority of the British issue hand-grenades compared to their German equivalent, and set about creating an alternative, the sappers improvising rudimentary but effective hand grenades made from empty jam tins filled with scrap metal, with the charge being created using guncotton, and a cord-fuse projecting from the end of the tin, requiring ignition by flame.

 Victoria Cross:

Neame was 26 years old when the following deed took place, for which he received the Victoria Cross: On 19 December 1914 at Neuve Chapelle, France, Lieutenant Neame, in the face of very heavy fire, engaged the Germans in a single-handed bombing attack, killing and wounding several of them. He was able to check the enemy advance for three-quarters of an hour and to rescue all the wounded whom it was possible to move.

During a minor night trench action on the Western Front in the Neuve Chapelle district five days before Christmas 1914, Neame was leading a party of sappers in action when he was requested by the commanding officer of a battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment to go forward and to strengthen the defences in a recently captured German trench. When he got there, he met another commissioned officer who informed him that the Germans were counterattacking with bombs, that his own bombers had all been wounded and that the bombs that were left would not go off. At this Neame went further up the trench to the contact point to talk to one of the surviving bombers there and discovered that the problem was that he wasn’t able use the bombs because there were no fuses left. Neame, knowing how to technically ignite the grenades without a fuse by holding a match-head on the end of the grenade’s fuse access point and striking a match box across it, commenced lighting and throwing grenades in this fashion into the German trenches at the two different directions where a German dawn counter-attack was materializing, holding it back whilst under continual return fire for forty-five minutes whilst the West Yorkshire Regiment evacuated its wounded behind him back towards the original British frontline trench.

Neame was promoted to the rank of captain in 1915, and was mentioned in despatches in February 1915, and again in January 1916. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in January 1916.

After a short period as a staff officer (GSO3) from October 1915, he was appointed brigade major of the 168th Brigade, 56th (London) Division, in February 1916, staffing this post through the Somme offensive in 1916, including the actions at Gommecourt on 1 July, and the Battle of Ginchy in September, until relinquishing it for another staff (GSO2) assignment in November 1916.

He was promoted to brevet major in the 1917 New Year honours list. He received further mentions in despatches in January and December 1917. In June 1918 he moved up to a senior staff post (GSO1) and ended the war in November 1918 with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.

 Inter-war Military Career & Olympian:

Medal Record
Men’s Shooting
Representing Great Britain
Olympic Games
  1924 Paris

Team Running Deer Double Shotss

Neame was honoured for his war service in France with the Legion d’honneur (Croix de Chevalier) in January 1919, and the Croix de guerre in July. He was also awarded the Belgian Croix de guerre. In June 1919 he was noted in the London Gazette as being amongst several names intended for the rank of brevet lieutenant-colonel, with the substantive rank of major. but the actual gazetting to brevet lieutenant-colonel did not appear until June 1922, and his substantive rank was finally promoted from captain to major in January 1925.

He was a member of Great Britain’s 1924 Olympic Running Deer team at Paris and is the only Victoria Cross recipient who has won an Olympic gold medal. The Running Deer competition was one of the shooting events at the games. It involved teams of four (firing single shots), where a moving target simulated the animal.

He was appointed Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade at Aldershot in January 1924 and then saw service in India with the Bengal Sappers and Miners from 1925 before attending the Imperial Defence College in 1930. In June 1932 Neame was promoted full colonel (skipping the substantive lieutenant-colonel rank) and became a General Staff Officer 1 in the Waziristan District in India. In 1933 he was badly mauled by a tigress whilst hunting in India. He was admitted to a hospital, Lady Minto Nursing Association, in Bareilly where he was nursed to health by Harriet Alberta Drew. He married the nurse, taking leave from India towards the end of 1933 whereupon he was on half pay without appointment until May 1934.

In July 1934 he was given temporary brigadier rank to take up an appointment as Brigadier General Staff with Eastern Command in India. In 1938 he was promoted to major-general and returned to England as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich in 1938. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in January 1939.

Second World War:

While Commandant at the Military College, Neame had been given to understand that should war be declared, he would be appointed as Chief of General Staff to the British Expeditionary Force’s putative C-in-C, John Dill. In the event, Lord Gort was appointed C-in-C, with Henry Pownall as CGS and Neame as his deputy responsible for operations and staff duties. Neame organised defences and planned for the campaign, but in February 1940 he was posted to Egypt to command the 4th Indian Infantry Division.

Middle East theatre:

In August 1940 he was made General Officer Commanding British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan in the acting rank of lieutenant-general where his responsibilities were mainly in the area of internal security (the local police forces being placed under his direction).

Defeat in North Africa:

In February 1941 Neame was appointed General Officer Commanding & Military Governor of Cyrenaica, which had been captured from the Italians by the British Empire’s rapid advance in the opening moves of the North Africa Campaign during Operation Compass. Whilst being responsible for a large area of ground, Neame’s command had been stripped of many of its battle-hardened units, which had been withdrawn towards Cairo either for re-fitting, or to take part in the Battle of Greece, and he was left with little air support from the constrained Royal Air Force units available in North Africa at this time.

The two primary formations under his command to guard Cyrenaica were the newly fielded 2nd Armoured Division, and 9th Australian Division. The 2nd Armoured Division had only recently arrived from the British Isles, was under-strength, lacking in training and equipment adapted for desert warfare conditions, and proved to be no match for what it was about to meet in the field in the form of Nazi Germany’s First Axis Offensive in North Africa, which was launched at the end of March 1941 by its newly arrived Afrika Korps, led by General Erwin Rommel. Australia’s 9th Division, while well led by Leslie Morshead, was not yet fully trained, and was suffering from a shortage of transport vehicles.

 First Axis Offensive in North Africa

Neame’s Headquarters lacked accurate intelligence information from its senior command echelon and had no warning about the nature or scale of the massed attack that it was about to be hit with, in a theatre scenario which was thought to be dormant at that time through Italian massed defeat and tactical acquiescence, and he was further hampered by an over-extended line of supply stretching back over many hundreds of miles to Alexandria and Cairo. With hesitant handling of his unprepared troop dispositions in response to a rapidly changing and unexpectedly threatening situation, as the Afrika Korps and Italian Army poured toward him at a terrific speed of advance and began on 24 March 1941 to attack his units’ outposts and appear suddenly amidst, and even far behind them in the lines of supply routes, and his command being limited in effective control by a Headquarters not sited in a battle station and remote from the action, Neame was over the next few days of fighting overwhelmed by Rommel. Faced with the apparent danger of the 2nd Armoured Division’s disintegration which he perceived from its chaotic radio-traffic as it struggled to cope with the rolling blows it was receiving, he ordered the forces under him to fall back eastward in an uncoordinated fashion to avoid being cut off and destroyed by the sudden advance of the enemy.

On 6 April 1941, while driving in a small convoy of vehicles to a newly established Headquarters, Neame and his travelling companions, Lieutenant-General Richard O’Connor (who had been rapidly dispatched to join Neame’s Headquarters by General Archibald Wavell who was alarmed at the apparent collapse of Neame’s forces) and Brigadier John Combe, were over-run and captured by a German advanced force led by Gerhard von Schwerin. Disaster was averted for most of the forces under Neame’s command through a rapid retreat by the 9th Australian Division into the coastal town of Tobruk, where it was joined by 3 Indian Motor Brigade, and surviving remnants of 2nd Armoured Division (most of which had been over-run and captured in the rout), in hastily organising a defensive perimeter, which would go on to withstand the Axis Forces’ subsequent extended siege.

 Prisoner of war in Italy:

Along with the almost 3000 men of the 2nd Armoured Division who had been captured in Rommel’s advance, Neame with generals O’Connor and Combe were transported across the Mediterranean Sea for incarceration in Italy, first being held as prize prisoners at the Villa Orsini near Sulmona, then at Castello di Vincigliata PG12 near Florence. Whilst at PG12 they took part in a number of escape attempts along with General Adrian Carton de Wiart (a fellow VC recipient), and Edward Todhunter.

After the successful escape of six men through a tunnel that Neame had designed in April 1943, including two New Zealander brigadiers James Hargest and Reginald Miles who disappeared in the direction of Switzerland, the Italian Army in reprisal sent Neame’s batman Gunner Pickford (Royal Horse Artillery) to another camp.

Following the Italian Armistice in September 1943, Neame was released from incarceration by the Italian Army, but faced a hazardous journey of several hundred miles through a semi-chaotic countryside, at that time still occupied by German forces, in areas at conflict with the Italians, to reach the safety of the joint British and American lines. Having hidden a manuscript which, he had been writing in captivity of his memoires (to be recovered after the war), Neame’s party, including Air Marshal Owen Boyd and General Richard O’Connor, made their way southwards with the help of friendly Italians along the route. Hiring a boat at Cattolica they sailed to the port of Termoli which by the time of their arrival on 20 December 1943 had fallen into the possession of the advancing Allied armies.

 Repatriation to England:

Arriving back in England on 25 December 1943, having travelled via Tunis (after interviews with Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Harold Alexander, and Winston Churchill), Neame found there was no job waiting for him in the Army, with his star in the descendent after the debacle of his capture in 1941, but he remained on the Active List until the end of the war in his substantive rank of major-general.

Post-war Military Career & Retirement:

In August 1945 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey in the local rank of lieutenant-general where he served until 1953. He also held the honorary posts of Colonel Commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers from February 1945 to 1955 and Colonel 131 (Airborne) Engineer Regiment from January 1948.

He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in June 1946 and made a knight of the charitable Order of St John in the same year. In January 1955 Neame was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent.

Personal life:

Neame married Harriet Drew (1906–1994) in 1934, the marriage producing four children: Gerald (b.1935), Veronica (b.1937), Nigel (b.1946), Philip (b.1946). His youngest child, also named Philip, served as commander of D Company, 2 Para, in 1982 during the Falklands War.

Neame died at Selling in Kent, on 28 April 1978 in his 90th year. His body was buried in the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin Church, in Selling.

His medals and awards are held by the Imperial War Museum in London.

 

s

From our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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                           A Brief History of The Boys’ Brigade 1883 -1983                                              by Malcolm Gibbons Downs Vice Chairman

As to my last article about my visit to National Arboretum I mentioned that one of the other memorials that I visited was The Brigade Memorials. 

One of these was The Boy’s Brigade Organisation of which I said was founded by William Alexander Smith, who later became Sir William and was an officer in the Lanarkshire Rifles Volunteers, he born in Thurso, Scotland, in 1854. 

After the death of his Father, he then moved with his family to Glasgow, Smith was then commissioned into the part-time Lanarkshire Volunteer Rifles in Glasgow in 1877 and was then promoted to a Lieutenant and later rose to the rank of Major.     

At this time, he became a Sunday School teacher. It was a combination of the discipline of the Rifle Volunteers and the unruliness of boys in his Sunday School Class, who were bored, noisy and undisciplined, that led him to start the Boys’ Brigade on the 4th of October 1883 at the Free Church Mission Hall, Woodside. Glasgow.  He realised the need for an organisation based on Christian principles, together with the drill and discipline he learned during his time with Volunteer Rifles. He thought a programme combining gymnastics, games and discipline, together with hymns and prayers would appeal to the boys. Right from the beginning, the Object of the Boy’s Brigade was: 

“ The Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among Boy’s and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect, and all that tends towards a true Christian Manliness.”

Later the same year he adopted the Anchor Emblem we know so well today together with the motto: SURE and STEDFAST, from book of Hebrews Chapter 6 verse 19. 

In 1926 the red cross was added when the Boy’s Brigade merged with the Boy’s Life Brigade. The Boy’s Brigade had been formed in 1899.   

Dummy rifles had been used as part of the drill discipline of the BLB but these were phased out following the merger of the Brigades. Many Churches did not like the use of rifles, it was to war-like for a Christian organisation, especially after the slaughter of the Great War.

Although there had been some opposition, the Boy’s Brigade was an immediate success and spread quickly—first in Scotland, then the rest of Great Britain, and finally World Wide. By 1893, 26,000 boys had joined and in 1900, 40.000 and 3,000 staff had enrolled.   By the time of the Silver Jubilee was celebrated in 1908 there was a membership of 9,324 companies involving 58,000 boys and 6,000 staff. There have, of course been fluctuations in membership over the years, but the object has remained unaltered through the years  of its existence.

William Smith travelled the country to check that all companies were being run efficiently and true to the high standard set out by him. He supplied a guide and manual in 1887, nicknamed ‘THE LITTLE RED BOOK’.     

More about the Boy’s Brigade History next time.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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From our Branch President John Elms

John tells me he knew of Sgt Bench but never actually met him.

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My Malta!

As probably most of you know I am a member of the George Cross Island Association (GCIA) an organisation created to commemorate and celebrate the island’s second great siege 1940 – 1943, the first being that by the Turks in 1565. The GCIA was formed in 1987, I have unashamedly cribbed the information below from the associations web site, three of our Downs branch are also GCIA members. http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

The people of Malta suffered terrible conditions during the siege of Malta and their bravery was honoured by the award of the George Cross in April 1942 by King George VI. The Siege of Malta (1940 to 1943)

The bombing was almost non-stop; during the months 1st January 1942 to 24th July 1942 there was only ONE period of 24 hours without bombs falling. Malta endured 154 continuous day and night bombings.

The memories of this terrible time prompted a retired Navy man called Fred Plenty, to bring together comrades and friends so that they could share their experiences.  He enlisted the help of his one time Captain, Capt. E.A.S Bailey. Together, with a small group of others, they launched the George Cross Island Association in July 1987. The membership included both British and Maltese and quickly grew in numbers drawn from Navy, Army, Air Force, Merchant Navy, nursing and Civil Defence personnel.  Fred Plenty became a Life Vice President and Founder of the Association.  

The GCIA membership operates from several geographical branches (see our membership page for details), including the all important Malta Branch which was founded by Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE who is himself a veteran of the Siege of Malta.  We do however, all come together whenever possible at various events during the year.                                           

The Association hold a reunion in Malta every year to commemorate the award of the George Cross and to remember over 7,000 civilians and serving men who were killed during this bitter and prolonged siege.

To be continued.

Edward. 

 

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Some more of my Army experiences by Branch Parade Marshal Julian De Zille AKA Joe!

For this little missive I cast my mind back to 1978 (not entirely sure of the date) At the time my unit was posted to Somme Lines in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. This item occurred after the fireman’s strike.

Again, another arduous task was thrown at us, I was part of a detachment that had to go on a KAPE Tour (no I didn’t know what it was).  As in most cases in the Army it was an acronym for KEEP THE ARMY IN THE PUBLIC EYE.  As the name implied, we were to highlight the Army and our unit at Fete’s, Schools, Open days – you name it we went there for a mind boggling 6 weeks.  Where did we do it, you may ask, answer being anywhere in the South of England.  You can imagine the horror, a southern county regiment, posted in N Yorkshire being sent to southern England for a jolly.  As always, we put our shoulder to the grindstone and put a brave face on and got on with the task.

In those days, the only way from North to South was on the old A1, complete with truck stops every few miles, roundabouts and of course complete boredom.  It was Hot (and remained so for the entire trip).  We stopped every few miles for a cuppa and had to endure the inevitable questions from other patrons – like “my mates’ son, Jonny, joined last year, do you know him”.  I think that the first question like that was met with a dozen blank looks of horror, realising that what we had ahead was a lot of people that didn’t realise the size of the Army and would actually think like that. As it was hot, we had customised our land rovers by unhooking the canopy above the cab, just like a sunroof, we all had sunglasses on, and, in my case, we had Black Sabbath blaring out of a cassette radio in the cab (this was the age of cassettes, yes it was that long ago).  Luckily, we had all just about got the same taste in music, except one and I think he may have been put in our trailer.

Anyway, we managed – being accommodated in various drill halls around the southeast and visiting everyone that asked us, including some very interesting time in rush hour traffic, although we found that most drivers sort of backed of a bit when confronted by a 120MM WOMBAT (recoilless anti-tank gun) on the back of a Land Rover.  We also had a number of cancellations, which unfortunately meant that we had to spend a week in Horsham at the local swimming pool, and of course having the odd drink or 16, luckily none of us got arrested.

Eventually we had to get back to barracks, so back on the A1 we went.  All arrived safely and to my surprise whilst I had been away my brother had been posted into the Battalion and was the gate guard that let us into the barracks, so first night back party was assured, I could not possibly describe how drunk my brother and I were at the end of it.    Cheers Joe!

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Jennie & Malcolm take the train!

Malcolm and I had the privilege to stay in a remote cottage in the heart of the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors. At the bottom of the pretty garden ran the  North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway. Having seen a fairly recent series on television about the railway and its workings, this was a great opportunity to travel on it. This was Malcolm’s birthday treat from me!
The day dawned, at Pickering station we saw our train arrive, pulled by a magnificent living breathing locomotive, oh the smell and sound of a steam engine! Our journey was to take us through breath taking scenery to Whitby, famous for fish and chips. Our first station was Levisham, the village of Levisham being one and a half miles away. Next was Newtondale Halt, by request only. We then proceeded to climb to Goathland Summit, the highest point on the moor at 532 feet.  Then onto Goathland station, followed by Grosmont station, the last station before Whitby.
All the old stations on route through the moors, contained original artifices, being, milk churns waiting to be collected, as was done in the days of steam. Leather cases stacked up upon wooden hand barrows. Also the original style gas lamps and station name signs, not forgetting semaphore signalling. However there were no toilets… they were Lavatories!

 We then proceeded to our destination -Whitby, upon arrival, the air was heavy with aroma of fish and chips. Later in the day, we boarded the lovely old train, taking us back to Pickering. A good nostalgic day was enjoyed by us both.

 

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‘Looking after the past’

Fascinating recollections from our Padre Rev Jone Lines MBE

 The lock down as a result of Covid 19 has caused a great many problems for some folk/.  However I must say that I have found it reasonably passable as it has made me sort out some of my collections, much to Christine’s pleasure!  Going through all the boxes in my garage I found a box folder full of negatives and photographs which to be honest I had completely forgotten about.  What an wonderful hour, or maybe two, I spent looking through them all, so many memories were evoked!  I am not the best of photographers I readily admit, but the views encompass most of my married life and a bit before!

I never recall seeing a photograph of me when I was a young police officer at the Elephant and Castle back in the 1950’s, but I now have proof that I was there! I found a picture of yours truly in uniform talking to a couple of young ladies in Dutch costumes outside the Trocadero cinema in New Kent Road.  I seem to recall that they were advertising a film called something like ‘Operation Amsterdam’ I might add I was single at the time!

 Next out of the box were a number of photos of various means of transport that I have owned over the years, for instance a wonderful Bond three wheel minicar which got Christine and I around when we were courting!  She relates a tale of how we almost got run over by a coal lorry in West Norwood High Street one day.  I have to say that they were very low slung, but wonderful little machines.  I certainly have not seen one for many a year!  I have never seen one at old vehicle rallies either, I wonder if any still exist? Now there’s a collection to start!!!

Next batch were in colour were all about a certain young couple getting married in the Baptist Church in South Norwood on the 2nd September 1961!  I wonder who they were?  Funny to find colour views because our actual wedding album is all black and white.  We had a honeymoon overseas – yes we went to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight!  Christine thought she knew me fairly well, but she could not work out why the pictures I took of her were all in front of buses – well I had to follow my hobby!!

Then a number of views taken at Theological College where I was part of a group known as the gruesome threesome because we were always together.  Paul was an ex Royal Air Force officer and like me of older years; Stephen had been an inspector for Dunlop Rubber where they made the air sea rescue rafts, sadly although the youngest he died a few years ago. How important it is to keep an eye on the past, after all for me there is probably more of it than future!!!   Wake up I have finished!!  John Lines.                       

John tells me this was the actual bike he rode when serving with the police, he spotted it in a private sale and has refurbished it to the original! 

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Royal Engineer Recipient of the Victoria Cross by our  Youth Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex RE.

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Major General Clifford Coffin VC, CB, DSO & Bar

Major General Clifford Coffin VC CB DSO & Bar (10 February 1870 – 4 February 1959) was a British Army officer and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born in Blackheath, the son of Lieutenant General Sir Isaac Coffin, Clifford Coffin was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers. He served in the Second Boer War and was mentioned in dispatches.

Royal Engineers

Clifford Coffin was 47 years old, and a temporary brigadier general commanding the 25th Infantry Brigade during the First World War, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty”.

Coffin won his VC on the first day of the third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). The objective of the attack was to capitalise on the success of the assault on Messines (June 1917) and to capture the remainder of the ridge, as far north as Passchendaele. The battle began at 3.10 am on 31 July 1917. Coffin was commanding 25th Infantry Brigade, a reserve brigade, but when the advance to the west of the Ypres became bogged-down his brigade was ordered forward to Westnoek ridge to carry on the attack to the third objective (Red Line), when his brigade also became bogged -down, through the effects of the appalling weather and ferocious enemy opposition, he went forward and while under murderous fire allied his men. By the evening his presence ensured that his troops were ‘holding with tenacity’ which caused the German counterattacks to fail.

Coffin served as Commander-in-Chief, Ceylon and ADC to King George V. He later achieved the rank of major general and was Colonel Commandant Royal Engineers. During World War II he was the chairman of the executive council of the British Empire Service League and Temporary Major General with the 36th Ulster Division

He died in February 1959 and is buried at Holy Trinity Churchyard, Colemans Hatch, East Sussex. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, Kent. In 2012, his grave was renovated by the Victoria Cross Trust.

 Victoria Cross citation:  

[London Gazette, 14 September 1917], Westhoek, Belgium, 31 July 1917, Lieutenant Colonel (T/Brigadier General) Clifford Coffin DSO.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty (Westhoek, Flanders). When his command was held up in attack owing to heavy machine gun and rifle fire from front and right flank and was establishing itself in a forward shell hole line, he went forward and made an inspection of his front posts. Though under the heaviest fire from both machine guns and rifles, and in full view of the enemy, he showed an utter disregard of personal danger, walking quietly from shell hole to shell hole, giving advice generally, and cheering the men by his presence.

His very gallant conduct had the greatest effect on all ranks, and it was largely owing to his personal courage and example that the shell hole line was held in spite of the very heaviest fire. Throughout the day his calm courage and cheerfulness exercised the greatest influence over all with whom he came in contact, and it is generally agreed that Brigadier-General Coffin’s splendid example saved the situation, and had it not been for his action the line would certainly have been driven back.

Clifford Coffin was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 2nd of January 1918.

 Distinguished Service Order citation:

[ London Gazette, 1 January 1917], Created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Lieutenant-Colonel Clifford Coffin, Corps of Royal Engineers. For distinguished service in the field. 

 Distinguished Service Order citation to First Bar:

[London Gazette, 26 July 1918], For the award of a Bar to the Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Lieutenant-Colonel and Bt Colonel (T/Brigadier-General) Clifford Coffin VC DSO, Corps of Royal Engineers

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during a long period of active operations, when he handled his brigade with great skill, especially when covering the withdrawal of the remainder of the division. On one occasion he commanded for a time the infantry of the division with marked success, and his personal courage and example at all times inspired all ranks.

Stuart Gemmell.

 

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Part  Five of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire by Malcolm Gibbons our Vice Chairman

After leaving The Armed Forces Memorial I made my way back to the Remembrance centre gardens to meet up with Jennie again. 

As I approached the garden area, I notice some smaller memorials this was the Brigade Memorial Garden this was a project undertaken by members of The Brigade Association and is located next to the south wall of The Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness.

The first of these Memorials of which I recognised was dedicated to all youth organisations of which I new of these, the first of these was Dedicated to Members of The Church Lads’ & Church Girls Brigade’ who served their country in war and peace  

This organisation is often called CLCGB often referred to as “ THE BRIGADE “ it is the Anglican  Churches own uniformed  youth organisation : this welcomes children and young people of all faiths and none. The Organisation has a lot of history and for over 125 years The Brigade has fulfilling its object to extend the kingdom of Christ  among lads and girls.     

The next was The Boy’s Brigade Memorial Garden this was an organisation of which I was familiar with  and joined as young lad at age of 11years The Boy’s Brigade is a worldwide Christian, uniformed youth movement that was founded in Glasgow in 1883 by Sir William Alexander Smith. The stone was dedicated in 2008  as part of the Brigade’s 125th  Anniversary.   

William Alexander Smith, later Sir William, was an officer in the Lanarkshire Rifles Volunteers. He was born in Thurso, Scotland, in 1854 and, following his father’s death, he moved to Glasgow with his family. Smith was commissioned into the part-time Lanarkshire Volunteer Rifles in Glasgow in 1877 and then promoted to Lieutenant, he later rose to rank of Major.

At this time, he became a Sunday School teacher. It was a combination of the discipline of the Rifle Volunteers and the unruliness of boys in his Sunday School Class, who were bored, noisy and undisciplined, that led him to start the Boys’ Brigade on the 4th of October 1883 at the Free Church Mission Hall, Glasgow.  

I then meet with Jennie, and we briefly decided to have a look in the Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness, and I notice there was a wooded pillar with a group of standards placed around it, and one of these was a Burma Star Branch Standard and British Legion Branch Standard. We than phoned for our taxi to take us back the Station, this completed our visit and a great and memorable day at the National Arboretum, as hopefully will return soon as there lots take in and see. 

Next time more inforsmation and History on The Boy’s Brigade Organisation.

 

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THE MILITARY MEDAL by Our President John Elms

In the 1960’s whilst living in Holbeach, Lincolnshire one of our neighbours was a Mr John Thomas Ward who at the time worked on the railways. Mr Ward had a distinguished career during the Second World War whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. (The Regiment didn’t become ‘Royal’ until 10th December 1946)

4901964 Sgt. J. T. Ward was awarded a Commander in Chiefs Certificate for good work on 10th January 1942. Later the 2nd Battalion together with the 4th Battalion took part in the Normandy landings. Shortly afterwards on the night of 17th June 1944 Sgt. Ward was to take command of a fighting patrol and destroy an enemy machine and gun post near Galmanche. During the assault Sgt. Ward and his men came under machine gun and rifle fire from enemy positions. In spite of this he led the assault with great dash and determination. All his men were wounded by the time the post had been reached, yet he continued the assault single handed and personally killed all the Germans in the machine gun post which was his objective.

Sergeant Ward then tried to withdraw but found that he had been surrounded by enemy re-enforcements who had come to the help of the machine gun post. Having expended all his ammunition he then proceeded to attack with the bayonet and accounted for five further Germans before he succeeded in fighting his way out. On his way back he overtook one of his men who had been badly wounded, and although still under heavy fire he half carried the wounded man back to the Aid Post, a distance of over 300 yards. 

Throughout the whole action Sergeant Ward showed that his powers of leadership were a very high standard and his personal courage and bravery and determination were entirely responsible for the successful destruction of the enemy post.

Although he was awarded the Military Medal had an officer been present this action must have been close to consideration for a Victoria Cross.

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Joe get free pints in Liverpool

Hi Everyone

I hope this finds you all fit and well.

For this little missive I cast my mind back to 1977, yes, I can just about remember that far back.

At the time my unit was posted to Somme Lines in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. We were put on stand-by as the firemen’s union was threatening to go on strike.  So, we duly formed a plan and set about implementing getting our kit ready to move.  We found out that we were to be deployed into Liverpool city.  A joy to me as I am a lifelong supporter of Liverpool.  Each of the Battalion Companies were allocated an area within the city to which whey would be deployed, and they set about learning the ins and outs of roads within their areas.

The Signal Platoon was tasked with providing comms across the whole area.  Those that know will realise this is not an easy task to do on the hoof, comms in city area’s can, and usually is, patchy in the extreme.  So, our packing was for the best- and worst-case scenario.

We duly got the order to move.  The advance party left on time and started to move over the Pennines on route, when we were called back as the firemen had postponed the strike, so we turned ourselves around in the snowstorm we were in and returned to our base.

Followed a week later by the same thing, as the strike was re-established.  My platoon had been told that we would be fitting all green goddesses with Motorola radio sets prior to everyone moving into the city, so we would be going into Southport first to achieve this.  Upon arrival we were greeted by a pile of boxes and various tools to enable us to get the conversion, followed by 48 hours of back breaking work of getting the sets installed.  In vehicles that had never been designed to hold them, and to do so by end of day Sun (we arrived on the Friday), for deployment into the city over night, ready to assume control on the Mon morning.

I was deployed to Lime Street Police centre which is in the city centre and where the main control room was set up.  Combined with Police Officers and Fire Officers, and then proceeded to run a fire service for the population of Liverpool.

Our accommodation was an old store cupboard, emptied and 4 camp beds in it, we had to hot bed for the whole deployment, our companies were housed in the police car garages (the bobbies took great delight in waking everyone by pushing a police bike in and turning on all their syrens)

This became one of the best deployments I was ever involved with.  The population of Liverpool were outstanding, I do not think I paid for a pint the whole time of the deployment, everywhere we went we were given free entry, I even attended Bar BQ’s held by striking firemen and of course night club trips with the local bobbies.

A good indication on how varied the life was in the UK military.

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Picture from 2019, Jennie front row to left of conductor.

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Magnetism or not!?

As I write this I have just spent a most enjoyable morning in the sunshine going through the treasure trove that is my garage!  I think I must be the original human magnet in that bolts, nuts, screws washers and the like seem to love attaching themselves to me!!  I realise that I literally have all manner of little boxes and tins that contain some of my alleged treasurers, in other words things I might need but in honesty probably never will!!!

Most of my old buses and motorcycles that I have enjoyed over the years use Whitworth thread nuts and bolts, incidentally they are becoming rather hard to find these days.  So allied to my vast collections of bolts, nuts, screws, washers and the like is yet another sets of rather larger boxes normally known as tool boxes.  What is in them you might be thinking?  Spanners by the dozens if not scores!  Yes I certainly could open an iron monger’s shop with all that I seem to have gathered! Allied to that, of course, are screwdrivers and they are a multitude as well because of the different screw heads that are in general use around us these days!  Add to that chisels, hammers, pliers, saws and various sorts of wrenches and I hope that you will see what my beloved Christine has had to put up with for almost sixty years of wedded bliss! (September this year is the BIG date!)

There is, however, an advantage to my magnetism in that I very rarely have to purchase any bolts, nuts, screws washers and the like because I usually can find what I need amongst my collection of  bags, boxes and tins.  It is a standing joke with some of my fellow bus enthusiasts that if you want a nut and bolt John will have it!  Why you may be thinking?  Well knowing that Whitworth threaded bolts and nuts were on their way out every time I took one of the buses I want and purchased half a dozen or so to replace it!  Everyone reckons that I ordered them by the gross, maybe they are right!

One of the BIG problems that seem to be looming in my life is that a great many things that break or need maintenance don’t use Whitworth thread, rather being this new fangled ( well at least to me)  metric!  I claim to be a proud Englishman and I am certainly sticking to my Whitworth bolts, nuts, screws and washers as long as I can!  Having said that, and knowing my luck, I shall end up in a coffin with metric fastening – ugh what a horrible thought!!!

Blessings to you all,  John Lines.   https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross By our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmel.

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George Hawker, VC, DSO (30 December 1890 – 23 November 1916) was a British flying ace of the First World War. Having seven credited victories, he was the third pilot to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry awarded to British and Commonwealth servicemen. He was killed in a dogfight with the famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”), who described him as “the British Boelcke”.

Early Life:

Hawker was born on 30 December 1890 at Longparish, Hampshire, England, to Lieutenant Henry Colley Hawker, R.N., and Julia Gordon Lanoe Hawker, daughter of Major Peter William Lanoe Hawker, of the 74th Highlanders and sister of the author Mary Elizabeth Hawker (“Lanoe Falconer”). His parents were distant cousins; Hawker’s father was of a cadet branch of the family resident in Australia since his own father, George Charles Hawker (son of Royal Navy Admiral Edward Hawker), emigrated in 1839, being elected Speaker of the House of Assembly, South Australia in 1860. The Hawker family had a military tradition, with army commissions being held in each generation since the time of Elizabeth I. Lanoe was sent to Stubbington House School and at the age of 11 to the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, but although highly intelligent and an enthusiastic sportsman, he suffered from a weak constitution, which led to jaundice. With the strenuous nature of a naval career unsuitable, he entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich before joining the Royal Engineers as an officer cadet. A clever inventor, Hawker developed a keen interest in all mechanical and engineering developments. During the summer of 1910 he saw a film featuring the Wright Flyer and after attending an aircraft flying display at Bournemouth, he quickly found an interest in aviation, learning to fly at his own expense at Hendon. On 4 March 1913, Hawker was awarded Aviator’s Certificate No. 435 by the Royal Aero Club. Promoted to 1st Lieutenant in October 1913 he was posted to Cork Harbour with the 33rd Fortress Company. His request for attachment to the Royal Flying Corps was granted and he reported to the Central Flying School at Upavon on 1 August 1914, three days before Britain entered World War I.

 With the Royal Flying Corps:

Hawker was posted to France in October 1914, as a captain with No. 6 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, flying Henri Farmans. The squadron converted to the B.E.2c and he undertook numerous reconnaissance missions into 1915, being wounded once by ground fire. On 22 April he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for attacking a German zeppelin shed at Gontrode by dropping hand grenades at low level (below 200 ft) from his B.E.2c. He used a tethered German balloon to help shield him from enemy ground fire as he made successive attacks. During the Second Battle of Ypres, Hawker was wounded in the foot by ground fire. For the remainder of the battle he had to be carried to and from his aircraft, but refused to be grounded until the fight was over

Returning to 6 Squadron after hospitalisation, the squadron now received several single-seat scouts, and some early F.E.2 ‘pushers’. One aircraft received was a Bristol Scout C, with RFC s/n 1609 that Hawker, with assistance from Air Mechanic Ernest Elton (who later became an Ace Pilot himself), equipped with their design of Lewis gun mount, enabling the machine gun to fire forward obliquely at an acute horizontal angle to the axis of flight, missing the propeller arc.

While with No 6 squadron in 1915, Captain Hawker was a comrade of Captain Louis Strange. The Squadron became pioneers of many aspects in military aviation at the time, driven largely by the imagination of Strange and the engineering talents of Hawker. Their talents led to various mountings for Lewis machine guns, one of which won Hawker the Victoria Cross, and one that nearly cost Strange his life. Hawker’s innovative ideas at this time greatly benefited the fledgling RFC. He helped to invent the Prideaux disintegrating link machine-gun belt feed and initiated the practice of putting fabric protective coverings on the tips of wooden propellers, the use of fur-lined thigh boots, and devising a primitive ‘rocking fuselage’ for target practice on the ground. In 1916 he also developed (with W.L. French) the increased capacity 97-round ‘double drum’ for the Lewis machine gun. It was issued for trials in July and after modifications was issued generally to the RFC and RNAS.

Victoria Cross:

Following an initial air victory in June, on 25 July 1915 when on patrol over Passchendaele, Captain Hawker attacked three German aircraft in succession, flying a different Bristol Scout C, serial No. 1611, after his earlier No. 1609 had been written off, transplanting the custom Lewis gun mount onto No. 1611. The first aerial victory for Hawker that day occurred after he had emptied a complete drum of bullets from his aircraft’s single Lewis machine gun into it, sending it spinning down. The second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third – an Albatros C.I of FFA 3 – which he attacked at a height of about 10,000 feet, burst into flames and crashed. (Pilot Oberleutnant Uebelacker and observer Hauptmann Roser were both killed.) For this feat he was awarded the Victoria Cross, as the third military pilot (and the first fighter pilot) to receive the VC following William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse‘s pioneering award for bravery during a bombing raid, and Reginald Warneford‘s award for an anti-Zeppelin attack on an airborne Deutsches Heer airship, using aerial bombing to bring it down. This particular sortie was just one of the many which Captain Hawker undertook during almost a year of constant operational flying and fighting. He claimed at least three more victories in August 1915, either in the Scout or flying an F.E.2.  Hawker was posted back to England in late 1915, with some seven victory claims (including one captured, three destroyed, one ‘out of control’ and one ‘forced to land’) making him the first British flying ace, and a figure of considerable fame within the ranks of the RFC.

It has since been argued that shooting down three aircraft in one mission was a feat repeated several times by later pilots, and whether Hawker deserved his Victoria Cross has been questioned. However, in the context of the air war of mid-1915 it was unusual to shoot down even one aircraft, and the VC was awarded on the basis that all the enemy planes were armed with machine guns. More significantly, by the early summer of 1915, the German Feldflieger Abteilung two-seater observation units of the future Luftstreitkräfte, had by this time, received examples of the Fokker Eindecker monoplane, with one Eindecker going to each unit, with a fixed, forward-firing machine gun fitted with a “synchronization gear” that prevented the bullets from striking the propeller. The first claim using this arrangement, though unconfirmed by the German Army, was by Leutnant Kurt Wintgens on 1 July 1915, some 225 miles (362 km) over Lunéville distant from where Hawker had his three-victory success nearly a month later. Therefore, the German pilots like Wintgens and Leutnant Otto Parschau, another pioneering Eindecker pilot, could employ the simple combat tactic of aiming the whole aircraft, and presenting a small target to the enemy while approaching from any angle, preferably from a blind spot where the enemy observer could not return fire.  Hawker flew before Britain had any workable synchroniser gear, so his Bristol Scout had its machine gun mounted on the left side of the cockpit, firing forwards and sideways at a 45-degree angle to avoid the propeller. The only direction from which he could attack an enemy was from its right rear quarter – precisely in a direction from which it was easy for the observer to fire at him. Thus, in each of the three attacks, Hawker was directly exposed to the fire of an enemy machine gun.

Death:

On 23 November 1916, while flying an Airco DH.2 (Serial No. 5964), Hawker left Bertangles Aerodrome at 1300 hours as part of ‘A’ Flight, led by Captain (later Air Vice Marshal) J. O. Andrews and including Lieutenant (later Air Marshal) R.H.M.S Saundby. Andrews led the flight in an attack on two German aircraft over Achiet. Spotting a larger flight of German aircraft above, Andrews was about to break off the attack, but spotted Hawker diving to attack. Andrews and Saundby followed him to back him up in his fight; Andrews drove off one of the Germans attacking Hawker, then took bullets in his engine and glided out of the fight under Saundby’s covering fire. Losing contact with the other DH.2s, Hawker began a lengthy dogfight with an Albatros D.II flown by Leutnant Manfred von Richthofen of Jasta 2. The Albatros was faster than the DH.2, more powerful and, with a pair of lMG 08 machine guns, more heavily armed. Richthofen fired 900 rounds during the running battle. Running low on fuel, Hawker eventually broke away from the combat and attempted to return to Allied lines. The Red Baron’s guns jammed 50 yards from the lines, but a bullet from his last burst struck Hawker in the back of his head, killing him instantly. His plane spun from 1,000 ft (300 m) and crashed 200 metres (220 yards) east of Luisenhof Farm, just south of Bapaume on the Flers Road, becoming the German ace‘s 11th victim. German Grenadiers reported burying Hawker 250 yards (230 metres) east of Luisenhof Farm along the roadside. Richthofen claimed Hawker’s Lewis gun from the wreck as a trophy and hung it above the door of his quarters. Major Lanoe George Hawker is listed on the Arras Flying Services Memorial for airmen lost with no known grave.

Legacy:

Hawker’s original Victoria Cross was lost when the Hawker family belongings were left behind after the fall of France in 1940. On their return after the Second World War, they found that their possessions, including the VC, had been stolen. A replacement was issued to Hawker’s brother on 3 February 1960 and is now held by the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon. Hawker was a first cousin of Arthur Bagot, a naval officer in the First World War and Albert Medal recipient.

A window (designed by Francis Skeat) commemorating Hawker was installed in St. Nicholas church, Longparish in 1967. The design features St. Michael above an airfield with two pilots in the foreground. There is a copy of the window at the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop. Hawker was portrayed by Corin Redgrave in the 1971 film Von Richthofen and Brown. In the 2008 film The Red Baron, he was played by Richard Krajčo.

 

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Part  Four of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire by Malcolm Gibbons our Vice Chairman 

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After our visit to the Far East zone and our booked lunch date in the Remembrance Centre Restaurant, due to social distancing this had be booked at the reception desk when we first arrived.  

After a very excellent lunch I then decided to make my own way round to see some of the other zones from a mini guide that had obtain from the reception desk, so left Jennie rest her feet and look round the Remembrance centre gardens and other smaller memorials in the garden area.  

I then made my way to The Beat Zone area, which consisted of The Military Police Association Memorial, Special Constabulary Memorial and the Long Police Memorial garden with lines of plain trees either side of the avenue and at end of avenue a Large Blue Police Lamp on a large high column, of which was illuminated.

 

Alongside the Memorials dedicated to the police, some of these contained Memorials for the campaigns fought in the Mediterranean area during World War Two, as well as the Garden of Innocents and the War Widows’ Rose Garden.       

Other Memorials in this Zone  included The Polish Armed Forces Memorial, a very dramatic and moving Memorial, depicting their sacrifice their Armed Forces and people of their Country had made in the WW Two. 

Other important Memorials in this Zone that was of interest personally to me was The  Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Memorial, as my late Father Sidney was attached to the City of London Regiment of Fusiliers and based for a short time at The Tower of London during the early part of WW Two.

He was also attached to The Royal Engineers when he went out to the India and Burma campaign in late 1944, I also visited that Memorial as I also thought of our Branch Youth Liaison office Stuart Gemmell as know he was attached to The Royal Engineers.   

On my back from the Beat Zone and The Polish Memorial and route to the Remembrance Centre, I decided to visit the Armed Forces Memorial which you  approach by a number of steps as this is mounted at a high level, as the area is surrounded by large stone tablets covered with hundreds of names with varours Naval Officers and Ratings as well as RAF Squadrons and Regiments and names of battles honours, as well huge statues depicting the sacrifices made by Men and Women of our Armed Forces. 

This was a truly moving experience for me even to reading some the names on stone tablets, not enough time to taken to take it all in, so I must go back and visit at some time in the future as many more Memorials are still being being added and his a very peaceful and tranquil place.                            

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A fascinating piece of Military History from President John Elms.

9th February 1958 C Coy Guard of Honour Royal Lincolns & Royal Marine Bands.

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Our Joe & his Army fight the Covid!

Hi Everyone

I hope this finds you all fit and well.

I have been asked to do a quick letter to you all and keep the old brain cells working. 

Originally, I was going to write something regarding my Military career, on reflection, whilst I do have stories to tell, they would not mean much to anyone.  As you would have had to be there to appreciate it, coupled with my warped sense of humour, so decided not to.

Instead, I am going to give a brief run down on what I have been doing in the fight against the VIRUS.  As most of you know already, I am an NHS worker, and work in local hospitals, at the outset I was at the QVMH in Herne Bay, and just recently changed bases, so I now work in Deal Hospital.

I have been working around COVID patients since end of Mar 2020, and I am still doing it to date.  I can honestly say that the response from all my colleagues has been, and continues to be, of the highest order.  Everyone I have been in contact with has definitely been giving 100% throughout this period.  Thankfully we have not seen many deaths, which I believe is down to the care that patients have received.

They have all been under great strain, as even the simplest of jobs has escalated into a major undertaking.  Especially with having to change PPE after every patient, which does not sound much until you realise that every patient has their meals delivered to the bedside.   This means that simple task now has 8 PPE changes in it.  The staff I work with meet this type of challenge with – you guessed it humour and a willingness to get the job done.  They are fighting as well as anyone can expect.  They also have families, and relatives that have gone down with COVID, yet they turn up for every shift and carry on, I can’t possibly commend their actions enough.

Having said all that, I still hope that I do not see any of you on our wards, but if I do, you will be in the safest hands I know of

Stay safe everyone, there is a light at the end of the tunnel (not someone with a torch bringing more work).  I hope to see you all soon.

From Joe De Zille our Branch Treasurer

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Amazing Now & Then WW2 Pictures!

Click the link for amazing “Now & Then” photo’s with thanks to Bob Davies for sending the link to me.

http://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/2014/apr/image-opacity-slider-master/index.html?ww2-dday

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Normandy Memorial Background

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D Day Veteran George Batts was an 18 year old Sapper when he landed on Gold Beach on the morning of D Day itself. Tasked with clearing mines and booby traps he survived the horrors of the beaches while many of his friends and comrades tragically died.

George who eventually became the National Secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association has long held an ambition that a defining monument should be built on a single site in France to commemorate the men and women of the British Armed forces and civilian services who lost their lives in the Normandy Campaign.

The Normandy Memorial Trust, harnessing George’s remarkable tenacity and long held passion, has secured a commitment from the UK Government to construct a powerful and inspiring statement which will endure in Normandy to honour the fallen.

Distinguished architect Liam O’Connor was commissioned to design a fitting national tribute where those who lost their lives will have their names inscribed as a permanent reminder of their sacrifice and bravery during the Normandy Campaign of 1944.

This world-class memorial will be the culmination of much commitment and determination to create a monument to our British servicemen and women and those from the civilian services who lost their lives
in Normandy. They will always be remembered.

Two & half years ago on  6 June 2019, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Memorial site at Ver-sur-Mer was officially inaugurated with the unveiling of the D-Day Sculpture & laying of the Foundation Stone. Then Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and Normandy Veterans were in attendance.

The British government is not providing any funding for the maintenance of this important national Memorial. Therefore, to coincide with the 76th anniversary, the Trust has launched the Normandy Memorial Guardian programme to give an opportunity to generous supporters to safeguard the Memorial and ensure its continued wellbeing for future generations.

Since then, significant construction work has taken place on the site. Following a two-month pause due to the coronavirus crisis, construction of the Memorial has resumed thanks to the introduction of new working practices by principal contractors Eiffage and the large, open nature of the site. The health and safety of those working on the British Normandy Memorial has been and remains the Trust’s top priority.

Significant progress has also been made on the erection of the stonework. The East Pergola was completed in early March and master stonemasons, S. McConnell & Sons, have almost completed installing the stone columns of the West Pergola. The French Memorial, which recognises the sacrifice of the civilian population in Normandy, has seen its foundations installed and the first courses of stone laid.

 The British Normandy Memorial is currently closed to all visitors. The  Trust is working towards the British Normandy Memorial being fully open to the public in the spring and for an  official opening to take place on 6 June 2021. However, at this stage, given all the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, it is clearly impossible to say precisely what will be possible.

The Trust continues to be closely in touch with the British and French authorities and we will update supporters with information once the situation becomes clearer.

Edward Barkway

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Called Up..Sent Down!

During the last World War, it was suddenly realised that hundreds of coal miners were being called up for the armed forces. Making coal production very low. The then Minister of Labour and National Service in the War Time Coalition Government, Ernest Bevin, devised what he thought to be a fair way of selection. He chose a certain digit, if that said digit appeared as the last on a young mans national insurance number, he would then be “called up – sent down” The lads consisted of those who could barely read or write, to solicitors, managerial even church men.
One such was my late uncle, Patrick Horgan, soon began the long journey from London to Newcastle upon Tyne, traveling north on the Flying Scotsman which did anything but fly due to war time restrictions. He stayed with Mr & Mrs Kersopp and their two sons, being a mining family, living at a place called Cowgate, just a few miles from Newcastle itself. 
The first day the London lads were taken down North Fenham Pit in a small lift called the “cage”.  It descended at a breakneck speed which frightened the life out of them. During the observation they came across a whitewashed wall, the superintendent told them there had been a cave in, and could not get the bodies out, so was bricked in! Not good for the lads first time down a coal mine.
Work started, they wheeled their pick axes, the superintendent commented “come on London lads, we’ll hardly get a bucket of coal out of you at this rate!” Then came their well earned food break “snaps” it was called. Patrick during this time would, with his handkerchief very carefully wipe the eyes of the pit ponies, removing coal dust that had accumulated there.
The long shift having now finished, home they went, just as they were in all their grime, there being no bathing facilities in the old pit. Mrs Kersopp had a lovely meal waiting for them, they sat down to eat as they were, dipping coal dusted fingers into the salt cellar and creating a “tide mark” round their mouths whilst ravenously eating!
Following the meal, a tin bath was filled in front of the fire, they bathed one by one. Some relaxation followed, a good nights sleep to be ready for the next long day.
Sadly, many years after the war Patrick passed away at the age of 67. He did not receive his medal in recognition for his war effort, neither visited the memorial at the National Arboretum.

By Jennie Gibbon

Click the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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‘Upside down or not!?’ by our Branch Padre Rev John Lines MBE

I have a feeling that like a great many people I was a very keen all over the world stamp collector in my school years.  I must admit that I really enjoyed looking through the various countries offerings as I posted them into my albums.  One thing I realised early on was that I was very unlikely to actually see in person many of the vistas I was looking at on the stamps!

One country whose stamps I really did enjoy was New Zealand, such wonderful vistas and exotic sounding places, which I would never actually see!  How wrong I was?!  At this point I should mention that I had been involved with an organisation called The Boys’ Brigade all my life, the pioneer Christian uniformed youth organisation for Boys’. The BB was formed in Glasgow in 1883 and was going to celebrate its Centenary in 1983 with an International Camp in guess where?  Yes it was to be in New Zealand! I was privileged to be one of the officers invited to go as part of the British contingent which was something I certainly was not going to miss if I could arrange all the funding needed!

We all gathered at the Boys’ Brigade National Training Centre at Felden Lodge in Hertfordshire on Boxing Day 1982 and flew by British Airways to New Zealand. Via India and two stops in Australia, a most exciting but tiring journey.  I was billeted with a New Zealand Boys’ Brigade officer and his family at a place called Papakura on North Island, just outside of Auckland.  We spent a few days with them and then moved onto the camp at a place called Mystery Creek near Hamilton, so I could honestly say I was up the creek!

During the camp, which was attended by Boys’ and officers from most of the countries where the BB existed, we were placed in tents with members of various countries, a lot of swapping of badges and other artefacts took place.  Coaches were arranged and we visited a great many places of interest around the North Island. All too soon the week at camp was over, but arrangements had been made for us to have a further time in the country before our flights home.  

I chose to stop on North Island and spent a very happy time, firstly in a place called Napier, followed by some time in Newlands on the outskirts of Wellington.  One of the highlights for me, not sure about the congregation, was leading worship in the Maori Church at Lake Rotorua which had a wonderful glass window behind the communion table looking out onto Lake Rotorua .  Etched into the glass was a depiction of Jesus wearing a Maori chief’s cape – really mind blowing!  All too soon I had to come back to the United Kingdom, but so many memories of that trip of a lifetime are in my mind.  Maybe if the Chair will indulge me I will write about them another time!  You have been warned!!

John Lines.  

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

By Our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex RE.

Claud Raymond VC  (22 October 1923 – 22 March 1945) Born in Mottistone, Isle of Wight 22 October 1923. He was a son of an Indian Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel M Raymond, CIE MC. He was educated at Wellington College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge and commissioned into the Corps in May 1943. After arriving in the Far East, he joined a unit called D Force whose business was deception, which called upon his talents for ‘more ingenuity than efficiency’

Victoria Cross citation: In Burma on the afternoon of 21 March 1945, Lieutenant Raymond was second-incharge of a small patrol, which was acting in conjunction with a larger detachment of a special force, whose objective was to obtain information and create a diversion in the area of Taungup, by attacking and destroying isolated enemy posts some 40 miles in advance of an Indian Infantry Brigade, pushing down the road from Letpan to Taungup.
The patrol was landed on the south bank of the Thinganet Chaung, an area known to be held by numerous enemy strong-posts and gun positions, and marched about five miles inland. As they were nearing the village of Talaku and moving across an open stretch of ground, they were heavily fired on from the slopes of a jungle covered hill by a strongly entrenched enemy detachment.
Lieutenant Raymond immediately charged in the direction of the fire. As he began to climb the hill he was wounded in the right shoulder, but he ignored this wound and continued up the slope firing his rifle from the hip. He had advanced only a few yards further, when a Japanese threw a grenade which burst in his face and most severely wounded him. He fell, but almost immediately picked himself up again, and, in spite of loss of blood from his wounds, which later were to prove fatal, he still continued on, leading his section under intense_ fire. He was hit yet a third time, his wrist being shattered by what appeared to have been ail explosive bullet. In spite of this third wound he never wavered, but carried on into the enemy position itself, and, in the sharp action that followed, was largely responsible for the killing of two Japanese and the wounding of a third.
The remaining Japanese then fled in panic into the jungle, thus leaving the position in our hands, together with much equipment. The position itself was strongly fortified by foxholes and small bunkers and would have proved extremely formidable had not the attack been pressed home with great determination under the courageous leadership of Lieutenant Raymond.
Several other men were wounded during the action and Lieutenant Raymond refused all treatment until they had been attended to, insisting despite the gravity of his injuries, on walking back towards the landing craft in case the delay in treating his wounds should endanger the withdrawal of the patrol.
It was not until he had walked nearly a mile that he collapsed and had to allow himself to be carried on an improvised stretcher. Even then he was continually encouraging the other wounded by giving the thumbs up sign and thus undoubtedly helping them to keep cheerful and minimise the extent of their injuries until the landing craft was reached. Soon after he died of his wounds.
The outstanding gallantry, remarkable endurance and fortitude of Lieutenant Raymond, which refused to allow him to collapse, although mortally wounded, was an inspiration to everyone and a major factor in the capture of the strong point. His self-sacrifice in refusing attention to his wounds undoubtedly saved the patrol, by allowing it to withdraw in time before the Japanese could bring up fresh forces from neighbouring positions for a counterattack.
(London Gazette: 28 June 1945)

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent.

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Part three of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire

As to my last article where I mentioned about the other six zones, one of these being the Far East Zone, which was the next area we made for. This consisted of the Burma Star Memorial, Gurkha Memorial, and Changi Lych Gate Memorial, also interested to note that many of the trees planted in the area are native to the Far East and were chosen to reflect the stories told by the Memorials.

Also in the Far East Zone is The Burma Railway Memorial, Chindit Memorial, The Japanese Prison Ships Memorial Garden, Sumatra Railway Memorial and the Suez Veterans Memorial.

2020 being a poignant year for the Burma Star Association being VJ Day 75th Anniversary commemorating the ending of the Japanese war in the Far East and the final ending of the 2nd World War, we thought it important that we should lay a Wreath on behalf of the Dover & Deal Branch Burma Star Members and Friends.

There were a number of Wreaths that were still laid around the Memorial from the 15th August VJ Day that BBC covered and RBL organised this important day,  H R H The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall took part in the commemoration for this important Day in the history of the Burma campaign in very difficult circumstances. The Chairman of the Burma Star Association and the Trustees with Committee Members and Veterans laid wreaths.

We also paid a visited The Burma Railway Memorial, Chindit Memorial and the Gurkha Memorial, we notice that H R H the Prince of Wales wreath with others were still present as well as other photo mementos and messages of some of the Veterans that worked on the Railway, ( Quiet Moving to read). By this time, it was now ready for our booked lunch date in the Restaurant in the Remembrance Centre.

More information on our visit and Photographs, and more details regarding the other Zones next time.

Photo’s from Malcolm & Jennie Gibbons

Visit our Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/?view_public_for=553666901369172

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Our President John Elms first flight

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MEDWAY QUEEN

In 1984 the Medway Queen was brought back from the Isle of Wight to the Medway area by a group of local businessmen, headed by Jim Ashton, who intended to restore her. They planned to berth her in the Dockyard at Chatham, recently vacated by the Royal Navy. The ship came amidst much pomp and glory; the Mayor was on board for the last few miles of her journey up river; the press wrote joyously that she had “come home”. Great! We all though, the lovely old ship will be restored. A year later she lay in the river, off the Dockyard wall, buffeted by tides and the wash of passing vessels, almost completely submerged at high water, weeds grew on her decks and fish swam through her lower saloons. A sad sight indeed. Her owners had gone quiet, nobody knew what her fate might be.
It was Marshall Vine who started the whole thing off. He was seeking people who might be interested in trying to save the ship which lay on the mud not far away at St Mary’s Wharf. Soon informal meetings with many other interested people took place, including Bob Barnes who has remained Treasurer of the MQPS since those early days. Our first meetings were held in the Victorian Brook Pumping Station in Chatham.  We talked about various ways we could publicise the project. It was suggested that we approach the manager of the popular shopping complex at Hempstead Valley on the outer reaches of Gillingham, with a view to having a small display stand there and asking interested parties to attend a public meeting and join our efforts to save the Medway Queen.

The first task for the new project was to see the general manager at Hempstead Valley, the late Dick Allard, he was most helpful and remained a supporter for many years afterwards. Help and support from local businessmen like Dick Allard was a very important factor in those early days. Mike Peevers produced a few very large photographs of the ship and we borrowed some display boards. Over the years we became experts at borrowing! The centre stayed open late in the evening’s so a team of volunteers was organised to cover that. We had met with the then owners of the ship and agreed to form a Society to save her and we were confident that the local people would support our aims. A public meeting was held on 13th June 1985 at the Corn Exchange in Rochester. Our first few members enrolled that evening. The local press covered the event and we felt greatly encouraged.

Before long work parties had been established to start clearing the ship of the tons of accumulated silt. Every weekend our volunteers came from far and wide to shovel mud or scrape off weed, rust and old paint. We also needed to publicise our Society, apply for Charity status, sell souvenirs to raise funds, find a safe berth for the ship and generally seek professional advice on all aspects of caring for an old ship. the project gathered momentum and membership grew. The story was told in papers and journals all over Britain and indeed all over the world. It was all very exciting and became a steep learning curve. Most of us knew little about old ships nor about running a public campaign, we felt the eyes of ship lovers everywhere upon our efforts. We could not afford to fail!!.

We lobbied councils and MPs, contacted celebrities and other societies. Gave countless talks and slide shows, took the sales stand all over the South East and beyond, participated in very many radio and TV programmes, drove countless miles and ran up enormous phone bills, in retrospect we must have been a thorough nuisance to many people. But we were determined to save our ship and nothing was going to stop us.  Although hard work, those early days were most enjoyable. We had a clear mission, to save the Medway Queen, having bought her from liquidators of the previous owners. With the help of P&O we were able to revive the New Medway Steam Packet Company to hold legal title to the ship once again.

Finding a safe berth for the ship was not so easy. It had become very clear that the management of the Historic dockyard at that time wished to be rid of us and our ship,  the resulting coverage in the papers was fascinating to say the least. We searched the banks of the Medway and Thames and their estuaries, every creek, old dock and wharf. Offers from other towns came in but she is the queen of the Medway and we really did not want to let her go too far afield. I have memories of Marshall and colleagues rowing around a creek in Strood taking soundings and counting how many shopping trolleys would have to be removed. We asked Gillingham Council if we could use an old and long disused dock in Lower Rainham, but they said out work would disturb the birds. Old wharves in Gravesend were investigated, a local Councillor in that town offered the canal basin, but it’s entrance was too narrow for our ship.

Then a saviour appeared on the scene, Gill Ellen approached David Dunwell who managed a large site at Kingsnorth. He said we could tie up alongside his wharf for a while. this “while” was to stretch to twenty years.  We had to float the ship, satisfy the river authorities that she was safe to tow the eight or so miles to Kingsnorth, obtain insurance for the trip, notify the press, radio, television and sail off into a new chapter of the ship’s history. During the following twenty years our Society changed and grew. From the first few enthusiasts our numbers grew around one thousand. We became a registered Charity. We built up a good rapport with the media at local and national level. Local authorities took notice of us, visitors came from far and wide. We spent much time and tears over bids to the Lottery for funding, finally achieving success in 2006. From humble beginnings our hobby had now become a million pound project, and had become big business                                                                                                                                     Scroll for earlier reports. Edward.

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2020

Part 2 Malcolm & Jennies Arboretum visit

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As to my last article where I mentioned the nine zones in which three are illustrated on the guild and are colour coded in Red, Purple and Blue these also give estimated time to walk to them and the average working space, and this is also the route that the land train takes around the whole site.

The six zones indicated on the guild of which these consist of Garden Zone, Navel Review, RAF Zone, Far East Zone, Poppy Zone and Woodland Zone.

The Garden Zone this area is closest area to the Remembrance Centre, in this you can walk between a few inter- joined formal gardens including The Artillery Garden the Fire and Rescue Services Memorial and the General Post Office, others include the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity Memorial.

Also, in the Garden Zone include Bevin Boys Memorial, BLESMA The Limbless Veterans Garden, Ex-National Servicemen’s Memorial, Sikh Memorial, Women’s Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps.

We had a keen interest to visit the Bevin Boys Memorial as one of Jennie’s late uncles was called up to be a Bevin Boy and sent up to one of many mines in and around Newcastle Upon Tyne and was sent to mine called North Fenham Pit No 4310 Cowgate and was billeted with a mining family for short  period of the war. The Town of Cowgate is in The Northwest of Newcastle Upon Tyne, it lies 2.8 miles Northwest of the City Centre.

The Bevin Boys were for young British Men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, between December 1943 to March 1948, in order to increase the rate of coal production, which had declined due to all mines being called up to go into the Armed Forces through the early years o

The other Memorial we were hoping to see was the  Women’s Land Army. But we were informed when we went round on the land train that it had been taken away for some repair’s, as Jennie was hoping to see this Memorial as her late Mum volunteered and to join The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS often pronounced as an acronym). This was the women’s branch of British Army during the second world  war. It was formed on the 9th September 1938 initially as the Women’s Voluntary Service and existed until 1st February 1949, when it was merged into The Women’s Royal Army Corps. She was based in many Army Barrack’s around England such Towns as Colchester, Dorchester, and Northampton, she was chiefly  involved on the catering side.

More information on our visit and Photographs, and more details regarding the other Zones next time.

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Sue & John’s Quiz No 37

1. What is the respiratory organ of a fish?
2. Found in New Zealand but almost extinct, what animal is a Kakapo?
3. The Asian, the Forest and the African, are the only breeds of what?
4. What is a Carolina Reaper?
5. Who presented the kids TV nature programme “The Really Wild Show”?

Getting near Christmas.
1. In 1965, what was the first song transmitted from space?
2. What fast food do many Japanese queue to buy for their Christmas dinner?
3. There is a festive connection..what is the 22nd and last letter of the Greek alphabet?
4. Referred to by Dickins in A Christmas Carol, what is stinking Bishop?
5. Marketed by a US store in 1939, what became a seasonal regular?

General Knowledge.
1. In the news often. Whose middle name is Robinette?
2. Who is the Queen of Soul?
3. Recently died, who played Darth Vader in Star Wars?
4. Also died this week, who was known as “The Voice of Golf”?
5. Who became Baroness Kesteven?

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The Fall Of Malaya & Singapore Part 2 By President John Elms.

The first part of the story ended with the two battle ships The Prince of Wales and The Repulse stationed off the North East coast of Malaya to oppose a Japanese landing. Unfortunately they had no air cover and were attacked by Japanese planes on 10th December 1941 and both sunk. (On the last leg of my flight to Malaya in September 1956 we flew down the East coast and our pilot pointed out where they had been sunk). The sinking’s left the invasion of Southern Thailand (Siam) and Northern Malaya almost unopposed. Allied forces were in general without adequate air cover and with little armour and in many cases under trained for this type of warfare.

The Japanese swept down from the North mainly along the lower ground to the West of the central mountain range. Although not up to the standard of later tanks the Japanese were well equipped with lighter versions and many of their infantry used bicycles. The terrain was difficult to defend with jungle either side of the access. Defensive positions were mainly along this access strip and in many cases the Japanese infantry was able to bypass them by using the jungle to the sides.

By the end of January 1942 allied forces had withdrawn all the way down the peninsular to the island of Singapore at the Southern end. The island is separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of water (the Johore Strait) but linked by a causeway near the town of Johore Baharu.

Being surrounded by sea the majority of the defensive gun positions were pointing out to sea and could not be turned towards the mainland. On the night of 8 -9th February the Japanese surged over the causeway and straits and quickly pushed the defenders back to the edges of the city. General Percival decided to capitulate though his troops, recently reinforced, out numbered their attackers. In the whole Malayan campaign, the Japanese lost fewer than 10,000 casualties. The Allies had a similar number but some 130,000 went into Japanese captivity and many did not survive.

The fall of Malaya and Singapore was not quite the end, however. A guerrilla unit known as Force 136 continued to harass the Japanese in Malaya. This force a South East Asian variant of The Special Operations Executive was mainly supplied by submarine. After the Japanese conquest, the Communist Party of Malaya formed the Malayan Peoples Anti- Japanese army and they linked up with and were armed and trained by Force 136. The leader of the MPA JA was a Chinese named Chin Peng.

After the end of the war the Communists hid the majority of the weapons only to turn them against the British when the “Emergency” started in June 1948. Towards the end of the Emergency Chin Peng took refuge in Southern Thailand before going to China in 1960. He died there on 16th September 2013 aged nearly 90 years.                                      See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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A very interesting piece by Stuart Gemmell

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Thomas Frank Durrant VC, born 17 October 1918 Farnborough, London, was a soldier in the British Army during the Second World War and a posthumous English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. His award of the Victoria Cross was unique in that it is the only award given to a soldier in a naval action and it was on the recommendation of the enemy commander.

Military Service

Durrant enlisted in the Corps of Royal Engineers prior to the Second World War on 1 February 1937. His service number was 1874047. In 1940 the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the formation of units of specially trained troops that would “develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast”. Durrant volunteered for service with the Special Service Independent Companies and was posted to No. 2 Special Independent Company. It was when serving with No. 2 Independent Company in the Norwegian Campaign that he was promoted in the field to Sergeant. When his company returned from Norway all the independent companies were formed into battalion sized units known as Commandos. Durrant then became a member of No. 1 Commando.

St Nazaire

The St Nazaire Raid (Operation Chariot) was a seaborne attack on the heavily defended docks of St. Nazaire in occupied France on the night of 28 March 1942. This was a combined operation undertaken by Royal Navy and Commando units. The main commando force was provided by No. 2 Commando with supporting demolition parties from other commando units, including Durrant’s No. 1 Commando. The intention of the raid was to destroy the dry dock which would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as the Tirpitz, to return to home waters rather than seek safe haven in the Atlantic coast. Of the 600 men who left the port of Falmouth, Cornwall, England on the raid only 225 would return.

During the raid Sergeant Durrant was in charge of a twin Lewis gun on board H.M. Motor Launch 306. As it came up the River Loire to the port of St Nazaire ML306 came under heavy fire from the shore and was unable to land its troops at the Old Mole and it is during its withdrawal that it came head-to-head with a pursuing German destroyer of the Mowe class, the Jaguar. In the battle with the German destroyer Durrant was wounded numerous times, in the head, both arms, legs, chest and stomach. After the battle Durrant died of his wounds in a German military hospital in St Nazaire. Following his death, he was buried in La Baule-Escoublac War Cemetery, 7 mi (11 km) from Saint-Nazaire, in Plot I, Row D, Grave 11. A week later the commander of the German destroyer, Kapitänleutnant F. K. Paul, met the Commando commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Newman, in a prisoner of war camp in Rennes. Bringing the action to Newman’s attention, Paul suggested that the colonel might wish to recommend Durrant for a high award.

Victoria Cross citation The official citation read:

For great gallantry, skill and devotion to duty when in charge of a Lewis gun in HM Motor Launch 306 in the St Nazaire raid on 28 March 1942. Motor Launch 306 came under heavy fire while proceeding up the River Loire towards the port. Sergeant Durrant, in his position abaft the bridge, where he had no cover or protection, engaged enemy gun positions and searchlights ashore. During this engagement he was severely wounded in the arm but refused to leave his gun. The Motor Launch subsequently went down the river and was attacked by a German destroyer at 50 to 60 yards range, and often closer. In this action Sergeant Durrant continued to fire at the destroyer’s bridge with the greatest of coolness and with complete disregard of the enemy’s fire. The Motor Launch was illuminated by the enemy searchlight, and Sergeant Durrant drew on himself the individual attention of the enemy guns and was again wounded in many places. Despite these further wounds he stayed in his exposed position, still firing his gun, although after a time only able to support himself by holding on to the gun mounting. After a running fight, the Commander of the German destroyer called on the Motor Launch to surrender. Sergeant Durrant’s answer was a further burst of fire at the destroyer’s bridge. Although now very weak, he went on firing, using drums of ammunition as fast as they could be replaced. A renewed attack by the enemy vessel eventually silenced the fire of the Motor Launch, but Sergeant Durrant refused to give up until the destroyer came alongside, grappled the Motor Launch and took prisoner those who remained alive. Sergeant Durrant’s gallant fight was commended by the German officers on boarding the Motor Launch. This very gallant non-commissioned officer later died of the many wounds received in action.

Aftermath Durrant is buried in La Baule-Escoublac War Cemetery, France in Plot I, Row D, Grave 11. The award of the Victoria Cross to Durrant was announced in the London Gazette on 15 June 1945, at the same time it was announced the Commando commander during the raid Lieutenant Colonel Augustus Charles Newman had also been awarded the Victoria Cross. On 29 October 1946 Durrant’s Victoria Cross was presented to his mother at an investiture at Buckingham Palace by King George VI. Durrant’s Victoria Cross is now on display at the Royal Engineers Museum Prince Arthur Road, Gillingham, Kent, England.

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Medway Queen (Cont’d)

From 1966 Medway Queen was used as a marina clubhouse and nightclub at Island Harbour on the Isle of Wight. The club opened for business on Saturday 14th May of that year and annual membership was 3 guineas (£3.15) for one person or 4 guineas (£4.20) for a married couple. Temporary membership, presumably aimed at holiday makers, was 5 shillings (25p) per week.The club made full use of the ship’s 4 saloons with a restaurant, music and dancing including live music and discos, casino and a meeting/function room. It must have been a very successful place as it is fondly remembered by very many people some 50 years on. The live bands included the “Steamboat” blue grass group and the late Richard Manuel of Bob Dylan’s backing group visited from the music festival and sat in with the resident musicians Doug Watson and Ernie Hayles. Regular visitors remember that dancing became “more of a challenge” when the tide went out and the ship settled on the mud, heeling gently to one side!

The proprietors, Alan and Colin Ridett, produced a selection of promotional material, examples of which have survived. There are many photographs of the ship at that time and even some interior shots. The society would be interested to hear from anyone who remembers the club and especially copies of any photographs taken below decks. The interior of the ship at that time is well illustrated by two of the postcards published by J. Arthur Dixon of Newport. There were 4 cards in all, the other two showing the ship’s exterior. the club featured in a BBC program in 1967 and the society is fortunate to have a copy which can be shown on board and in the Visitor Centre. The ship was a clubhouse and restaurant for the marina with more of a disco/nightclub emphasis in the evenings. Wedding receptions were catered for and played a significant role. In due course the business outgrew the ship’s accommodation and a larger vessel was purchased.

In 1970 PS Ryde was purchased to operate alongside Medway Queen. She started trading in 1972 as the “Ryde Queen Boatel”. ​The two ships operated alongside one another at first with Ryde Queen becoming the restaurant and offering hotel accommodation and Medway Queen concentrating on the nightclub and disco side. Management of the two ships passed to Reynolds and Gaywood Associates. Medway Queen was refurbished after the opening of the Ryde Queen and her part in the business continued until the end of 1974 when the “Medway Queen Club” closed for the last time.

In 2016 the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Medway Queen Club was celebrated at the Island Harbour Marina, with a fund-raising day including illustrated talks on the ship’s history, a book launch (right) and an evening buffet. In 1978 a trio of Kent business men, led by Jim Ashton with Eddie Dunlop and Lionel Lovesey purchased the ship. They spent much time and money patching her up for a move and restoration attempt. Among other methods, the inside of the hull was sprayed with concrete to strengthen and seal it but there was a particularly troublesome leak at the bow that could not be accessed because of a built in freezer installed for the restaurant. Jim and his colleagues negotiated permission to breach the marina wall into the river and move Medway Queen out. This was accomplished but the bow leak caused the ship to sink and a further hole was made – this time below the boiler and equally inaccessible. On Friday June 20th 1980 the Isle of Wight Weekly Post published a sad picture of the ship and a gloomy forecast of the future. The project was plagued by continuing deterioration of the ship and repeated theft of fittings and equipment but they eventually managed to re-float Medway Queen at considerable cost in time and money and in 1984 she was moved down to Cowes at the river’s mouth. There she was placed on a submersible salvage barge and towed back to Chatham in Kent. Medway Queen was moored just outside the naval dockyard and kept afloat by continuous pumping. Jim Ashton formed the Medway Queen Trust Ltd to give the team a measure of financial protection and the Medway Queen Preservation Society was formed to support the Trust. Work continued on mud removal and hull patching with yet more concrete but this attempt at saving the ship eventually failed through lack of funds and after lengthy legal and financial negotiations with the Official Receiver the Preservation Society purchased the ship and began looking for a new home for her.

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To be continued, Edward.

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For over twenty years I have played in Snowdown Colliery Brass Band at the Remembrance Sunday Service at Victoria War Memorial Hospital in Deal.
During these strange times, the service this year was different, due to there being no music or hymns allowed according to Government Guidelines. I was able, instead, to do a bible reading following twenty years of blowing my horn with the other instruments in the brass band. During all weathers we have sat in our usual corner, force ten gale, bright sunshine and poring rain.
Though proceedings were different, the service was still very much a memorable occasion. Big Ben’s eleven chimes, and the National Anthem were provided by Kent PA Hire. A serving Royal Marine bugler played the Last Post followed by the Reveille. The weather on this occasion was brilliantly sunny with clear blue sky.
All being well, proceedings will be back to normal, including brass band to play music.
Jennie Gibbons,
Downs Branch RBL Deal
https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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 In my last epistle I let you know something of my service in what I consider to   be the greatest police force in the world!  Now would I be biased!!  However, I think I promised that I would talk about my time in the ministry so settle down in your chairs ready for a nap!!

Having retired from the Metropolitan Police I was soon on my way to Queens Theological College in Birmingham to undergo training for the ministry.  While I was there I made two close friends, one an ex Royal Air Force officer and the other an inspector for Dunlop, we were usually known as the gruesome threesome because we’re usually together.  The college course was enjoyable by quite challenging but eventually it was decided that I was good enough to be unleashed on a congregation somewhere and I was duly told that I would be going to Slough in Berkshire.  Now to me the only things I knew about Slough was that it had a huge trading estate and Mars bars were made there!  How lacking was my education!

I was due to be the minister to three congregations, one in Slough, one in Eton Wick and one in Burnham and would be living in a manse in Slough itself.  When Christine and I visited to meet the folk I was surprised to find out that the Slough Church was mainly comprised of folk from the Caribbean, the islands of Anguilla and St. Kitts.  A history lesson for you now!  Heavy handed politicians had tried to join Anguilla with St Kitts and another island back in the 1960’s and the Anguillians would not have it and rebelled declaring their indepence!  Negotiations went on for some time, eventually the British Government decided that it had to be dealt with and sent some British troops and Metropolitan police officers to bri8ng order back to the island.  I fancied a Caribbean holiday but was unable to go as they were sending single men and woman, I am not sure Christine would have agreed to a divorce at that time!  So some twenty years later I end up sharing with an Anguillian congregation and making two trips to the island bliss on earth!

I was moved on from Slough to Whitechapel in the East End of London where Christine and I together with a full time warden and a number of volunteers had some eight hundred plus street homeless folk to provide for.  That meant raising some £3,000 per week to keep the Mission open, which meant I was all around the country begging and acquiring clothing, money and food for the folk.  I also had a probation hostel for around forty youngsters at a place called Windyridge near Colchester so life was rather busy to say the least! On top of that I was a Chaplain to the London Hospital as it was then and responsible for what are now called contract funerals but I always knew as ‘paupers’ funerals.  I was privileged to conduct service for all faiths and none! My MBE was presented to me by her Majesty as a result of our time at the Mission, the street folk were so proud when Christine and I returned from the palace with my award which, in all honesty, I think Christine should have had!

After five years I moved on from there to Uxbridge where I had congregations in Harefield, North Hillingdon and Uxbridge itself.  Two of the Churches had Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade Companies; in fact I was acting captain of one of the Girls’ Brigade Companies to save it being closed down, which was an immense and wonderful privilege! On top of that I was chaplain to Harefield Heart Hospital where, as a traffic police officer, I had conveyed hearts for transplants!  Another great privilege!

Time came to move on and Christine and I came to Dover to share with two congregations in Dover itself and Tower Hamlets, wonderful times with some really lovely people which I look back on with great joy.  Then I retired or so I thought but God had other ideas and I was asked to share with a Church in Deal for around four years in total, again wonderful times with some really loving people.  I also worked as Chaplain to the Prison Service at the Dover Immigration Removal Centre, for a period, where I found my police background to be useful and much appreciated by the officers, On top of that a few years as a Chaplain to Kent Police and the real icing on the cake as they say – Padre to Downs Branch of the Royal British Legio0n!  What a lucky chap I am!  Blessings to you all. John Lines.

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The Poppy as a symbol of Remembrance

By Branch Standard Bearer Richard Purton

Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future, as well as an important fundraising tool. The Poppy is used all over the world in this way. But why the poppy? What was the inspiration behind it becoming a symbol of Remembrance?

In 1921 Earl Haig noticed some French widows – inspired by Lt Col John McCrae’s iconic poem “In Flanders Fields” – selling silk poppies to raise funds for disabled ex-Servicemen. The poppy, which is central to the poem, was one of the few plants that survived in the churned up battlefields Flanders, growing by the thousands amidst chaos and destruction.

Lt Col John McCrae was a Canadian army doctor working as a field hospital surgeon when he wrote ‘In Flanders Field’ in 1915, inspired after the funeral and burial of a friend killed in the Second Battle of Ypres. First published in Punch on 8th December 1915 it quickly became one of the most popular poems of the war. As a result of its popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts, appeals to recruit soldiers and in raising money selling war bonds.

Sadly, McCrae died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918, while still commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Boulogne. His poem has had a huge impact, influencing the way we remember those who died in conflict and his memory lives on today. The poem inspired an American academic named Moina Michael to adopt the poppy in memory of those who had fallen in the war. She campaigned to get it adopted as an official symbol of Remembrance across the United States and worked with others who were trying to do the same in Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Also involved with those efforts was a French woman, Anna Guérin who was in the UK in 1921 where she planned to sell the poppies in London. There she met Earl Haig, founder of the Royal British Legion, who was persuaded to adopt the poppy as an emblem for the Legion in the UK. The Legion, which had been formed in 1921, ordered nine million poppies and sold them on 11 November that year.  Haig recognised the potential of these poppies to become both a symbol of Remembrance and also as a means to support the welfare of ex-Servicemen, so he ordered nine million poppies which were sold on 11th November 1921. The Poppy Appeal was born!

Poppy factories  Earl Haig’s first poppy factory was in Richmond in1922 but demand for poppies was so high that few reached Scotland. In 1926, Lady Haig established a factory in Edinburgh to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland.

Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory is still there today and a team of disabled veterans produces over 4 million poppies for the Scottish Poppy Appeal each year. Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh employs around 40 disabled veterans to hand-assemble over four million poppies and 14,000 wreaths every year for the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

The factory was founded in 1926 by Lady Haig, wife of the Field Marshal, and the first poppies were made by two ex-Servicemen and a pair of scissors.  Today, the factory team continues to make poppies for the whole of Scotland and between them they have seen service from Korea to the first Gulf War. They make two varieties of Poppies for our street collections, a plastic-stemmed Poppy and a stick-on Poppy. Both types are still produced by hand, although a machine now cuts out the petal shape! They also produce wreaths, long-stemmed poppies, Remembrance crosses and other Remembrance items.

The Scottish Poppy                        

Lady Haig designed a botanically correct poppy with four petals and no leaf, whereas the version produced in Richmond had two petals and a leaf. This difference remains today.

Since then the poppy has become a symbol of Remembrance and of the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces, both at times of war and in their peacekeeping duties. For nearly 100 years it has raised millions of pounds to support the needs of veterans and their families living in Scotland.

In Flanders Fields

The poem by John McCrae

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

Information soured from The Royal British Legion website and the Poppy Scotland website.

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 Our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire on 14th September 2020. 

Our visit to the Arboretum was for a shot visit and stay in the City of Derby, we commenced our journey on Friday 11th September and made our way by Train to St Pancras Station to pick the Midland region service to Derby.  On arrival at Derby station we made our way to short walk to our Hotel, the idea of stay in Derby for Jennie was to trace find the street her late father lived before and after the 2nd WW, this proved to be successful and rewarding visit of which Jennie has already written an article a few weeks ago about this with pictures of York Street.

We made our way to Derby Station on the Sunday morning to catch the train to Tamworth where we would have make a change to pick up the train for Lichfield on Trent Station where I had arranged for a Taxi to take us to the National Arboretum, as this is fair distance away from the station.

Once we arrived at the Arboretum Remembrance Centre, we checked in at the reception desk as when I booked, I was given a booking refence number we were also advised to book the land train and book a slot for restaurant of which we did.

We made our way to start point for the land train were our ticket was allocated to seat safely screen protected and all sanitized, our land train tour was for a 50 minute trip around the whole site with three main routes Red, Purple and Blue with a full audio commentary given with a brief description about the memorials as we passed.

There are around 30,000 trees in the grounds of the Arboretum most of all these are British Native species, as well as several Foreign variates which are symbolically chosen to represent the stories they tell. The British species are Hornbeam, Willow, Oak, Redwoods and Plane. 

The National Memorial Arboretum is open all year-round centre for Remembrance and first opened in 2001 and contains more than 370 memorials for the military and civilian organisations and associations, together with tributes for individuals.

The Grounds of the Arboretum are expansive, encompassing more than 150 acres of formal gardens, wildflower meadows and maturing woodland areas, it also comprises of Picnic Areas, Children’s Play Areas and small shelters. To explore the entire site, it can take more than a day to visit, with amazing stores and symbolism to be discovered in every glade and around every corner. A guide of the site can be obtained from the main remembrance reception centre for a small fee of £3.00, this is showing the grounds being  divided into nine zones, five of these have memorials that have been identified in each area for you to discover at your leisure.    More information on our visit and Photographs, and about the Zones next time.

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Malcolm and Jennie Gibbons

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The Fall of Malaya and Singapore to the Japanese 8th December 1941 to February 1942 by ourPresident John Elms.https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

Japans attack on Pearl Harbour began six months of military triumphs in the Far East and Pacific. They were desperate for access to natural resources and wanted to create a defensive perimeter in the Far East and Pacific that could be defended.  Part of these conquests included Malaya and the island of Singapore.

In those days Malaya consisted of a peninsular surrounded on three sides by sea and stretching from the then Siam (now Thailand Border) some 370 miles South to the island of Singapore. Down the centre of the country a range of mountains ran from North to South rising to over 7000 feet in places. Either side were areas of lower land including rubber plantations and tin mines. Eighty per cent of the country was covered in jungle with areas of swamp on the lower land. The island of Singapore at the Southern end was already a rich trading centre.

The Japanese landings began at 0100 hrs on 8th December 1941.This was actually shortly before the raid on Pearl Harbour because of the effect of the International Date Line. The 65000 strong Twenty Fifth Army led by General Yamashita Tomoyuki began the invasion of Malaya with landings on the East coast of Northern Malaya and Southern Siam. They were opposed by nearly 90000 British, Indian and Australian troops under the overall command of Air Marshall Robert Brooke-Poplam with General Arthur Percival land Commander.

Although the allied forces were numerically stronger many of the Japanese troops were battle hardened veterans of the war in China. Contrary to popular belief they had no jungle training.

Facing them the allied forces had little armour and air cover and were mostly badly trained with many being members of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Forces and the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force also the allies had little air cover, what there was consisted of mainly dated aircraft.

There were however two battle ships The Prince of Wales and Repulse off the North East coast of Malaya but again they had no air cover.

The scene was set for what was to be one of the worst defeats in British Military history.

To be continued.

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Medway Queen after WW2 https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

The Medway Queen was thoroughly refitted by Thornycrofts of Southampton in time for the 1947 summer season. The hull was stripped back to bare metal and she was returned to her former excursion steamer glory. She re-entered service across the Thames Estuary to Southend  on 24th May 1947. The Captain was Leonard Horsham who had previously served on the ship in the 1920s. Apart from the traditional “Bucket ‘n’ Spade” trips to Southend, Medway Queen took part in the 1953 Spithead Coronation Naval Review running an excursion from Southampton docks for a party brought by train from London and then taking her place in the official line-up for the review. Over the years she also appeared in a number of movies including the 1958 “Dunkirk” film. 

By the early sixties the paddle steamer was no longer pleasing the holiday maker due to competition from the sky; the cheap option of visiting the Costa del Sol. Also the craze for the motor car contributed to the decline in passenger numbers. The Medway Queen outlasted most of the Thames and Medway steamers by some fifteen years until an annual inspection which identified a need for extensive repairs. The ship made her last voyage from Southend back to the Medway on 9th September, 1963 and the company offered her for sale.

​The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had been aware of the ship’s imminent withdrawal and was taking steps to preserve her. Meetings were held and a trust formed. The PSPS lobbied various interested (or possibly interested) parties including the National Trust and Fortes but a further survey (undertaken by John Graves, her 1st Lieutenant at Dunkirk) confirmed that serious work would be needed to keep her sailing. The National Trusts idea of running trips with her was not viable but Fortes were interested in making her a floating venue on the Thames. Planning restrictions and local objections prevented this scheme coming to fruition and Medway Queen was sold to a Belgian ship breaker.

The Daily Mail was at the forefront of the campaign to save the ship and an Isle of Wight businessman, Alan Ridett thought she would make a suitable clubhouse for his marina development near Newport. The Medway Queen was subsequently purchased by Alan and his associates and towed to the River Medina on the Isle of Wight in 1965 where she became a clubhouse, restaurant and night club.

Edward.

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Jennie visits Derby

Earlier this month Malcolm and I went in search of the street in the City of Derby where my father was born and brought up. My mother and father met and married during the last world war. My mother was in the Women’s Land Army, my father in the Camaronians regiment, though not Scottish, he went where he was sent.  After the war ended, my father sadly passed away from Tuberculosis, caught whilst in a barracks in Germany. I did manage to find York Street, Derby. As you can imagine this was very nostalgic, but also satisfying. York Street was typical of its time, containing red brick small terraced houses.

Jennie Gibbons. Downs Branch Committee Member Deal.

See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Incredible story of bravery by Ex RE Stuart Gemmell our Youth Liasion Officer

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross  Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Brett Mackay Cloutman VC, MC & KC

Brett Mackay Cloutman Born 7 November 1891, Muswell, London, was a British Army officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Brett Cloutman was educated at Berkhamsted School, Bishop’s Stortford College and London University where he was a member of the Royal Engineers contingent of the university’s Officers’ Training Corps.

At the outbreak of World War I Cloutman enlisted as a Rifleman in the Rangers (12th Battalion, London Regiment), reached the rank of Lance-Corporal, and in 1915 was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Kent (Fortress) Engineers, a Territorial Force unit.

Military Cross citation:

Cloutman, by then Acting Major in command of the 59th Field Company, Royal Engineers, was awarded the Military Cross for an action in September 1918:

For conspicuous gallantly and devotion to duty at Banteux on the morning of 30th September 1918, when he made a personal reconnaissance under heavy machine-gun fire to ascertain the possibilities of bridging the Canal de L’Escaut.

Victoria Cross citation:

A few weeks later the action took place for which Cloutman won his VC. The official citation read:

For most conspicuous bravery on the 6th November 1918, at Pont-sur-Sambre. Maj. Cloutman, after reconnoitring the river crossings, found the Quartes Bridge almost intact but prepared for demolition. Leaving his party under cover he went forward alone, swam across the river, and, having cut the “leads” from the charges, returned the same way, despite the fact that the bridge and all approaches thereto were swept by enemy shells and machine-gun fire at close range. Although the bridge was blown up later in the day by other means, the abutments remained intact.

The bridge had been prepared for demolition by the Germans and was well defended. By cutting the wires, Cloutman prevented the enemy from blowing it up at the time. He was seen at the bridge, however, and escaped under an intense fire from its guards. The fact that the abutments were not destroyed later meant that the bridge could be more quickly replaced by the Allies. This was the last act to win a VC in the First World War.

 Later career:  After the war Cloutman became a lawyer and was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn in 1926. In World War II he served again in the Royal Engineers and received a mention in despatches.  He became a King’s Counsel in 1946 and in 1947 he was appointed Senior Chairman of the War Pensions Tribunal. He was Senior Official Referee of the Supreme Court of Judicature (now the Senior Courts of England and Wales) 1954-63. He was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 1957. He was Master of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers 1939–40 and 1965–66.

Following his death in 1971, his ashes were interred at Norfolk Cemetery, in the Somme department, in the grave of his brother, an officer of No. 178 Tunnelling Company who was killed on 22 August 1915.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent

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A lovely piece of our Padre’s history written in his own inimitable way!

I wonder how I got there or even here?!  John Lines. https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 Well I am sorry but it is my time to bore you all again, so hang onto your seats we are off!  Like a good many people I never expected to be living in Deal, so I thought I would give you all a flavour of some of the events that led to me being here! Life is a funny old thing; it seems to serve up some very funny cards sometimes! The more I reflect on my life, the more I see   I emerged into this world before the Second World War, thus I grew up with my Mother and did not see my Father until after the war.  I still recall this man in what I thought was a green suit kissing my Mother and me hitting him!  How was I to know that this strange man was my Father?!

My Father had joined the army before the war, he always said he saw it coming and if they wanted him they were going to have to pay for him!!  He went into the RAOC and became a Sub-Conductor which I understand was equal to a Company Sergeant Major.  When Airborne was formed my Father transferred and I guess saw some pretty horrible sights on some of his drops. I still have a picture of him with his purple beret with the RAOC badge on it and the ‘Pegasus’ symbol on his tunic arm.  Like most of the soldiers of that time my Father would never ever speak of the war, it was almost as if he had blotted all the memories out, something I have noted with some other Second World War veterans that I have had the privilege to share with.

I really wanted to be a full time soldier to make my Father proud of me, but by the time I was old enough my Father had his own accountancy practise and wanted me, as the oldest son, to follow him into the practise.  Yes I loved figures at that time, but apparently 36 – 24 – 36 would not be much use in that profession and, in all honesty, I really did not fancy being shut up in an office all day! So I applied to join both the Kent and Metropolitan Police Forces and got accepted for both of them.  My Mother by that time was breeding Golden Retriever dogs so I fancied myself as a police dog handler! With that in mind I decided to join the Metropolitan Police and after a really gruelling training period was stationed to Southwark Police Station (MD in police parlance.) Now if I had died and gone to a garage full of Guy buses I could not have been in a better place,  a really busy area with the wharfs along the River Thames, London Bridge Station, Borough Market, Waterloo, Blackfriars, Southwark and London Bridges plus the Elephant and Castle it was a truly wonderful place to be!  However, the love bug struck, yes I fell in love with the most wonderful woman in the world, and indeed we will have been married sixty year in 2021 if we are spared!  One problem we found a flat in South Norwood which was eleven miles from Southward and the rule was you could only live up to seven miles from the station so I was transferred after our marriage to Penge Police Station (PG in police parlance.)  What a difference, far fewer police officers per shift and a great many sudden deaths and suicides to be dealt with!  It really was not my cup of teas as they say and I looked around for an escape route! My escape route was presented to me in applications being called for Traffic Patrol officers. Now at the time I had a Triumph 500cc Speed Twin motorcycle and really fancied being an elite police motor cyclist and car driver.  I attended a interview board and was selected for, in my opinion at least, the best job in the police and I spent the rest of my service there involved in escort duties of heavy loads, Royalty, VIP’s, the removal of illegally parked vehicles, Road Traffic Act enforcement and accident and car pound duties – in honesty I thought I had died and gone to Heaven!!

As they say, all good things come to an end and having done the full service time I was ready to be pensioned off (sounds awful!) and decided that I would start my own bus and coach company called ‘Lines’ Liners’ with the monogram ‘Get with the times travel by Lines’ on the boot! I think God had other ideas in a rather strange way!  My Father in Law died, he was a most wonderful; East Ender a great man who I adored, he and his wife had retired to Walmer and he really loved it there.  Christine and I came down for the funeral at Barham and it was really awful, no mention of Dad’s name, honestly we could have been cremating the station cat!  I was really angry and hurt for Christine and her Mother and said that if I had done something like that in the police I would have received a complaint!

If I am allowed, and not sued for libel, I will do the second half when I am next due to bore you all to tears!!!

Well done John certainly not boring quite the reverse!

Edward

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From Richard Purton our Standard Bearer.

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/?view_public_for=553666901369172

RICHARD’S RANDOM AND INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE BRITISH ARMED FORCES  For centuries, the British military has existed to defend the kingdom from threats. From the Spanish Armada to the armies of Napoleon and the Nazi Luftwaffe, the Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Marines serve the crown and protect the realm. Today, the military works to stop terrorist threats abroad so they cannot cause destruction at home. Below here you’ll find some interesting tidbits about the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines.

GET OUT OF GULAG FREE During World War II, many POW escapes from Nazi prison camps were the result of playing Monopoly. The British Secret Service sent special Monopoly boxes marked with a red dot on the Free Parking space to let prisoners know. In the game box, the Secret Service hid German marks amongst the monopoly money, a compass in the dog counter, a metal file in the board itself, and silk maps of the prison inside hollow hotel pieces.

BRING THE FAMILY During the American Revolution, many British soldiers serving in the colonies actually brought their wives and children along. Women in the army at this time served as nurses, washer women, and sutlers (merchants who sell items to soldiers), or took jobs to support their families. Approximately 20% of soldiers serving in America had their wives and children with them.

NO WASHERS NEARBY  In 2005, the Ministry of Defence issued soldiers special antimicrobial underwear that can be worn up to three months at a time without needing a change.

FORMATION   The first British “standing army” was formed in 1661. Before that point, armies had only been raised when they were needed.

KEEP YOUR WIG ON  The regiment known as the Blues and Royals has a tradition of saluting even when not wearing a cover (hat). The origin of this act comes from the Marquis of Granby, who led a cavalry charge in the Battle of Warburg during the Seven Years War. His wig blew off as he led the charge, which originated the phrase “Going at it bare-headed.”

NEVER AGAIN VOLUNTEER YOURSELF  Contrary to popular belief, after the formation of the standing army in 1661, the army was a volunteer force until conscription was first introduced in 1916 during World War I. Conscription was reintroduced in 1939 for World War II. Following the second war, conscription became known as “National Service” and required all men ages 17 to 21 to serve in the military for 18 months. National Service ended in 1963 and conscription has not returned to Britain since.

SOME THINGS IN LIFE ARE BAD…  During the Falklands War, HMS Sheffield was hit by an Argentinian anti-ship missile and slowly began to sink. As the sailors awaited rescue, they began to sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. During the first Gulf War, RAF pilots would often sing it on their missions.

BRIDGE OF THE RIVER KWAI  In 1943, the Japanese military utilised 60,000 Allied POWs and 180,000 Asian prisoners to complete the Thailand-Burma Railway. Thanks to horrible prison conditions and cruelty of guards, approximately 12,399 POWs and 90,000 Asians died during construction. Roughly 6,318 of the POWs who died were British.

SCRAP MEDAL   In 1863, Queen Victorian commissioned the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War. It is the highest honour that can be awarded to a member of the British Armed Forces and is actually made from scrap metal taken from a Russian cannon captured during the war. Due to its rarity, the medal is a highly sought collectors’ item, and once fetched £400,000 at auction.

COST PER SOLDIER   According to the Ministry of Defence, it costs £30,000 to train a soldier. The selection process costs £7,000, while Basic Training and the Combat Infantry Course cost £23,000.

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Malcolm’s Report on Mountbatten Memorial & Field Marshal Slim Memorial.

About this time of year usually around about 2nd or 3rd September members of The Council, Trustees, Veterans and friend of the Burma Star Association attend this annual Wreath lay Ceremony at the Memorials.

The ceremony usually commences at 11.30 sharp, where gates to the memorial are opened and a small group of Veterans and a number Branch Burma Star Standards and some RBL Branch Standards also attend.

A short dedication to Earl Mountbatten is officiated by The Chairman of the Burma Star Council and Trustee and several wreaths are laid on behalf of the Association.

After the Wreath lay is completed everyone makes their way across Horse Guards Parade ground escorted by the Metropolitan Police over to White Hall, Raleigh Green outside the  M O D Headquarter to Field Marshall William Slims statue ( also known as Bill Slim) who lead the 14th Army, they were so called the ” Forgotten Army “ in the Burma campaign.

Again, everybody assembles around the Memorial with all the Standards at present, a short address is given by Council of the Association a Bugle sounds the Last Post and Revile and silence followed by the saying of the Exhortation and the Kohima Epitaph.

This concludes the end of the wreath lay ceremonies where all meet in a local public house a catch up with everyone and refreshments. I have attended this ceremony on several occasions with our late Chairman Mr Peter Wood and my late Father Sid Gibbons who always carried the Branch Standard at this event.  

Also, on one occasion our Branch Chairman Edward has attend this ceremony with my late Father Sid Gibbons as I was unable to attend with him due to work comments.  Unfortunately, this year this has not taken place due to current Corvid Virus crisis and government restrictions, it was decided to cancel the event due to most of the veterans and members are all vulnerable age.    

See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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John is threatened with having his head cut off!

South Holland Internal Drainage Board Lincolnshire

At the end of my last article I stated that I worked for the above Drainage Board full time and part time for a total of nearly fifty years. After leaving the army one of the assistant engineers was moving to take up another post and I was offered his job. Initially I became an assistant engineer, later moving up to district engineer and finally senior engineer. After retirement I worked for more than another ten years on a free lance basis.

The Board was formed during the reign of George 111 in 1793 and was reconstituted to include four smaller Boards in 1974 to serve an area of 38440 hectares (95000 acres) sandwiched between the rivers Welland and Nene in South Lincolnshire. The majority of this area is valuable farmland. The Board is the lineal descendant of Holland Elloe Court of Sewers dating back over 500 years. When we moved to Kent in 2007 the Board maintained 703 kilometeres (436 miles) of water course, 15 pumping stations and 5 gravity sluices. Quite a network to look after. At that time nearly all of the maintenance works and most of the capital improvement were undertaken by direct plant and labour. The Board had its own offices, workshops, plant and labour although I understand at the present time more contract work is undertaken. Staff duties included planning and organizing maintenance works, surveying for possible improvement works, plotting surveys, designing improvements, pricing both maintenance and capital works, writing reports for Board meetings and monitoring progress of both maintenance and capital works. In addition, in my later years I inherited the task of designing a Health and Safety plan and undertaking the preparation of COSH records(Control of substances hazardous to health). Also of course there was consultation with ratepayers i.e. farmers, businesses and home owners. Not always an easy task. I was once threatened by a farmer with a shot gun and on another occasion I caught youths vandalizing Boards property and when I told them to stop they threatened to cut my head off with a spade. Fortunately I had a radio telephone in my car and when I told them I would call the police they thought better of it.

The job was never dull for long, during adverse weather we could be out all night in rough conditions (mostly alone), probably not allowed now for H & S. Although we had a basic working week this meant nothing during bad weather. No extra pay but if I wanted to play in a mid week cricket match nothing would be said!

Towards the end of my time things began to change. Environmentalists began to get more say, computerisation began to take over and of course health and safety became more restrictive. By the time I fully retired I think I had had the more  interesting and productive years. We in general had a conscientious and hard working work force who were good at the variegated tasks they were given. In all those years I can only recall one instance when someone failed to do what he was told to and he came along afterwards and apologised. One final item I would like to mention , we had as far as I am concerned the best excavator driver I have ever seen. His work was always perfect and to make it better he had served with me in the Royal Lincolns in Malaya, his name was Barry Dawson and he now lives at Uppingham in Rutland.

See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Part 4 of Edward’s story of the Medway Queen Post WW2

Picture

The Medway Queen was thoroughly refitted by Thornycrofts of Southampton in time for the 1947 summer season. The hull was stripped back to bare metal and she was returned to her former excursion steamer glory. She re-entered service across the Thames Estuary to Southend  on 24th May 1947. The Captain was Leonard Horsham who had previously served on the ship in the 1920s. Apart from the traditional “Bucket ‘n’ Spade” trips to Southend, Medway Queen took part in the 1953 Spithead Coronation Naval Review running an excursion from Southampton docks for a party brought by train from London and then taking her place in the official line-up for the review. Over the years she also appeared in a number of movies including the 1958 “Dunkirk” film.

 

By the early sixties the paddle steamer was no longer pleasing the holiday maker due to competition from the sky; the cheap option of visiting the Costa del Sol. Also the craze for the motor car contributed to the decline in passenger numbers.The Medway Queen outlasted most of the Thames and Medway steamers by some fifteen years until an annual inspection which identified a need for extensive repairs.The ship made her last voyage from Southend back to the Medway on 9th September, 1963 and the company offered her for sale.

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had been aware of the ship’s imminent withdrawal and was taking steps to preserve her. Meetings were held and a trust formed. The PSPS lobbied various interested (or possibly interested) parties including the National Trust and Fortes but a further survey (undertaken by John Graves, her 1st Lieutenant at Dunkirk) confirmed that serious work would be needed to keep her sailing. The National Trusts idea of running trips with her was not viable but Fortes were interested in making her a floating venue on the Thames. Planning restrictions and local objections prevented this scheme coming to fruition and Medway Queen was sold to a Belgian ship breaker.

 

The Daily Mail was at the forefront of the campaign to save the ship and an Isle of Wight businessman, Alan Ridett thought she would make a suitable clubhouse for his marina development near Newport. The Medway Queen was subsequently purchased by Alan and his associates and towed to the River Medina on the Isle of Wight in 1965 where she became a clubhouse, restaurant and night club.

To be continued
 
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Amazing Grace, Amazing Band, Amazing Jennie! watch this stunning virtual performance here, look for Jennie bottom row third from the left!

https://eur04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fm.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DoTLaAIhZ7i8&data=02%7C01%7C%7Cbbdfc6eeb9a14893da0e08d83d103aa0%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637326487191840360&sdata=EnrgYDw4jmLzVrgOqGExCe8JMho3CCextpXJaV5M2Vw%3D&reserved=0

ALSO see https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell tells of the Engineer who became a highly decorated pilot.

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross Edward Corringham “Mick” Mannock VC, DSO (Two Bars), MC & Bar

Edward Mannock was born on 24 May 1887 to Julia (née Sullivan) and Edward Mannock, of English, Irish and Scottish descent. Edward was the youngest of three; sister Jessie and Patrick. Edward senior was from a wealthy family. His father was a newspaper editor on Fleet Street and his uncle George Mannock was a friend of the British Royal Family. According to family legend, George had taught the Prince of Wales to play Billiards. Edward senior was a Corporal in the British Army and distinguished himself in the Anglo-Egyptian War at the Battle of Tel el-Kebir in 1882.

Royal Engineers and Royal Army Medical Corps

On 22 May 1915 Mannock reported for duty with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and by July he was sufficiently recovered to join the at his pre-war rank of sergeant. On 25 May he was assigned to the 3rd company, second battalion Home Countries Field Ambulance Service. Upon joining, he found he must attend German wounded as well as British and French; something which he found distasteful. Mannock immediately detected apathy in his old service. In his opinion the men lacked enthusiasm for the job of winning the war. He complained bitterly at their half-hearted efforts during practice drills. While there, Mannock attempted to start a branch of the Wellingborough Parliament to instil some patriotism, pride and professionalism but failed. While tending to some wounded soldiers, Mannock sought an audience with his commanding officer. He refused to continue driving ambulances or tending the sick while thousands died in battle and requested a transfer to the Royal Engineers (RE) as an officer cadet. Mannock waited for months and his rank rose from Sergeant to Sergeant Major. Finally, in March 1916 he was finally granted his transfer after an interview at the local recruitment office in Fenny Stratford. Mannock was conscious his poor education and lower-class background would put him at a considerable disadvantage in the well-educated and higher-class surroundings of the RE. Mannock’s solution to his problem was to throw himself into his work. The method was practical, but his insular behaviour was construed as odd. Mannock despised his peers who were uninterested in the war and seemed concerned only with the uniforms, quality tailoring and how it would improve their chances with women. Tired of the banal conversations and lethargy of his comrades, Mannock wanted to leave the RE but realised a second resignation would damage his chances of becoming a commissioned officer.

At the suggestion of a friend — Eric Tomkins — Mannock decided to join the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Mannock was initially reticent, concerned his age and physical condition would hinder him. His early departure from two other services may also have encouraged questions about his reliability. Mannock acquired all the newspapers he could for information on the air war. In so doing, he came across an article on the man who was to have a profound effect on him: Albert Ball. Ball was the first fighter pilot to be given any publicity and his exploits inspired Mannock to transfer. In June Mannock was promoted to second lieutenant and on 14 August 1916 he arrived at the No. 1 School of Military Aeronautics in Reading.

Royal Flying Corps Mannock’s training began immediately. He received instruction on aerial gunnery, aircraft-rigging, map reading and flight theory. He passed with honours and was sent to Hendon for elementary flying instruction. On 28 November 1916 he received Royal Aero Club (RAeC) certificate 3895. On 5 December he moved to Hounslow to begin training with No. 19 Training Squadron flying the Henry Farman. After completing his course, he was moved to the Hythe School of Gunnery on 1 February 1917 for two weeks and then to No. 10 Reserve Squadron at Joyce Green for advanced training. Mannock’s instructor, Captain Chapman said of him, ” he made his first solo flight with but a few hours’ instruction, for he seemed to master the rudiments of flying with his first hour in the air and from then on threw the machine about as he pleased”. At Joyce Green Mannock met Captain James McCudden. McCudden taught Mannock about air fighting. McCudden stressed team tactics and offensive use of the aeroplane. McCudden said of Mannock, “The pupils here during the period of which I write were very good. One I particularly remember was named Mannock. Mannock was a typical example of the impetuous young Irishman, and I always thought he was of the type to do or die.” Meredith Thomas also met Mannock at Joyce Green in February 1917. Thomas recalled how they were told not to turn below 2,000 feet in an Airco DH.2 pusher. Mannock did so and got into a spin at 1,000 feet (300 m), deliberately. He was keen to see if he could recover the aircraft from such an attitude. Mannock stalled the aircraft, purposely, and followed McCudden’s advice; allow it to come out of the stall and centralise the controls, apply opposite rudder in the spin and as the spin slows ease the nose down. Mannock had discovered that air combat was a science and could be perfected. Regardless, his actions earned him a rebuke from his commanding officer.

Mannock was somewhat older than his peers in the RFC and had experienced the brutality of war first-hand. Meredith Thomas remembered this earned him a reputation as a serious-minded man. Mannock was inclined to be reserved, but was a good conversationalist, patient and willing to assist others but quick to anger. He masked his hatred of the Turks but the intensity with which he carried out his training was sometimes misunderstood.

Military Cross citation T./2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, R.E. & R.F.C For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In the course of many combats he has driven off a large number of enemy machines, and has forced down three balloons, showing a very fine offensive spirit and great fearlessness in attacking the enemy at close range and low altitudes under heavy fire from the ground.                                                                                   

Distinguished Service Order citation: T./2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, M.C., R.E., attd. R.A.F. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during recent operations. In seven days, while leading patrols and in general engagements, he destroyed seven enemy machines, bringing his total in all to thirty. His leadership, dash and courage were of the highest order.                                                                                                                             

 Distinguished Service Order citation to First Bar: T./2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., R.E., and R.A.F. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In company with one other scout this officer attacked eight enemy aeroplanes, shooting down one in flames. The next day, when leading his flight, he engaged eight enemy aeroplanes, destroying three himself. The same week he led his patrol against six enemy aeroplanes, shooting down the rear machine, which broke in pieces in the air. The following day he shot down an Albatross two-seater in flames, but later, meeting five scouts, had great difficulty in getting back, his machine being much shot about, but he destroyed one. Two days later, he shot down another two-seater in flames. Eight machines in five days—a fine feat of marksmanship and determination to get to close quarters. As a patrol leader he is unequalled. (D.S.O. gazetted in this Gazette.)

Distinguished Service Order citation to Second Bar: Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., M.C. (formerly Royal Engineers). Air Ministry, 3rd August 1918. His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to confer the undermentioned rewards on Officers of the Royal Air Force, in recognition of gallantry in flying operations against the enemy:

Awarded a Second Bar to The Distinguished Service Order. This officer has now accounted for 48 enemy machines. His success is due to wonderful shooting and a determination to get to close quarters; to attain this he displays most skilful leadership and unfailing courage. These characteristics were markedly shown on a recent occasion when he attacked six hostile scouts, three of which he brought down. Later on the same day he attacked a two-seater, which crashed into a tree.

(The announcement of award of Distinguished Service Order, and First Bar thereto, will be published in a later Gazette.)

Victoria Cross citation: Capt (Acting Maj) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., M.C., 85th Squadron Royal Air Force. Air Ministry, Hotel Cecil, Strand, W.C.2., 18th July 1919. His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the late Captain (acting Major) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., M.C., 85th Squadron Royal Air Force, in recognition of bravery of the first order in Aerial Combat: —

On 17 June 1918, he attacked a Halberstadt machine near Armentieres and destroyed it from a height of 8,000 feet (2,400 m). On 7 July 1918, near Doulieu, he attacked and destroyed one Fokker (red-bodied) machine, which went vertically into the ground from a height of 1,500 feet (460 m). Shortly afterwards he ascended 1,000 feet (300 m) and attacked another Fokker biplane, firing 60 rounds into it, which produced an immediate spin, resulting, it is believed, in a crash.

On 14 July 1918, near Merville, he attacked and crashed a Fokker from 7,000 feet, and brought a two-seater down damaged.

On 19 July 1918, near Merville, he fired 80 rounds into an Albatross two-seater, which went to the ground in flames.

On 20 July 1918, East of La Bassee, he attacked and crashed an enemy two-seater from a height of 10,000 feet (3,000 m).

About an hour afterwards he attacked at 8,000 feet (2,400 m) a Fokker biplane near Steenwercke and drove it down out of control, emitting smoke.

On 22 July 1918, near Armentieres, he destroyed an enemy triplane from a height of 10,000 feet (3,000 m).                                                                                 

Major Mannock was awarded the undermentioned distinctions for his previous combats in the air in France and Flanders:

Military Cross. Gazetted 17 September 1917.
Bar to Military Cross. Gazetted 18 October 1917.
Distinguished Service Order. Gazetted 16 September 1918.
Bar to Distinguished Service Order (1st). Gazetted 16 September 1918.
Bar to Distinguished Service Order (2nd). Gazetted 3 August 1918.                    The officers of No. 85 Squadron, including Major Mannock, in front of their S.E.5a scouts at Saint-Omer aerodrome.

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How Padre John Lines MBE discovered a local Treasure!

I have always liked old things, I said that to my lovely wife and she threatened me with violence – I cannot think why!!  However to be serious, which is not always easy for me I want to write about a treasure in our area which not too many people seem to be aware of, that is the Dover Transport Museum at Whitfield!

When the Church moved me to Dover from London I wondered what I would do with the little personal time that I had.  Well that was solved one evening when I took Christine to Tesco’s at Whitfield and went for a wonder around the area!  As I strolled around I noticed what I thought was the roof of a bus through a gap in some buildings so thought that I would investigate.  After some searching I found myself in the old Old Park army barracks site by a small sign that said Dover Transport Museum.  While I was standing looking at it, a chap approached me and invited me to look around with him and I was hooked!  The premises were fairly small but they were trying to purchase them from the Dover Harbour Board who owned the site and so I threw my hat into the ring as they say.  We were being supported by a lot of local businesses and eventually were able to purchase the former gymnasium and swimming pool areas of the barracks.

Over the past twenty years a small group of really enthusiastic men and women have achieved a great deal and the museum is now regarded very highly by a great many people. We have a far bigger site than the one I first saw and have two main exhibition halls, a large number of ancillary rooms with varied displays, a model railway, a large East Kent Road Car exhibition of their artefacts and uniforms and a large display of shops which try to bring to mind local sights and scenes of Dover and area.  Sadly like so many attractions at present we are shut, but we are still working during the shutdown to make the museum even mo0re interesting.  I have loaned both my ex police Triumph motorcycles, one of which I regularly rode, to the Museum and, when I depart this mortal coil, my two ex East Kent buses will go to the museum.  I hope in a few words, I have given you some idea of a local treasure!  John Lines.                                    https://www.dovertransportmuseum.org.uk/

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The Standard – A Tribute to Mr. Reg Burton by Richard Purton Branch Standard Bearer.

Last week I received very sad news of the passing of one of our past National Parade Marshals and my friend, Mr. Reg Burton. Reg was a big influence in my Standard Bearing career and later my Parade Marshalling.

I first met Reg when I carried the Margate Branch Standard at his mother’s funeral some 20 years ago. I would have been around 18 years old and just starting out in Standard Bearing. Fortunately, I did not know who Reg was at the time as my nerves might have got the better of me.

Reg always had extra time for youth in the Legion because he knew that one day we would take over the reins. He made a point of talking to me that day and over many years Reg would train, advise and help me and eventually call on my assistance for events that he organised himself. That was a very proud day for me I can tell you.

Reg was born around the 1940’s and joined the Grenadier Guards with which he served a full career. He then went on to join the Royal British Legion and became a formidable character that all in the ceremonial side of the Legion knew, loved and if I’m honest a little bit feared.

His career in the Guards had given him impeccable standards. No matter the occasion he was always immaculately turned out. He had an air of high standard about him with his straight back and gleaming Oxford shoes. He would pull the rest of us up when our standards slipped but always in a polite respectful way. Reg was a true old fashioned gentleman and a stickler for manners and politeness. This of course made him perfect for Standard Bearing and Parade Marshalling. Everything had to be perfect. He was renowned for his exacting standards and everybody loved and respected him for it.

Why? You may ask. What gives Reg and people like Reg the drive to have and maintain these standards. You may say it is what those standards represent. Reg learned his standards in the Grenadier Guards and carried them through to the Legion. Many of you reading this will be ex-service and will need no explanation. What do we represent? For Reg, the Guards and the Legion, both full of history, pride and ethos. The driving force of standards. Standards to uphold in what we believe in and represent.

The word ‘Standard’ in the Legion may make you think of what some people call a flag. But it is not a flag. It is a Standard. It means something more. It represents something. It represents the history and the ethos and the people of the Legion. So where did it come from? What is it? Why did it come to mean so much?

Standards, Colours, Banners, Guidons. These are all honourable insignia associated with military organisations. They tend to be encompassed into the term ‘Colours’. Corps, Regiments, Battalions, Units will all have theirs in some way shape or form. When we think of the term ‘colours’, we might think of a kit or a uniform with a badge or a symbol again representing something, just like in team sports. Associated with something that has meaning to someone.

Colours were carried into battle and were the rallying point during times of chaos and confusion. The men could see the Colours over everything and could regroup. Even if the commander had been killed, all was not lost if the Colours were still flying. On the verge of defeat, the men would congregate around the Colours and defend them to the death. That is how much the Colours meant and still do to this day.  Although Colours are still taken to war zones they are no longer carried into battle but they still represent exactly the same things nevertheless.

Colours are emblazoned with the badges and symbols of the unit and in many cases with battle honours and distinctions of years of honourable service. They represent everything the unit has gone through and stands for. The sight of the  Colours would fill the men with pride and still does when a person leaves their Unit. It means just the same to serving as ex-service. Away from battle, Colours would be paraded and still are. No more evident than Trooping the Colour for the Queen’s birthday each year where the Guards take it in turn to Troop their Colour in front of Her Majesty. The act of Trooping is to parade the Colour in front of the troops so they know what it looks like so they can distinguish it during battle.

What does the Legion Standard mean? What does it represent? In many ways they mean much the same. An association, a belonging, a proud history. I’m sure many Legion members will transfer their feelings and meanings from their own serving Colours to the Standard of their Branch. The Legion Standard displays the name of the Branch it belongs to just like a corps or a regiment and it may also display certain awards that the Branch has won, just like battle honours.

As well as this, there is a much deeper more poignant meaning. These words are taken from the Legion Ceremonial Handbook: –

‘The Standard is a constant symbolic reminder to members of the Legion’s motto ‘Service not self’. The crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick symbolise unity, chivalry and our loyalty to our Sovereign, community and nation. The blue indicates loyalty and fidelity and the gold signifies service – “as gold is tried by fire” – and reminds us of all those who gave their lives for our country. Standards are dedicated before being taken into use, and are laid-up in sacred or public buildings after service.’

A perfect example of everything mentioned.

The Standard Bearer has the honour and responsibility of caring for and carrying the Standard. The Standards will be carried at parades of commemoration, remembrance and funerals to show last respects to our fallen. It of course will also be carried for the first time at its dedication where it will be Trooped outside the church afterwards for all to see the new Standard.

With so much history, honour, pride and ethos at stake, it is no wonder that our Colours and Standards mean so much and drive people like Reg to promote and maintain all that they mean and live by those standards. Mr. Reg Burton’s duty is now over. He is now rallied around the big Standard in the sky. It is up to us to take up the Standard and honour the Colours and men Like Reg.

1st Battalion Grenadier Guards Queens Colour

Parade Marshal Mr. Reg Burton with Standards of the Royal British Legion

Rest easy Reg. Your duty is done. Thank you for everything. I will miss you.   Richard Purton Branch Standard Bearer.

See Also https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Burma, Veterans Remembered by Malcolm Gibbons

In 39 you got the call, to serve to fight and give your all. On boats and planes to far flung lands, to Burma where you made your stand.

Through jungle, mountains,hills and valley, the death toll and sacrifice a terrible tally. From Kohima, Imphal, Mandalay and Rangoon , you fought through heat, the dust, and monsoon.

Mud and leaches, the stench of death, you still kept giving, you were the best. The war crimes witnessed, the screams and cries, waiting for rescue under Burma skies.

Medals and honours in plentiful supply, testament to those who would live and die. Years and miles separating family, friend, never knowing when war would

And when it came, you brave brave men, returned to city, village, hill and glen. Rarely to speak of those Burma days, too proud your souls to bare or praise. You mourned the loss of mates far away, for those who sacrificed and gave their today. Those men you left so far behind and those who died on the railway line.

But we know you also suffered, the nightmares and the pain, recurrent bouts of malaria and the demons of mental strain.

So now it is our time to honour you, and this is our solemn vow. We WiLL remember you always, as we remember you now.

Burma 1942 – 1945

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“England is as dependant as Holland upon drainage systems”

Read John Elms fascinating piece here!

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Part 3 of Edward’s story of the Medway Queen

DUNKIRK!

On 27th May 1940 HMS Medway Queen received orders to head to the beaches of Dunkirk to embark some troops that would be waiting there. The crew of HMS Medway Queen had no idea of the enormous operation known as “Operation Dynamo” that was building up. After taking on additional stores Medway Queen departed for Dunkirk along with the HMS Sandown, HMS Thames Queen, HMS Gracie Fields, HMS Queen of Thanet, HMS Princess Elizabeth, HMS Laguna Belle and HMS Brighton Belle. As they approached the beaches at La Panne they could see the lines of soldiers in the water, some of whom were up to their necks. Using the lifeboats the crew of the Medway Queen ferried the soldiers from the beach to the paddle steamer and all the while this was happening the AA cruiser HMS Calcutta gave covering fire. Fully loaded, Medway Queen headed back to Dover unscathed. As they approached the Goodwin Sands an air-raid developed and the little paddle steamer claimed her first kill in shooting down one of the enemy aircraft. But while all those on board celebrated the near-by Brighton Belle tore out her bottom as she drifted over a submerged wreck.

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As she began to sink (right) the Medway Queen went alongside and took off all her soldiers and crew resulting in no loss of life. The Medway Queen, so heavily overloaded, managed to get into Ramsgate and moored alongside.This was the first of seven crossings that the Medway Queen was to make in the course of the operation.

That evening the Medway Queen headed back to the Dunkirk beaches. The ships now operated independently in order to maximise the number of soldiers that could be picked up. During the second night the Straits of Dover were particularly calm and the double wake from the paddle steamers were easily spotted from enemy aircraft. Therefore to prevent detection the Medway Queen’s crew devised a system of oily bags lowered over the side to break up the waves. This time Medway Queen sailed to Dunkirk Harbour and berthed alongside the East Mole, a concrete breakwater reaching out into the Channel. The harbour was extensively damaged but use of the mole sped up loading and about two thirds of the soldiers saved throughout the 9 days of the evacuation embarked from the mole. Medway Queen made crossings to the mole or beaches as circumstances required. On most trips she disembarked her troops at Ramsgate  but used Margate on May 30th and Dover on 2nd of June. During the day, between trips, the crew had to clean the ship, take on ammunition and  provisions and refuel before departing  again. It was her 1938 conversion to oil firing that made her seven  round trips possible.

 
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Medway Queen as a Minesweeper in 1940
 

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Our committee member “musical” Jennie Gibbons has sent me this interesting item

Due to the pandemic Deal Brass Academy Band has been unable to play out at any Summer venues, including Armed Forces Day at Deal Pier.
To keep ourselves playing and occupied, it was decided to play a virtual piece of music!
The chosen tune was Amazing Grace.
This is easier said than done and very near perfect timing by all players has to be maintained! whilst playing within their own homes.  I am still awaiting to hear the finished product when our band secretary has collated all the instrument parts.
We certainly all needed “Amazing Grace” to achieve this.
 
Jennie we look forward to hearing it soon!
 
 

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The Royal Engineers and the Victoria Cross by our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross The Victoria Cross (VC) is a military decoration that may be bestowed upon members of the British or Commonwealth armed forces for acts of valour or gallantry performed in the face of the enemy. Within the British honours system and those of many Commonwealth nations it is the highest award a soldier can receive for actions in combat. It was established in 1856 and since then has been awarded 1,356 times, including three service personnel who were awarded the VC twice.

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War. The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol.

The Corps of Royal Engineers can trace its origins back 900 years, during which time they have been involved in every major conflict the British Army has fought in. The Royal Flying Corps – the forerunner of the Royal Air Force – and the present-day Royal Signals were originally part of the Corps. Their first recipient of the Victoria Cross received the award for actions performed during the Crimean War, while the last came during the Second World War. In total, thirty-six Royal Engineers have been awarded the Victoria Cross, across ten different conflicts or campaigns.

Colonel John Rouse Merriot Card VC was a British Army officer who received the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour “in the face of the enemy” that can be awarded to members of the British armed forces. He earned the decoration for his role in the defence of Rorke’s Drift in January 1879 where he commanded a small British garrison of 139 soldiers that successfully repulsed an assault by some 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The battle was recreated in the film Zulu in which Chard was portrayed by Stanley Baker.

On 14 July 1868 Chard received a commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and continued his training at Chatham for the next two years. He was posted to Bermuda, along with Lieutenant HP Knacker, in 1870 to construct fortifications at the Naval Dockyard near Hamilton.mm He was then sent to Malta to assist with the improvement of the island’s sea defences. He returned to England in 1876 where he was based at Aldershot and Chatham and was assigned to the 5th Company Royal Engineers.

On 2 December 1878, the 5th Company Royal Engineers were sent to the Colony of Natal in response to a request from Lord Chelmsford, commander of the British forces in southern Africa, for an additional unit of engineers to assist with preparations for the invasion of the Zulu Kingdom. After their arrival on 5 January, Chard was dispatched with a small group of sappers to repair and maintain the ponts at one of the few crossings of the Buffalo River which ran along the border of Natal and the Zulu Kingdom. A short distance downstream was Rorke’s Drift, an isolated mission station used as a staging post for the British invasion force. It consisted of two thatched bungalows about 30 metres (98 ft) apart—the western building was used as a hospital, and the eastern building had been converted into a storehouse. Garrisoned at the Drift were Chelmsford’s quartermaster general, Major Henry Spalding, a company of the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot commanded by Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, and a large company of the 3rd Natal Native Contingent (NNC).

Chard’s group arrived on 19 January and set up camp near the crossing. On the morning of 22 January, he received an order that his sappers were required at Isandlwana 10 miles (16 km) to the east, where Chelmsford had set up an advanced camp for his main invasion column which had marched into Zulu territory two weeks before. However, when he arrived Chard was informed that only his men were required and that he should return to Rorke’s Drift. While at Isandlwana, Chard had witnessed a Zulu army approaching the camp in the distance and upon his return to the Drift at about 1 pm, he informed Spalding of the situation. Spalding decided to depart the Drift to hurry British reinforcements en route from Helpmekaar, but before he left, he checked a copy of the Army List which confirmed that Chard was senior to Bromhead. Therefore, Chard, a “notoriously relaxed” man with no combat experience, was unexpectedly placed in command of the small garrison.

Unconcerned by the presence of the Zulus nearby, Chard returned to his tent by the river crossing, but he was soon after disturbed by two NNC officers on horseback who informed him that the camp at Isandlwana had been overwhelmed and annihilated by the Zulus. Returning to the station, Chard found Bromhead and Assistant Commissary James Dalton had already instructed the troops to use mealie bags to construct a defensive perimeter between the storehouse and hospital. Chard consented and by 4 pm the hastily constructed perimeter was complete. Soon afterwards, the Zulu impi, which contained some 3,000–4,000 men, was sighted advancing on their position. This caused the NNC troops to panic and desert the station, reducing the number of defenders from around 350 to approximately 140 (including 30 sick and wounded). Chard immediately ordered an additional barricade of biscuit boxes to be built across the inner perimeter to provide a smaller fall-back area should the Zulus overwhelm a part of the thinly manned perimeter.

The first waves of Zulu assault were repulsed by British volley fire, but the attackers pushed on relentlessly, particularly along a vulnerable section of the British perimeter by the hospital which became the centre of fierce hand-to-hand combat. With British casualties mounting, Chard ordered his troops to withdraw behind the biscuit boxes, which left the western half of the station in Zulu hands, including the hospital, which was subsequently set alight by the attackers. Once inside, Chard ordered the construction of a redoubt made from a tall pyramid of mealie bags to provide shelter to the wounded and form the last line of defence. The Zulus continued to attack in intermittent waves during the night, but they were illuminated by the burning thatch, which enabled the defenders to spot their advances. By 5 am, the exhausted Zulus had abandoned the attack, and British reinforcements arrived later that morning. Chard counted 351 dead Zulus scattered around the perimeter. The British suffered 17 killed and 10 wounded.

Chard remained at Rorke’s Drift for several weeks after the battle and assisted with the construction of a new stone perimeter wall. However, conditions at the camp were poor; Chard became ill with fever and was taken to Ladysmith for treatment. Once recovered he was attached to Colonel Evelyn Wood’s column for the second invasion of the Zulu Kingdom. Meanwhile, Chard’s report of the battle had been dispatched to England and received with enthusiasm by the British press and public. The War Office subsequently promoted Chard to captain and brevet major and awarded him and 10 other defenders of the station with Victoria Crosses, the highest decoration for gallantry that could be awarded to British troops. The citation for the award was published in the London Gazette on 2 May 1879:

THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Soldiers of Her Majesty’s Army, whose claims have been submitted for Her Majesty’s approval, for their gallant conduct in the defence of Rorke’s Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus, as recorded against their names, viz.:—

For their gallant conduct at the defence of Rorke’s Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus on the 22nd and 23rd January 1879.

Royal Engineers Lieutenant (now Captain and Brevet Major) J. R. M. Chard

2nd Battalion 24th Regiment Lieutenant (now Captain and Brevet Major) G. Bromhead

The Lieutenant-General commanding the troops reports that, had it not been for the fine example and excellent behaviour of these two Officers under the most trying circumstances, the defence of Rorke’s Drift post would not have been conducted with that intelligence and tenacity which so essentially characterised it.

The Lieutenant-General adds, that its success must, in a great degree, be attributable to the two young Officers who exercised the Chief Command on the occasion in question.

 

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Part 2 of  our Branch Padre’s “love of  his bus” by Rev John Lines MBE 

The fun begins!

My last jottings finished with me becoming the owner of a Guy double deck bus ex London Transport G 351 and Burton Corporation number 70.  Great you may be thinking, well now the fun began!  I had cancelled a life insurance policy and had the princely sum of £122 to spend on my acquisition so you can imagine that I was delighted when the general manager said I could have the bus for £50.  Sounds good?  Well yes and no, he then dropped the bombshell that the bus had no engine!  It shows you how naive I was as I was not put out, rather I started to search for a Gardner 5LW diesel engine and eventually found a breaker in Sherburn in Elmet who had one for sale for £50.  Those of you who are doing the sums will realise my £122 is decreasing fast.  I was living in Croydon, the bus was in Burton and the engine in Sherburn in Elmet, so how do I could get them together?  I had a mark ll Land Rover at the time and had the mad idea of getting the engine put into it so I could transport it to the bus!  Two problems at that point, one no way would the Land Rover have carried the weight and two the general manager would not allow a colleague and I to fit the engine at their garage!  Oh well, back to the drawing board!

Thankfully both problems were solved when the breaker offered to transport the engine to Burton for a £5 tip for his driver and the general manager said he would get two of his fitters to put the engine in for me at a cost of £16, great news but work out the maths!  I now had the sum of £1 left in my funds! Then the great day arrived, the bus had an engine and all was well.  No not really, the general manager then asked me what I was going to do about tyres?  I never gave a thought to the fact that bus companies rent their tyres from the tyre makers and seeing the bus was standing with tyres on it I thought they were part of the purchase price! Now if I tell you the I needed eight 900 x 20 tyres ( front wheels are a different dish to the rear, so really needed three wheels for the front and five for the back to enable me to have spare wheels in case of emergencies) which were £35 each then new.  Obviously beyond my meagre means and the general manager was not too happy about keeping the bus in his garage and really wanted it out.  Thankfully he pulled out all the stops and found me eight slave tyres (thank goodness it was before the tyre regulations) at £1 each.  Mind you they were really bald and no way could I drive on them after the initial journey from Burton to Croydon, so for the next few weeks I haunted scrap yards looking for eight 900 x 20 tyres.  Most Church ministers want to go to Rome or the Holy Land on pilgrimage, but my intention at this time was to go on pilgrimage to Fallings Park in Wolverhampton where Guy Motors had their factory.  That was something I managed to do, maybe it will come up in another of my jottings!  You have been warned! Please keep safe!¬

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The London Marathon for Aussie and June and the Legion by Richard Purton.

The London Marathon was founded in 1981 by Olympic champion and journalist Chris Brasher and athlete John Disley. It is currently organised by Chris’s son Hugh. The first London Marathon was held on 29 March 1981 with more than 20,000 applying to run. 6,747 were accepted and 6,255 crossed the finish line on Constitution Hill. This year’s event should have taken place in April but due to Covid-19 did not. It has been rescheduled for October 4th but there is still uncertainty and regular updates are being issued. 457,861 applied for this year and around 42,000 will hopefully cross the finish line in October. 1,083,261 people have crossed the finish line since it started in 1981.

With more that 75% of entrants running for charity the event generates a massive income including for the Royal British Legion. Last year’s event raised £66 million so with the uncertainty of this year’s event taking place it has caused crisis for many charities. There are a number of ways to get a place to run in the London Marathon. The ballot (names out of the hat) is where most people start but with over 450,000 applying for around 45,000 places the odds are stacked. A slightly more certain way to get in is to sign up with a charity and commit to raise a minimum amount of money. Many runners who get a ballot place still choose to run for a charity and that is what I have done this year. Whenever it takes place I will be running for the Royal British Legion in memory of my dear friends and our past Branch President Austin Walker MBE and his wife June.

It will not be my first marathon. I took up running in 2015 as a rather overweight 34 year old and have continued to run loosing around 8 stones in weight and running all number of distances from 5 kilometres to full marathons and ultra-marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles. It doesn’t matter which marathon it is the distance is always the same. An ultra-marathon is anything further than that.

Austin, affectionately known as Aussie was the reason I joined the Legion. Aussie became my mentor and supporter. Not just in the Legion but in life. June was Aussies biggest supporter. They were a formidable team giving the best part of their life to the Legion. They both became very dear friends to me. I became involved with the Legion at the age of 10 when I joined the Sea Cadet Corps in Margate. Aussie was the Unit Chairman for many years. A strong link formed between the unit and the Legion and a personal link for me even more so. Aussie had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and joined the Legion in 1978 becoming the Margate Branch Chairman in 1988. A position he held for 20 years. I was a bugler in the cadets and with Aussie and his wife June would travel all over the county of Kent playing the Last Post and Reveille at events like the annual Poppy Appeal Launch.

In 1998 at the age of 17, Aussie asked me if I would like to join the Legion as a youth member. I believe I was the first in Kent. I went on to become the County Standard Bearer which took me to many events all over the county but most notable for me, the Queens Golden Jubilee parade and the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. At branch level I joined the committee and over the years took on roles like Treasurer, Vice Chairman and Conference Delegate. All the time being nurtured and supported by Aussie At remembrance tide Aussie and I would distribute and collect poppy boxes. He lost a leg as a young man in a motorcycle accident. He would do the driving around and I would do the running around. We would stand together on the streets collecting during the two week period.

In 2010 Aussie became the Kent County Chairman and very quickly turned the County into one of the best performing in the country. I became his County Parade Marshal. He travelled many miles visiting branches and groups and continually sought ways to improve.  His knowledge of the Legion was second to none in Kent. Aussie stood down as Kent County Chairman in 2015 and became a County Life Vice President in recognition of his services to the County.  His Legion work continued in the roles of President of our Branch and also Chairman of the County Awards Committee.  Aussie was the director of the Isle of Thanet Festival of Remembrance for 17 years retiring in 2018. A small festival in comparison to the Royal Albert Hall but replicated as closely as he could achieve. Always with a military band and involving the local cadet forces and raising on average at least £5000 for the Poppy Appeal each year. I was involved as a cadet providing displays and later went on to join the committee and act as Parade Marshal.

His work for the Legion was recognised in 1998 when he was awarded National Life Membership and again in 2005 when he was awarded the Legion’s highest honour – the National Certificate of Appreciation. The ultimate recognition came in 2017 when Aussie was awarded an MBE from the Queen. He phoned me with the wonderful news and informed me that he would probably opt to have it presented locally by the Lord Lieutenant as his health was not really up to the journey to London. I replied, Aussie, I will drive you to the Queens front door. And I did. With June and Mary Eldridge we had a wonderful trip to Buckingham Palace and proudly watch Aussie receive his MBE from the Queen herself. That memory will live with me forever.

In December 2018 June passed away through ill health. Four months later sadly Aussie had a fall at home and passed away soon after. They were together again.  I have tried for a number of years to get a place in the London Marathon and when Aussie passed away I vowed I would run it for the Legion and run in memory of Aussie and June.

Being involved with the Legion and then becoming a member at such a young age has developed me and given me opportunities in many areas of my life. All of this was made possible by Aussie and his wife June. Aussie was not just my chairman, but along with June, very very dear friends. It is going to be an absolute honour to run the London Marathon in their memory and raise as much money as I can for the cause that they dedicated the best part of their lives to.

I would like to thank the Branch for a very generous donation from the friends account. My total so far is £310. I am aiming for £1000. If anybody would like to donate it can be done here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardPurton2

Thank you, I hope you are all safe and well

Yours

Richard Purton  Branch Standard Bearer

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Part 2 of Malcolm’s history of the Burma Star Association

 
THE BURMA STAR MEMORIAL As readers od Dekho will know the Burma Star Memorial Fundwas established in 2005 working hard in setting up a scholarship programmel Awith University College London. Our scholarships will be available to citizensof any ofthe Alliednations that contributed to the Burma Campaign. The steering committee has also been developing a new website which willbeBURMSTARlaunched in theAutumn at www.burmastarmemorial.org. The 56,000Association M EMORIALmembership records and all back copies of Dekho! have been digitised and will be FUN Davailable to both view and add to on this website. There is also information on thehistory of the Burma Campaign and details of the new Burma Star scholarship programme. The websitecovers the following areas:Design style of the websiteThe Memorial Fund has developed a new identity and logo. The website reflects this new design approachand colour palette. The logo represents the educational role that the Fund will play in the future. The conceptis based on book spines with the medal ribbon colours and a star integral to the design. The website usesdifferent elements of this in its design and has a more contemporary feel to it. The design style will also beused on the Memorial Fund’s stationery.Online archiveThis is the most comprehensive part of the new website. We have worked with an organisation calledFindrryrpast to digitise all of our 56,000 Burma StarAssociation membership records. Over a three- monthperiod a member of staff from Findmypast was based at the Grosvenor Gardens offices and took a photographof each of the membership records. The same has been done for all of the past issues of Dekho!A11of thesecopies have been photographed so that they can be digitally recorded.The new website will be free of charge and will not be subscription based. Anyone will be able to view thephotographic images oftherecords andofthemanyhundreds of articles inDekho! Therewill alsobe a searchfacility so that an individual can look for a specific name, regiment, squadron or ship for example. You willalso be able to add to an individual record. If you have photos or memoires that you would like recorded forposterity the Administrator at the Memorial Fund will be able to explain how this can be done.Burma Star Scholarship ProgrammeThis section of the website gives more information on the new Burrna Star scholarship programme that theMemorial Fund has established with University College London.The Burma Star Scholarship reflects the multi-national nature of the Allied forces which fought in Burma -the most diverse of any force in the Second World War – by being open to graduates from any Allied nationwhich contributed military forces.The Burma Star Scholars will study at University College London in fields related to the Campaign. They will
be drawn from around the world and we hope will have a passion for changing the world and tackling theissues which we all face in the future. Like the 14thArmy, they will be excited by the thought that the worldcan be a better place.The scholarship will only be successful if we raise enough money to fund it. We are dependent on donationsand the supporl of philanthropic partners to help us fund these scholarships. We are always delighted to hearfrom potential funders and those interested in making a donation to help fund our scholars. Please contactHeadquarters on 0207 823 4273 or at admin@bunnastar.olg.uk.Campaign HistoryThe Campaign History section of the website has much of the information on the history that is on the currentBurma Star Association website. However, it will be presented in a more dynamic, interactive way with asearch facility to allow you to find specific stories, battle histories or Division information quickly and easily.The new Campaign history timeline shows the chronicle of events far more clearly and it will be easier totrack the progression of the Campaign and key events. We have included General Sir William Slim’s LastOrder, issued on 2 December 1945 on this webpage and Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Address to the Press inAugust 1944.This section also includes information on Books of Interest. It includes a link to the Burma CampaignMemorial Library held at SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies) . The collection was compiled byvolunteers from the Burma Campaign Fellowship group over a four-year period (1995-1999). It initiallyconsisted of private donations and bequests from veterans and other individuals; books drawn from thelibrary collection of SOAS and books purchased u’ith the aid of a grant from GB Sasakawa Foundation. Thisinitial collection was complemented by a significant addition of Japanese language titles relating to theCampaign donated by the All Burma Veterans Association of Japan in 2001. It is constantly growing asexisting rare books are acquired and new works on the conflict are published. The full descriptive catalogueof the material available can be accessed via the new website.Campaign MemorialsInformation on the many Burma Campaign memorials can be found on this parl of the website. As readers willbe aware. the Memorial Fund established a Burma Star Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum atAlrewas in Staffordshire which is dedicated to all those who took part in the Burma Campaign of 1941-1945 .Opening hours, directions and details of the annual memorial service will be included here.There is also information on the 400 recorded UK wide memorials as well as those located in Myanmar andIndia. Finally, this section of the website reminds us of the origins of the Kohima Epitaph. The verse isattributedto John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958) and is thoughtto have been inspiredbythe epitaphwrittenby Simonides to honour the Greeks who fell at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC.The website will be launched in the Autumn of this year. We hope that readers find it useful and draw yourattention parlicularly to the online archive where you can look back over our 192 issues of Dekho !

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Part 2 of John Elms our President’s history of the Malayan Emergency

The Malayan ‘Emergency’ 1948 – 1960   Part 2

A brief history of a British Infantry Regiments tour of Malaya from 1955 to 1958. On 19th July 1955 the main party of the 1st  Battalion Royal Lincolnshire Regiment boarded the Empire Clyde at Liverpool bound for Malaya. An advance party including the CO. Lt. Col. Goulson was to leave by air for Singapore twelve days later. The Empire Clyde arrived in Singapore on 11th August with the advance party already there to welcome it.

Following a weeks acclimatisation at Singapore the battalion moved to Kata Tinggi in Jahore State for three weeks jungle training. Upon completion the battalion took over duties from the 1st Bn. Somerset Light Infantry in Pahang State forming part of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade which at that time also included the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 2nd Royal Australian Regiment. Operations commenced against the communist terrorists otherwise known as CT’s. By February 1956 the battalion strength had risen to nearly 1200 some 75 per cent being National Servicemen. It was noted “It was no small demand to ask a young man of 19 or 20 to take a patrol into the jungle, patrol a difficult and possibly dangerous area and navigate his way back.”

During April 1956 B, C, D and Support Companies moved to Negri Sembilan HQ and A Companies remaining in Pahang. The four Companies now formed part of then 26 Gurkha Brigade together with the 2/2nd and 2/6th Gurkhas. Up to November 56 the Battalion was credited with 13 CT’s killed and 9 captured, 2 members of the Battalion were listed as wounded.  On the night of 7th/8th November a party of local Home Guard, pig hunting, entered one of A Companies ambush positions and were mistaken for CT’s. Two of the Home Guard were killed. Unfortunately 2/Lt R. D. Ogden (a member of the tobacco family) was killed.

At the end of November 56 the Bn. Moved north to Perak state leaving B and C Companies behind to join them in December. At this time three members of the Bn. received Queens permission to receive three Negri Sembilan awards, Sgt G. L. Bench the N S state Meritorious Service Medal with L/Cpl G. J. Henson and Pte . R. C. Powell receiving the N S State Conspicuous  Gallantry Medals.

The state of Perak included areas of tin mines, rubber and tea estates with jungle covered mountains and extended north some forty miles north of Kuala Lumpur right up to the Thailand border. Operations were soon underway with the first success going to D Company with a kill near Sungei Siput where the conflict first started on 16th June 1948. Between 2nd February to 2nd April the battalion was based around Taiping for a period of rest and retraining. This also provided the opportunity of leave for most of the men.

Operations resumed  after 2nd April and carried on in the area until the end of February 1958 when the final move took place to west Johore in the south of the peninsula. Once again considerable success had been achieved in Perak. Accurate figures were impossible due to the nature of operations but a considerable number of CT’s had been eliminated or captured.

On 31st August 1957 Malaya was granted total independence which was known as ‘Merdeka’. B Company obtained ‘a kill’ two hours before Merdeka and on 3rd September C Company obtained two more. These were the last in the old regime and the first under the new one.

As a little aside an interesting event occurred on 13th March 1957. A three story rubber factory collapsed near Taiping. Sheets of latex approximately 2.5 metres long and 1.5 metres wide were hung over wooden poles to ‘cure and dry’. The whole lot collapsed burying workers.  We were called in to attempt a rescue. It was dark and flood lighting had been set up. I was in the first party. We climbed on top of the collapse and formed a chain gang passing along the sheets of latex . We did a four hour shift and by the time mine was over hands were ‘raw’ with handling the latex. Protective clothing not yet invented! Eventually five bodies were recovered but no survivors. The event made the national press as did several of the operational successes.

The Battalion made its final move to Johore at the end of 1958. The area consisted of jungle covered hills to the west and swamp and rubber plantation to the east. Numbers were now being run down ready for departure later in the year. The last engagement was on 10th  May when 2 CT’s were killed and six more wounded and captured. This decimated the last CT fighting platoon in the area. It also brought to an end a very successful tour by the Battalion operations ceasing 16th July. The Battalion lost 10 men on the tour plus one Iban tracker a member of the Sarawak Rangers who was attached. There was also a small number of wounded.

Apart from the three Malayan awards listed above members of the Battalion were awarded four Military  Crosses, two Military Medals, two MBE’s , two OBE’s and 30 mentioned in Dispatches. Some 2000 men were involved over the period with in the region of 75% being National Servicemen. Some 500 men embarked at Singapore in the Empire Fowey on 25th July reaching Mombasa Kenya on 5th August. Instead of continuing home it was diverted to Aden where trouble was commencing and an infantry unit was needed. Here it remained until 10th September when replacement infantry was available. The date of the eventual arrival in the UK was unrecorded. The remainder of the journey  was completed in the troopship Devonshire.

Editors Note

John was serving with the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment during this period.

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Medway Queen Part 2

In the early part of the 20th century a trip on a paddle steamer was a high-spot of a family’s summer with the Medway Queen’s decks often being full of holidaymakers. During these times most seaside resorts had their own pier where many paddle steamers disembarked their passengers. The Medway Queen mainly operated between Strood, Southend and Herne Bay; calling at Sun Pier (Chatham) and Sheerness. Additional trips to

destinations such as Clacton and occasionally Margate were also advertised. She would normally leave Strood Pier at around 9am and call at Sun Pier (Chatham) shortly after. The Medway Queen carried many people on her various excursions from the Medway Towns during the 1920s and into the 1930s.  Special events such as Chatham Navy Days generated extra traffic and in 1937 Medway Queen ran an excursion to the Spithead Naval Review, meeting up with a train load of passengers from London Victoria.

In September 1939 the ship assisted in the evacuation of children from her home county of Kent to East Anglia as part of an operation contracted to General Steam Navigation of which the New Medway Steam Packet Co. was a part. Embarkation was from the Ford Jetty at Dagenham on the 1st and 2nd of the month and from Gravesend on the 3rd.

Medway Queen was requisitioned for war service on 9th September 1939 and taken to the shipyard of the General Steam Navigation Company in Deptford Creek where she was transformed from her black, white and cream peacetime livery to battleship grey. The refit included considerable modification to her aft end where part of the saloon was cut away to accommodate the mine-sweeping gear. Additional items were fitted such as a 12pdr gun and anti-aircraft machine guns. The bridge was extended and enclosed. She went into the yard as a pleasure steamer but came out as HMS Medway Queen with her pennant number N48 which later became J48. The commissioning ceremony took place in November and sea trials commenced.

Her first wartime captain was Sub-Lieutenant R.D.C.Cooke, RNVR. He was a veteran of the first world war. The other officers included Sub-Lieutenant J.D. Graves RNR and Lieutenant Jolly RN. who was a peacetime yachtsman. The navigator of HMS Medway Queen was Lieutenant Keilly who, despite being of pensionable age, managed to persuade the Captain to take him on as a Junior Officer because of his long deep sea experience. Other crew members included Petty Officer Crossley who was to become the Coxswain and also Petty Officer McAllister who became the designated Bo’sun of the upper deck.

After gun trials at Sheerness adjustments were made in Chatham Dockyard. HMS Medway Queen was then posted to Harwich in January 1939, initially as an independent ship and later as part of the 9th Minesweeping Flotilla. During the winter of 1939 parts of the Medway and Thames estuaries were frozen over but the Flotilla continued their daily sweeps for mines with the assistance of a tug to break any patches of ice that lay ahead of them. The harshness of the cold winters took their toll on the Medway Queen with faults appearing in the ship’s structure. This lead to her being ordered into Chatham dockyard in February 1940 for repairs and installation of de-gaussing equipment as protection against magnetic mines.

In March 1940 HMS Medway Queen joined the 10th Paddle Mine-sweeping Flotilla in Dover The flotilla was commanded by Commander Greig RN. of HMS Sandown (another paddle steamer, originally from the Isle of Wight). At about this time the Commanding Officer changed to Lt. A. T. Cook RNR. when his predecessor retired through ill health. Lt. A. T. Cook commanded Medway Queen throughout the Dunkirk Evacuation and for some time afterwards. HMS Medway Queen patrolled the Straits of Dover acting as sub-divisional leader. Often the paddle steamer would anchor in pre-arranged locations in order to act as lookout. It was when the Medway Queen was fulfilling this duty on 27th May 1940 that she received orders to head to the beaches of Dunkirk to embark some troops that would be waiting there. Even then the crew of HMS Medway Queen had no idea of the enormous operation known as “Operation Dynamo”.

To be continued

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Committee member Jennie Gibbons and her music.

Here is a little item which may be of interest to some of our members.

I first started to play a tenor horn, which is held and shaped like a very small euphonium,  in Snowdown Colliery Brass Band, well over twenty years ago. This band plays every year at the Deal Hospital Remembrance Day Service, it also played for several years at the Armed Forces Day Celebration at Deal Pier. I now play for the Deal Brass Academy Band. You will see this band playing at Armed Forces Day on Deal Pier. We also play at several fetes, summer and winter activities, though not at the moment due to Lockdown! Members, including myself, play outside our homes, amid the clapping, patriotic tunes at 8pm on Thursday evenings. Among these tunes are:  Over The Rainbow, Ode To Joy, There’ll Always Be An England and We’ll Meet Again. All very much enjoyed by our neighbours and a pleasure to play.

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Very interesting item from our Youth Liaison Office Stuart Gemmell.

Hello to you all. I hope you are all keeping safe and well during this unusual time. I understand that lockdown has probably posed more of a challenge for some, than others, but to me, it feels like I am on operations again with the Army.

Some of you may know that I served with the Royal Engineers for over 21 years. I was lucky to deploy on many operations around the world. Almost 20 years ago to the day, I was sent to Kenya, providing support to a Kenyan National Park, repairing roads and building a bridge that had been swept away during the previous year’s monsoon season.

                    A young Sapper Gemmell (L) and friend in Kenya (Jan 2000)

                      Camp living Nakuru National Park Kenya (Jan 2000)

Living was basic in the African bush, as you can see from the photos above, but as Royal Engineer’s we made the best of what we had to hand, which was often not a lot.
        The Royal Engineers – A brief history

The Corps of Royal Engineers was formed in May 1716 after a Royal Warrant of King George I authorised the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Corps of Engineers as separate entities. In 1787 they were granted the title Royal and Engineer officers and were styled Royal Engineer. Commissions were awarded on merit, unlike the cavalry or infantry, where they could be purchased.                                                                The Royal Engineers has no battle honours. Its regimental motto, awarded by King William IV in 1832, Ubique (Everywhere) & Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt (Where Right and Glory Lead) signify that the Corps had seen action in all the major conflicts of the British Army.

The Royal Engineers were responsible for the introduction of much new technology to the Army – telegraphy during the Crimean War of 1854 – 1856. In 1870, the Telegraph Troop, Royal Engineers was founded the first formal professional body of signallers in the British Army charged with providing communications for a field army by means of visual signalling, mounted orderlies and telegraph.

The Royal Engineers also introduced photography in the Abyssinian Campaign of 1867 and steam road traction in the Ashanti Campaign of 1873.The Royal Engineers were responsible for the introduction of much new technology to the Army – telegraphy during the Crimean War of 1854 – 1856. In 1870, the Telegraph Troop, Royal Engineers was founded the first formal professional body of signallers in the British Army charged with providing communications for a field army by means of visual signalling, mounted orderlies and telegraph.

With their expertise of firing explosive charges underwater the Royal Engineers became responsible for harbour defences, using submarine mines in conjunction with searchlights. Indeed, the Submarine Mining Service grew into a major specialization and was not handed over to the Royal Navy until 1905.

The Royal Engineers interest in aeronautics began in the 1860’s when they explored the possibilities of using air balloons for aerial observation purposes. This developed into an interest in fixed wing aircraft and on 13 April 1912, when King George V signed a royal warrant establishing the Royal Flying Corps. The Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers became the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) a month later on 13 May.

On 1st April 1918, the Royal Air Force (RAF) is formed with the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The RAF took its place beside the British navy and army as a separate military service with its own ministry.

The RFC’s motto was Per ardua ad astra (Through adversity to the stars). This remains the motto of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other Commonwealth air forces.

The Royal Engineers (Postal Service) was formed in 1913 from the Army Post Office Corps, this came about as a result of the connection between the Royal Engineers (Signal Service) and the General Post Office. The postal service left the Royal Engineers in 1993 to join the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC).

Todays Ordnance Survey was developed from the early Royal Engineers survey activities. Britain having acquired an Empire, it fell to the Royal Engineers to conduct some of the most significant “civil” engineering schemes around the world. The Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment, was responsible for the foundation and settlement of British Columbia as the Colony of British Columbia. They also had a hand in the following structures:

  • The Royal Albert Hall
  • Much of the British colonial era infrastructure of India
  • The construction of the Rideau Canal
  • The Western Heights of Dover
  • Pentonville Prison
  • Royal Naval Dockyards across the world, including Chatham Dockyard

Members of the Corps have determined boundaries on behalf of the British as well as foreign governments; some notable boundary commissions include:

  • 1839 – Canada-United States
  • 1858 – Canada-United States (General John Hawkins RE)
  • 1856 and 1857 – Russo-Turkish (Sir Edward Stanton RE)
  • 1857 – Russo-Turkish (Field Marshal Lintorn Simmons RE)
  • 1878 – Bulgarian
  • 1880 – Græco-Turkish (Major General John Ardagh RE)
  • 1884 – Russo-Afghan (Colonel Thomas Holdich RE)
  • 1894 – India-Afghanistan (Colonel Thomas Holdich RE)
  • 1902 – Chile-Argentine (Colonel Sir Delme Radcliffe RE)
  • 1911 – Peru-Bolivia (Major A. J. Woodroffe RE)

As you can see from our history, the Royal Engineers has had a busy 300 years!

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Item of interest from our Branch Padre “In Love” Rev John Lines MBE 

 Towards the end of the war, I was living with my mother in West Norwood near Crystal Palace in South London.  Like most men of that time my father was away fighting in our armed services.  My mother’s mother lived in Chorleywood in Hertfordshire and for some reason we were going to visit, why I cannot recall but it may have been because my grandfather was seriously ill.  However back to my tale!  To start the journey we caught a London Transport LT class bus up to Victoria, the LT class buses were AEC six wheel vehicles and this particular one had an outside staircase at the rear to reach the top deck.  I know my mother was not too keen on the top deck, especially with all the cigarette smoke, but she kindly indulged my plea and we went up to the top deck.  On our arrival at the bus stands outside Victoria Railway Station I was to see a sight that changed my life forever!  Standing in the bus station was a grey painted bus, don’t forget that London bus were usually red, which made a funny tinkling noise as it ticked over.  I was in love, a love affair that has lasted to this very day! I can imagine my poor mother on the rest of the journey, firstly to Baker Street tube station and then train to Chorleywood, as I went on about that bus!!!

My enquiries eventually got me the facts that the bus was a wartime Utility bus with a chassis built by Guy Motors of Wolverhampton and London Transport had around 435 of them.  The grey paint, and several other colours, was used because no red was available during the war.  As I grew I started to research the Utility buses, especially those of London Transport.  I set myself the task of acquiring a view of all 435 of them, either with LT or sold to other operators.  Sadly I now have between two and two and a half thousand  views of the London Guys, but not all 435, mind you I am not giving up, and the collection is still growing.  (Poor Christine having to put up with it!)

Sometime in the 1960 I was on the telephone to a friend who was part owner of a London Transport bus and he suggested that I ought to buy a bus!  I well recall replying that I did not want an AEC or a Leyland bus, I wanted a Guy!  In my innocence I thought that they had all gone long before our conversation!  I was rather surprised when he said that Burton Corporation in the Midlands was still running ex London Guys!  Now I have been a non-drinker all my life so really had no idea that Burton was renowned for its breweries! However, a call to directory enquiries and I was given the number of Burton Corporation Transport Department and when I telephoned I was put through to the general manager.  Result?  Ten minutes later I was the owner of an ex London Transport Guy Utility bus fleet number G 351!  Maybe, if I am allowed, I can continue this story at another time.  Keep safe John Lines.

John we look forward to your next episode in a few weeks time.

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“Item of interest” from Richard Purton our proud Standard Bearer.

 A Festival of Togetherness.

At a time where we are keeping ourselves apart to save the lives of our family, friends and loved ones, being together has never been more important. Usually free to go where we want, when we want, we are all adapting how we come together in these difficult and unprecedented times. From phone calls and text messages we wouldn’t normally make so regularly to increased use of social media to standing at least 2 metres from our vulnerable loved ones front door dropping off food or medicines. In these last few weeks we find ourselves perhaps coming together more closely than ever before and at a time when in fact our freedom has been heavily restricted.

As Legion members, togetherness is at the heart of our ethos. We show this in the many ways the Legion operates. The list is endless. Each year during remembrance tide, members come together at The Royal Albert Hall for The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance.  I had the honour of carrying our branch Standard at the festival last year. An honour I have been privileged with twice before with the Margate and Kent County Standards.

Inspired by the success of The Great Exhibition in 1851, The Royal Albert Hall was designed by civil engineers Captain Francis Fowke and Major-General Henry Y. D. Scott of the Royal Engineers and opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. The project was part of a series of permanent facilities to benefit the public driven by Prince Albert. Passing away in 1861 the Prince did not get to see the completion of his ideas but is honoured and remembered by his memorial opposite the ‘Great Hall’.

The first festival was held at the Royal Albert hall in 1923 on 11th November and was entitled ‘In Memory 1914-1918 – A Cenotaph In Sound, in aid of The British Legion, Field Marshal Earl Haig’s Appeal for Ex-Service Men of all Ranks’. It was renamed in 1927 as the ‘Remembrance Festival’ and in 1971 took the name we know today after the British Legion received its Royal Charter. The Queen first attended on 8th November 1952 and has regularly attended ever since.

The festival has evolved over the years from a sing song with remembrance service and Last Post to the extravaganza we know and love today. It was first publicly broadcast on BBC Radio in 1927 and of course is now a firm favourite on the schedule of BBC TV.

In these testing and unusual times, embrace the many different ways in which we find to come together, however far apart we are. Many of us will be worried and overwhelmed but we are all doing our best. Remember, you are not on your own. We are in this together. Embrace this Festival of Togetherness and we will make it through to be together again.

References : – www.royalalberthall.com  Wikipedia

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“Item of interest” from our Vice Chairman Malcolm Gibbons.

THE BURMA STAR ASSOCIATION ITS PAST AND ITS FUTURE         

Having begun life as an informal club after the war, the Burma Star Association  was formed in 1951. The following year the Burma Star Relief Fund was established by Trust Deed and registered as a charity under the War Charities’ Act 1940. In 1995 a new charity was formed, with The Burma Star Association combining the membership of the old Association with the benevolence work of relief fund.

Over the years, approximately 56,000Burma Star holders- or holders of the Pacific Star with the “Burma clasp”— joined the Association. Nevertheless, the Association’s benevolence work encompasses all veterans, whether or not they joined the Association, together with their widows or widowers.

The record cards have recently been digitised and will very soon be available to view on our new website www.burmastarmemorial.org

Although the records indicate that Association membership now stands at some 1,700, the actual figures is certainly lower, since the office is often not informed of members’ deaths. In theory, there are 32 Association branches although many of these are inactive, without having formally closed.

Furthermore, over the last number of months has seen the deaths of key Association officers, mostly notably our President, Viscount Slim, and our Vice Chairman Vic Knibb. It was only but two years ago, we reduced the quorum of voting members at the AGM from 20 to 10.

As well as dwindling and increasingly immobile numbers, the Trustees are also extremely conscious of the fact that the Association’s overheads now exceed welfare distributions, a gap that can only widen.

Against that background, the Trustees are extremely keen that the Association should plan in order to close at a time of its own choosing.

VJ Day was commemorated by the Government, under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence, in 2005,2010 and 2015. There is every prospect that there will be commemorations – quite possible for the last time – on 15th  August this year. Our proposal is that the Burma Star Association should therefore seize the opportunity to close ‘on a high’, on an anniversary of national significance. In perhaps his most – quoted line, T S Eliot wrote in The Hollow Men: ‘Not with a bang but a whimper.’ A bang would be altogether better…

In accordance with Section 18 — Closure and Winding – up of the Association’s Constitution (2014 Revision) – the Trustees have the authority to close the Association: ‘ When the Trustees consider that the number of existing and potential beneficiaries qualifying for relief in accordance with clause 3 hereof is so small that the separate administration of the Association is no longer justifiable …. and transfer its assets … to another charity … with priority for the benefit of persons who are at the time of  the winding-up beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of the Association.’

In 2005, the Burma Star Memorial Fund was established  in order to perpetuate the memory of those who fought so gallantly with the ‘Forgotten Army’ in Burma. As well as creating and maintaining a memorial garden and grove here, at the National Memorial Arboretum, the memorial Fund Steering Group has been working hard on an ambitious campaign to raise funds to support post- graduate students at University College London.

Selection is currently taking place for the first scholar, who will be studying Engineering for  International Development, a subject of particular relevance to the Burma Campaign. Future students will seek solutions to the continuing threat posed by epidemic diseases.

Through its carefully – phased Trust Deed, the Memorial Fund is able to assume the Association’s vital benevolence role, thus enabling the transfer of the Association’s remaining funds to the Memorial Fund.

On the 3rd April 2019, after very careful consideration, the Trustees therefore agreed that the Association should close on 15th August 2020, the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day.

Note :  Jeremy Archer (A Trustee) put this message to the Annual General Meeting on 11th May 2019 and it was accepted.     

  The Kohima Epitaph.

 When you go home

Tell them of us and say

For your tomorrow

We gave our today

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“Item of interest” from our President John Elms.

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Medway Queen PS (1)

I first met the Medway Queen as a delicate teenager in 1960 when, with my girl friend Jos’e, later to become my wife and mother of three, we took a trip on her down the river Medway to Sheerness, quite an adventure for a lad who had only ever been on boating lake in Gillingham Park!

Little did I know a good many years later I was to become a life member of her Preservation Society.

The Medway Queen was built at Troon in 1924 specifically for the New Medway Steam Packet Company Ltd. for operation on the River Medway. The ship was ordered in 1923 at a cost of £21,500 for completion in 1924. She was built by the Ailsa Ship Building Company of Troon on the river Clyde using a traditional frame on plate technique. The hull was flush riveted and the internal joints on bulkheads were secured using round head rivets. The engine was also constructed by Ailsa, being a compound diagonal steam engine (with two cylinders working at different steam pressure and set at an angle between vertical and horizontal). A bow rudder was later fitted, in 1936, to better enable the ship to manoeuvre in harbour and the boiler was replaced and converted to oil firing in 1938. The new boiler was constructed by Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company in Newcastle and installed in Chatham Dockyard.

To be continued

 

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2019

Flag Lowering

A good crowd were there to witness the Union Flag being lowered from the Flag mast in the now closed RM Depot Deal.                                                                         
The flag is raised with due ceremony when the clocks go forward and lowered when they go back, this simple but moving ceremony has been carried out over many years by a dedicated band now residing in the depot with good few “outsiders” in support!

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Fancy a walk on Normandy Beach? click the link for all the info!

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/things-to-do/events/normandy-beaches-trek?msclkid=d6c41d0810c016c47f8c4094e3f16328&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=MK%20-%20Bing%20-%20Mass%20Events%20-%20Challenges%20-%20Generic%20-%20Sign%20Ups%20-%202019&utm_term=normandy%20beaches%20trek&utm_content=Normandy%20Beach%20Trek%20-%20RLSA&gclid=CNehs_DBjeUCFUiNhQodlEoApQ&gclsrc=ds

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Did you serve in Malta? have you any connection with Malta? then the following may be of interest. (the link is dated 2018 but the report is for 2019)

http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/all-hallows-2018

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“TIME MARCHES ON” a project to mark the 30th anniversary of the Bombing of the Royal Marine School of Music in Deal.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1TWFHIifPl9GFbPKVxJFFcsaipC1aQ0Wa

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If you have served in HM Armed Forces please take a few minutes to complete the survey below. Thank You!

http://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/haveyouserved

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KENT COUNTY AUTUMN DINNER AND DANCE

Full details in the invitation letter below, please contact me for a booking form and menu. Last chance to book 30th August!

edwarddeal@hotmail.co.uk  OR 07885110384  OR  01304 363947

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The Poppy Event on Walmer Green Saturday 29th June proved to be a great success as the photo’s go to prove!

Deal Army Cadets assemble the Branch marquee

“Spiv” Brian Walton of Dover Branch.

Downs committee member Lydia (L) with her “assistant”

Branch Vice Chairman John Elms with his fabulous paintings, John kindly donated a percentage of his sales to the Poppy Appeal

Poppy organiser Anne Hill and husband Peter

Err? branch member Lindsay Thacker??

Committee member Sue Andrews sells a cake or two to Sheila Watson

Deal Army Cadets set up camp!

Branch member Rosemary Baker on her book stall

Poppy Tombola with Branch member Kath Jarrett

Members Gwen Boucher and Sylvia Roberts

L-R members Sheila Watson, Jenny Gibbons & Anny Elms

Branch Chairman Edward Barkway trying to look useful!!

Branch Secretary Malcolm Gibbons makes an announcement.

Victory War Time Band in full swing

Royal Marines & Royal Navy Cadet Band marching display

Deal Army Cadets Drill Display

A few more photographs follow….

 

My thanks to Bob Davies & Janet Barkway for their photographs.

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IMPORTANT REMINDER!

Poppy Event this coming Saturday 29th June see poster below NOW!

See you there for a great day out!

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Fancy some excellent food at a good price, good company and a great venue? seek no further see below and book NOW!                                       

Come to our meeting Monday 6th May and book your places with Lydia!

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WW1 Walmer Aerodrome Evensong at St Mary’s Church Walmer, 19th May scroll down for full info on previously published poster.

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“Cake Maker” Kaitlin does it again!

Committee member Sue Andrews with husband John were very proud Grand parents at a presentation evening last night Thursday 4th April, See Sue’s full report below.

Ruby 99! a deputy Lord lieutenant and Kaitlin.

Harry Chapman, branch Secretary, Kaitlin and Mayor of Swanley.

                                            Our grand daughter Kaitlin was invited to the British Legion Swanley, Crockenhill and Hextable awards presentation last night.
The ceremony was held in Hextable village hall and was attended by the many Poppy sellers, Cadets and other volunteers who were awarded certificates.
We joined our grand daughter and her family for the presentation.
Kaitlin has for the past two years made ‘Poppy’ decorated cupcakes and sold them at her school to raise money for the Poppy appeal. Her school had given the money she raised  to the local British Legion branch and told them of her efforts.
As a family we were made really welcome. Kaitlin especially!!! She was met by Harry Chapman branch secretary and he then introduced her to the Mayor of Swanley. They both chatted to her and thanked her for her efforts. The branch Chairperson and Poppy Appeal organiser both took time to chat with her too.
Kaitlin was presented with a certificate for her contribution to the Poppy Appeal and was also given a beautiful British Legion necklace, together with a British Legion Poppy   Cake recipe book.!!!
Kaitlin had her photograph taken with Ruby, who is the Branches oldest Poppy seller aged 99!!!
It was a really lovely evening and wonderful to see her being really made a fuss of.

Sue Andrews

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Flag Raising at former RM Depot

This short but meaningful ceremony to raise the Union Flag took place at 11.00 Sunday 31st March, it will fly proudly until the end of British Summer Time 27th October when it will be ceremonially lowered. 

Colour Party L-R John Elms, Peter Hall, Dev Jennings and John Hardy.

Bob Davies RM (Far Left)

A good Job done!

My thanks to all for the photographs.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE!

There will be a short ACT OF REMEMBRANCE at the entrance to the RM Rifle Range at Kingsdown, Monday 1st April Muster at 10.00 for 10.20 SCROLL down to see the full story below at………. 

“Royal Marines Rifle Range Kingsdown”

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Walmer Aerodrome

See the open invitation poster below and the potted history of our local WW1 Fighter Defence Station that follows.

Walmer Aerodrome closed to flights in early summer of 1919.The last Squadron at Walmer (233 RAF) was disbanded on May 15th 1919, but it took some time to remove planes, personnel and equipment. It had been opened in Spring 1917 as a Royal Naval Air Service aerodrome and was one of the busiest aerodromes in this part of Kent. From an Aerodrome with only a flight of planes, usually six and seventy supporting staff, Walmer was to increase in size to accommodate a full Squadron of up to twenty four planes. The last German Aeroplane raid on England by daylight took place on 22nd August 1917. Three planes took off from Walmer mid-morning, along with planes from Dover and Manston to successfully engage the enemy. After this, German tactics changed with future air attacks on England taking place at night. On the first of April 1918 at the height of World War One the RNAS and the RFC were combined to form the Royal Air Force. RAF Walmer now had a new Fighter Defence Flight with Captain W.M. Alexander as Commanding Officer flying Sopwith Camels. Their primary mission was to engage enemy fighters originating from Belgium and by the 20th October 1918, the Belgium Coast was completely reoccupied by Allied Forces. After the signing of the Armistice there was a reduction in the necessity for air power in this part of the world and although the numbers of planes at Walmer was increased in March 1919 when all 233 Squadron arrived from the Guston Aerodrome the plans were already being considered to withdraw and within three months Walmer Aerodrome was closed. The last plane to fly out of RAF Walmer was the Airco DH.9

RAF Walmer was also open during WW2, but was not used operationally for aircraft.

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Royal Marines Rifle Range Kingsdown

 

Please attend if you can.

Thank You!

 

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Holocaust Day, see poster below for full details.

Our Parade Marshal Joe de Zille will be laying a wreath on behalf of the Downs Branch. Everyone welcome!

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Bingo!

The Bingo regulars were out in force for the first session of 2019, the second Wednesday of every month in The Alma function room, everyone is welcome to join in the fun from 2pm to approx 4pm.

Thanks to the “crew” including John Elms, Mary Eldridge, Gwen Boucher and Lydia O’connor for all their help in ensuring everyone has a good time!

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FREE trip to France for D Day Veterans!

This is a golden opportunity to visit the Normandy D Day landing sites in France, if YOU are a D Day Veteran OR you know someone that is then please click the link below.

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/community/d-day-75/

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World War One lost medal “miracle”

Click the link to read this amazing story!

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.forces.net%2Fnews%2Fpolice-diver-reunites-family-after-making-great-war-discovery%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR1OnZH0AUEFQkUjhiqrFfRPFeSqIZ3oBG90JntjG54Rf4LHSJQnxO34d5s&h=AT1N2Eb5lWgkoRhf4JEtnCaz9roUsmyJSCZwLdZHpyOwdW__jEev34WRw5wcFxViimpphVZRrKio6IJZr1-D6tAcHmcmmP2DXQ0969CxyDP_vpZfaLwXpswKuYxRGCZBelatiZ_RAQ-jGa9dGj5POV3zMerWSG1BO_E

2018

Thursday 6th December at the RMA Club saw 33 members and friends tucking into a superb lunch prepared by Sue and her “girls” the tables were beautifully decorated to put us all into the true Christmas spirit.

Vice Chairman John Elms warmly thanked Sue and her staff for the wonderful meal and prompt friendly service.

Secretary Malcolm Gibbons proposed the toast to Absent Friends.

Chairman Edward Barkway warmly thanked John and Lydia O’Connor for organising the lunch and Lydia for running the raffle, he welcomed all present and wished each and everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year.

  

Our thanks to Bob Davies for his lovely photographs.

Don’t forget the Christmas Raffle with buffet on Wednesday 12th December in the function room of the Alma Pub at 18.30 for 19.00 tickets just 50p a go, over 50 prizes!

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MONTHLY BINGO

IMPORTANT! December’s Monthly Bingo (2nd Wed of every month) is on Wednesday 19th December 14.00 to 16.00 NOT Wed 12th.

                            

Just a few of the lucky “winners” at last months games organised by Gwen Boucher tea maker & washer upper’er, Mary Eldridge card checker and dogs body with John Elms money taker, card issuer and all round good egg approaching Molly the caller!

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Display at Deal Town Hall

A very interesting display at Deal Town Hall attracted a steady flow of visitors to see the exhibits arranged by Events Manager Jo Harper which included some 150 post cards written by pupils from Sandown School in memory of all WW1 soldiers.

Hosting the event and helping Jo to set up were members John & Anny Elms, Mary Eldridge and Lydia O’Connor.

Our Downs Branch RBL Poppy man welcomed the visitors.

The crosses supplied by Gwen have pictures of just some of the men from Deal & Walmer who died in the Great War.

Some very touching sentiments written by the pupils of Sandown School.

A fascinating history of the 1500 Belgian refugees who stayed in Deal during WW1 researched by Suzanne Green  displayed along the LH wall.

Our magnificent Book of Remembrance inscribed and donated by John Elms in 2015 attracted a good deal of interest.

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Our granddaughter Kaitlin spent 2 evenings making  and decorating 70 ‘Poppy ‘ cakes to sell at her school.
She raised over £75 for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
She is on the left of the picture. Her friend helped her sell them.
We are very proud of her.
Sue and John
 
Message and pictures from new committee member Sue Andrews.

Mmmm! they look very tasty, well done and thank you Kaitlin.

(Scroll for three more new pictures)

A small part of the Poppy display in Kingsdown Church.

Well done “Bloody Mary’s” wine bar for flying this flag.

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St Andrew’s Church West St Deal

Extend an open invitation to a short service at this lovely old church this Saturday10th November at 7.30pm where you are invited to lay flowers and tributes in memory of the end of WW1 at their War Memorial within the church.

The RBL Book of Remembrance that John Elms inscribed and presented to the branch will be re-blessed.

Everyone welcome.

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PARKING                                                                                                                                                          There is FREE parking on the Freedown for the very short Service at 09.00 on Sunday 11th November ONLY.

Please scroll for the poster below the poem.

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 Very Special Poem to Masheeda from her Sister-in-Law.

Sq. Leader Anthony Downing RIP 23 Dec 2011 aged 34 Died of wounds from an IED in Afganistan.

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Programme from Walmer Parish Council, poster below.

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Please support this concert if you possibly can as the organisers are very kindly donating some of the proceeds to our local Legion. Full info below!

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Quick Reminder to ALL branch Members there is an open meeting Monday 24th 19.30 @ The Alma Pub in Deal, please come along and have your say!

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This thought provoking image entitled “There but not There” was spotted by Bob Davies at the Military Odyssey Show at the Kent County Show Ground.

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BINGO!                                                                                                                        These regular 2nd Wednesday of every month sessions held in the function room of the Alma Pub are proving very popular with daytime players!

 Just a few of the regular 30 or so that come along, who at this session enjoyed a surprise buffet kindly donated anomalously, so many thanks indeed to whoever you are!

Everyone welcome!

Many thanks to the organising crew, Mary, Gwen, Lydia & John.

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Three pictures of the stalwarts manning the RBL Downs table at Deal Hospital Fete, well done to you all for “flying the flag”

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Branch members will be manning a stall at Deal Hospital Fete this afternoon 4th August so please come along and say “hello” we will be very pleased to see you!

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Respect!

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Canadian Armed Forces in Folkestone see poster below                                              

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Clean plates all round!

Thirty three Downs Branch members and friends enjoyed a very convivial lunch at the RMA Club Thursday 21st June, our President “Aussie” Walker and his wife June and Dover White Cliffs Branch members Chris and Brian Walton were warmly welcomed by chairman Edward Barkway.

The very generous and tasty two course meal with coffee and mints was prepared and served by Sue Cornish and her “girls” at an extremely reasonable cost of £12. no wonder there were “clean plates all round”

The raffle raised £88 so many thanks indeed to all who donated the prizes, thanks also to Lydia and Rosemary for selling the tickets, Aussie managing to draw out his own ticket! and Edward winning a pink Teddy Bear (no comments please!)

 

Many thanks to everyone that made the day possible, especially to Liz Larner and Lydia O’Connor that recorded the sales and payments and to John Elms for booking the venue.

 A generous well deserved  collection being presented by John to Sue and her staff not only for looking after us so well but also for the splendid table decorations, many thanks from us all!

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When a vinyl record was mysteriously handed into the RAF Association’s Flowerdown House hotel in Weston-super-Mare, we didn’t expect to discover such a rare find: A 73-year-old wartime recording made by a serviceman to his wife for their first wedding anniversary.                                  (see below picture)

Contact between the serviceman, identified as Rick, and his wife during the Second World War, likely would have been limited, and the recording demonstrates just one way families kept in touch.
To hear Rick’s message click the “start button” below..
…they didn’t have ecards or Facetime then!!

Many Thanks to member Brian Fawcett for sending me this.                                            Edward

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A poignant reminder kindly submitted by member Bob Davies.                                

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Are you ex WRAC?

Mrs Mary Clark would love to hear from you, please contact her directly at      maryannclark7600@yahoo.com

Many Thanks,                                                                                                                                                    Edward

 

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Free Holidays for WW2 Veterans!

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/community/news/remembrance/help-us-find-ww2-veterans-for-free-remembrance-tours

LIBOR TOURS OF REMEMBRANCE

Remembrance Travel is trying to find all surviving veterans of WWII to participate in funded LIBOR Tours of Remembrance to where they served.

The Royal British Legion has been running LIBOR funded tours for Normandy veterans for the past four years and thanks to additional LIBOR funding is now able to widen the tours to all veterans of WWII.

The Treasury are enabling a series of tours which are being funded by the LIBOR fines, allowing a WWII veteran to return and pay their respects to fallen comrades. In addition, a family member and a carer would be able to accompany the veteran to support and share the experience.

The tours will take place from spring to autumn as numbers demand and will give WWII veterans – now mostly in their 90s – the chance to meet up with fellow veterans, visit significant battlefield sites, cemeteries and memorials. The tours will be led by an official Royal British Legion guide and the tours will include:

  • Overnight B&B accommodation pre and post tour (as required)
  • Accommodation on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis during the tour
  • Air, rail, ferry or executive coach travel as per the itinerary
  • Visits to war memorials, cemeteries and significant sites
  • Entrance fees
  • Medic
  • Up to £50 per person allowance for travel to and from the tour departure point

Tours do not include lunches, travel insurance and items of a personal nature.

These tours are also open to organisations and associations. If there is a group of 10 veterans (30 passengers) or more, we will operate a coach at no charge from a local departure point to join an existing tour or operate a separate tour. Please note the group would not qualify for the £50.00 travel allowance.

There is no database of veterans from WWII who are still alive today, therefore if you are a veteran or know of a veteran who would like to benefit from these tours, please contact us on 01473 660800 to register your interest or download the registration form and send it to Remembrance Travel, C/O Arena Travel, 2 Betts Ave, Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP5 3RH.

Click here to download the registration form >>

CALL 01473 660800 TO REGISTER YOUR INTEREST

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This annual event to raise the Union Flag on the flagpole situated in front of the former Officers Mess in the South barracks housing estate took place to-day Sunday 25th March at 1100hrs. Members of the Deal RMA Branch were on parade and a bugler was in attendance to sound the calls. This short ceremony reminds all who live on the estate of the long Royal Marine history of where they live.

A few of the residents ready to witness the event

Flag raising crew at the “ready”

Royal Marine Bugler calls for the colour party

Colour Party to attention

The Union Flag is ceremoniously raised.

Colour Party respond

The flag proudly flying outside the former Officers Mess.

  

Photo shoot of those in proud attendance at this special occasion.

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It is with great sadness we announce the passing last Sunday 18th May of Rev Peggy Fishlock aged 89.

Peggy was a long time member and Padre of the Downs Branch and was loved and respected by us all.

Funeral 10th April 2.00pm at Barham Crematorium.                                                      Photo from Bob Davies.

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If you know of a WW2 Veteran please tell them about the info below!

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Drumhead Service September 2018

(Information Posted 30th January 2018)

Please Note!

  1. For Downs Branch RBL Members ONLY!

  2. Booking through Mary ONLY  at marye1968@outlook.com OR 01304 382235.

  3. Provisional booking NOW please, confirmation will announced in June / July.

  4. Transport depending on numbers interested may be arranged.

  5. Please confirm if you have a wheelchair or a walking frame etc or need assistance.

  6. Details on the poster below.

     Our next Monthly Branch meeting is on Monday 5th February bookings will be taken then on a “first come first served” basis.  Thank You.

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Kent County Conference 20th January 2018

Arrival of the Colour Party and Branch Standards

Roll of Honour and Exhortation

Prayers from our County Padre Cannon Paul Kerr

L -R Tony West BEM County Membership & Secretary, Richard Cast Chairman, Leyland Ridings MBE President, Terry Whittles National Chairman, Stephan Gatward FAAT Treasurer & Richard Graham Vice Chairman

Members and Branch Delegates, Mary & Aussie for Downs Branch

Richard Cast investing Richard Graham as the new County Chairman.

Richard Graham Kent RBL County Chairman.

Mary Eldridge with her well deserved County Vice President Award

Joe DeZille Standard Bearers Competition Runner Up (again!) Certificate and shield.

Many worthy winners with their awards

Richard Cast (centre) presenting a new trophy in memory of his late wife Pauline with daughter Sammie Cast, The Pauline Cast Trophy was presented to the County by Richard Cast as an award for Branch Community Support (BCS).  It will be presented each year to the Best BCS Branch, with the Swanley, Crockenhill and Hextable Branch being the first winners.

National Chairman Terry Whittles inspects the Standards

Standard Bearers raring to go!

All photographs very kindly supplied by Ian Lillford White Cliffs Branch Dover
 

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Answers to Quiz No 32 Scroll down!

Some more of Joe’s Army Life, Joe gets his “chips”

Well, my last missive was regarding Belize.  I have been hard pushed to write something else that may grab your attention for 2 mins.  I then realised that there was something else that we do that isn’t in any book or pamphlet, it’s called CIVPOP.  I have done it twice and had fun on both.

I’m sure that all realise that N Ireland was running for most of my career in the Army, and I started to visit there from 1974 until I left.  However, before we go to NI we are trained in Urban warfare against, what is in essence, a Guerrilla type enemy.  These are people who operate by stealth, Terror and crime.  Dressed in clothes that everyone else is wearing, so essentially becoming invisible from day to day.  So how do we train, we build a village and run exercises in it to get the unit that is going in the right frame of mind.  We generally know where we are going to be deployed, the unit already there puts together a brief to let the newbies know what is going on, who to watch etc.  RUC officers from that area and base come over to England and work with the unit whilst they are training, giving corrections and advice on the spot.  And we go in to be the Civilian Population, so they have someone to arrest etc – CIVPOP.  And the training area is in Lydd Camp.

My first taste of this was not very memorable, except for the night I was tasked to do something.  When I got to the control room a member of the WRAC was waiting to, for this little phase she was my pregnant wife, and we were told to go for a walk around the village for 45mins, the pregnancy was in fact a litre of petrol in a container attached to a detonator, at the time I had a “Dr Who” scarf very long, as it was cold we wrapped the scarf around our necks and together we strolled around for 45 mins, the brief was if no one stopped us we had to but the bomb on the post office door handle, well no one did so the bomb was placed.  We went back to control just across the square, got a cup of tea and settled in to see what would happen.  About 15 mins later the control staff triggered the bomb, we were greeted with a 50-foot jet of burning petrol and plastic shooting straight up into the air, at which a very pale WRAC I’ve been carrying that around under my jumper for 45 mins.

The second time I did it I was the CQMS (Company Quarter Master Sergeant) basically I was in charge.  The village as was came with all things you might find in NI, so we had a bar, fish & chip shop and other bits.  The WRAC detachment that was with us immediately took control of the chip shop, and every morning I would go down to the local farmers and get a £4.50 bag of potatoes (25Kg), take them back up to the base, where they were chipped and got ready for sale that evening, at 20p for a plate full, I was very surprised a just how popular that shop became, still not sure whether it was the chips or the ladies.

The bar was just as busy, not only by us, but the troops used to come in to do their checks.  So, people where in and out of the places virtually all night.  Then, the dreaded call from The Paymaster, who had come to check the books and ensure everything was going ok.  Walked in, to a very stern-faced Company Commander and Paymaster, who went on to inform me that under the rules and regs that I was allowed to make a profit in this situation of about 5% (I think).  I don’t recall how much that actually equated to, but then informed me that I had made £750 over the top of what I should have, and what did I want to do about it.  Definitely one of those times that one is completely stumped, so said the first thing that came into my mind, “I suppose letting me have it, is out of the question” I’m sure that no one will be surprised to find out it was out of the question, got to try though haven’t you.  In the end we agreed for it to be put into the company funds.  I actually thought they were going to court martial me. Well, the Chips were free to all for the remainder of the exercise

 

From our Parade Marshall & Treasurer Joe de Zille

 

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John’s Quiz No 32

Political insults….and humour.
1. Which PM was described by a fellow Tory “I cannot stand his lowlier than thou attitude”?
2. Who did Tony Benn describe as “the Archie Rice of the Labour Party”?
3. Who did French President Mitterrand describe as “mouth of Marilyn Monroe and eyes of Caligula”?
4. Which US President said “kissing babies gives me asthma”?
5. Which Labour leader was described as “ a party leader worthy of assassination “?
Healthy supplements….so it’s said!!!
6. Which berry is said to improve eye health.
7. This “human like” root relieves stress and adds energy.
8. A little of this in food helps to keep healthy hearts and lowers blood pressure.
9. Created naturally in the body by sunshine.
10. This spiky green plant builds immunity and can aid digestion.
TV
11. Famous Vet from All Creatures Great and Small.
12. Host of House of Games now a top author.
13. Plays Inspector Geordie Keating in Grantchester.
14. Character played for many years by Michael Le Vell in Coronation Street.
15. Sadly passed away recently….played Boycie in Fools and Horses.

Answers

 

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Jennie comes to Deal Pt 2

The old pier that had been cut in half by a Dutch ship, having dragged its anchor during the 1940s war years had badly damaged the pier. Following this, the pier was demolished to evade enemy  invasion. Following the war, ships wrecked by enemy action lay in the Channel and on the beach. These also had to be removed. During one of our August visits, the demolition was in progress. This was achieved by explosives. With each explosion most of Deal violently shook, afterwards many fish, all dead, were washed up onto to beach. Not a nice sight, I may add!
A few years later the building of our present pier started, a little further away from the old pier, which was opposite the roundabout on the seafront. I could see divers going out in rowing boats to lay the footings. In those days divers used the traditional diving gear, heavy boots, bulky body wear and diving helmet. The present pier was opened on 19th November 1957 by his RH Prince Philip. As far as I know, this is the most modern pier in the country and the last to be built.
All this though, did not spoil our enjoyment of lovely Deal. During hot sunny days, the family sat on deck chairs on the shingle as close as we could to the shore line. Delicious  Walls Ice Creams and fruit lollies were available from a little light blue and white kiosk situated on the beach adjacent to the promenade. I spent many a happy hour paddling my feet and a couple of times, if warm enough, donning my bathing suit and venturing right into the sea – lovely. Also during the warm weather, many jelly fish the size of tea plates swam close to the shore line. Pleased to say, these were harmless.
During rainy days we would venture into the town, window shopping, followed by a sit down and a nice cup of tea, coffee or milkshake.
Contd……….

 

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John’s Quiz No 31

Political connections.
1. Current leader of the Lib Dem’s.
2. Woman who Clinton never had relations with.
3. Ex. chancellor on Strictly Come Dancing.
4. Once a MP…now seen on TV in a narrow boat….loves a jumper.
5. Political reporting giant who quit GBTV.
Political connections.
1. Current leader of the Lib Dem’s.
2. Woman who Clinton never had relations with.
3. Ex. chancellor on Strictly Come Dancing.
4. Once a MP…now seen on TV in a narrow boat….loves a jumper.
5. Political reporting giant who quit GBTV.
Foodies challenge.
6. Small valuable lettuce (cryptic)
7. Green vegetable iron rich, high protein…name also sounds like slightly burnt.
8. Italian grain….challenge for author accuracy.
9. Royal mushroom….grown on land but sounds like found under the sea.
10. Chef whose latest TV programme is called Together.
Our home County….
11. What our cricket team won this weekend.
12. Town where Brenda Blethyn (TVs Vera) sat out the pandemic.
13. First venue outside Scotland for the Open Golf (1894)
14. Kent home of Lord Kitchener.
15. 1895 Octavia Hill, of Edenbridge sets up this organisation to preserve historic buildings.
6. Small valuable lettuce (cryptic)
7. Green vegetable iron rich, high protein…name also sounds like slightly burnt.
8. Italian grain….challenge for author accuracy.
9. Royal mushroom….grown on land but sounds like found under the sea.
10. Chef whose latest TV programme is called Together.
Our home County….
11. What our cricket team won this weekend.
12. Town where Brenda Blethyn (TVs Vera) sat out the pandemic.
13. First venue outside Scotland for the Open Golf (1894)
14. Kent home of Lord Kitchener.
15. 1895 Octavia Hill, of Edenbridge sets up this organisation to preserve historic buildings.

Answers

1. Sir Ed Davey
2. Monica Lewinsky
3. Ed Balls
4. Giles Brandreth
5. Andrew Neil
6. Little Gem
7. Chard
8. Spelt
9. King Oyster mushroom
10. Jamie Oliver
11. T20 Bash
12. Ramsgate
13. Royal St. George’s
14. Broome Park
15. National Trust

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‘I ain’t got a name?!’

I may have mentioned it before, but you are going to have to read it again I am afraid!  I was raised in a Salvation Army and Baptist family, hence my abstaining from the demon drink etc!  Growing up in South London just after the war, Second World War I hasten to add, I was often given a wicker basket, a purse with money and a shopping list and sent out to the local shops.  The last thing my late Mother used to say to me was don’t go into St Luke’s churchyard.  Now I always was an obedient son so where did I go?  Yes you have got it in one – St Luke’s Churchyard!!!  Most probably your next question might well be why did I venture into the churchyard?  Well in that churchyard lived a man who was known to all and sundry in the area as mad Jack.  He very rarely wore clothes; mostly he was clad in newspaper sitting on one of the benches feeding the birds.  Not just one bird, but literally dozens used to come and cluster around him as he distributed crumbs and seeds that he had found somewhere or the other.  I sat and listened to Jack for as long as I dared and really he taught me a great deal about birds, plants, trees but most of all that everyone has a place in God’s plans for the world.

Jack made me realise that it is very easy to fall on hard times, not always your own fault either. The inevitable happened in that one day, on a shopping trip, I popped into the churchyard and found Jack’s bench unoccupied and I never saw him again.  I guess that he passed over and received what in those days were known as pauper’s funerals.  Hold onto that thought, for I shall return to it! As a family we moved away, but I never ever forgot Jack and all that I had learned from him.  Eventually I ended up attending a Methodist Church and discovered a wonderful place in the East End of London called the Whitechapel Mission.  There they tried to help the wonderful people of the street family and I started to collect clothing and food to take to the Mission. People call them hobo’s, tramps, vagrants and lot of other names that I would not like to repeat here.  However to my mind, and experience, it is easy to fall on hard times and end up unemployed and eventually homeless.  Sadly a great many of the street family people are ex of the various military services, proud of their service but looked down on by society around them.

At my home Church we were sent a minister who really sang from the same hymn sheet as me as they say.  He cared for all people, whatever their problems and saw the good in all of them.  I was smitten by his ministry and, after a rather disgusting funeral for my dear father in law in Kent which really made me angry, I felt the call to ministry myself.  I left the Metropolitan Police with a degree of sadness I must admit, hard to leave colleagues who supported me as I had supported them through some pretty awful situations, but I knew in my heart of hearts God was telling me to move on.

I was indeed fortunate to be accepted for training in Birmingham, a city I really enjoyed, the Brummies were lovely welcoming people.  My first Circuit after college was in the Thames Valley but then I received a call from our President of Conference that they wanted to move me!  Where you may be thinking?  Well it was the Whitechapel Mission where I was able to walk in the footprints of some wonderful men and women who had cared for the street family!  At that time the Mission was striving to care and provide for around eight hundred members of the street homeless community who needed the opportunity to wash, use decent toilets, have a meal and get clean clothing.  To do this the Mission was supported by Churches of all denominations all around the United Kingdom, plus a number of livery companies in the City of London. I was so naive when on the first Monday there, I walked down from the minister’s flat, which was above the Mission right opposite the Blind Beggar Public House where the infamous Kray gang operated, and found the volunteer treasurer who after introductions, asked me what I was going to about money?  In my innocence I thought that money came from central funds – no way – I had to help to raise it and at that time it was around £3,000 per week!  I nearly passed out there and then and went back to our flat and asked Christine if I could borrow a stocking as I wanted to use it as a mask when I went around to the bank to do a withdrawal!!!  To be serious I immediately started contacting Churches, Clubs, RBL and Rotary Clubs to name but a few places.  Thus started my wonderful trips to Churches in corners of the United Kingdom telling people the story of the street homeless family, and thankfully the money started to roll in, plus offers of clothing, food, toiletries and a great many other items.

I really enjoyed the work in the Units meeting the folk, but one man has stuck in my mind all over the years, when I asked him his name he replied ‘I ain’t got one’ which rather shocked me but over the time Christine and I worked there we got used not knowing names of some of the folk because they wanted it that way.  One of my saddest duties was every Friday morning when I went to a graveyard in the East End and buried what some people called the unwanted dead.  To me however, they were all God’s children and entitled, at least, to a decent caring funeral and I did a very large number of them in my time at Whitechapel, young old, male and female.  All too often the coffin said something like male no further details!.  So I had arrived at the place where pauper’s funerals were conducted, although by then they were known as contract funerals.  Those you who know me well will appreciate that I could go on forever and a day about Whitechapel and the wonderful caring work there but I have a feeling that our illustrious chairman might take his red pen out! (NEVER!)

So this will be it for now!

Blessings John L

From our Branch Padre Rev. John Lines MBE

 

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Graham By Stuart Gemmell

VC, GCB, GCMG

Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Graham, VC, GCB, GCMG (27 June 1831 – 17 December 1899) was a senior British Army commander in the late 19th century and an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

 

Early Life

He was born in Acton, Middlesex, and after studying at Wimbledon and Dresden he was admitted (1847) to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and completed his military training in the School of Military Engineering at Chatham.

 Victoria Cross

He was 23 years old, and a lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 18 June 1855 in the Crimea, Lieutenant Graham, accompanied by a sapper (John Perie) showed determined gallantry at the head of a ladder party at the assault on the Redan at Sebastopol. He also went out on numerous occasions to bring in wounded officers and men.

 Later Service

During the Second Anglo-Chinese War he again displayed great courage and skill and, although seriously wounded in the storming of the Taku forts (21 August 1860), subsequently entered Peking with the victors. Following his return to England in 1861, he was for 16 years commanding engineer successively at Brighton, Aldershot, Montreal, Chatham, Manchester, and York. In 1877 he was appointed assistant director of works for barracks at the War Office.

In 1882 he accompanied Sir Garnet Wolseley to Egypt as brigadier general, and his forces had a great share in the victorious campaign against Urabi Pasha. In 1884 he took the field against Osman Digna, whose army he defeated at El-Teb and Tamai. In the meantime, he had urged a plan for the assistance of Gordon, which, however, was not accepted. Graham led a second Suakin Field Force which arrived at the port on 12 March 1885. Its purpose was to suppress Osman Digna’s forces which were active in the area, and to supervise the construction of the Suakin-Berber Railway. The field force engaged in two actions: at Hashin on 20 March and at Tofrek on 22 March, before the British government changed its policies, shutting down the railway project and leaving the Sudan in May 1885.

In his book “The Battle of Tofrek, fought near Suakin, March 22nd 1885”, written shortly after the battle for the purpose of correcting erroneous statements in both official and press reports of the battle, William Galloway was strongly critical of General Graham’s planning of the Tofrek expedition on three counts:

  1. Compared to the expedition to Hashin on 20 March which Graham commanded himself, which had been protected by four squadrons of British cavalry and a regiment of Bengal cavalry acting as scouts, the Tofrek expedition which he delegated to the command of General McNeill had only one squadron of Lancers plus a company of Mounted Infantry to provide warning of enemy activity.
  2. Whereas Graham had the protection of a battery of Royal Horse Artillery able to shell the enemy at long range, no artillery was assigned to McNeill’s force.
  3. Whereas the ratio of men to transport animals had been over 5:1 in the earlier expedition, it was no more than 2:1 for the later one, resulting in greater difficulties in keeping controlling of the animals.

Galloway was even more critical of Graham for a last-minute change to McNeill’s marching orders. Instead of following an established track in a south-westerly direction towards Tamai as originally planned, Graham personally instructed McNeill to march westwards into uncharted territory, which turned out to be thickly covered by a jungle of mimosa bushes with long low-lying branches covered in sharp thorns. This caused progress to be both slow and difficult while affording the enemy excellent cover for the surprise attack that they launched later in the day.

Graham was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1896, and a colonel commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1899. He is buried in East-the Water Cemetery in Bideford in Devon in a grave adjacent to that of George Channer VC.

The Medal

His Victoria Cross is currently owned by Graham’s Great, Great, Great Grandson Oliver Brooks and is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum (Gillingham, England).

Works

He published several scientific papers and a contribution to the Fortnightly Review, entitled “Last Words with Gordon” (1887), and prepared a translation of Goetze’s Operations of the German Engineers and Technical Troops during the Franco-German War of 1870–71 (1875).

Reseached by our Youth Liasion Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex Royal Engineer.

 

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        The 2nd Part of Brief History of The Boy’s Brigade 1883 – 2021 

In 1909 William Smith quietly left the B.B. Camp at Tighnabruaich Kyles of Bute  in Scotland and travelled to London. He returned the following Friday morning to resounding cheers and applause for he was now Sir William Smith having been knighted by King Edward V11 for his work in founding the Boy’s Brigade.    

In 1933, the Brigade celebrated its Golden Jubilee, and as part of this in the September of that year , a huge Camp was held at Dechmont, West Lothian, Scotland. Each Company was allowed to send two lads to represent their Company. 

Also, as part of Jubilee celebrations the largest Open-Air Service was held at Hampden Park Football Stadium, Glasgow, where 130,000 gathered inside and 10,000 outside. As a result of the publicity associated with the jubilee, new recruits increased in 1933/34 to total of 10,000. 1943 Diam Jubilee The Boys Brigade Trust Museum

To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in December 1943, a Royal Review was held at Windsor Castle, and the reigning monarch, King George V1 Inspected a large gathering of Boy’s and Officers, but due to war time restrictions, the event could not be advertised, but in spite of this, a further 9,000 new recruits were added to the membership. 

 The next major B.B. event was  in 1954 this was to celebrate the Centenary of the birth of Sir William Smith. This took the form of a “Festival of Boyhood”, it was held at Wembley Football Stadium, and was by attended by 3,000 Boys. 

The first International Camp, also in 1954 was held on the playing fields of Eton Public School and total of 2,500 boys and privilege of attending.  By now the Brigade numbers had risen by the late 1950’s and there were 91,934 boys on the roll, in 3010 companies in Great Britain, and another 48,000members spread across the world.  1954 Festival of BoyhoodThe Boys Brigade ArchiveTrustMuseum

On July 2nd, 1983 , as part of the Centenary Celebration, the Golden Jubilee Casket from 1933 was opened at Ibrox Football  Stadium, to read the “mystery”, message left there in the Jubilee year.    

In 2008, as part of the nationwide celebrations for the 125th year of the Boys’ Brigade, a target was set to open 125 new companies. Also, in 2008, the Brigade was all allocated a space at the National Arboretum Memorial Gardens at Lichfield.  A collection was made from varours Companies across the country, one these companies that I knew of and was  part of the East Kent Battalion was the 1st Margate Company, the War Memorial Stone was dedicated on June 21st, 2008.  

The Annual Returns for 2008 showed that Brigade numbers stood at 70,000 boys in 16,000 churches. By 2013, 100 new companies had been enrolled and actual numbers of boys has increased.  The Boys Brigade in 2021 is the biggest Christian Youth Organisation in the UK & Republic of Ireland, the present numbers are 40,000 Children & Young People, 11,500 Volunteer Leaders and 1,200 Companies.         

More next time about my time as a boy in the Boys Brigade, Malcolm Gibbons.

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Veteran’s Breakfast Club Re-Starts!

 

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A message from King George

Our President John Elms has sent me this interesting item printed on stout card approx 7″ x 10″ and given to children at the end of WW2 8th June 1946. I believe there is an ongoing debate if it’s his or Anny’s!!

(Free space provided to enter your own family’s record)

Thank you John a fascinating keepsake!

 

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My Malta Part 2

My Malta Part 2

At the inception, the Association was fortunate to have as our President, Admiral of the Fleet, The Lord Lewin.  Sadly, the Lord Lewin died in January 1999.  The current President of the GCIA is Judge Dr.Joseph Galea Debono B.A., L.L.D.

One of the many important events The Lord Lewin attended as President of the GCIA was the inauguration on the 29th May 1992 of a 10 Ton Bronze Bell (known as the Siege Bell) which is situated overlooking Grand Harbour. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG.KT. Prince Philip was also present along with the then President of Malta, H.E. Doctor Tabone.  The Siege Bell is a memorial to the 7000 people who lost their lives in the WW II Siege of Malta and was the brainchild of a member of the Malta GC Branch of the GCIA, the late Mr Philip Pullicino. Listen to it here. https://youtu.be/8nlBNfO8ZAc

  • Funds were raised in Malta and UK by all the GCIA Branches. Both the Malta and UK Governments gave big contributions in cash and in kind.
  • The sculptor was Michael Sandle
  • The Bell was caste in the UK and its chimes are the same as the main bell of Cologne Cathedral. 
  • The cladding of the Siege Bell Monument is Gozo stone The idea to have a UK monument came from a GCIA member who felt that it would be fitting for a memorial to be erected in London as Valletta had its Memorial – the Siege Bell. On August 15th, 2005 the then President of Malta, Edward Fenech Adami, laid the first wreath at the foot of the newly-erected monument.
  • An organising committee was set up under the 
  • chairmanship of the Hon. Tim Lewin, son of the late Admiral Lord Lewin, who had been GCIA president when the Siege Bell had been erected in 1992.
  • From Mgarr Harbour by sea and by road from Sicily, a block of stone cut from a Gozo quarry is now standing in the grounds of All Hallows Church by the Tower of London. It stands some three metres high and on each of its four sides is a plaque setting out part of the story of the sacrifice of some 7,000 Maltese men and women and Commonwealth and Allied servicemen and women who lost their lives in defence of Malta.

Dr Fenech Adami had previously attended a service of thanksgiving to commemorate those who served and died during the Siege of Malta, along with over 500 invited guests from the Royal Navy, RAF, Army, Merchant Navy, representatives of the US Navy and other wartime allies.  The Malta G.C. branch was represented by four veterans: Lt. Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE (founder of the Malta branch of the GCIA), Major S.J.A. Clews MBE, Capt. A. Sant Cassia, and Mr. Walter Sullivan. 

After the service the congregation gathered outside around the monument and, on the arrival of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, who was at that time the George Cross Island Association Patron, President Fenech Adami made his dedication address recalling the bravery of the Maltese people and the Allied servicemen and women. Dr Fenech Adami led the wreath-laying ceremony and was followed by the Duke of Edinburgh, who laid a wreath on behalf of the UK armed forces. Wreaths were also laid by representatives of Commonwealth countries and the Allies. Lt Col Pace Bonello laid a wreath on behalf of the GCIA. Malta’s High Commissioner in London at that time and Mrs. Michael Refalo, and former High Commissioner George Bonello Du Puis were also present. More info here http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

Edward.

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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Joe hits Belize!

Hi Everyone  I hope this finds you all fit and well.

No real adventure for this one, but my thoughts went to a little known posting that most of the Infantry type battalions had to endure.  The place is Belize.  Where you may ask, it’s a small country on the bit of land that joins North and South America.  On the east is Belize its neighbour is Guatemala.

First thing about Belize – it is tropical, typical humidity is 98%, its Hot

Its western border is a dead straight line from north to south, its so straight that a helicopter can fly up it without touching the controls, or even look where you are flying.  I kid you not I was on a heli and watched the flight crew having a coffee and chat.

Guatemala does not recognise the country and their maps do not show it at all.  Which leads them to periodically flex their muscle and threaten to take over the country (hence the British Army being stationed there)

The army use it for their jungle warfare schooling.  Jungle fighting is probably the most frightening thing I have experienced, the realisation that all our training on targeting and shooting was completely useless in this environment, it was about reaction time, and fighting the jungle at the same time as any enemy you may encounter.  We used local natives to show us the ropes, nice people, but boy did these people know how to booby trap, I would not have liked to chase them through the jungle they were lethal, especially as they usually turned up with a knife and a few bits of string.

Generally the people are nice and welcoming, sharing food is always a good way of leaving friends, not enemies, behind you.

No posting is complete without mentioning the local booze.  The local beer was ok as long as it was cold, tried one once that was warm never did it again. The local spirit was called Number one barrel, which I believe was eventually found to be basically poison, probably after some air mechanics managed to get a helicopter off the ground after trying out as fuel.  So of course we drank gallons of the stuff with a splash of coke in it.

Not going to bore you to much, suffice to say we provided security, medical facilities and help to the population.  And had to put up with the humidity for 6 months at a time, I have never been so glad to get back to UK and the good old cold.

From Julian de Zille our Branch Parade Marshal

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Jennie comes to Deal

I first came to Deal in 1945 when ten months old. I can vaguely remember my mother holding me in her arms near to the water’s edge – thus started my love affair with Deal and the sea!

My parents came on holiday to Deal every August, it was a welcome break from our home in the suburbs of south west London, a place called Tooting Bec. My grandmother always liked to be away on her birthday, this being 13th August.

Our journey began at the Northern Line underground station of Tooting Bec. We then progressed to the main line station of Charing Cross, a journey of about twenty minutes. In those days all main line trains were powered by steam. The steam engines were very large merchant navy class, bottle green in colour. The carriages were red and cream. Most of the carriages had a side corridor, where compartments seating eight were entered through a sliding door. There were netting shelves above the seats to accommodate smaller luggage. The journey took two hours, passing through miles of Kentish hop fields, golden corn fields and orchards. On arrival at Deal we made our way to the guest house in Sondes Road. This would be our home for the next two weeks. Guest Houses then offered full board accommodation. The bedrooms had marble wash stands in each, the landlady would enter the room early in the morning bringing in two large jugs containing hot and cold water. An early morning cup of tea would also be brought to the bedroom if requested. The lavatory and bathroom were situated on the landing, to be shared by occupants of that particular floor. Most guest houses then had no on suite! A gong would be sounded to inform guests the breakfast, lunch or dinner was ready. The beach at Deal and shallow sea area,  just following the war were littered with wrecks and barbed wire.

The old pier had been cut in half due to a ship dragging anchor, thus colliding with it. To be continued…….

 

 

 

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The Boys’ Brigade 100 years not out!

 Malcolm Gibbons mentioned something dear to my heart in one of his musings recently – The Boys’ Brigade!  I joined the Boys’ Brigade or BB as it is often known as a young lad and have been involved ever since.

The Boys’ Brigade was formed in Glasgow in October 1883 and soon spread around the United Kingdom and to many places in the Commonwealth. My Company in Croydon was one of the very few in England that had a pipe band and we were very proud of that, great to march to church behind the band with skirl of the pipes – really wonderful!  In 1993 I was privileged to be chosen to go to NJew Zealand as part of the British contingent to the International Celebration Camp to be held in Mystery Creek near Hamilton, New Zealand.  So you can say I was truly up the creek!!!

Yet another one of my many collections is Boys’ Brigade badges and one of my proudest possessions is the International Camp badge which I really do treasure!  New Zealand is a truly wonderful country, wonderful people and scenery beyond compare, I really did enjoy the month over there, if I can find the details I might bore you all in a  future rambling!  You have been warned!  Blessings John L

What a lovely “warning” we look forward to it!

 

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Dover Patrol 25th July

This years ceremony at Leathercote Point was intended to celebrate the memorials 100th anniversary, due to Covid restrictions it was decided to hold a “normal” annual ceremony.

Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL was the reviewing officer, he also read Nelson’s Prayer. Mr James Rouse a trustee of the memorial read a moving tribute to the men of the Dover Patrol ships and said that in 2022 a full scale re-dedication of the memorial would be held.

The service was lead by Rev John Lines MBE Padre of Downs Branch Royal British Legion, Chairman Edward Barkway said the Exhortation. Town Mayors of Deal, Sandwich and Walmer attended, five Standards were paraded along with representatives of Deal Wrens and Royal Navy cadets from TS Lynx, sixteen wreaths were laid.

In his closing remarks Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports Admiral of   the Fleet Lord Boyce said the event was particularly poignant as his Father had served on Mine Sweepers in WW2,  he thanked the Downs Branch, in particular Vice Chairman Malcolm Gibbons, for organising the event, the Standard bearers, the Trustees and the band.

Music and bugler was supplied by The Snowdown Colliery Band.

Photo’s from Janet Barkway Many more at

 https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

And https://no7bcm.smugmug.com/Nicspics/Dover-Patrol-Memorial

 

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Local hero V C holder & Olympic Gold!

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, VCKBECBDSO

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, VC, KBE, CB, DSO (12 December 1888 – 28 April 1978) was a senior British Army officer and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, and the winner of an Olympic Games gold medal; he is the only person to achieve both distinctions.

Early Life:

Philip Neame was born on 12 December 1888 in Faversham in the County of Kent, the son of Kathleen Neame (née Stunt) and Frederick Neame (b. 1847). He received his education at Cheltenham College, and the British Army’s Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, Kent.

 Early Military Career:

On graduating from the Royal Military Academy, Neame received a commission as a second lieutenant into the Royal Engineers in July 1908. He was promoted to lieutenant in August 1910, whilst serving with the 15th Field Company.

 First World War:

The declaration of war in August 1914 found Neame with the 15th Field Company in the Gibraltar Garrison. The company joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front in October 1914.

During the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914, Neame experienced first-hand in the trenches the inferiority of the British issue hand-grenades compared to their German equivalent, and set about creating an alternative, the sappers improvising rudimentary but effective hand grenades made from empty jam tins filled with scrap metal, with the charge being created using guncotton, and a cord-fuse projecting from the end of the tin, requiring ignition by flame.

 Victoria Cross:

Neame was 26 years old when the following deed took place, for which he received the Victoria Cross: On 19 December 1914 at Neuve Chapelle, France, Lieutenant Neame, in the face of very heavy fire, engaged the Germans in a single-handed bombing attack, killing and wounding several of them. He was able to check the enemy advance for three-quarters of an hour and to rescue all the wounded whom it was possible to move.

During a minor night trench action on the Western Front in the Neuve Chapelle district five days before Christmas 1914, Neame was leading a party of sappers in action when he was requested by the commanding officer of a battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment to go forward and to strengthen the defences in a recently captured German trench. When he got there, he met another commissioned officer who informed him that the Germans were counterattacking with bombs, that his own bombers had all been wounded and that the bombs that were left would not go off. At this Neame went further up the trench to the contact point to talk to one of the surviving bombers there and discovered that the problem was that he wasn’t able use the bombs because there were no fuses left. Neame, knowing how to technically ignite the grenades without a fuse by holding a match-head on the end of the grenade’s fuse access point and striking a match box across it, commenced lighting and throwing grenades in this fashion into the German trenches at the two different directions where a German dawn counter-attack was materializing, holding it back whilst under continual return fire for forty-five minutes whilst the West Yorkshire Regiment evacuated its wounded behind him back towards the original British frontline trench.

Neame was promoted to the rank of captain in 1915, and was mentioned in despatches in February 1915, and again in January 1916. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in January 1916.

After a short period as a staff officer (GSO3) from October 1915, he was appointed brigade major of the 168th Brigade, 56th (London) Division, in February 1916, staffing this post through the Somme offensive in 1916, including the actions at Gommecourt on 1 July, and the Battle of Ginchy in September, until relinquishing it for another staff (GSO2) assignment in November 1916.

He was promoted to brevet major in the 1917 New Year honours list. He received further mentions in despatches in January and December 1917. In June 1918 he moved up to a senior staff post (GSO1) and ended the war in November 1918 with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.

 Inter-war Military Career & Olympian:

Medal Record
Men’s Shooting
Representing Great Britain
Olympic Games
  1924 Paris

Team Running Deer Double Shotss

Neame was honoured for his war service in France with the Legion d’honneur (Croix de Chevalier) in January 1919, and the Croix de guerre in July. He was also awarded the Belgian Croix de guerre. In June 1919 he was noted in the London Gazette as being amongst several names intended for the rank of brevet lieutenant-colonel, with the substantive rank of major. but the actual gazetting to brevet lieutenant-colonel did not appear until June 1922, and his substantive rank was finally promoted from captain to major in January 1925.

He was a member of Great Britain’s 1924 Olympic Running Deer team at Paris and is the only Victoria Cross recipient who has won an Olympic gold medal. The Running Deer competition was one of the shooting events at the games. It involved teams of four (firing single shots), where a moving target simulated the animal.

He was appointed Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade at Aldershot in January 1924 and then saw service in India with the Bengal Sappers and Miners from 1925 before attending the Imperial Defence College in 1930. In June 1932 Neame was promoted full colonel (skipping the substantive lieutenant-colonel rank) and became a General Staff Officer 1 in the Waziristan District in India. In 1933 he was badly mauled by a tigress whilst hunting in India. He was admitted to a hospital, Lady Minto Nursing Association, in Bareilly where he was nursed to health by Harriet Alberta Drew. He married the nurse, taking leave from India towards the end of 1933 whereupon he was on half pay without appointment until May 1934.

In July 1934 he was given temporary brigadier rank to take up an appointment as Brigadier General Staff with Eastern Command in India. In 1938 he was promoted to major-general and returned to England as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich in 1938. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in January 1939.

Second World War:

While Commandant at the Military College, Neame had been given to understand that should war be declared, he would be appointed as Chief of General Staff to the British Expeditionary Force’s putative C-in-C, John Dill. In the event, Lord Gort was appointed C-in-C, with Henry Pownall as CGS and Neame as his deputy responsible for operations and staff duties. Neame organised defences and planned for the campaign, but in February 1940 he was posted to Egypt to command the 4th Indian Infantry Division.

Middle East theatre:

In August 1940 he was made General Officer Commanding British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan in the acting rank of lieutenant-general where his responsibilities were mainly in the area of internal security (the local police forces being placed under his direction).

Defeat in North Africa:

In February 1941 Neame was appointed General Officer Commanding & Military Governor of Cyrenaica, which had been captured from the Italians by the British Empire’s rapid advance in the opening moves of the North Africa Campaign during Operation Compass. Whilst being responsible for a large area of ground, Neame’s command had been stripped of many of its battle-hardened units, which had been withdrawn towards Cairo either for re-fitting, or to take part in the Battle of Greece, and he was left with little air support from the constrained Royal Air Force units available in North Africa at this time.

The two primary formations under his command to guard Cyrenaica were the newly fielded 2nd Armoured Division, and 9th Australian Division. The 2nd Armoured Division had only recently arrived from the British Isles, was under-strength, lacking in training and equipment adapted for desert warfare conditions, and proved to be no match for what it was about to meet in the field in the form of Nazi Germany’s First Axis Offensive in North Africa, which was launched at the end of March 1941 by its newly arrived Afrika Korps, led by General Erwin Rommel. Australia’s 9th Division, while well led by Leslie Morshead, was not yet fully trained, and was suffering from a shortage of transport vehicles.

 First Axis Offensive in North Africa

Neame’s Headquarters lacked accurate intelligence information from its senior command echelon and had no warning about the nature or scale of the massed attack that it was about to be hit with, in a theatre scenario which was thought to be dormant at that time through Italian massed defeat and tactical acquiescence, and he was further hampered by an over-extended line of supply stretching back over many hundreds of miles to Alexandria and Cairo. With hesitant handling of his unprepared troop dispositions in response to a rapidly changing and unexpectedly threatening situation, as the Afrika Korps and Italian Army poured toward him at a terrific speed of advance and began on 24 March 1941 to attack his units’ outposts and appear suddenly amidst, and even far behind them in the lines of supply routes, and his command being limited in effective control by a Headquarters not sited in a battle station and remote from the action, Neame was over the next few days of fighting overwhelmed by Rommel. Faced with the apparent danger of the 2nd Armoured Division’s disintegration which he perceived from its chaotic radio-traffic as it struggled to cope with the rolling blows it was receiving, he ordered the forces under him to fall back eastward in an uncoordinated fashion to avoid being cut off and destroyed by the sudden advance of the enemy.

On 6 April 1941, while driving in a small convoy of vehicles to a newly established Headquarters, Neame and his travelling companions, Lieutenant-General Richard O’Connor (who had been rapidly dispatched to join Neame’s Headquarters by General Archibald Wavell who was alarmed at the apparent collapse of Neame’s forces) and Brigadier John Combe, were over-run and captured by a German advanced force led by Gerhard von Schwerin. Disaster was averted for most of the forces under Neame’s command through a rapid retreat by the 9th Australian Division into the coastal town of Tobruk, where it was joined by 3 Indian Motor Brigade, and surviving remnants of 2nd Armoured Division (most of which had been over-run and captured in the rout), in hastily organising a defensive perimeter, which would go on to withstand the Axis Forces’ subsequent extended siege.

 Prisoner of war in Italy:

Along with the almost 3000 men of the 2nd Armoured Division who had been captured in Rommel’s advance, Neame with generals O’Connor and Combe were transported across the Mediterranean Sea for incarceration in Italy, first being held as prize prisoners at the Villa Orsini near Sulmona, then at Castello di Vincigliata PG12 near Florence. Whilst at PG12 they took part in a number of escape attempts along with General Adrian Carton de Wiart (a fellow VC recipient), and Edward Todhunter.

After the successful escape of six men through a tunnel that Neame had designed in April 1943, including two New Zealander brigadiers James Hargest and Reginald Miles who disappeared in the direction of Switzerland, the Italian Army in reprisal sent Neame’s batman Gunner Pickford (Royal Horse Artillery) to another camp.

Following the Italian Armistice in September 1943, Neame was released from incarceration by the Italian Army, but faced a hazardous journey of several hundred miles through a semi-chaotic countryside, at that time still occupied by German forces, in areas at conflict with the Italians, to reach the safety of the joint British and American lines. Having hidden a manuscript which, he had been writing in captivity of his memoires (to be recovered after the war), Neame’s party, including Air Marshal Owen Boyd and General Richard O’Connor, made their way southwards with the help of friendly Italians along the route. Hiring a boat at Cattolica they sailed to the port of Termoli which by the time of their arrival on 20 December 1943 had fallen into the possession of the advancing Allied armies.

 Repatriation to England:

Arriving back in England on 25 December 1943, having travelled via Tunis (after interviews with Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Harold Alexander, and Winston Churchill), Neame found there was no job waiting for him in the Army, with his star in the descendent after the debacle of his capture in 1941, but he remained on the Active List until the end of the war in his substantive rank of major-general.

Post-war Military Career & Retirement:

In August 1945 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey in the local rank of lieutenant-general where he served until 1953. He also held the honorary posts of Colonel Commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers from February 1945 to 1955 and Colonel 131 (Airborne) Engineer Regiment from January 1948.

He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in June 1946 and made a knight of the charitable Order of St John in the same year. In January 1955 Neame was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent.

Personal life:

Neame married Harriet Drew (1906–1994) in 1934, the marriage producing four children: Gerald (b.1935), Veronica (b.1937), Nigel (b.1946), Philip (b.1946). His youngest child, also named Philip, served as commander of D Company, 2 Para, in 1982 during the Falklands War.

Neame died at Selling in Kent, on 28 April 1978 in his 90th year. His body was buried in the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin Church, in Selling.

His medals and awards are held by the Imperial War Museum in London.

 

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From our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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                           A Brief History of The Boys’ Brigade 1883 -1983                                              by Malcolm Gibbons Downs Vice Chairman

As to my last article about my visit to National Arboretum I mentioned that one of the other memorials that I visited was The Brigade Memorials. 

One of these was The Boy’s Brigade Organisation of which I said was founded by William Alexander Smith, who later became Sir William and was an officer in the Lanarkshire Rifles Volunteers, he born in Thurso, Scotland, in 1854. 

After the death of his Father, he then moved with his family to Glasgow, Smith was then commissioned into the part-time Lanarkshire Volunteer Rifles in Glasgow in 1877 and was then promoted to a Lieutenant and later rose to the rank of Major.     

At this time, he became a Sunday School teacher. It was a combination of the discipline of the Rifle Volunteers and the unruliness of boys in his Sunday School Class, who were bored, noisy and undisciplined, that led him to start the Boys’ Brigade on the 4th of October 1883 at the Free Church Mission Hall, Woodside. Glasgow.  He realised the need for an organisation based on Christian principles, together with the drill and discipline he learned during his time with Volunteer Rifles. He thought a programme combining gymnastics, games and discipline, together with hymns and prayers would appeal to the boys. Right from the beginning, the Object of the Boy’s Brigade was: 

“ The Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among Boy’s and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect, and all that tends towards a true Christian Manliness.”

Later the same year he adopted the Anchor Emblem we know so well today together with the motto: SURE and STEDFAST, from book of Hebrews Chapter 6 verse 19. 

In 1926 the red cross was added when the Boy’s Brigade merged with the Boy’s Life Brigade. The Boy’s Brigade had been formed in 1899.   

Dummy rifles had been used as part of the drill discipline of the BLB but these were phased out following the merger of the Brigades. Many Churches did not like the use of rifles, it was to war-like for a Christian organisation, especially after the slaughter of the Great War.

Although there had been some opposition, the Boy’s Brigade was an immediate success and spread quickly—first in Scotland, then the rest of Great Britain, and finally World Wide. By 1893, 26,000 boys had joined and in 1900, 40.000 and 3,000 staff had enrolled.   By the time of the Silver Jubilee was celebrated in 1908 there was a membership of 9,324 companies involving 58,000 boys and 6,000 staff. There have, of course been fluctuations in membership over the years, but the object has remained unaltered through the years  of its existence.

William Smith travelled the country to check that all companies were being run efficiently and true to the high standard set out by him. He supplied a guide and manual in 1887, nicknamed ‘THE LITTLE RED BOOK’.     

More about the Boy’s Brigade History next time.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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From our Branch President John Elms

John tells me he knew of Sgt Bench but never actually met him.

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My Malta!

As probably most of you know I am a member of the George Cross Island Association (GCIA) an organisation created to commemorate and celebrate the island’s second great siege 1940 – 1943, the first being that by the Turks in 1565. The GCIA was formed in 1987, I have unashamedly cribbed the information below from the associations web site, three of our Downs branch are also GCIA members. http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

The people of Malta suffered terrible conditions during the siege of Malta and their bravery was honoured by the award of the George Cross in April 1942 by King George VI. The Siege of Malta (1940 to 1943)

The bombing was almost non-stop; during the months 1st January 1942 to 24th July 1942 there was only ONE period of 24 hours without bombs falling. Malta endured 154 continuous day and night bombings.

The memories of this terrible time prompted a retired Navy man called Fred Plenty, to bring together comrades and friends so that they could share their experiences.  He enlisted the help of his one time Captain, Capt. E.A.S Bailey. Together, with a small group of others, they launched the George Cross Island Association in July 1987. The membership included both British and Maltese and quickly grew in numbers drawn from Navy, Army, Air Force, Merchant Navy, nursing and Civil Defence personnel.  Fred Plenty became a Life Vice President and Founder of the Association.  

The GCIA membership operates from several geographical branches (see our membership page for details), including the all important Malta Branch which was founded by Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE who is himself a veteran of the Siege of Malta.  We do however, all come together whenever possible at various events during the year.                                           

The Association hold a reunion in Malta every year to commemorate the award of the George Cross and to remember over 7,000 civilians and serving men who were killed during this bitter and prolonged siege.

To be continued.

Edward. 

 

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Some more of my Army experiences by Branch Parade Marshal Julian De Zille AKA Joe!

For this little missive I cast my mind back to 1978 (not entirely sure of the date) At the time my unit was posted to Somme Lines in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. This item occurred after the fireman’s strike.

Again, another arduous task was thrown at us, I was part of a detachment that had to go on a KAPE Tour (no I didn’t know what it was).  As in most cases in the Army it was an acronym for KEEP THE ARMY IN THE PUBLIC EYE.  As the name implied, we were to highlight the Army and our unit at Fete’s, Schools, Open days – you name it we went there for a mind boggling 6 weeks.  Where did we do it, you may ask, answer being anywhere in the South of England.  You can imagine the horror, a southern county regiment, posted in N Yorkshire being sent to southern England for a jolly.  As always, we put our shoulder to the grindstone and put a brave face on and got on with the task.

In those days, the only way from North to South was on the old A1, complete with truck stops every few miles, roundabouts and of course complete boredom.  It was Hot (and remained so for the entire trip).  We stopped every few miles for a cuppa and had to endure the inevitable questions from other patrons – like “my mates’ son, Jonny, joined last year, do you know him”.  I think that the first question like that was met with a dozen blank looks of horror, realising that what we had ahead was a lot of people that didn’t realise the size of the Army and would actually think like that. As it was hot, we had customised our land rovers by unhooking the canopy above the cab, just like a sunroof, we all had sunglasses on, and, in my case, we had Black Sabbath blaring out of a cassette radio in the cab (this was the age of cassettes, yes it was that long ago).  Luckily, we had all just about got the same taste in music, except one and I think he may have been put in our trailer.

Anyway, we managed – being accommodated in various drill halls around the southeast and visiting everyone that asked us, including some very interesting time in rush hour traffic, although we found that most drivers sort of backed of a bit when confronted by a 120MM WOMBAT (recoilless anti-tank gun) on the back of a Land Rover.  We also had a number of cancellations, which unfortunately meant that we had to spend a week in Horsham at the local swimming pool, and of course having the odd drink or 16, luckily none of us got arrested.

Eventually we had to get back to barracks, so back on the A1 we went.  All arrived safely and to my surprise whilst I had been away my brother had been posted into the Battalion and was the gate guard that let us into the barracks, so first night back party was assured, I could not possibly describe how drunk my brother and I were at the end of it.    Cheers Joe!

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Jennie & Malcolm take the train!

Malcolm and I had the privilege to stay in a remote cottage in the heart of the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors. At the bottom of the pretty garden ran the  North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway. Having seen a fairly recent series on television about the railway and its workings, this was a great opportunity to travel on it. This was Malcolm’s birthday treat from me!
The day dawned, at Pickering station we saw our train arrive, pulled by a magnificent living breathing locomotive, oh the smell and sound of a steam engine! Our journey was to take us through breath taking scenery to Whitby, famous for fish and chips. Our first station was Levisham, the village of Levisham being one and a half miles away. Next was Newtondale Halt, by request only. We then proceeded to climb to Goathland Summit, the highest point on the moor at 532 feet.  Then onto Goathland station, followed by Grosmont station, the last station before Whitby.
All the old stations on route through the moors, contained original artifices, being, milk churns waiting to be collected, as was done in the days of steam. Leather cases stacked up upon wooden hand barrows. Also the original style gas lamps and station name signs, not forgetting semaphore signalling. However there were no toilets… they were Lavatories!

 We then proceeded to our destination -Whitby, upon arrival, the air was heavy with aroma of fish and chips. Later in the day, we boarded the lovely old train, taking us back to Pickering. A good nostalgic day was enjoyed by us both.

 

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‘Looking after the past’

Fascinating recollections from our Padre Rev Jone Lines MBE

 The lock down as a result of Covid 19 has caused a great many problems for some folk/.  However I must say that I have found it reasonably passable as it has made me sort out some of my collections, much to Christine’s pleasure!  Going through all the boxes in my garage I found a box folder full of negatives and photographs which to be honest I had completely forgotten about.  What an wonderful hour, or maybe two, I spent looking through them all, so many memories were evoked!  I am not the best of photographers I readily admit, but the views encompass most of my married life and a bit before!

I never recall seeing a photograph of me when I was a young police officer at the Elephant and Castle back in the 1950’s, but I now have proof that I was there! I found a picture of yours truly in uniform talking to a couple of young ladies in Dutch costumes outside the Trocadero cinema in New Kent Road.  I seem to recall that they were advertising a film called something like ‘Operation Amsterdam’ I might add I was single at the time!

 Next out of the box were a number of photos of various means of transport that I have owned over the years, for instance a wonderful Bond three wheel minicar which got Christine and I around when we were courting!  She relates a tale of how we almost got run over by a coal lorry in West Norwood High Street one day.  I have to say that they were very low slung, but wonderful little machines.  I certainly have not seen one for many a year!  I have never seen one at old vehicle rallies either, I wonder if any still exist? Now there’s a collection to start!!!

Next batch were in colour were all about a certain young couple getting married in the Baptist Church in South Norwood on the 2nd September 1961!  I wonder who they were?  Funny to find colour views because our actual wedding album is all black and white.  We had a honeymoon overseas – yes we went to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight!  Christine thought she knew me fairly well, but she could not work out why the pictures I took of her were all in front of buses – well I had to follow my hobby!!

Then a number of views taken at Theological College where I was part of a group known as the gruesome threesome because we were always together.  Paul was an ex Royal Air Force officer and like me of older years; Stephen had been an inspector for Dunlop Rubber where they made the air sea rescue rafts, sadly although the youngest he died a few years ago. How important it is to keep an eye on the past, after all for me there is probably more of it than future!!!   Wake up I have finished!!  John Lines.                       

John tells me this was the actual bike he rode when serving with the police, he spotted it in a private sale and has refurbished it to the original! 

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Royal Engineer Recipient of the Victoria Cross by our  Youth Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex RE.

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Major General Clifford Coffin VC, CB, DSO & Bar

Major General Clifford Coffin VC CB DSO & Bar (10 February 1870 – 4 February 1959) was a British Army officer and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born in Blackheath, the son of Lieutenant General Sir Isaac Coffin, Clifford Coffin was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers. He served in the Second Boer War and was mentioned in dispatches.

Royal Engineers

Clifford Coffin was 47 years old, and a temporary brigadier general commanding the 25th Infantry Brigade during the First World War, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty”.

Coffin won his VC on the first day of the third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). The objective of the attack was to capitalise on the success of the assault on Messines (June 1917) and to capture the remainder of the ridge, as far north as Passchendaele. The battle began at 3.10 am on 31 July 1917. Coffin was commanding 25th Infantry Brigade, a reserve brigade, but when the advance to the west of the Ypres became bogged-down his brigade was ordered forward to Westnoek ridge to carry on the attack to the third objective (Red Line), when his brigade also became bogged -down, through the effects of the appalling weather and ferocious enemy opposition, he went forward and while under murderous fire allied his men. By the evening his presence ensured that his troops were ‘holding with tenacity’ which caused the German counterattacks to fail.

Coffin served as Commander-in-Chief, Ceylon and ADC to King George V. He later achieved the rank of major general and was Colonel Commandant Royal Engineers. During World War II he was the chairman of the executive council of the British Empire Service League and Temporary Major General with the 36th Ulster Division

He died in February 1959 and is buried at Holy Trinity Churchyard, Colemans Hatch, East Sussex. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, Kent. In 2012, his grave was renovated by the Victoria Cross Trust.

 Victoria Cross citation:  

[London Gazette, 14 September 1917], Westhoek, Belgium, 31 July 1917, Lieutenant Colonel (T/Brigadier General) Clifford Coffin DSO.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty (Westhoek, Flanders). When his command was held up in attack owing to heavy machine gun and rifle fire from front and right flank and was establishing itself in a forward shell hole line, he went forward and made an inspection of his front posts. Though under the heaviest fire from both machine guns and rifles, and in full view of the enemy, he showed an utter disregard of personal danger, walking quietly from shell hole to shell hole, giving advice generally, and cheering the men by his presence.

His very gallant conduct had the greatest effect on all ranks, and it was largely owing to his personal courage and example that the shell hole line was held in spite of the very heaviest fire. Throughout the day his calm courage and cheerfulness exercised the greatest influence over all with whom he came in contact, and it is generally agreed that Brigadier-General Coffin’s splendid example saved the situation, and had it not been for his action the line would certainly have been driven back.

Clifford Coffin was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 2nd of January 1918.

 Distinguished Service Order citation:

[ London Gazette, 1 January 1917], Created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Lieutenant-Colonel Clifford Coffin, Corps of Royal Engineers. For distinguished service in the field. 

 Distinguished Service Order citation to First Bar:

[London Gazette, 26 July 1918], For the award of a Bar to the Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Lieutenant-Colonel and Bt Colonel (T/Brigadier-General) Clifford Coffin VC DSO, Corps of Royal Engineers

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during a long period of active operations, when he handled his brigade with great skill, especially when covering the withdrawal of the remainder of the division. On one occasion he commanded for a time the infantry of the division with marked success, and his personal courage and example at all times inspired all ranks.

Stuart Gemmell.

 

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Part  Five of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire by Malcolm Gibbons our Vice Chairman

After leaving The Armed Forces Memorial I made my way back to the Remembrance centre gardens to meet up with Jennie again. 

As I approached the garden area, I notice some smaller memorials this was the Brigade Memorial Garden this was a project undertaken by members of The Brigade Association and is located next to the south wall of The Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness.

The first of these Memorials of which I recognised was dedicated to all youth organisations of which I new of these, the first of these was Dedicated to Members of The Church Lads’ & Church Girls Brigade’ who served their country in war and peace  

This organisation is often called CLCGB often referred to as “ THE BRIGADE “ it is the Anglican  Churches own uniformed  youth organisation : this welcomes children and young people of all faiths and none. The Organisation has a lot of history and for over 125 years The Brigade has fulfilling its object to extend the kingdom of Christ  among lads and girls.     

The next was The Boy’s Brigade Memorial Garden this was an organisation of which I was familiar with  and joined as young lad at age of 11years The Boy’s Brigade is a worldwide Christian, uniformed youth movement that was founded in Glasgow in 1883 by Sir William Alexander Smith. The stone was dedicated in 2008  as part of the Brigade’s 125th  Anniversary.   

William Alexander Smith, later Sir William, was an officer in the Lanarkshire Rifles Volunteers. He was born in Thurso, Scotland, in 1854 and, following his father’s death, he moved to Glasgow with his family. Smith was commissioned into the part-time Lanarkshire Volunteer Rifles in Glasgow in 1877 and then promoted to Lieutenant, he later rose to rank of Major.

At this time, he became a Sunday School teacher. It was a combination of the discipline of the Rifle Volunteers and the unruliness of boys in his Sunday School Class, who were bored, noisy and undisciplined, that led him to start the Boys’ Brigade on the 4th of October 1883 at the Free Church Mission Hall, Glasgow.  

I then meet with Jennie, and we briefly decided to have a look in the Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness, and I notice there was a wooded pillar with a group of standards placed around it, and one of these was a Burma Star Branch Standard and British Legion Branch Standard. We than phoned for our taxi to take us back the Station, this completed our visit and a great and memorable day at the National Arboretum, as hopefully will return soon as there lots take in and see. 

Next time more inforsmation and History on The Boy’s Brigade Organisation.

 

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THE MILITARY MEDAL by Our President John Elms

In the 1960’s whilst living in Holbeach, Lincolnshire one of our neighbours was a Mr John Thomas Ward who at the time worked on the railways. Mr Ward had a distinguished career during the Second World War whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. (The Regiment didn’t become ‘Royal’ until 10th December 1946)

4901964 Sgt. J. T. Ward was awarded a Commander in Chiefs Certificate for good work on 10th January 1942. Later the 2nd Battalion together with the 4th Battalion took part in the Normandy landings. Shortly afterwards on the night of 17th June 1944 Sgt. Ward was to take command of a fighting patrol and destroy an enemy machine and gun post near Galmanche. During the assault Sgt. Ward and his men came under machine gun and rifle fire from enemy positions. In spite of this he led the assault with great dash and determination. All his men were wounded by the time the post had been reached, yet he continued the assault single handed and personally killed all the Germans in the machine gun post which was his objective.

Sergeant Ward then tried to withdraw but found that he had been surrounded by enemy re-enforcements who had come to the help of the machine gun post. Having expended all his ammunition he then proceeded to attack with the bayonet and accounted for five further Germans before he succeeded in fighting his way out. On his way back he overtook one of his men who had been badly wounded, and although still under heavy fire he half carried the wounded man back to the Aid Post, a distance of over 300 yards. 

Throughout the whole action Sergeant Ward showed that his powers of leadership were a very high standard and his personal courage and bravery and determination were entirely responsible for the successful destruction of the enemy post.

Although he was awarded the Military Medal had an officer been present this action must have been close to consideration for a Victoria Cross.

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Joe get free pints in Liverpool

Hi Everyone

I hope this finds you all fit and well.

For this little missive I cast my mind back to 1977, yes, I can just about remember that far back.

At the time my unit was posted to Somme Lines in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. We were put on stand-by as the firemen’s union was threatening to go on strike.  So, we duly formed a plan and set about implementing getting our kit ready to move.  We found out that we were to be deployed into Liverpool city.  A joy to me as I am a lifelong supporter of Liverpool.  Each of the Battalion Companies were allocated an area within the city to which whey would be deployed, and they set about learning the ins and outs of roads within their areas.

The Signal Platoon was tasked with providing comms across the whole area.  Those that know will realise this is not an easy task to do on the hoof, comms in city area’s can, and usually is, patchy in the extreme.  So, our packing was for the best- and worst-case scenario.

We duly got the order to move.  The advance party left on time and started to move over the Pennines on route, when we were called back as the firemen had postponed the strike, so we turned ourselves around in the snowstorm we were in and returned to our base.

Followed a week later by the same thing, as the strike was re-established.  My platoon had been told that we would be fitting all green goddesses with Motorola radio sets prior to everyone moving into the city, so we would be going into Southport first to achieve this.  Upon arrival we were greeted by a pile of boxes and various tools to enable us to get the conversion, followed by 48 hours of back breaking work of getting the sets installed.  In vehicles that had never been designed to hold them, and to do so by end of day Sun (we arrived on the Friday), for deployment into the city over night, ready to assume control on the Mon morning.

I was deployed to Lime Street Police centre which is in the city centre and where the main control room was set up.  Combined with Police Officers and Fire Officers, and then proceeded to run a fire service for the population of Liverpool.

Our accommodation was an old store cupboard, emptied and 4 camp beds in it, we had to hot bed for the whole deployment, our companies were housed in the police car garages (the bobbies took great delight in waking everyone by pushing a police bike in and turning on all their syrens)

This became one of the best deployments I was ever involved with.  The population of Liverpool were outstanding, I do not think I paid for a pint the whole time of the deployment, everywhere we went we were given free entry, I even attended Bar BQ’s held by striking firemen and of course night club trips with the local bobbies.

A good indication on how varied the life was in the UK military.

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Picture from 2019, Jennie front row to left of conductor.

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Magnetism or not!?

As I write this I have just spent a most enjoyable morning in the sunshine going through the treasure trove that is my garage!  I think I must be the original human magnet in that bolts, nuts, screws washers and the like seem to love attaching themselves to me!!  I realise that I literally have all manner of little boxes and tins that contain some of my alleged treasurers, in other words things I might need but in honesty probably never will!!!

Most of my old buses and motorcycles that I have enjoyed over the years use Whitworth thread nuts and bolts, incidentally they are becoming rather hard to find these days.  So allied to my vast collections of bolts, nuts, screws, washers and the like is yet another sets of rather larger boxes normally known as tool boxes.  What is in them you might be thinking?  Spanners by the dozens if not scores!  Yes I certainly could open an iron monger’s shop with all that I seem to have gathered! Allied to that, of course, are screwdrivers and they are a multitude as well because of the different screw heads that are in general use around us these days!  Add to that chisels, hammers, pliers, saws and various sorts of wrenches and I hope that you will see what my beloved Christine has had to put up with for almost sixty years of wedded bliss! (September this year is the BIG date!)

There is, however, an advantage to my magnetism in that I very rarely have to purchase any bolts, nuts, screws washers and the like because I usually can find what I need amongst my collection of  bags, boxes and tins.  It is a standing joke with some of my fellow bus enthusiasts that if you want a nut and bolt John will have it!  Why you may be thinking?  Well knowing that Whitworth threaded bolts and nuts were on their way out every time I took one of the buses I want and purchased half a dozen or so to replace it!  Everyone reckons that I ordered them by the gross, maybe they are right!

One of the BIG problems that seem to be looming in my life is that a great many things that break or need maintenance don’t use Whitworth thread, rather being this new fangled ( well at least to me)  metric!  I claim to be a proud Englishman and I am certainly sticking to my Whitworth bolts, nuts, screws and washers as long as I can!  Having said that, and knowing my luck, I shall end up in a coffin with metric fastening – ugh what a horrible thought!!!

Blessings to you all,  John Lines.   https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross By our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmel.

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George Hawker, VC, DSO (30 December 1890 – 23 November 1916) was a British flying ace of the First World War. Having seven credited victories, he was the third pilot to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry awarded to British and Commonwealth servicemen. He was killed in a dogfight with the famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”), who described him as “the British Boelcke”.

Early Life:

Hawker was born on 30 December 1890 at Longparish, Hampshire, England, to Lieutenant Henry Colley Hawker, R.N., and Julia Gordon Lanoe Hawker, daughter of Major Peter William Lanoe Hawker, of the 74th Highlanders and sister of the author Mary Elizabeth Hawker (“Lanoe Falconer”). His parents were distant cousins; Hawker’s father was of a cadet branch of the family resident in Australia since his own father, George Charles Hawker (son of Royal Navy Admiral Edward Hawker), emigrated in 1839, being elected Speaker of the House of Assembly, South Australia in 1860. The Hawker family had a military tradition, with army commissions being held in each generation since the time of Elizabeth I. Lanoe was sent to Stubbington House School and at the age of 11 to the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, but although highly intelligent and an enthusiastic sportsman, he suffered from a weak constitution, which led to jaundice. With the strenuous nature of a naval career unsuitable, he entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich before joining the Royal Engineers as an officer cadet. A clever inventor, Hawker developed a keen interest in all mechanical and engineering developments. During the summer of 1910 he saw a film featuring the Wright Flyer and after attending an aircraft flying display at Bournemouth, he quickly found an interest in aviation, learning to fly at his own expense at Hendon. On 4 March 1913, Hawker was awarded Aviator’s Certificate No. 435 by the Royal Aero Club. Promoted to 1st Lieutenant in October 1913 he was posted to Cork Harbour with the 33rd Fortress Company. His request for attachment to the Royal Flying Corps was granted and he reported to the Central Flying School at Upavon on 1 August 1914, three days before Britain entered World War I.

 With the Royal Flying Corps:

Hawker was posted to France in October 1914, as a captain with No. 6 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, flying Henri Farmans. The squadron converted to the B.E.2c and he undertook numerous reconnaissance missions into 1915, being wounded once by ground fire. On 22 April he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for attacking a German zeppelin shed at Gontrode by dropping hand grenades at low level (below 200 ft) from his B.E.2c. He used a tethered German balloon to help shield him from enemy ground fire as he made successive attacks. During the Second Battle of Ypres, Hawker was wounded in the foot by ground fire. For the remainder of the battle he had to be carried to and from his aircraft, but refused to be grounded until the fight was over

Returning to 6 Squadron after hospitalisation, the squadron now received several single-seat scouts, and some early F.E.2 ‘pushers’. One aircraft received was a Bristol Scout C, with RFC s/n 1609 that Hawker, with assistance from Air Mechanic Ernest Elton (who later became an Ace Pilot himself), equipped with their design of Lewis gun mount, enabling the machine gun to fire forward obliquely at an acute horizontal angle to the axis of flight, missing the propeller arc.

While with No 6 squadron in 1915, Captain Hawker was a comrade of Captain Louis Strange. The Squadron became pioneers of many aspects in military aviation at the time, driven largely by the imagination of Strange and the engineering talents of Hawker. Their talents led to various mountings for Lewis machine guns, one of which won Hawker the Victoria Cross, and one that nearly cost Strange his life. Hawker’s innovative ideas at this time greatly benefited the fledgling RFC. He helped to invent the Prideaux disintegrating link machine-gun belt feed and initiated the practice of putting fabric protective coverings on the tips of wooden propellers, the use of fur-lined thigh boots, and devising a primitive ‘rocking fuselage’ for target practice on the ground. In 1916 he also developed (with W.L. French) the increased capacity 97-round ‘double drum’ for the Lewis machine gun. It was issued for trials in July and after modifications was issued generally to the RFC and RNAS.

Victoria Cross:

Following an initial air victory in June, on 25 July 1915 when on patrol over Passchendaele, Captain Hawker attacked three German aircraft in succession, flying a different Bristol Scout C, serial No. 1611, after his earlier No. 1609 had been written off, transplanting the custom Lewis gun mount onto No. 1611. The first aerial victory for Hawker that day occurred after he had emptied a complete drum of bullets from his aircraft’s single Lewis machine gun into it, sending it spinning down. The second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third – an Albatros C.I of FFA 3 – which he attacked at a height of about 10,000 feet, burst into flames and crashed. (Pilot Oberleutnant Uebelacker and observer Hauptmann Roser were both killed.) For this feat he was awarded the Victoria Cross, as the third military pilot (and the first fighter pilot) to receive the VC following William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse‘s pioneering award for bravery during a bombing raid, and Reginald Warneford‘s award for an anti-Zeppelin attack on an airborne Deutsches Heer airship, using aerial bombing to bring it down. This particular sortie was just one of the many which Captain Hawker undertook during almost a year of constant operational flying and fighting. He claimed at least three more victories in August 1915, either in the Scout or flying an F.E.2.  Hawker was posted back to England in late 1915, with some seven victory claims (including one captured, three destroyed, one ‘out of control’ and one ‘forced to land’) making him the first British flying ace, and a figure of considerable fame within the ranks of the RFC.

It has since been argued that shooting down three aircraft in one mission was a feat repeated several times by later pilots, and whether Hawker deserved his Victoria Cross has been questioned. However, in the context of the air war of mid-1915 it was unusual to shoot down even one aircraft, and the VC was awarded on the basis that all the enemy planes were armed with machine guns. More significantly, by the early summer of 1915, the German Feldflieger Abteilung two-seater observation units of the future Luftstreitkräfte, had by this time, received examples of the Fokker Eindecker monoplane, with one Eindecker going to each unit, with a fixed, forward-firing machine gun fitted with a “synchronization gear” that prevented the bullets from striking the propeller. The first claim using this arrangement, though unconfirmed by the German Army, was by Leutnant Kurt Wintgens on 1 July 1915, some 225 miles (362 km) over Lunéville distant from where Hawker had his three-victory success nearly a month later. Therefore, the German pilots like Wintgens and Leutnant Otto Parschau, another pioneering Eindecker pilot, could employ the simple combat tactic of aiming the whole aircraft, and presenting a small target to the enemy while approaching from any angle, preferably from a blind spot where the enemy observer could not return fire.  Hawker flew before Britain had any workable synchroniser gear, so his Bristol Scout had its machine gun mounted on the left side of the cockpit, firing forwards and sideways at a 45-degree angle to avoid the propeller. The only direction from which he could attack an enemy was from its right rear quarter – precisely in a direction from which it was easy for the observer to fire at him. Thus, in each of the three attacks, Hawker was directly exposed to the fire of an enemy machine gun.

Death:

On 23 November 1916, while flying an Airco DH.2 (Serial No. 5964), Hawker left Bertangles Aerodrome at 1300 hours as part of ‘A’ Flight, led by Captain (later Air Vice Marshal) J. O. Andrews and including Lieutenant (later Air Marshal) R.H.M.S Saundby. Andrews led the flight in an attack on two German aircraft over Achiet. Spotting a larger flight of German aircraft above, Andrews was about to break off the attack, but spotted Hawker diving to attack. Andrews and Saundby followed him to back him up in his fight; Andrews drove off one of the Germans attacking Hawker, then took bullets in his engine and glided out of the fight under Saundby’s covering fire. Losing contact with the other DH.2s, Hawker began a lengthy dogfight with an Albatros D.II flown by Leutnant Manfred von Richthofen of Jasta 2. The Albatros was faster than the DH.2, more powerful and, with a pair of lMG 08 machine guns, more heavily armed. Richthofen fired 900 rounds during the running battle. Running low on fuel, Hawker eventually broke away from the combat and attempted to return to Allied lines. The Red Baron’s guns jammed 50 yards from the lines, but a bullet from his last burst struck Hawker in the back of his head, killing him instantly. His plane spun from 1,000 ft (300 m) and crashed 200 metres (220 yards) east of Luisenhof Farm, just south of Bapaume on the Flers Road, becoming the German ace‘s 11th victim. German Grenadiers reported burying Hawker 250 yards (230 metres) east of Luisenhof Farm along the roadside. Richthofen claimed Hawker’s Lewis gun from the wreck as a trophy and hung it above the door of his quarters. Major Lanoe George Hawker is listed on the Arras Flying Services Memorial for airmen lost with no known grave.

Legacy:

Hawker’s original Victoria Cross was lost when the Hawker family belongings were left behind after the fall of France in 1940. On their return after the Second World War, they found that their possessions, including the VC, had been stolen. A replacement was issued to Hawker’s brother on 3 February 1960 and is now held by the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon. Hawker was a first cousin of Arthur Bagot, a naval officer in the First World War and Albert Medal recipient.

A window (designed by Francis Skeat) commemorating Hawker was installed in St. Nicholas church, Longparish in 1967. The design features St. Michael above an airfield with two pilots in the foreground. There is a copy of the window at the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop. Hawker was portrayed by Corin Redgrave in the 1971 film Von Richthofen and Brown. In the 2008 film The Red Baron, he was played by Richard Krajčo.

 

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Part  Four of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire by Malcolm Gibbons our Vice Chairman 

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After our visit to the Far East zone and our booked lunch date in the Remembrance Centre Restaurant, due to social distancing this had be booked at the reception desk when we first arrived.  

After a very excellent lunch I then decided to make my own way round to see some of the other zones from a mini guide that had obtain from the reception desk, so left Jennie rest her feet and look round the Remembrance centre gardens and other smaller memorials in the garden area.  

I then made my way to The Beat Zone area, which consisted of The Military Police Association Memorial, Special Constabulary Memorial and the Long Police Memorial garden with lines of plain trees either side of the avenue and at end of avenue a Large Blue Police Lamp on a large high column, of which was illuminated.

 

Alongside the Memorials dedicated to the police, some of these contained Memorials for the campaigns fought in the Mediterranean area during World War Two, as well as the Garden of Innocents and the War Widows’ Rose Garden.       

Other Memorials in this Zone  included The Polish Armed Forces Memorial, a very dramatic and moving Memorial, depicting their sacrifice their Armed Forces and people of their Country had made in the WW Two. 

Other important Memorials in this Zone that was of interest personally to me was The  Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Memorial, as my late Father Sidney was attached to the City of London Regiment of Fusiliers and based for a short time at The Tower of London during the early part of WW Two.

He was also attached to The Royal Engineers when he went out to the India and Burma campaign in late 1944, I also visited that Memorial as I also thought of our Branch Youth Liaison office Stuart Gemmell as know he was attached to The Royal Engineers.   

On my back from the Beat Zone and The Polish Memorial and route to the Remembrance Centre, I decided to visit the Armed Forces Memorial which you  approach by a number of steps as this is mounted at a high level, as the area is surrounded by large stone tablets covered with hundreds of names with varours Naval Officers and Ratings as well as RAF Squadrons and Regiments and names of battles honours, as well huge statues depicting the sacrifices made by Men and Women of our Armed Forces. 

This was a truly moving experience for me even to reading some the names on stone tablets, not enough time to taken to take it all in, so I must go back and visit at some time in the future as many more Memorials are still being being added and his a very peaceful and tranquil place.                            

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A fascinating piece of Military History from President John Elms.

9th February 1958 C Coy Guard of Honour Royal Lincolns & Royal Marine Bands.

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Our Joe & his Army fight the Covid!

Hi Everyone

I hope this finds you all fit and well.

I have been asked to do a quick letter to you all and keep the old brain cells working. 

Originally, I was going to write something regarding my Military career, on reflection, whilst I do have stories to tell, they would not mean much to anyone.  As you would have had to be there to appreciate it, coupled with my warped sense of humour, so decided not to.

Instead, I am going to give a brief run down on what I have been doing in the fight against the VIRUS.  As most of you know already, I am an NHS worker, and work in local hospitals, at the outset I was at the QVMH in Herne Bay, and just recently changed bases, so I now work in Deal Hospital.

I have been working around COVID patients since end of Mar 2020, and I am still doing it to date.  I can honestly say that the response from all my colleagues has been, and continues to be, of the highest order.  Everyone I have been in contact with has definitely been giving 100% throughout this period.  Thankfully we have not seen many deaths, which I believe is down to the care that patients have received.

They have all been under great strain, as even the simplest of jobs has escalated into a major undertaking.  Especially with having to change PPE after every patient, which does not sound much until you realise that every patient has their meals delivered to the bedside.   This means that simple task now has 8 PPE changes in it.  The staff I work with meet this type of challenge with – you guessed it humour and a willingness to get the job done.  They are fighting as well as anyone can expect.  They also have families, and relatives that have gone down with COVID, yet they turn up for every shift and carry on, I can’t possibly commend their actions enough.

Having said all that, I still hope that I do not see any of you on our wards, but if I do, you will be in the safest hands I know of

Stay safe everyone, there is a light at the end of the tunnel (not someone with a torch bringing more work).  I hope to see you all soon.

From Joe De Zille our Branch Treasurer

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Amazing Now & Then WW2 Pictures!

Click the link for amazing “Now & Then” photo’s with thanks to Bob Davies for sending the link to me.

http://interactive.guim.co.uk/embed/2014/apr/image-opacity-slider-master/index.html?ww2-dday

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Normandy Memorial Background

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D Day Veteran George Batts was an 18 year old Sapper when he landed on Gold Beach on the morning of D Day itself. Tasked with clearing mines and booby traps he survived the horrors of the beaches while many of his friends and comrades tragically died.

George who eventually became the National Secretary of the Normandy Veterans Association has long held an ambition that a defining monument should be built on a single site in France to commemorate the men and women of the British Armed forces and civilian services who lost their lives in the Normandy Campaign.

The Normandy Memorial Trust, harnessing George’s remarkable tenacity and long held passion, has secured a commitment from the UK Government to construct a powerful and inspiring statement which will endure in Normandy to honour the fallen.

Distinguished architect Liam O’Connor was commissioned to design a fitting national tribute where those who lost their lives will have their names inscribed as a permanent reminder of their sacrifice and bravery during the Normandy Campaign of 1944.

This world-class memorial will be the culmination of much commitment and determination to create a monument to our British servicemen and women and those from the civilian services who lost their lives
in Normandy. They will always be remembered.

Two & half years ago on  6 June 2019, the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Memorial site at Ver-sur-Mer was officially inaugurated with the unveiling of the D-Day Sculpture & laying of the Foundation Stone. Then Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and Normandy Veterans were in attendance.

The British government is not providing any funding for the maintenance of this important national Memorial. Therefore, to coincide with the 76th anniversary, the Trust has launched the Normandy Memorial Guardian programme to give an opportunity to generous supporters to safeguard the Memorial and ensure its continued wellbeing for future generations.

Since then, significant construction work has taken place on the site. Following a two-month pause due to the coronavirus crisis, construction of the Memorial has resumed thanks to the introduction of new working practices by principal contractors Eiffage and the large, open nature of the site. The health and safety of those working on the British Normandy Memorial has been and remains the Trust’s top priority.

Significant progress has also been made on the erection of the stonework. The East Pergola was completed in early March and master stonemasons, S. McConnell & Sons, have almost completed installing the stone columns of the West Pergola. The French Memorial, which recognises the sacrifice of the civilian population in Normandy, has seen its foundations installed and the first courses of stone laid.

 The British Normandy Memorial is currently closed to all visitors. The  Trust is working towards the British Normandy Memorial being fully open to the public in the spring and for an  official opening to take place on 6 June 2021. However, at this stage, given all the uncertainties caused by the pandemic, it is clearly impossible to say precisely what will be possible.

The Trust continues to be closely in touch with the British and French authorities and we will update supporters with information once the situation becomes clearer.

Edward Barkway

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Called Up..Sent Down!

During the last World War, it was suddenly realised that hundreds of coal miners were being called up for the armed forces. Making coal production very low. The then Minister of Labour and National Service in the War Time Coalition Government, Ernest Bevin, devised what he thought to be a fair way of selection. He chose a certain digit, if that said digit appeared as the last on a young mans national insurance number, he would then be “called up – sent down” The lads consisted of those who could barely read or write, to solicitors, managerial even church men.
One such was my late uncle, Patrick Horgan, soon began the long journey from London to Newcastle upon Tyne, traveling north on the Flying Scotsman which did anything but fly due to war time restrictions. He stayed with Mr & Mrs Kersopp and their two sons, being a mining family, living at a place called Cowgate, just a few miles from Newcastle itself. 
The first day the London lads were taken down North Fenham Pit in a small lift called the “cage”.  It descended at a breakneck speed which frightened the life out of them. During the observation they came across a whitewashed wall, the superintendent told them there had been a cave in, and could not get the bodies out, so was bricked in! Not good for the lads first time down a coal mine.
Work started, they wheeled their pick axes, the superintendent commented “come on London lads, we’ll hardly get a bucket of coal out of you at this rate!” Then came their well earned food break “snaps” it was called. Patrick during this time would, with his handkerchief very carefully wipe the eyes of the pit ponies, removing coal dust that had accumulated there.
The long shift having now finished, home they went, just as they were in all their grime, there being no bathing facilities in the old pit. Mrs Kersopp had a lovely meal waiting for them, they sat down to eat as they were, dipping coal dusted fingers into the salt cellar and creating a “tide mark” round their mouths whilst ravenously eating!
Following the meal, a tin bath was filled in front of the fire, they bathed one by one. Some relaxation followed, a good nights sleep to be ready for the next long day.
Sadly, many years after the war Patrick passed away at the age of 67. He did not receive his medal in recognition for his war effort, neither visited the memorial at the National Arboretum.

By Jennie Gibbon

Click the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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‘Upside down or not!?’ by our Branch Padre Rev John Lines MBE

I have a feeling that like a great many people I was a very keen all over the world stamp collector in my school years.  I must admit that I really enjoyed looking through the various countries offerings as I posted them into my albums.  One thing I realised early on was that I was very unlikely to actually see in person many of the vistas I was looking at on the stamps!

One country whose stamps I really did enjoy was New Zealand, such wonderful vistas and exotic sounding places, which I would never actually see!  How wrong I was?!  At this point I should mention that I had been involved with an organisation called The Boys’ Brigade all my life, the pioneer Christian uniformed youth organisation for Boys’. The BB was formed in Glasgow in 1883 and was going to celebrate its Centenary in 1983 with an International Camp in guess where?  Yes it was to be in New Zealand! I was privileged to be one of the officers invited to go as part of the British contingent which was something I certainly was not going to miss if I could arrange all the funding needed!

We all gathered at the Boys’ Brigade National Training Centre at Felden Lodge in Hertfordshire on Boxing Day 1982 and flew by British Airways to New Zealand. Via India and two stops in Australia, a most exciting but tiring journey.  I was billeted with a New Zealand Boys’ Brigade officer and his family at a place called Papakura on North Island, just outside of Auckland.  We spent a few days with them and then moved onto the camp at a place called Mystery Creek near Hamilton, so I could honestly say I was up the creek!

During the camp, which was attended by Boys’ and officers from most of the countries where the BB existed, we were placed in tents with members of various countries, a lot of swapping of badges and other artefacts took place.  Coaches were arranged and we visited a great many places of interest around the North Island. All too soon the week at camp was over, but arrangements had been made for us to have a further time in the country before our flights home.  

I chose to stop on North Island and spent a very happy time, firstly in a place called Napier, followed by some time in Newlands on the outskirts of Wellington.  One of the highlights for me, not sure about the congregation, was leading worship in the Maori Church at Lake Rotorua which had a wonderful glass window behind the communion table looking out onto Lake Rotorua .  Etched into the glass was a depiction of Jesus wearing a Maori chief’s cape – really mind blowing!  All too soon I had to come back to the United Kingdom, but so many memories of that trip of a lifetime are in my mind.  Maybe if the Chair will indulge me I will write about them another time!  You have been warned!!

John Lines.  

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

By Our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex RE.

Claud Raymond VC  (22 October 1923 – 22 March 1945) Born in Mottistone, Isle of Wight 22 October 1923. He was a son of an Indian Army officer, Lieutenant Colonel M Raymond, CIE MC. He was educated at Wellington College and Trinity Hall, Cambridge and commissioned into the Corps in May 1943. After arriving in the Far East, he joined a unit called D Force whose business was deception, which called upon his talents for ‘more ingenuity than efficiency’

Victoria Cross citation: In Burma on the afternoon of 21 March 1945, Lieutenant Raymond was second-incharge of a small patrol, which was acting in conjunction with a larger detachment of a special force, whose objective was to obtain information and create a diversion in the area of Taungup, by attacking and destroying isolated enemy posts some 40 miles in advance of an Indian Infantry Brigade, pushing down the road from Letpan to Taungup.
The patrol was landed on the south bank of the Thinganet Chaung, an area known to be held by numerous enemy strong-posts and gun positions, and marched about five miles inland. As they were nearing the village of Talaku and moving across an open stretch of ground, they were heavily fired on from the slopes of a jungle covered hill by a strongly entrenched enemy detachment.
Lieutenant Raymond immediately charged in the direction of the fire. As he began to climb the hill he was wounded in the right shoulder, but he ignored this wound and continued up the slope firing his rifle from the hip. He had advanced only a few yards further, when a Japanese threw a grenade which burst in his face and most severely wounded him. He fell, but almost immediately picked himself up again, and, in spite of loss of blood from his wounds, which later were to prove fatal, he still continued on, leading his section under intense_ fire. He was hit yet a third time, his wrist being shattered by what appeared to have been ail explosive bullet. In spite of this third wound he never wavered, but carried on into the enemy position itself, and, in the sharp action that followed, was largely responsible for the killing of two Japanese and the wounding of a third.
The remaining Japanese then fled in panic into the jungle, thus leaving the position in our hands, together with much equipment. The position itself was strongly fortified by foxholes and small bunkers and would have proved extremely formidable had not the attack been pressed home with great determination under the courageous leadership of Lieutenant Raymond.
Several other men were wounded during the action and Lieutenant Raymond refused all treatment until they had been attended to, insisting despite the gravity of his injuries, on walking back towards the landing craft in case the delay in treating his wounds should endanger the withdrawal of the patrol.
It was not until he had walked nearly a mile that he collapsed and had to allow himself to be carried on an improvised stretcher. Even then he was continually encouraging the other wounded by giving the thumbs up sign and thus undoubtedly helping them to keep cheerful and minimise the extent of their injuries until the landing craft was reached. Soon after he died of his wounds.
The outstanding gallantry, remarkable endurance and fortitude of Lieutenant Raymond, which refused to allow him to collapse, although mortally wounded, was an inspiration to everyone and a major factor in the capture of the strong point. His self-sacrifice in refusing attention to his wounds undoubtedly saved the patrol, by allowing it to withdraw in time before the Japanese could bring up fresh forces from neighbouring positions for a counterattack.
(London Gazette: 28 June 1945)

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent.

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Part three of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire

As to my last article where I mentioned about the other six zones, one of these being the Far East Zone, which was the next area we made for. This consisted of the Burma Star Memorial, Gurkha Memorial, and Changi Lych Gate Memorial, also interested to note that many of the trees planted in the area are native to the Far East and were chosen to reflect the stories told by the Memorials.

Also in the Far East Zone is The Burma Railway Memorial, Chindit Memorial, The Japanese Prison Ships Memorial Garden, Sumatra Railway Memorial and the Suez Veterans Memorial.

2020 being a poignant year for the Burma Star Association being VJ Day 75th Anniversary commemorating the ending of the Japanese war in the Far East and the final ending of the 2nd World War, we thought it important that we should lay a Wreath on behalf of the Dover & Deal Branch Burma Star Members and Friends.

There were a number of Wreaths that were still laid around the Memorial from the 15th August VJ Day that BBC covered and RBL organised this important day,  H R H The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall took part in the commemoration for this important Day in the history of the Burma campaign in very difficult circumstances. The Chairman of the Burma Star Association and the Trustees with Committee Members and Veterans laid wreaths.

We also paid a visited The Burma Railway Memorial, Chindit Memorial and the Gurkha Memorial, we notice that H R H the Prince of Wales wreath with others were still present as well as other photo mementos and messages of some of the Veterans that worked on the Railway, ( Quiet Moving to read). By this time, it was now ready for our booked lunch date in the Restaurant in the Remembrance Centre.

More information on our visit and Photographs, and more details regarding the other Zones next time.

Photo’s from Malcolm & Jennie Gibbons

Visit our Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/?view_public_for=553666901369172

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Our President John Elms first flight

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MEDWAY QUEEN

In 1984 the Medway Queen was brought back from the Isle of Wight to the Medway area by a group of local businessmen, headed by Jim Ashton, who intended to restore her. They planned to berth her in the Dockyard at Chatham, recently vacated by the Royal Navy. The ship came amidst much pomp and glory; the Mayor was on board for the last few miles of her journey up river; the press wrote joyously that she had “come home”. Great! We all though, the lovely old ship will be restored. A year later she lay in the river, off the Dockyard wall, buffeted by tides and the wash of passing vessels, almost completely submerged at high water, weeds grew on her decks and fish swam through her lower saloons. A sad sight indeed. Her owners had gone quiet, nobody knew what her fate might be.
It was Marshall Vine who started the whole thing off. He was seeking people who might be interested in trying to save the ship which lay on the mud not far away at St Mary’s Wharf. Soon informal meetings with many other interested people took place, including Bob Barnes who has remained Treasurer of the MQPS since those early days. Our first meetings were held in the Victorian Brook Pumping Station in Chatham.  We talked about various ways we could publicise the project. It was suggested that we approach the manager of the popular shopping complex at Hempstead Valley on the outer reaches of Gillingham, with a view to having a small display stand there and asking interested parties to attend a public meeting and join our efforts to save the Medway Queen.

The first task for the new project was to see the general manager at Hempstead Valley, the late Dick Allard, he was most helpful and remained a supporter for many years afterwards. Help and support from local businessmen like Dick Allard was a very important factor in those early days. Mike Peevers produced a few very large photographs of the ship and we borrowed some display boards. Over the years we became experts at borrowing! The centre stayed open late in the evening’s so a team of volunteers was organised to cover that. We had met with the then owners of the ship and agreed to form a Society to save her and we were confident that the local people would support our aims. A public meeting was held on 13th June 1985 at the Corn Exchange in Rochester. Our first few members enrolled that evening. The local press covered the event and we felt greatly encouraged.

Before long work parties had been established to start clearing the ship of the tons of accumulated silt. Every weekend our volunteers came from far and wide to shovel mud or scrape off weed, rust and old paint. We also needed to publicise our Society, apply for Charity status, sell souvenirs to raise funds, find a safe berth for the ship and generally seek professional advice on all aspects of caring for an old ship. the project gathered momentum and membership grew. The story was told in papers and journals all over Britain and indeed all over the world. It was all very exciting and became a steep learning curve. Most of us knew little about old ships nor about running a public campaign, we felt the eyes of ship lovers everywhere upon our efforts. We could not afford to fail!!.

We lobbied councils and MPs, contacted celebrities and other societies. Gave countless talks and slide shows, took the sales stand all over the South East and beyond, participated in very many radio and TV programmes, drove countless miles and ran up enormous phone bills, in retrospect we must have been a thorough nuisance to many people. But we were determined to save our ship and nothing was going to stop us.  Although hard work, those early days were most enjoyable. We had a clear mission, to save the Medway Queen, having bought her from liquidators of the previous owners. With the help of P&O we were able to revive the New Medway Steam Packet Company to hold legal title to the ship once again.

Finding a safe berth for the ship was not so easy. It had become very clear that the management of the Historic dockyard at that time wished to be rid of us and our ship,  the resulting coverage in the papers was fascinating to say the least. We searched the banks of the Medway and Thames and their estuaries, every creek, old dock and wharf. Offers from other towns came in but she is the queen of the Medway and we really did not want to let her go too far afield. I have memories of Marshall and colleagues rowing around a creek in Strood taking soundings and counting how many shopping trolleys would have to be removed. We asked Gillingham Council if we could use an old and long disused dock in Lower Rainham, but they said out work would disturb the birds. Old wharves in Gravesend were investigated, a local Councillor in that town offered the canal basin, but it’s entrance was too narrow for our ship.

Then a saviour appeared on the scene, Gill Ellen approached David Dunwell who managed a large site at Kingsnorth. He said we could tie up alongside his wharf for a while. this “while” was to stretch to twenty years.  We had to float the ship, satisfy the river authorities that she was safe to tow the eight or so miles to Kingsnorth, obtain insurance for the trip, notify the press, radio, television and sail off into a new chapter of the ship’s history. During the following twenty years our Society changed and grew. From the first few enthusiasts our numbers grew around one thousand. We became a registered Charity. We built up a good rapport with the media at local and national level. Local authorities took notice of us, visitors came from far and wide. We spent much time and tears over bids to the Lottery for funding, finally achieving success in 2006. From humble beginnings our hobby had now become a million pound project, and had become big business                                                                                                                                     Scroll for earlier reports. Edward.

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2020

Part 2 Malcolm & Jennies Arboretum visit

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As to my last article where I mentioned the nine zones in which three are illustrated on the guild and are colour coded in Red, Purple and Blue these also give estimated time to walk to them and the average working space, and this is also the route that the land train takes around the whole site.

The six zones indicated on the guild of which these consist of Garden Zone, Navel Review, RAF Zone, Far East Zone, Poppy Zone and Woodland Zone.

The Garden Zone this area is closest area to the Remembrance Centre, in this you can walk between a few inter- joined formal gardens including The Artillery Garden the Fire and Rescue Services Memorial and the General Post Office, others include the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity Memorial.

Also, in the Garden Zone include Bevin Boys Memorial, BLESMA The Limbless Veterans Garden, Ex-National Servicemen’s Memorial, Sikh Memorial, Women’s Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps.

We had a keen interest to visit the Bevin Boys Memorial as one of Jennie’s late uncles was called up to be a Bevin Boy and sent up to one of many mines in and around Newcastle Upon Tyne and was sent to mine called North Fenham Pit No 4310 Cowgate and was billeted with a mining family for short  period of the war. The Town of Cowgate is in The Northwest of Newcastle Upon Tyne, it lies 2.8 miles Northwest of the City Centre.

The Bevin Boys were for young British Men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, between December 1943 to March 1948, in order to increase the rate of coal production, which had declined due to all mines being called up to go into the Armed Forces through the early years o

The other Memorial we were hoping to see was the  Women’s Land Army. But we were informed when we went round on the land train that it had been taken away for some repair’s, as Jennie was hoping to see this Memorial as her late Mum volunteered and to join The Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS often pronounced as an acronym). This was the women’s branch of British Army during the second world  war. It was formed on the 9th September 1938 initially as the Women’s Voluntary Service and existed until 1st February 1949, when it was merged into The Women’s Royal Army Corps. She was based in many Army Barrack’s around England such Towns as Colchester, Dorchester, and Northampton, she was chiefly  involved on the catering side.

More information on our visit and Photographs, and more details regarding the other Zones next time.

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Sue & John’s Quiz No 37

1. What is the respiratory organ of a fish?
2. Found in New Zealand but almost extinct, what animal is a Kakapo?
3. The Asian, the Forest and the African, are the only breeds of what?
4. What is a Carolina Reaper?
5. Who presented the kids TV nature programme “The Really Wild Show”?

Getting near Christmas.
1. In 1965, what was the first song transmitted from space?
2. What fast food do many Japanese queue to buy for their Christmas dinner?
3. There is a festive connection..what is the 22nd and last letter of the Greek alphabet?
4. Referred to by Dickins in A Christmas Carol, what is stinking Bishop?
5. Marketed by a US store in 1939, what became a seasonal regular?

General Knowledge.
1. In the news often. Whose middle name is Robinette?
2. Who is the Queen of Soul?
3. Recently died, who played Darth Vader in Star Wars?
4. Also died this week, who was known as “The Voice of Golf”?
5. Who became Baroness Kesteven?

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The Fall Of Malaya & Singapore Part 2 By President John Elms.

The first part of the story ended with the two battle ships The Prince of Wales and The Repulse stationed off the North East coast of Malaya to oppose a Japanese landing. Unfortunately they had no air cover and were attacked by Japanese planes on 10th December 1941 and both sunk. (On the last leg of my flight to Malaya in September 1956 we flew down the East coast and our pilot pointed out where they had been sunk). The sinking’s left the invasion of Southern Thailand (Siam) and Northern Malaya almost unopposed. Allied forces were in general without adequate air cover and with little armour and in many cases under trained for this type of warfare.

The Japanese swept down from the North mainly along the lower ground to the West of the central mountain range. Although not up to the standard of later tanks the Japanese were well equipped with lighter versions and many of their infantry used bicycles. The terrain was difficult to defend with jungle either side of the access. Defensive positions were mainly along this access strip and in many cases the Japanese infantry was able to bypass them by using the jungle to the sides.

By the end of January 1942 allied forces had withdrawn all the way down the peninsular to the island of Singapore at the Southern end. The island is separated from the mainland by a narrow strip of water (the Johore Strait) but linked by a causeway near the town of Johore Baharu.

Being surrounded by sea the majority of the defensive gun positions were pointing out to sea and could not be turned towards the mainland. On the night of 8 -9th February the Japanese surged over the causeway and straits and quickly pushed the defenders back to the edges of the city. General Percival decided to capitulate though his troops, recently reinforced, out numbered their attackers. In the whole Malayan campaign, the Japanese lost fewer than 10,000 casualties. The Allies had a similar number but some 130,000 went into Japanese captivity and many did not survive.

The fall of Malaya and Singapore was not quite the end, however. A guerrilla unit known as Force 136 continued to harass the Japanese in Malaya. This force a South East Asian variant of The Special Operations Executive was mainly supplied by submarine. After the Japanese conquest, the Communist Party of Malaya formed the Malayan Peoples Anti- Japanese army and they linked up with and were armed and trained by Force 136. The leader of the MPA JA was a Chinese named Chin Peng.

After the end of the war the Communists hid the majority of the weapons only to turn them against the British when the “Emergency” started in June 1948. Towards the end of the Emergency Chin Peng took refuge in Southern Thailand before going to China in 1960. He died there on 16th September 2013 aged nearly 90 years.                                      See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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A very interesting piece by Stuart Gemmell

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Thomas Frank Durrant VC, born 17 October 1918 Farnborough, London, was a soldier in the British Army during the Second World War and a posthumous English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. His award of the Victoria Cross was unique in that it is the only award given to a soldier in a naval action and it was on the recommendation of the enemy commander.

Military Service

Durrant enlisted in the Corps of Royal Engineers prior to the Second World War on 1 February 1937. His service number was 1874047. In 1940 the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered the formation of units of specially trained troops that would “develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast”. Durrant volunteered for service with the Special Service Independent Companies and was posted to No. 2 Special Independent Company. It was when serving with No. 2 Independent Company in the Norwegian Campaign that he was promoted in the field to Sergeant. When his company returned from Norway all the independent companies were formed into battalion sized units known as Commandos. Durrant then became a member of No. 1 Commando.

St Nazaire

The St Nazaire Raid (Operation Chariot) was a seaborne attack on the heavily defended docks of St. Nazaire in occupied France on the night of 28 March 1942. This was a combined operation undertaken by Royal Navy and Commando units. The main commando force was provided by No. 2 Commando with supporting demolition parties from other commando units, including Durrant’s No. 1 Commando. The intention of the raid was to destroy the dry dock which would force any large German warship in need of repairs, such as the Tirpitz, to return to home waters rather than seek safe haven in the Atlantic coast. Of the 600 men who left the port of Falmouth, Cornwall, England on the raid only 225 would return.

During the raid Sergeant Durrant was in charge of a twin Lewis gun on board H.M. Motor Launch 306. As it came up the River Loire to the port of St Nazaire ML306 came under heavy fire from the shore and was unable to land its troops at the Old Mole and it is during its withdrawal that it came head-to-head with a pursuing German destroyer of the Mowe class, the Jaguar. In the battle with the German destroyer Durrant was wounded numerous times, in the head, both arms, legs, chest and stomach. After the battle Durrant died of his wounds in a German military hospital in St Nazaire. Following his death, he was buried in La Baule-Escoublac War Cemetery, 7 mi (11 km) from Saint-Nazaire, in Plot I, Row D, Grave 11. A week later the commander of the German destroyer, Kapitänleutnant F. K. Paul, met the Commando commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Newman, in a prisoner of war camp in Rennes. Bringing the action to Newman’s attention, Paul suggested that the colonel might wish to recommend Durrant for a high award.

Victoria Cross citation The official citation read:

For great gallantry, skill and devotion to duty when in charge of a Lewis gun in HM Motor Launch 306 in the St Nazaire raid on 28 March 1942. Motor Launch 306 came under heavy fire while proceeding up the River Loire towards the port. Sergeant Durrant, in his position abaft the bridge, where he had no cover or protection, engaged enemy gun positions and searchlights ashore. During this engagement he was severely wounded in the arm but refused to leave his gun. The Motor Launch subsequently went down the river and was attacked by a German destroyer at 50 to 60 yards range, and often closer. In this action Sergeant Durrant continued to fire at the destroyer’s bridge with the greatest of coolness and with complete disregard of the enemy’s fire. The Motor Launch was illuminated by the enemy searchlight, and Sergeant Durrant drew on himself the individual attention of the enemy guns and was again wounded in many places. Despite these further wounds he stayed in his exposed position, still firing his gun, although after a time only able to support himself by holding on to the gun mounting. After a running fight, the Commander of the German destroyer called on the Motor Launch to surrender. Sergeant Durrant’s answer was a further burst of fire at the destroyer’s bridge. Although now very weak, he went on firing, using drums of ammunition as fast as they could be replaced. A renewed attack by the enemy vessel eventually silenced the fire of the Motor Launch, but Sergeant Durrant refused to give up until the destroyer came alongside, grappled the Motor Launch and took prisoner those who remained alive. Sergeant Durrant’s gallant fight was commended by the German officers on boarding the Motor Launch. This very gallant non-commissioned officer later died of the many wounds received in action.

Aftermath Durrant is buried in La Baule-Escoublac War Cemetery, France in Plot I, Row D, Grave 11. The award of the Victoria Cross to Durrant was announced in the London Gazette on 15 June 1945, at the same time it was announced the Commando commander during the raid Lieutenant Colonel Augustus Charles Newman had also been awarded the Victoria Cross. On 29 October 1946 Durrant’s Victoria Cross was presented to his mother at an investiture at Buckingham Palace by King George VI. Durrant’s Victoria Cross is now on display at the Royal Engineers Museum Prince Arthur Road, Gillingham, Kent, England.

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Medway Queen (Cont’d)

From 1966 Medway Queen was used as a marina clubhouse and nightclub at Island Harbour on the Isle of Wight. The club opened for business on Saturday 14th May of that year and annual membership was 3 guineas (£3.15) for one person or 4 guineas (£4.20) for a married couple. Temporary membership, presumably aimed at holiday makers, was 5 shillings (25p) per week.The club made full use of the ship’s 4 saloons with a restaurant, music and dancing including live music and discos, casino and a meeting/function room. It must have been a very successful place as it is fondly remembered by very many people some 50 years on. The live bands included the “Steamboat” blue grass group and the late Richard Manuel of Bob Dylan’s backing group visited from the music festival and sat in with the resident musicians Doug Watson and Ernie Hayles. Regular visitors remember that dancing became “more of a challenge” when the tide went out and the ship settled on the mud, heeling gently to one side!

The proprietors, Alan and Colin Ridett, produced a selection of promotional material, examples of which have survived. There are many photographs of the ship at that time and even some interior shots. The society would be interested to hear from anyone who remembers the club and especially copies of any photographs taken below decks. The interior of the ship at that time is well illustrated by two of the postcards published by J. Arthur Dixon of Newport. There were 4 cards in all, the other two showing the ship’s exterior. the club featured in a BBC program in 1967 and the society is fortunate to have a copy which can be shown on board and in the Visitor Centre. The ship was a clubhouse and restaurant for the marina with more of a disco/nightclub emphasis in the evenings. Wedding receptions were catered for and played a significant role. In due course the business outgrew the ship’s accommodation and a larger vessel was purchased.

In 1970 PS Ryde was purchased to operate alongside Medway Queen. She started trading in 1972 as the “Ryde Queen Boatel”. ​The two ships operated alongside one another at first with Ryde Queen becoming the restaurant and offering hotel accommodation and Medway Queen concentrating on the nightclub and disco side. Management of the two ships passed to Reynolds and Gaywood Associates. Medway Queen was refurbished after the opening of the Ryde Queen and her part in the business continued until the end of 1974 when the “Medway Queen Club” closed for the last time.

In 2016 the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Medway Queen Club was celebrated at the Island Harbour Marina, with a fund-raising day including illustrated talks on the ship’s history, a book launch (right) and an evening buffet. In 1978 a trio of Kent business men, led by Jim Ashton with Eddie Dunlop and Lionel Lovesey purchased the ship. They spent much time and money patching her up for a move and restoration attempt. Among other methods, the inside of the hull was sprayed with concrete to strengthen and seal it but there was a particularly troublesome leak at the bow that could not be accessed because of a built in freezer installed for the restaurant. Jim and his colleagues negotiated permission to breach the marina wall into the river and move Medway Queen out. This was accomplished but the bow leak caused the ship to sink and a further hole was made – this time below the boiler and equally inaccessible. On Friday June 20th 1980 the Isle of Wight Weekly Post published a sad picture of the ship and a gloomy forecast of the future. The project was plagued by continuing deterioration of the ship and repeated theft of fittings and equipment but they eventually managed to re-float Medway Queen at considerable cost in time and money and in 1984 she was moved down to Cowes at the river’s mouth. There she was placed on a submersible salvage barge and towed back to Chatham in Kent. Medway Queen was moored just outside the naval dockyard and kept afloat by continuous pumping. Jim Ashton formed the Medway Queen Trust Ltd to give the team a measure of financial protection and the Medway Queen Preservation Society was formed to support the Trust. Work continued on mud removal and hull patching with yet more concrete but this attempt at saving the ship eventually failed through lack of funds and after lengthy legal and financial negotiations with the Official Receiver the Preservation Society purchased the ship and began looking for a new home for her.

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To be continued, Edward.

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For over twenty years I have played in Snowdown Colliery Brass Band at the Remembrance Sunday Service at Victoria War Memorial Hospital in Deal.
During these strange times, the service this year was different, due to there being no music or hymns allowed according to Government Guidelines. I was able, instead, to do a bible reading following twenty years of blowing my horn with the other instruments in the brass band. During all weathers we have sat in our usual corner, force ten gale, bright sunshine and poring rain.
Though proceedings were different, the service was still very much a memorable occasion. Big Ben’s eleven chimes, and the National Anthem were provided by Kent PA Hire. A serving Royal Marine bugler played the Last Post followed by the Reveille. The weather on this occasion was brilliantly sunny with clear blue sky.
All being well, proceedings will be back to normal, including brass band to play music.
Jennie Gibbons,
Downs Branch RBL Deal
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 In my last epistle I let you know something of my service in what I consider to   be the greatest police force in the world!  Now would I be biased!!  However, I think I promised that I would talk about my time in the ministry so settle down in your chairs ready for a nap!!

Having retired from the Metropolitan Police I was soon on my way to Queens Theological College in Birmingham to undergo training for the ministry.  While I was there I made two close friends, one an ex Royal Air Force officer and the other an inspector for Dunlop, we were usually known as the gruesome threesome because we’re usually together.  The college course was enjoyable by quite challenging but eventually it was decided that I was good enough to be unleashed on a congregation somewhere and I was duly told that I would be going to Slough in Berkshire.  Now to me the only things I knew about Slough was that it had a huge trading estate and Mars bars were made there!  How lacking was my education!

I was due to be the minister to three congregations, one in Slough, one in Eton Wick and one in Burnham and would be living in a manse in Slough itself.  When Christine and I visited to meet the folk I was surprised to find out that the Slough Church was mainly comprised of folk from the Caribbean, the islands of Anguilla and St. Kitts.  A history lesson for you now!  Heavy handed politicians had tried to join Anguilla with St Kitts and another island back in the 1960’s and the Anguillians would not have it and rebelled declaring their indepence!  Negotiations went on for some time, eventually the British Government decided that it had to be dealt with and sent some British troops and Metropolitan police officers to bri8ng order back to the island.  I fancied a Caribbean holiday but was unable to go as they were sending single men and woman, I am not sure Christine would have agreed to a divorce at that time!  So some twenty years later I end up sharing with an Anguillian congregation and making two trips to the island bliss on earth!

I was moved on from Slough to Whitechapel in the East End of London where Christine and I together with a full time warden and a number of volunteers had some eight hundred plus street homeless folk to provide for.  That meant raising some £3,000 per week to keep the Mission open, which meant I was all around the country begging and acquiring clothing, money and food for the folk.  I also had a probation hostel for around forty youngsters at a place called Windyridge near Colchester so life was rather busy to say the least! On top of that I was a Chaplain to the London Hospital as it was then and responsible for what are now called contract funerals but I always knew as ‘paupers’ funerals.  I was privileged to conduct service for all faiths and none! My MBE was presented to me by her Majesty as a result of our time at the Mission, the street folk were so proud when Christine and I returned from the palace with my award which, in all honesty, I think Christine should have had!

After five years I moved on from there to Uxbridge where I had congregations in Harefield, North Hillingdon and Uxbridge itself.  Two of the Churches had Boys’ and Girls’ Brigade Companies; in fact I was acting captain of one of the Girls’ Brigade Companies to save it being closed down, which was an immense and wonderful privilege! On top of that I was chaplain to Harefield Heart Hospital where, as a traffic police officer, I had conveyed hearts for transplants!  Another great privilege!

Time came to move on and Christine and I came to Dover to share with two congregations in Dover itself and Tower Hamlets, wonderful times with some really lovely people which I look back on with great joy.  Then I retired or so I thought but God had other ideas and I was asked to share with a Church in Deal for around four years in total, again wonderful times with some really loving people.  I also worked as Chaplain to the Prison Service at the Dover Immigration Removal Centre, for a period, where I found my police background to be useful and much appreciated by the officers, On top of that a few years as a Chaplain to Kent Police and the real icing on the cake as they say – Padre to Downs Branch of the Royal British Legio0n!  What a lucky chap I am!  Blessings to you all. John Lines.

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The Poppy as a symbol of Remembrance

By Branch Standard Bearer Richard Purton

Our red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future, as well as an important fundraising tool. The Poppy is used all over the world in this way. But why the poppy? What was the inspiration behind it becoming a symbol of Remembrance?

In 1921 Earl Haig noticed some French widows – inspired by Lt Col John McCrae’s iconic poem “In Flanders Fields” – selling silk poppies to raise funds for disabled ex-Servicemen. The poppy, which is central to the poem, was one of the few plants that survived in the churned up battlefields Flanders, growing by the thousands amidst chaos and destruction.

Lt Col John McCrae was a Canadian army doctor working as a field hospital surgeon when he wrote ‘In Flanders Field’ in 1915, inspired after the funeral and burial of a friend killed in the Second Battle of Ypres. First published in Punch on 8th December 1915 it quickly became one of the most popular poems of the war. As a result of its popularity, parts of the poem were used in propaganda efforts, appeals to recruit soldiers and in raising money selling war bonds.

Sadly, McCrae died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918, while still commanding No. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Boulogne. His poem has had a huge impact, influencing the way we remember those who died in conflict and his memory lives on today. The poem inspired an American academic named Moina Michael to adopt the poppy in memory of those who had fallen in the war. She campaigned to get it adopted as an official symbol of Remembrance across the United States and worked with others who were trying to do the same in Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Also involved with those efforts was a French woman, Anna Guérin who was in the UK in 1921 where she planned to sell the poppies in London. There she met Earl Haig, founder of the Royal British Legion, who was persuaded to adopt the poppy as an emblem for the Legion in the UK. The Legion, which had been formed in 1921, ordered nine million poppies and sold them on 11 November that year.  Haig recognised the potential of these poppies to become both a symbol of Remembrance and also as a means to support the welfare of ex-Servicemen, so he ordered nine million poppies which were sold on 11th November 1921. The Poppy Appeal was born!

Poppy factories  Earl Haig’s first poppy factory was in Richmond in1922 but demand for poppies was so high that few reached Scotland. In 1926, Lady Haig established a factory in Edinburgh to produce poppies exclusively for Scotland.

Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory is still there today and a team of disabled veterans produces over 4 million poppies for the Scottish Poppy Appeal each year. Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh employs around 40 disabled veterans to hand-assemble over four million poppies and 14,000 wreaths every year for the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

The factory was founded in 1926 by Lady Haig, wife of the Field Marshal, and the first poppies were made by two ex-Servicemen and a pair of scissors.  Today, the factory team continues to make poppies for the whole of Scotland and between them they have seen service from Korea to the first Gulf War. They make two varieties of Poppies for our street collections, a plastic-stemmed Poppy and a stick-on Poppy. Both types are still produced by hand, although a machine now cuts out the petal shape! They also produce wreaths, long-stemmed poppies, Remembrance crosses and other Remembrance items.

The Scottish Poppy                        

Lady Haig designed a botanically correct poppy with four petals and no leaf, whereas the version produced in Richmond had two petals and a leaf. This difference remains today.

Since then the poppy has become a symbol of Remembrance and of the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces, both at times of war and in their peacekeeping duties. For nearly 100 years it has raised millions of pounds to support the needs of veterans and their families living in Scotland.

In Flanders Fields

The poem by John McCrae

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.

Information soured from The Royal British Legion website and the Poppy Scotland website.

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 Our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire on 14th September 2020. 

Our visit to the Arboretum was for a shot visit and stay in the City of Derby, we commenced our journey on Friday 11th September and made our way by Train to St Pancras Station to pick the Midland region service to Derby.  On arrival at Derby station we made our way to short walk to our Hotel, the idea of stay in Derby for Jennie was to trace find the street her late father lived before and after the 2nd WW, this proved to be successful and rewarding visit of which Jennie has already written an article a few weeks ago about this with pictures of York Street.

We made our way to Derby Station on the Sunday morning to catch the train to Tamworth where we would have make a change to pick up the train for Lichfield on Trent Station where I had arranged for a Taxi to take us to the National Arboretum, as this is fair distance away from the station.

Once we arrived at the Arboretum Remembrance Centre, we checked in at the reception desk as when I booked, I was given a booking refence number we were also advised to book the land train and book a slot for restaurant of which we did.

We made our way to start point for the land train were our ticket was allocated to seat safely screen protected and all sanitized, our land train tour was for a 50 minute trip around the whole site with three main routes Red, Purple and Blue with a full audio commentary given with a brief description about the memorials as we passed.

There are around 30,000 trees in the grounds of the Arboretum most of all these are British Native species, as well as several Foreign variates which are symbolically chosen to represent the stories they tell. The British species are Hornbeam, Willow, Oak, Redwoods and Plane. 

The National Memorial Arboretum is open all year-round centre for Remembrance and first opened in 2001 and contains more than 370 memorials for the military and civilian organisations and associations, together with tributes for individuals.

The Grounds of the Arboretum are expansive, encompassing more than 150 acres of formal gardens, wildflower meadows and maturing woodland areas, it also comprises of Picnic Areas, Children’s Play Areas and small shelters. To explore the entire site, it can take more than a day to visit, with amazing stores and symbolism to be discovered in every glade and around every corner. A guide of the site can be obtained from the main remembrance reception centre for a small fee of £3.00, this is showing the grounds being  divided into nine zones, five of these have memorials that have been identified in each area for you to discover at your leisure.    More information on our visit and Photographs, and about the Zones next time.

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Malcolm and Jennie Gibbons

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The Fall of Malaya and Singapore to the Japanese 8th December 1941 to February 1942 by ourPresident John Elms.https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

Japans attack on Pearl Harbour began six months of military triumphs in the Far East and Pacific. They were desperate for access to natural resources and wanted to create a defensive perimeter in the Far East and Pacific that could be defended.  Part of these conquests included Malaya and the island of Singapore.

In those days Malaya consisted of a peninsular surrounded on three sides by sea and stretching from the then Siam (now Thailand Border) some 370 miles South to the island of Singapore. Down the centre of the country a range of mountains ran from North to South rising to over 7000 feet in places. Either side were areas of lower land including rubber plantations and tin mines. Eighty per cent of the country was covered in jungle with areas of swamp on the lower land. The island of Singapore at the Southern end was already a rich trading centre.

The Japanese landings began at 0100 hrs on 8th December 1941.This was actually shortly before the raid on Pearl Harbour because of the effect of the International Date Line. The 65000 strong Twenty Fifth Army led by General Yamashita Tomoyuki began the invasion of Malaya with landings on the East coast of Northern Malaya and Southern Siam. They were opposed by nearly 90000 British, Indian and Australian troops under the overall command of Air Marshall Robert Brooke-Poplam with General Arthur Percival land Commander.

Although the allied forces were numerically stronger many of the Japanese troops were battle hardened veterans of the war in China. Contrary to popular belief they had no jungle training.

Facing them the allied forces had little armour and air cover and were mostly badly trained with many being members of the Federated Malay States Volunteer Forces and the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force also the allies had little air cover, what there was consisted of mainly dated aircraft.

There were however two battle ships The Prince of Wales and Repulse off the North East coast of Malaya but again they had no air cover.

The scene was set for what was to be one of the worst defeats in British Military history.

To be continued.

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Medway Queen after WW2 https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

The Medway Queen was thoroughly refitted by Thornycrofts of Southampton in time for the 1947 summer season. The hull was stripped back to bare metal and she was returned to her former excursion steamer glory. She re-entered service across the Thames Estuary to Southend  on 24th May 1947. The Captain was Leonard Horsham who had previously served on the ship in the 1920s. Apart from the traditional “Bucket ‘n’ Spade” trips to Southend, Medway Queen took part in the 1953 Spithead Coronation Naval Review running an excursion from Southampton docks for a party brought by train from London and then taking her place in the official line-up for the review. Over the years she also appeared in a number of movies including the 1958 “Dunkirk” film. 

By the early sixties the paddle steamer was no longer pleasing the holiday maker due to competition from the sky; the cheap option of visiting the Costa del Sol. Also the craze for the motor car contributed to the decline in passenger numbers. The Medway Queen outlasted most of the Thames and Medway steamers by some fifteen years until an annual inspection which identified a need for extensive repairs. The ship made her last voyage from Southend back to the Medway on 9th September, 1963 and the company offered her for sale.

​The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had been aware of the ship’s imminent withdrawal and was taking steps to preserve her. Meetings were held and a trust formed. The PSPS lobbied various interested (or possibly interested) parties including the National Trust and Fortes but a further survey (undertaken by John Graves, her 1st Lieutenant at Dunkirk) confirmed that serious work would be needed to keep her sailing. The National Trusts idea of running trips with her was not viable but Fortes were interested in making her a floating venue on the Thames. Planning restrictions and local objections prevented this scheme coming to fruition and Medway Queen was sold to a Belgian ship breaker.

The Daily Mail was at the forefront of the campaign to save the ship and an Isle of Wight businessman, Alan Ridett thought she would make a suitable clubhouse for his marina development near Newport. The Medway Queen was subsequently purchased by Alan and his associates and towed to the River Medina on the Isle of Wight in 1965 where she became a clubhouse, restaurant and night club.

Edward.

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Jennie visits Derby

Earlier this month Malcolm and I went in search of the street in the City of Derby where my father was born and brought up. My mother and father met and married during the last world war. My mother was in the Women’s Land Army, my father in the Camaronians regiment, though not Scottish, he went where he was sent.  After the war ended, my father sadly passed away from Tuberculosis, caught whilst in a barracks in Germany. I did manage to find York Street, Derby. As you can imagine this was very nostalgic, but also satisfying. York Street was typical of its time, containing red brick small terraced houses.

Jennie Gibbons. Downs Branch Committee Member Deal.

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Incredible story of bravery by Ex RE Stuart Gemmell our Youth Liasion Officer

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross  Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Brett Mackay Cloutman VC, MC & KC

Brett Mackay Cloutman Born 7 November 1891, Muswell, London, was a British Army officer who was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Brett Cloutman was educated at Berkhamsted School, Bishop’s Stortford College and London University where he was a member of the Royal Engineers contingent of the university’s Officers’ Training Corps.

At the outbreak of World War I Cloutman enlisted as a Rifleman in the Rangers (12th Battalion, London Regiment), reached the rank of Lance-Corporal, and in 1915 was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Kent (Fortress) Engineers, a Territorial Force unit.

Military Cross citation:

Cloutman, by then Acting Major in command of the 59th Field Company, Royal Engineers, was awarded the Military Cross for an action in September 1918:

For conspicuous gallantly and devotion to duty at Banteux on the morning of 30th September 1918, when he made a personal reconnaissance under heavy machine-gun fire to ascertain the possibilities of bridging the Canal de L’Escaut.

Victoria Cross citation:

A few weeks later the action took place for which Cloutman won his VC. The official citation read:

For most conspicuous bravery on the 6th November 1918, at Pont-sur-Sambre. Maj. Cloutman, after reconnoitring the river crossings, found the Quartes Bridge almost intact but prepared for demolition. Leaving his party under cover he went forward alone, swam across the river, and, having cut the “leads” from the charges, returned the same way, despite the fact that the bridge and all approaches thereto were swept by enemy shells and machine-gun fire at close range. Although the bridge was blown up later in the day by other means, the abutments remained intact.

The bridge had been prepared for demolition by the Germans and was well defended. By cutting the wires, Cloutman prevented the enemy from blowing it up at the time. He was seen at the bridge, however, and escaped under an intense fire from its guards. The fact that the abutments were not destroyed later meant that the bridge could be more quickly replaced by the Allies. This was the last act to win a VC in the First World War.

 Later career:  After the war Cloutman became a lawyer and was called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn in 1926. In World War II he served again in the Royal Engineers and received a mention in despatches.  He became a King’s Counsel in 1946 and in 1947 he was appointed Senior Chairman of the War Pensions Tribunal. He was Senior Official Referee of the Supreme Court of Judicature (now the Senior Courts of England and Wales) 1954-63. He was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of 1957. He was Master of the Worshipful Company of Glass Sellers 1939–40 and 1965–66.

Following his death in 1971, his ashes were interred at Norfolk Cemetery, in the Somme department, in the grave of his brother, an officer of No. 178 Tunnelling Company who was killed on 22 August 1915.

His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent

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A lovely piece of our Padre’s history written in his own inimitable way!

I wonder how I got there or even here?!  John Lines. https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 Well I am sorry but it is my time to bore you all again, so hang onto your seats we are off!  Like a good many people I never expected to be living in Deal, so I thought I would give you all a flavour of some of the events that led to me being here! Life is a funny old thing; it seems to serve up some very funny cards sometimes! The more I reflect on my life, the more I see   I emerged into this world before the Second World War, thus I grew up with my Mother and did not see my Father until after the war.  I still recall this man in what I thought was a green suit kissing my Mother and me hitting him!  How was I to know that this strange man was my Father?!

My Father had joined the army before the war, he always said he saw it coming and if they wanted him they were going to have to pay for him!!  He went into the RAOC and became a Sub-Conductor which I understand was equal to a Company Sergeant Major.  When Airborne was formed my Father transferred and I guess saw some pretty horrible sights on some of his drops. I still have a picture of him with his purple beret with the RAOC badge on it and the ‘Pegasus’ symbol on his tunic arm.  Like most of the soldiers of that time my Father would never ever speak of the war, it was almost as if he had blotted all the memories out, something I have noted with some other Second World War veterans that I have had the privilege to share with.

I really wanted to be a full time soldier to make my Father proud of me, but by the time I was old enough my Father had his own accountancy practise and wanted me, as the oldest son, to follow him into the practise.  Yes I loved figures at that time, but apparently 36 – 24 – 36 would not be much use in that profession and, in all honesty, I really did not fancy being shut up in an office all day! So I applied to join both the Kent and Metropolitan Police Forces and got accepted for both of them.  My Mother by that time was breeding Golden Retriever dogs so I fancied myself as a police dog handler! With that in mind I decided to join the Metropolitan Police and after a really gruelling training period was stationed to Southwark Police Station (MD in police parlance.) Now if I had died and gone to a garage full of Guy buses I could not have been in a better place,  a really busy area with the wharfs along the River Thames, London Bridge Station, Borough Market, Waterloo, Blackfriars, Southwark and London Bridges plus the Elephant and Castle it was a truly wonderful place to be!  However, the love bug struck, yes I fell in love with the most wonderful woman in the world, and indeed we will have been married sixty year in 2021 if we are spared!  One problem we found a flat in South Norwood which was eleven miles from Southward and the rule was you could only live up to seven miles from the station so I was transferred after our marriage to Penge Police Station (PG in police parlance.)  What a difference, far fewer police officers per shift and a great many sudden deaths and suicides to be dealt with!  It really was not my cup of teas as they say and I looked around for an escape route! My escape route was presented to me in applications being called for Traffic Patrol officers. Now at the time I had a Triumph 500cc Speed Twin motorcycle and really fancied being an elite police motor cyclist and car driver.  I attended a interview board and was selected for, in my opinion at least, the best job in the police and I spent the rest of my service there involved in escort duties of heavy loads, Royalty, VIP’s, the removal of illegally parked vehicles, Road Traffic Act enforcement and accident and car pound duties – in honesty I thought I had died and gone to Heaven!!

As they say, all good things come to an end and having done the full service time I was ready to be pensioned off (sounds awful!) and decided that I would start my own bus and coach company called ‘Lines’ Liners’ with the monogram ‘Get with the times travel by Lines’ on the boot! I think God had other ideas in a rather strange way!  My Father in Law died, he was a most wonderful; East Ender a great man who I adored, he and his wife had retired to Walmer and he really loved it there.  Christine and I came down for the funeral at Barham and it was really awful, no mention of Dad’s name, honestly we could have been cremating the station cat!  I was really angry and hurt for Christine and her Mother and said that if I had done something like that in the police I would have received a complaint!

If I am allowed, and not sued for libel, I will do the second half when I am next due to bore you all to tears!!!

Well done John certainly not boring quite the reverse!

Edward

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From Richard Purton our Standard Bearer.

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/?view_public_for=553666901369172

RICHARD’S RANDOM AND INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT THE BRITISH ARMED FORCES  For centuries, the British military has existed to defend the kingdom from threats. From the Spanish Armada to the armies of Napoleon and the Nazi Luftwaffe, the Army, the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force, and the Royal Marines serve the crown and protect the realm. Today, the military works to stop terrorist threats abroad so they cannot cause destruction at home. Below here you’ll find some interesting tidbits about the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, and Royal Marines.

GET OUT OF GULAG FREE During World War II, many POW escapes from Nazi prison camps were the result of playing Monopoly. The British Secret Service sent special Monopoly boxes marked with a red dot on the Free Parking space to let prisoners know. In the game box, the Secret Service hid German marks amongst the monopoly money, a compass in the dog counter, a metal file in the board itself, and silk maps of the prison inside hollow hotel pieces.

BRING THE FAMILY During the American Revolution, many British soldiers serving in the colonies actually brought their wives and children along. Women in the army at this time served as nurses, washer women, and sutlers (merchants who sell items to soldiers), or took jobs to support their families. Approximately 20% of soldiers serving in America had their wives and children with them.

NO WASHERS NEARBY  In 2005, the Ministry of Defence issued soldiers special antimicrobial underwear that can be worn up to three months at a time without needing a change.

FORMATION   The first British “standing army” was formed in 1661. Before that point, armies had only been raised when they were needed.

KEEP YOUR WIG ON  The regiment known as the Blues and Royals has a tradition of saluting even when not wearing a cover (hat). The origin of this act comes from the Marquis of Granby, who led a cavalry charge in the Battle of Warburg during the Seven Years War. His wig blew off as he led the charge, which originated the phrase “Going at it bare-headed.”

NEVER AGAIN VOLUNTEER YOURSELF  Contrary to popular belief, after the formation of the standing army in 1661, the army was a volunteer force until conscription was first introduced in 1916 during World War I. Conscription was reintroduced in 1939 for World War II. Following the second war, conscription became known as “National Service” and required all men ages 17 to 21 to serve in the military for 18 months. National Service ended in 1963 and conscription has not returned to Britain since.

SOME THINGS IN LIFE ARE BAD…  During the Falklands War, HMS Sheffield was hit by an Argentinian anti-ship missile and slowly began to sink. As the sailors awaited rescue, they began to sing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. During the first Gulf War, RAF pilots would often sing it on their missions.

BRIDGE OF THE RIVER KWAI  In 1943, the Japanese military utilised 60,000 Allied POWs and 180,000 Asian prisoners to complete the Thailand-Burma Railway. Thanks to horrible prison conditions and cruelty of guards, approximately 12,399 POWs and 90,000 Asians died during construction. Roughly 6,318 of the POWs who died were British.

SCRAP MEDAL   In 1863, Queen Victorian commissioned the Victoria Cross during the Crimean War. It is the highest honour that can be awarded to a member of the British Armed Forces and is actually made from scrap metal taken from a Russian cannon captured during the war. Due to its rarity, the medal is a highly sought collectors’ item, and once fetched £400,000 at auction.

COST PER SOLDIER   According to the Ministry of Defence, it costs £30,000 to train a soldier. The selection process costs £7,000, while Basic Training and the Combat Infantry Course cost £23,000.

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Malcolm’s Report on Mountbatten Memorial & Field Marshal Slim Memorial.

About this time of year usually around about 2nd or 3rd September members of The Council, Trustees, Veterans and friend of the Burma Star Association attend this annual Wreath lay Ceremony at the Memorials.

The ceremony usually commences at 11.30 sharp, where gates to the memorial are opened and a small group of Veterans and a number Branch Burma Star Standards and some RBL Branch Standards also attend.

A short dedication to Earl Mountbatten is officiated by The Chairman of the Burma Star Council and Trustee and several wreaths are laid on behalf of the Association.

After the Wreath lay is completed everyone makes their way across Horse Guards Parade ground escorted by the Metropolitan Police over to White Hall, Raleigh Green outside the  M O D Headquarter to Field Marshall William Slims statue ( also known as Bill Slim) who lead the 14th Army, they were so called the ” Forgotten Army “ in the Burma campaign.

Again, everybody assembles around the Memorial with all the Standards at present, a short address is given by Council of the Association a Bugle sounds the Last Post and Revile and silence followed by the saying of the Exhortation and the Kohima Epitaph.

This concludes the end of the wreath lay ceremonies where all meet in a local public house a catch up with everyone and refreshments. I have attended this ceremony on several occasions with our late Chairman Mr Peter Wood and my late Father Sid Gibbons who always carried the Branch Standard at this event.  

Also, on one occasion our Branch Chairman Edward has attend this ceremony with my late Father Sid Gibbons as I was unable to attend with him due to work comments.  Unfortunately, this year this has not taken place due to current Corvid Virus crisis and government restrictions, it was decided to cancel the event due to most of the veterans and members are all vulnerable age.    

See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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John is threatened with having his head cut off!

South Holland Internal Drainage Board Lincolnshire

At the end of my last article I stated that I worked for the above Drainage Board full time and part time for a total of nearly fifty years. After leaving the army one of the assistant engineers was moving to take up another post and I was offered his job. Initially I became an assistant engineer, later moving up to district engineer and finally senior engineer. After retirement I worked for more than another ten years on a free lance basis.

The Board was formed during the reign of George 111 in 1793 and was reconstituted to include four smaller Boards in 1974 to serve an area of 38440 hectares (95000 acres) sandwiched between the rivers Welland and Nene in South Lincolnshire. The majority of this area is valuable farmland. The Board is the lineal descendant of Holland Elloe Court of Sewers dating back over 500 years. When we moved to Kent in 2007 the Board maintained 703 kilometeres (436 miles) of water course, 15 pumping stations and 5 gravity sluices. Quite a network to look after. At that time nearly all of the maintenance works and most of the capital improvement were undertaken by direct plant and labour. The Board had its own offices, workshops, plant and labour although I understand at the present time more contract work is undertaken. Staff duties included planning and organizing maintenance works, surveying for possible improvement works, plotting surveys, designing improvements, pricing both maintenance and capital works, writing reports for Board meetings and monitoring progress of both maintenance and capital works. In addition, in my later years I inherited the task of designing a Health and Safety plan and undertaking the preparation of COSH records(Control of substances hazardous to health). Also of course there was consultation with ratepayers i.e. farmers, businesses and home owners. Not always an easy task. I was once threatened by a farmer with a shot gun and on another occasion I caught youths vandalizing Boards property and when I told them to stop they threatened to cut my head off with a spade. Fortunately I had a radio telephone in my car and when I told them I would call the police they thought better of it.

The job was never dull for long, during adverse weather we could be out all night in rough conditions (mostly alone), probably not allowed now for H & S. Although we had a basic working week this meant nothing during bad weather. No extra pay but if I wanted to play in a mid week cricket match nothing would be said!

Towards the end of my time things began to change. Environmentalists began to get more say, computerisation began to take over and of course health and safety became more restrictive. By the time I fully retired I think I had had the more  interesting and productive years. We in general had a conscientious and hard working work force who were good at the variegated tasks they were given. In all those years I can only recall one instance when someone failed to do what he was told to and he came along afterwards and apologised. One final item I would like to mention , we had as far as I am concerned the best excavator driver I have ever seen. His work was always perfect and to make it better he had served with me in the Royal Lincolns in Malaya, his name was Barry Dawson and he now lives at Uppingham in Rutland.

See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Part 4 of Edward’s story of the Medway Queen Post WW2

Picture

The Medway Queen was thoroughly refitted by Thornycrofts of Southampton in time for the 1947 summer season. The hull was stripped back to bare metal and she was returned to her former excursion steamer glory. She re-entered service across the Thames Estuary to Southend  on 24th May 1947. The Captain was Leonard Horsham who had previously served on the ship in the 1920s. Apart from the traditional “Bucket ‘n’ Spade” trips to Southend, Medway Queen took part in the 1953 Spithead Coronation Naval Review running an excursion from Southampton docks for a party brought by train from London and then taking her place in the official line-up for the review. Over the years she also appeared in a number of movies including the 1958 “Dunkirk” film.

 

By the early sixties the paddle steamer was no longer pleasing the holiday maker due to competition from the sky; the cheap option of visiting the Costa del Sol. Also the craze for the motor car contributed to the decline in passenger numbers.The Medway Queen outlasted most of the Thames and Medway steamers by some fifteen years until an annual inspection which identified a need for extensive repairs.The ship made her last voyage from Southend back to the Medway on 9th September, 1963 and the company offered her for sale.

The Paddle Steamer Preservation Society had been aware of the ship’s imminent withdrawal and was taking steps to preserve her. Meetings were held and a trust formed. The PSPS lobbied various interested (or possibly interested) parties including the National Trust and Fortes but a further survey (undertaken by John Graves, her 1st Lieutenant at Dunkirk) confirmed that serious work would be needed to keep her sailing. The National Trusts idea of running trips with her was not viable but Fortes were interested in making her a floating venue on the Thames. Planning restrictions and local objections prevented this scheme coming to fruition and Medway Queen was sold to a Belgian ship breaker.

 

The Daily Mail was at the forefront of the campaign to save the ship and an Isle of Wight businessman, Alan Ridett thought she would make a suitable clubhouse for his marina development near Newport. The Medway Queen was subsequently purchased by Alan and his associates and towed to the River Medina on the Isle of Wight in 1965 where she became a clubhouse, restaurant and night club.

To be continued
 
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Amazing Grace, Amazing Band, Amazing Jennie! watch this stunning virtual performance here, look for Jennie bottom row third from the left!

https://eur04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fm.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DoTLaAIhZ7i8&data=02%7C01%7C%7Cbbdfc6eeb9a14893da0e08d83d103aa0%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C637326487191840360&sdata=EnrgYDw4jmLzVrgOqGExCe8JMho3CCextpXJaV5M2Vw%3D&reserved=0

ALSO see https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell tells of the Engineer who became a highly decorated pilot.

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross Edward Corringham “Mick” Mannock VC, DSO (Two Bars), MC & Bar

Edward Mannock was born on 24 May 1887 to Julia (née Sullivan) and Edward Mannock, of English, Irish and Scottish descent. Edward was the youngest of three; sister Jessie and Patrick. Edward senior was from a wealthy family. His father was a newspaper editor on Fleet Street and his uncle George Mannock was a friend of the British Royal Family. According to family legend, George had taught the Prince of Wales to play Billiards. Edward senior was a Corporal in the British Army and distinguished himself in the Anglo-Egyptian War at the Battle of Tel el-Kebir in 1882.

Royal Engineers and Royal Army Medical Corps

On 22 May 1915 Mannock reported for duty with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and by July he was sufficiently recovered to join the at his pre-war rank of sergeant. On 25 May he was assigned to the 3rd company, second battalion Home Countries Field Ambulance Service. Upon joining, he found he must attend German wounded as well as British and French; something which he found distasteful. Mannock immediately detected apathy in his old service. In his opinion the men lacked enthusiasm for the job of winning the war. He complained bitterly at their half-hearted efforts during practice drills. While there, Mannock attempted to start a branch of the Wellingborough Parliament to instil some patriotism, pride and professionalism but failed. While tending to some wounded soldiers, Mannock sought an audience with his commanding officer. He refused to continue driving ambulances or tending the sick while thousands died in battle and requested a transfer to the Royal Engineers (RE) as an officer cadet. Mannock waited for months and his rank rose from Sergeant to Sergeant Major. Finally, in March 1916 he was finally granted his transfer after an interview at the local recruitment office in Fenny Stratford. Mannock was conscious his poor education and lower-class background would put him at a considerable disadvantage in the well-educated and higher-class surroundings of the RE. Mannock’s solution to his problem was to throw himself into his work. The method was practical, but his insular behaviour was construed as odd. Mannock despised his peers who were uninterested in the war and seemed concerned only with the uniforms, quality tailoring and how it would improve their chances with women. Tired of the banal conversations and lethargy of his comrades, Mannock wanted to leave the RE but realised a second resignation would damage his chances of becoming a commissioned officer.

At the suggestion of a friend — Eric Tomkins — Mannock decided to join the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Mannock was initially reticent, concerned his age and physical condition would hinder him. His early departure from two other services may also have encouraged questions about his reliability. Mannock acquired all the newspapers he could for information on the air war. In so doing, he came across an article on the man who was to have a profound effect on him: Albert Ball. Ball was the first fighter pilot to be given any publicity and his exploits inspired Mannock to transfer. In June Mannock was promoted to second lieutenant and on 14 August 1916 he arrived at the No. 1 School of Military Aeronautics in Reading.

Royal Flying Corps Mannock’s training began immediately. He received instruction on aerial gunnery, aircraft-rigging, map reading and flight theory. He passed with honours and was sent to Hendon for elementary flying instruction. On 28 November 1916 he received Royal Aero Club (RAeC) certificate 3895. On 5 December he moved to Hounslow to begin training with No. 19 Training Squadron flying the Henry Farman. After completing his course, he was moved to the Hythe School of Gunnery on 1 February 1917 for two weeks and then to No. 10 Reserve Squadron at Joyce Green for advanced training. Mannock’s instructor, Captain Chapman said of him, ” he made his first solo flight with but a few hours’ instruction, for he seemed to master the rudiments of flying with his first hour in the air and from then on threw the machine about as he pleased”. At Joyce Green Mannock met Captain James McCudden. McCudden taught Mannock about air fighting. McCudden stressed team tactics and offensive use of the aeroplane. McCudden said of Mannock, “The pupils here during the period of which I write were very good. One I particularly remember was named Mannock. Mannock was a typical example of the impetuous young Irishman, and I always thought he was of the type to do or die.” Meredith Thomas also met Mannock at Joyce Green in February 1917. Thomas recalled how they were told not to turn below 2,000 feet in an Airco DH.2 pusher. Mannock did so and got into a spin at 1,000 feet (300 m), deliberately. He was keen to see if he could recover the aircraft from such an attitude. Mannock stalled the aircraft, purposely, and followed McCudden’s advice; allow it to come out of the stall and centralise the controls, apply opposite rudder in the spin and as the spin slows ease the nose down. Mannock had discovered that air combat was a science and could be perfected. Regardless, his actions earned him a rebuke from his commanding officer.

Mannock was somewhat older than his peers in the RFC and had experienced the brutality of war first-hand. Meredith Thomas remembered this earned him a reputation as a serious-minded man. Mannock was inclined to be reserved, but was a good conversationalist, patient and willing to assist others but quick to anger. He masked his hatred of the Turks but the intensity with which he carried out his training was sometimes misunderstood.

Military Cross citation T./2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, R.E. & R.F.C For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In the course of many combats he has driven off a large number of enemy machines, and has forced down three balloons, showing a very fine offensive spirit and great fearlessness in attacking the enemy at close range and low altitudes under heavy fire from the ground.                                                                                   

Distinguished Service Order citation: T./2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, M.C., R.E., attd. R.A.F. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during recent operations. In seven days, while leading patrols and in general engagements, he destroyed seven enemy machines, bringing his total in all to thirty. His leadership, dash and courage were of the highest order.                                                                                                                             

 Distinguished Service Order citation to First Bar: T./2nd Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., R.E., and R.A.F. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. In company with one other scout this officer attacked eight enemy aeroplanes, shooting down one in flames. The next day, when leading his flight, he engaged eight enemy aeroplanes, destroying three himself. The same week he led his patrol against six enemy aeroplanes, shooting down the rear machine, which broke in pieces in the air. The following day he shot down an Albatross two-seater in flames, but later, meeting five scouts, had great difficulty in getting back, his machine being much shot about, but he destroyed one. Two days later, he shot down another two-seater in flames. Eight machines in five days—a fine feat of marksmanship and determination to get to close quarters. As a patrol leader he is unequalled. (D.S.O. gazetted in this Gazette.)

Distinguished Service Order citation to Second Bar: Lt. (T./Capt.) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., M.C. (formerly Royal Engineers). Air Ministry, 3rd August 1918. His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to confer the undermentioned rewards on Officers of the Royal Air Force, in recognition of gallantry in flying operations against the enemy:

Awarded a Second Bar to The Distinguished Service Order. This officer has now accounted for 48 enemy machines. His success is due to wonderful shooting and a determination to get to close quarters; to attain this he displays most skilful leadership and unfailing courage. These characteristics were markedly shown on a recent occasion when he attacked six hostile scouts, three of which he brought down. Later on the same day he attacked a two-seater, which crashed into a tree.

(The announcement of award of Distinguished Service Order, and First Bar thereto, will be published in a later Gazette.)

Victoria Cross citation: Capt (Acting Maj) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., M.C., 85th Squadron Royal Air Force. Air Ministry, Hotel Cecil, Strand, W.C.2., 18th July 1919. His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Victoria Cross to the late Captain (acting Major) Edward Mannock, D.S.O., M.C., 85th Squadron Royal Air Force, in recognition of bravery of the first order in Aerial Combat: —

On 17 June 1918, he attacked a Halberstadt machine near Armentieres and destroyed it from a height of 8,000 feet (2,400 m). On 7 July 1918, near Doulieu, he attacked and destroyed one Fokker (red-bodied) machine, which went vertically into the ground from a height of 1,500 feet (460 m). Shortly afterwards he ascended 1,000 feet (300 m) and attacked another Fokker biplane, firing 60 rounds into it, which produced an immediate spin, resulting, it is believed, in a crash.

On 14 July 1918, near Merville, he attacked and crashed a Fokker from 7,000 feet, and brought a two-seater down damaged.

On 19 July 1918, near Merville, he fired 80 rounds into an Albatross two-seater, which went to the ground in flames.

On 20 July 1918, East of La Bassee, he attacked and crashed an enemy two-seater from a height of 10,000 feet (3,000 m).

About an hour afterwards he attacked at 8,000 feet (2,400 m) a Fokker biplane near Steenwercke and drove it down out of control, emitting smoke.

On 22 July 1918, near Armentieres, he destroyed an enemy triplane from a height of 10,000 feet (3,000 m).                                                                                 

Major Mannock was awarded the undermentioned distinctions for his previous combats in the air in France and Flanders:

Military Cross. Gazetted 17 September 1917.
Bar to Military Cross. Gazetted 18 October 1917.
Distinguished Service Order. Gazetted 16 September 1918.
Bar to Distinguished Service Order (1st). Gazetted 16 September 1918.
Bar to Distinguished Service Order (2nd). Gazetted 3 August 1918.                    The officers of No. 85 Squadron, including Major Mannock, in front of their S.E.5a scouts at Saint-Omer aerodrome.

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How Padre John Lines MBE discovered a local Treasure!

I have always liked old things, I said that to my lovely wife and she threatened me with violence – I cannot think why!!  However to be serious, which is not always easy for me I want to write about a treasure in our area which not too many people seem to be aware of, that is the Dover Transport Museum at Whitfield!

When the Church moved me to Dover from London I wondered what I would do with the little personal time that I had.  Well that was solved one evening when I took Christine to Tesco’s at Whitfield and went for a wonder around the area!  As I strolled around I noticed what I thought was the roof of a bus through a gap in some buildings so thought that I would investigate.  After some searching I found myself in the old Old Park army barracks site by a small sign that said Dover Transport Museum.  While I was standing looking at it, a chap approached me and invited me to look around with him and I was hooked!  The premises were fairly small but they were trying to purchase them from the Dover Harbour Board who owned the site and so I threw my hat into the ring as they say.  We were being supported by a lot of local businesses and eventually were able to purchase the former gymnasium and swimming pool areas of the barracks.

Over the past twenty years a small group of really enthusiastic men and women have achieved a great deal and the museum is now regarded very highly by a great many people. We have a far bigger site than the one I first saw and have two main exhibition halls, a large number of ancillary rooms with varied displays, a model railway, a large East Kent Road Car exhibition of their artefacts and uniforms and a large display of shops which try to bring to mind local sights and scenes of Dover and area.  Sadly like so many attractions at present we are shut, but we are still working during the shutdown to make the museum even mo0re interesting.  I have loaned both my ex police Triumph motorcycles, one of which I regularly rode, to the Museum and, when I depart this mortal coil, my two ex East Kent buses will go to the museum.  I hope in a few words, I have given you some idea of a local treasure!  John Lines.                                    https://www.dovertransportmuseum.org.uk/

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The Standard – A Tribute to Mr. Reg Burton by Richard Purton Branch Standard Bearer.

Last week I received very sad news of the passing of one of our past National Parade Marshals and my friend, Mr. Reg Burton. Reg was a big influence in my Standard Bearing career and later my Parade Marshalling.

I first met Reg when I carried the Margate Branch Standard at his mother’s funeral some 20 years ago. I would have been around 18 years old and just starting out in Standard Bearing. Fortunately, I did not know who Reg was at the time as my nerves might have got the better of me.

Reg always had extra time for youth in the Legion because he knew that one day we would take over the reins. He made a point of talking to me that day and over many years Reg would train, advise and help me and eventually call on my assistance for events that he organised himself. That was a very proud day for me I can tell you.

Reg was born around the 1940’s and joined the Grenadier Guards with which he served a full career. He then went on to join the Royal British Legion and became a formidable character that all in the ceremonial side of the Legion knew, loved and if I’m honest a little bit feared.

His career in the Guards had given him impeccable standards. No matter the occasion he was always immaculately turned out. He had an air of high standard about him with his straight back and gleaming Oxford shoes. He would pull the rest of us up when our standards slipped but always in a polite respectful way. Reg was a true old fashioned gentleman and a stickler for manners and politeness. This of course made him perfect for Standard Bearing and Parade Marshalling. Everything had to be perfect. He was renowned for his exacting standards and everybody loved and respected him for it.

Why? You may ask. What gives Reg and people like Reg the drive to have and maintain these standards. You may say it is what those standards represent. Reg learned his standards in the Grenadier Guards and carried them through to the Legion. Many of you reading this will be ex-service and will need no explanation. What do we represent? For Reg, the Guards and the Legion, both full of history, pride and ethos. The driving force of standards. Standards to uphold in what we believe in and represent.

The word ‘Standard’ in the Legion may make you think of what some people call a flag. But it is not a flag. It is a Standard. It means something more. It represents something. It represents the history and the ethos and the people of the Legion. So where did it come from? What is it? Why did it come to mean so much?

Standards, Colours, Banners, Guidons. These are all honourable insignia associated with military organisations. They tend to be encompassed into the term ‘Colours’. Corps, Regiments, Battalions, Units will all have theirs in some way shape or form. When we think of the term ‘colours’, we might think of a kit or a uniform with a badge or a symbol again representing something, just like in team sports. Associated with something that has meaning to someone.

Colours were carried into battle and were the rallying point during times of chaos and confusion. The men could see the Colours over everything and could regroup. Even if the commander had been killed, all was not lost if the Colours were still flying. On the verge of defeat, the men would congregate around the Colours and defend them to the death. That is how much the Colours meant and still do to this day.  Although Colours are still taken to war zones they are no longer carried into battle but they still represent exactly the same things nevertheless.

Colours are emblazoned with the badges and symbols of the unit and in many cases with battle honours and distinctions of years of honourable service. They represent everything the unit has gone through and stands for. The sight of the  Colours would fill the men with pride and still does when a person leaves their Unit. It means just the same to serving as ex-service. Away from battle, Colours would be paraded and still are. No more evident than Trooping the Colour for the Queen’s birthday each year where the Guards take it in turn to Troop their Colour in front of Her Majesty. The act of Trooping is to parade the Colour in front of the troops so they know what it looks like so they can distinguish it during battle.

What does the Legion Standard mean? What does it represent? In many ways they mean much the same. An association, a belonging, a proud history. I’m sure many Legion members will transfer their feelings and meanings from their own serving Colours to the Standard of their Branch. The Legion Standard displays the name of the Branch it belongs to just like a corps or a regiment and it may also display certain awards that the Branch has won, just like battle honours.

As well as this, there is a much deeper more poignant meaning. These words are taken from the Legion Ceremonial Handbook: –

‘The Standard is a constant symbolic reminder to members of the Legion’s motto ‘Service not self’. The crosses of St George, St Andrew and St Patrick symbolise unity, chivalry and our loyalty to our Sovereign, community and nation. The blue indicates loyalty and fidelity and the gold signifies service – “as gold is tried by fire” – and reminds us of all those who gave their lives for our country. Standards are dedicated before being taken into use, and are laid-up in sacred or public buildings after service.’

A perfect example of everything mentioned.

The Standard Bearer has the honour and responsibility of caring for and carrying the Standard. The Standards will be carried at parades of commemoration, remembrance and funerals to show last respects to our fallen. It of course will also be carried for the first time at its dedication where it will be Trooped outside the church afterwards for all to see the new Standard.

With so much history, honour, pride and ethos at stake, it is no wonder that our Colours and Standards mean so much and drive people like Reg to promote and maintain all that they mean and live by those standards. Mr. Reg Burton’s duty is now over. He is now rallied around the big Standard in the sky. It is up to us to take up the Standard and honour the Colours and men Like Reg.

1st Battalion Grenadier Guards Queens Colour

Parade Marshal Mr. Reg Burton with Standards of the Royal British Legion

Rest easy Reg. Your duty is done. Thank you for everything. I will miss you.   Richard Purton Branch Standard Bearer.

See Also https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Burma, Veterans Remembered by Malcolm Gibbons

In 39 you got the call, to serve to fight and give your all. On boats and planes to far flung lands, to Burma where you made your stand.

Through jungle, mountains,hills and valley, the death toll and sacrifice a terrible tally. From Kohima, Imphal, Mandalay and Rangoon , you fought through heat, the dust, and monsoon.

Mud and leaches, the stench of death, you still kept giving, you were the best. The war crimes witnessed, the screams and cries, waiting for rescue under Burma skies.

Medals and honours in plentiful supply, testament to those who would live and die. Years and miles separating family, friend, never knowing when war would

And when it came, you brave brave men, returned to city, village, hill and glen. Rarely to speak of those Burma days, too proud your souls to bare or praise. You mourned the loss of mates far away, for those who sacrificed and gave their today. Those men you left so far behind and those who died on the railway line.

But we know you also suffered, the nightmares and the pain, recurrent bouts of malaria and the demons of mental strain.

So now it is our time to honour you, and this is our solemn vow. We WiLL remember you always, as we remember you now.

Burma 1942 – 1945

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“England is as dependant as Holland upon drainage systems”

Read John Elms fascinating piece here!

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Part 3 of Edward’s story of the Medway Queen

DUNKIRK!

On 27th May 1940 HMS Medway Queen received orders to head to the beaches of Dunkirk to embark some troops that would be waiting there. The crew of HMS Medway Queen had no idea of the enormous operation known as “Operation Dynamo” that was building up. After taking on additional stores Medway Queen departed for Dunkirk along with the HMS Sandown, HMS Thames Queen, HMS Gracie Fields, HMS Queen of Thanet, HMS Princess Elizabeth, HMS Laguna Belle and HMS Brighton Belle. As they approached the beaches at La Panne they could see the lines of soldiers in the water, some of whom were up to their necks. Using the lifeboats the crew of the Medway Queen ferried the soldiers from the beach to the paddle steamer and all the while this was happening the AA cruiser HMS Calcutta gave covering fire. Fully loaded, Medway Queen headed back to Dover unscathed. As they approached the Goodwin Sands an air-raid developed and the little paddle steamer claimed her first kill in shooting down one of the enemy aircraft. But while all those on board celebrated the near-by Brighton Belle tore out her bottom as she drifted over a submerged wreck.

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As she began to sink (right) the Medway Queen went alongside and took off all her soldiers and crew resulting in no loss of life. The Medway Queen, so heavily overloaded, managed to get into Ramsgate and moored alongside.This was the first of seven crossings that the Medway Queen was to make in the course of the operation.

That evening the Medway Queen headed back to the Dunkirk beaches. The ships now operated independently in order to maximise the number of soldiers that could be picked up. During the second night the Straits of Dover were particularly calm and the double wake from the paddle steamers were easily spotted from enemy aircraft. Therefore to prevent detection the Medway Queen’s crew devised a system of oily bags lowered over the side to break up the waves. This time Medway Queen sailed to Dunkirk Harbour and berthed alongside the East Mole, a concrete breakwater reaching out into the Channel. The harbour was extensively damaged but use of the mole sped up loading and about two thirds of the soldiers saved throughout the 9 days of the evacuation embarked from the mole. Medway Queen made crossings to the mole or beaches as circumstances required. On most trips she disembarked her troops at Ramsgate  but used Margate on May 30th and Dover on 2nd of June. During the day, between trips, the crew had to clean the ship, take on ammunition and  provisions and refuel before departing  again. It was her 1938 conversion to oil firing that made her seven  round trips possible.

 
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Medway Queen as a Minesweeper in 1940
 

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Our committee member “musical” Jennie Gibbons has sent me this interesting item

Due to the pandemic Deal Brass Academy Band has been unable to play out at any Summer venues, including Armed Forces Day at Deal Pier.
To keep ourselves playing and occupied, it was decided to play a virtual piece of music!
The chosen tune was Amazing Grace.
This is easier said than done and very near perfect timing by all players has to be maintained! whilst playing within their own homes.  I am still awaiting to hear the finished product when our band secretary has collated all the instrument parts.
We certainly all needed “Amazing Grace” to achieve this.
 
Jennie we look forward to hearing it soon!
 
 

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The Royal Engineers and the Victoria Cross by our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross The Victoria Cross (VC) is a military decoration that may be bestowed upon members of the British or Commonwealth armed forces for acts of valour or gallantry performed in the face of the enemy. Within the British honours system and those of many Commonwealth nations it is the highest award a soldier can receive for actions in combat. It was established in 1856 and since then has been awarded 1,356 times, including three service personnel who were awarded the VC twice.

The VC was introduced on 29 January 1856 by Queen Victoria to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War. The traditional explanation of the source of the gunmetal from which the medals are struck is that it derives from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol.

The Corps of Royal Engineers can trace its origins back 900 years, during which time they have been involved in every major conflict the British Army has fought in. The Royal Flying Corps – the forerunner of the Royal Air Force – and the present-day Royal Signals were originally part of the Corps. Their first recipient of the Victoria Cross received the award for actions performed during the Crimean War, while the last came during the Second World War. In total, thirty-six Royal Engineers have been awarded the Victoria Cross, across ten different conflicts or campaigns.

Colonel John Rouse Merriot Card VC was a British Army officer who received the Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour “in the face of the enemy” that can be awarded to members of the British armed forces. He earned the decoration for his role in the defence of Rorke’s Drift in January 1879 where he commanded a small British garrison of 139 soldiers that successfully repulsed an assault by some 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The battle was recreated in the film Zulu in which Chard was portrayed by Stanley Baker.

On 14 July 1868 Chard received a commission as a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers and continued his training at Chatham for the next two years. He was posted to Bermuda, along with Lieutenant HP Knacker, in 1870 to construct fortifications at the Naval Dockyard near Hamilton.mm He was then sent to Malta to assist with the improvement of the island’s sea defences. He returned to England in 1876 where he was based at Aldershot and Chatham and was assigned to the 5th Company Royal Engineers.

On 2 December 1878, the 5th Company Royal Engineers were sent to the Colony of Natal in response to a request from Lord Chelmsford, commander of the British forces in southern Africa, for an additional unit of engineers to assist with preparations for the invasion of the Zulu Kingdom. After their arrival on 5 January, Chard was dispatched with a small group of sappers to repair and maintain the ponts at one of the few crossings of the Buffalo River which ran along the border of Natal and the Zulu Kingdom. A short distance downstream was Rorke’s Drift, an isolated mission station used as a staging post for the British invasion force. It consisted of two thatched bungalows about 30 metres (98 ft) apart—the western building was used as a hospital, and the eastern building had been converted into a storehouse. Garrisoned at the Drift were Chelmsford’s quartermaster general, Major Henry Spalding, a company of the 2nd Battalion 24th Regiment of Foot commanded by Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead, and a large company of the 3rd Natal Native Contingent (NNC).

Chard’s group arrived on 19 January and set up camp near the crossing. On the morning of 22 January, he received an order that his sappers were required at Isandlwana 10 miles (16 km) to the east, where Chelmsford had set up an advanced camp for his main invasion column which had marched into Zulu territory two weeks before. However, when he arrived Chard was informed that only his men were required and that he should return to Rorke’s Drift. While at Isandlwana, Chard had witnessed a Zulu army approaching the camp in the distance and upon his return to the Drift at about 1 pm, he informed Spalding of the situation. Spalding decided to depart the Drift to hurry British reinforcements en route from Helpmekaar, but before he left, he checked a copy of the Army List which confirmed that Chard was senior to Bromhead. Therefore, Chard, a “notoriously relaxed” man with no combat experience, was unexpectedly placed in command of the small garrison.

Unconcerned by the presence of the Zulus nearby, Chard returned to his tent by the river crossing, but he was soon after disturbed by two NNC officers on horseback who informed him that the camp at Isandlwana had been overwhelmed and annihilated by the Zulus. Returning to the station, Chard found Bromhead and Assistant Commissary James Dalton had already instructed the troops to use mealie bags to construct a defensive perimeter between the storehouse and hospital. Chard consented and by 4 pm the hastily constructed perimeter was complete. Soon afterwards, the Zulu impi, which contained some 3,000–4,000 men, was sighted advancing on their position. This caused the NNC troops to panic and desert the station, reducing the number of defenders from around 350 to approximately 140 (including 30 sick and wounded). Chard immediately ordered an additional barricade of biscuit boxes to be built across the inner perimeter to provide a smaller fall-back area should the Zulus overwhelm a part of the thinly manned perimeter.

The first waves of Zulu assault were repulsed by British volley fire, but the attackers pushed on relentlessly, particularly along a vulnerable section of the British perimeter by the hospital which became the centre of fierce hand-to-hand combat. With British casualties mounting, Chard ordered his troops to withdraw behind the biscuit boxes, which left the western half of the station in Zulu hands, including the hospital, which was subsequently set alight by the attackers. Once inside, Chard ordered the construction of a redoubt made from a tall pyramid of mealie bags to provide shelter to the wounded and form the last line of defence. The Zulus continued to attack in intermittent waves during the night, but they were illuminated by the burning thatch, which enabled the defenders to spot their advances. By 5 am, the exhausted Zulus had abandoned the attack, and British reinforcements arrived later that morning. Chard counted 351 dead Zulus scattered around the perimeter. The British suffered 17 killed and 10 wounded.

Chard remained at Rorke’s Drift for several weeks after the battle and assisted with the construction of a new stone perimeter wall. However, conditions at the camp were poor; Chard became ill with fever and was taken to Ladysmith for treatment. Once recovered he was attached to Colonel Evelyn Wood’s column for the second invasion of the Zulu Kingdom. Meanwhile, Chard’s report of the battle had been dispatched to England and received with enthusiasm by the British press and public. The War Office subsequently promoted Chard to captain and brevet major and awarded him and 10 other defenders of the station with Victoria Crosses, the highest decoration for gallantry that could be awarded to British troops. The citation for the award was published in the London Gazette on 2 May 1879:

THE Queen has been graciously pleased to signify Her intention to confer the decoration of the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned Officers and Soldiers of Her Majesty’s Army, whose claims have been submitted for Her Majesty’s approval, for their gallant conduct in the defence of Rorke’s Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus, as recorded against their names, viz.:—

For their gallant conduct at the defence of Rorke’s Drift, on the occasion of the attack by the Zulus on the 22nd and 23rd January 1879.

Royal Engineers Lieutenant (now Captain and Brevet Major) J. R. M. Chard

2nd Battalion 24th Regiment Lieutenant (now Captain and Brevet Major) G. Bromhead

The Lieutenant-General commanding the troops reports that, had it not been for the fine example and excellent behaviour of these two Officers under the most trying circumstances, the defence of Rorke’s Drift post would not have been conducted with that intelligence and tenacity which so essentially characterised it.

The Lieutenant-General adds, that its success must, in a great degree, be attributable to the two young Officers who exercised the Chief Command on the occasion in question.

 

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Part 2 of  our Branch Padre’s “love of  his bus” by Rev John Lines MBE 

The fun begins!

My last jottings finished with me becoming the owner of a Guy double deck bus ex London Transport G 351 and Burton Corporation number 70.  Great you may be thinking, well now the fun began!  I had cancelled a life insurance policy and had the princely sum of £122 to spend on my acquisition so you can imagine that I was delighted when the general manager said I could have the bus for £50.  Sounds good?  Well yes and no, he then dropped the bombshell that the bus had no engine!  It shows you how naive I was as I was not put out, rather I started to search for a Gardner 5LW diesel engine and eventually found a breaker in Sherburn in Elmet who had one for sale for £50.  Those of you who are doing the sums will realise my £122 is decreasing fast.  I was living in Croydon, the bus was in Burton and the engine in Sherburn in Elmet, so how do I could get them together?  I had a mark ll Land Rover at the time and had the mad idea of getting the engine put into it so I could transport it to the bus!  Two problems at that point, one no way would the Land Rover have carried the weight and two the general manager would not allow a colleague and I to fit the engine at their garage!  Oh well, back to the drawing board!

Thankfully both problems were solved when the breaker offered to transport the engine to Burton for a £5 tip for his driver and the general manager said he would get two of his fitters to put the engine in for me at a cost of £16, great news but work out the maths!  I now had the sum of £1 left in my funds! Then the great day arrived, the bus had an engine and all was well.  No not really, the general manager then asked me what I was going to do about tyres?  I never gave a thought to the fact that bus companies rent their tyres from the tyre makers and seeing the bus was standing with tyres on it I thought they were part of the purchase price! Now if I tell you the I needed eight 900 x 20 tyres ( front wheels are a different dish to the rear, so really needed three wheels for the front and five for the back to enable me to have spare wheels in case of emergencies) which were £35 each then new.  Obviously beyond my meagre means and the general manager was not too happy about keeping the bus in his garage and really wanted it out.  Thankfully he pulled out all the stops and found me eight slave tyres (thank goodness it was before the tyre regulations) at £1 each.  Mind you they were really bald and no way could I drive on them after the initial journey from Burton to Croydon, so for the next few weeks I haunted scrap yards looking for eight 900 x 20 tyres.  Most Church ministers want to go to Rome or the Holy Land on pilgrimage, but my intention at this time was to go on pilgrimage to Fallings Park in Wolverhampton where Guy Motors had their factory.  That was something I managed to do, maybe it will come up in another of my jottings!  You have been warned! Please keep safe!¬

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The London Marathon for Aussie and June and the Legion by Richard Purton.

The London Marathon was founded in 1981 by Olympic champion and journalist Chris Brasher and athlete John Disley. It is currently organised by Chris’s son Hugh. The first London Marathon was held on 29 March 1981 with more than 20,000 applying to run. 6,747 were accepted and 6,255 crossed the finish line on Constitution Hill. This year’s event should have taken place in April but due to Covid-19 did not. It has been rescheduled for October 4th but there is still uncertainty and regular updates are being issued. 457,861 applied for this year and around 42,000 will hopefully cross the finish line in October. 1,083,261 people have crossed the finish line since it started in 1981.

With more that 75% of entrants running for charity the event generates a massive income including for the Royal British Legion. Last year’s event raised £66 million so with the uncertainty of this year’s event taking place it has caused crisis for many charities. There are a number of ways to get a place to run in the London Marathon. The ballot (names out of the hat) is where most people start but with over 450,000 applying for around 45,000 places the odds are stacked. A slightly more certain way to get in is to sign up with a charity and commit to raise a minimum amount of money. Many runners who get a ballot place still choose to run for a charity and that is what I have done this year. Whenever it takes place I will be running for the Royal British Legion in memory of my dear friends and our past Branch President Austin Walker MBE and his wife June.

It will not be my first marathon. I took up running in 2015 as a rather overweight 34 year old and have continued to run loosing around 8 stones in weight and running all number of distances from 5 kilometres to full marathons and ultra-marathons. A marathon is 26.2 miles. It doesn’t matter which marathon it is the distance is always the same. An ultra-marathon is anything further than that.

Austin, affectionately known as Aussie was the reason I joined the Legion. Aussie became my mentor and supporter. Not just in the Legion but in life. June was Aussies biggest supporter. They were a formidable team giving the best part of their life to the Legion. They both became very dear friends to me. I became involved with the Legion at the age of 10 when I joined the Sea Cadet Corps in Margate. Aussie was the Unit Chairman for many years. A strong link formed between the unit and the Legion and a personal link for me even more so. Aussie had served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and joined the Legion in 1978 becoming the Margate Branch Chairman in 1988. A position he held for 20 years. I was a bugler in the cadets and with Aussie and his wife June would travel all over the county of Kent playing the Last Post and Reveille at events like the annual Poppy Appeal Launch.

In 1998 at the age of 17, Aussie asked me if I would like to join the Legion as a youth member. I believe I was the first in Kent. I went on to become the County Standard Bearer which took me to many events all over the county but most notable for me, the Queens Golden Jubilee parade and the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall. At branch level I joined the committee and over the years took on roles like Treasurer, Vice Chairman and Conference Delegate. All the time being nurtured and supported by Aussie At remembrance tide Aussie and I would distribute and collect poppy boxes. He lost a leg as a young man in a motorcycle accident. He would do the driving around and I would do the running around. We would stand together on the streets collecting during the two week period.

In 2010 Aussie became the Kent County Chairman and very quickly turned the County into one of the best performing in the country. I became his County Parade Marshal. He travelled many miles visiting branches and groups and continually sought ways to improve.  His knowledge of the Legion was second to none in Kent. Aussie stood down as Kent County Chairman in 2015 and became a County Life Vice President in recognition of his services to the County.  His Legion work continued in the roles of President of our Branch and also Chairman of the County Awards Committee.  Aussie was the director of the Isle of Thanet Festival of Remembrance for 17 years retiring in 2018. A small festival in comparison to the Royal Albert Hall but replicated as closely as he could achieve. Always with a military band and involving the local cadet forces and raising on average at least £5000 for the Poppy Appeal each year. I was involved as a cadet providing displays and later went on to join the committee and act as Parade Marshal.

His work for the Legion was recognised in 1998 when he was awarded National Life Membership and again in 2005 when he was awarded the Legion’s highest honour – the National Certificate of Appreciation. The ultimate recognition came in 2017 when Aussie was awarded an MBE from the Queen. He phoned me with the wonderful news and informed me that he would probably opt to have it presented locally by the Lord Lieutenant as his health was not really up to the journey to London. I replied, Aussie, I will drive you to the Queens front door. And I did. With June and Mary Eldridge we had a wonderful trip to Buckingham Palace and proudly watch Aussie receive his MBE from the Queen herself. That memory will live with me forever.

In December 2018 June passed away through ill health. Four months later sadly Aussie had a fall at home and passed away soon after. They were together again.  I have tried for a number of years to get a place in the London Marathon and when Aussie passed away I vowed I would run it for the Legion and run in memory of Aussie and June.

Being involved with the Legion and then becoming a member at such a young age has developed me and given me opportunities in many areas of my life. All of this was made possible by Aussie and his wife June. Aussie was not just my chairman, but along with June, very very dear friends. It is going to be an absolute honour to run the London Marathon in their memory and raise as much money as I can for the cause that they dedicated the best part of their lives to.

I would like to thank the Branch for a very generous donation from the friends account. My total so far is £310. I am aiming for £1000. If anybody would like to donate it can be done here https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RichardPurton2

Thank you, I hope you are all safe and well

Yours

Richard Purton  Branch Standard Bearer

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Part 2 of Malcolm’s history of the Burma Star Association

 
THE BURMA STAR MEMORIAL As readers od Dekho will know the Burma Star Memorial Fundwas established in 2005 working hard in setting up a scholarship programmel Awith University College London. Our scholarships will be available to citizensof any ofthe Alliednations that contributed to the Burma Campaign. The steering committee has also been developing a new website which willbeBURMSTARlaunched in theAutumn at www.burmastarmemorial.org. The 56,000Association M EMORIALmembership records and all back copies of Dekho! have been digitised and will be FUN Davailable to both view and add to on this website. There is also information on thehistory of the Burma Campaign and details of the new Burma Star scholarship programme. The websitecovers the following areas:Design style of the websiteThe Memorial Fund has developed a new identity and logo. The website reflects this new design approachand colour palette. The logo represents the educational role that the Fund will play in the future. The conceptis based on book spines with the medal ribbon colours and a star integral to the design. The website usesdifferent elements of this in its design and has a more contemporary feel to it. The design style will also beused on the Memorial Fund’s stationery.Online archiveThis is the most comprehensive part of the new website. We have worked with an organisation calledFindrryrpast to digitise all of our 56,000 Burma StarAssociation membership records. Over a three- monthperiod a member of staff from Findmypast was based at the Grosvenor Gardens offices and took a photographof each of the membership records. The same has been done for all of the past issues of Dekho!A11of thesecopies have been photographed so that they can be digitally recorded.The new website will be free of charge and will not be subscription based. Anyone will be able to view thephotographic images oftherecords andofthemanyhundreds of articles inDekho! Therewill alsobe a searchfacility so that an individual can look for a specific name, regiment, squadron or ship for example. You willalso be able to add to an individual record. If you have photos or memoires that you would like recorded forposterity the Administrator at the Memorial Fund will be able to explain how this can be done.Burma Star Scholarship ProgrammeThis section of the website gives more information on the new Burrna Star scholarship programme that theMemorial Fund has established with University College London.The Burma Star Scholarship reflects the multi-national nature of the Allied forces which fought in Burma -the most diverse of any force in the Second World War – by being open to graduates from any Allied nationwhich contributed military forces.The Burma Star Scholars will study at University College London in fields related to the Campaign. They will
be drawn from around the world and we hope will have a passion for changing the world and tackling theissues which we all face in the future. Like the 14thArmy, they will be excited by the thought that the worldcan be a better place.The scholarship will only be successful if we raise enough money to fund it. We are dependent on donationsand the supporl of philanthropic partners to help us fund these scholarships. We are always delighted to hearfrom potential funders and those interested in making a donation to help fund our scholars. Please contactHeadquarters on 0207 823 4273 or at admin@bunnastar.olg.uk.Campaign HistoryThe Campaign History section of the website has much of the information on the history that is on the currentBurma Star Association website. However, it will be presented in a more dynamic, interactive way with asearch facility to allow you to find specific stories, battle histories or Division information quickly and easily.The new Campaign history timeline shows the chronicle of events far more clearly and it will be easier totrack the progression of the Campaign and key events. We have included General Sir William Slim’s LastOrder, issued on 2 December 1945 on this webpage and Lord Louis Mountbatten’s Address to the Press inAugust 1944.This section also includes information on Books of Interest. It includes a link to the Burma CampaignMemorial Library held at SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies) . The collection was compiled byvolunteers from the Burma Campaign Fellowship group over a four-year period (1995-1999). It initiallyconsisted of private donations and bequests from veterans and other individuals; books drawn from thelibrary collection of SOAS and books purchased u’ith the aid of a grant from GB Sasakawa Foundation. Thisinitial collection was complemented by a significant addition of Japanese language titles relating to theCampaign donated by the All Burma Veterans Association of Japan in 2001. It is constantly growing asexisting rare books are acquired and new works on the conflict are published. The full descriptive catalogueof the material available can be accessed via the new website.Campaign MemorialsInformation on the many Burma Campaign memorials can be found on this parl of the website. As readers willbe aware. the Memorial Fund established a Burma Star Grove at the National Memorial Arboretum atAlrewas in Staffordshire which is dedicated to all those who took part in the Burma Campaign of 1941-1945 .Opening hours, directions and details of the annual memorial service will be included here.There is also information on the 400 recorded UK wide memorials as well as those located in Myanmar andIndia. Finally, this section of the website reminds us of the origins of the Kohima Epitaph. The verse isattributedto John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958) and is thoughtto have been inspiredbythe epitaphwrittenby Simonides to honour the Greeks who fell at the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC.The website will be launched in the Autumn of this year. We hope that readers find it useful and draw yourattention parlicularly to the online archive where you can look back over our 192 issues of Dekho !

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Part 2 of John Elms our President’s history of the Malayan Emergency

The Malayan ‘Emergency’ 1948 – 1960   Part 2

A brief history of a British Infantry Regiments tour of Malaya from 1955 to 1958. On 19th July 1955 the main party of the 1st  Battalion Royal Lincolnshire Regiment boarded the Empire Clyde at Liverpool bound for Malaya. An advance party including the CO. Lt. Col. Goulson was to leave by air for Singapore twelve days later. The Empire Clyde arrived in Singapore on 11th August with the advance party already there to welcome it.

Following a weeks acclimatisation at Singapore the battalion moved to Kata Tinggi in Jahore State for three weeks jungle training. Upon completion the battalion took over duties from the 1st Bn. Somerset Light Infantry in Pahang State forming part of the 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade which at that time also included the Royal Scots Fusiliers and the 2nd Royal Australian Regiment. Operations commenced against the communist terrorists otherwise known as CT’s. By February 1956 the battalion strength had risen to nearly 1200 some 75 per cent being National Servicemen. It was noted “It was no small demand to ask a young man of 19 or 20 to take a patrol into the jungle, patrol a difficult and possibly dangerous area and navigate his way back.”

During April 1956 B, C, D and Support Companies moved to Negri Sembilan HQ and A Companies remaining in Pahang. The four Companies now formed part of then 26 Gurkha Brigade together with the 2/2nd and 2/6th Gurkhas. Up to November 56 the Battalion was credited with 13 CT’s killed and 9 captured, 2 members of the Battalion were listed as wounded.  On the night of 7th/8th November a party of local Home Guard, pig hunting, entered one of A Companies ambush positions and were mistaken for CT’s. Two of the Home Guard were killed. Unfortunately 2/Lt R. D. Ogden (a member of the tobacco family) was killed.

At the end of November 56 the Bn. Moved north to Perak state leaving B and C Companies behind to join them in December. At this time three members of the Bn. received Queens permission to receive three Negri Sembilan awards, Sgt G. L. Bench the N S state Meritorious Service Medal with L/Cpl G. J. Henson and Pte . R. C. Powell receiving the N S State Conspicuous  Gallantry Medals.

The state of Perak included areas of tin mines, rubber and tea estates with jungle covered mountains and extended north some forty miles north of Kuala Lumpur right up to the Thailand border. Operations were soon underway with the first success going to D Company with a kill near Sungei Siput where the conflict first started on 16th June 1948. Between 2nd February to 2nd April the battalion was based around Taiping for a period of rest and retraining. This also provided the opportunity of leave for most of the men.

Operations resumed  after 2nd April and carried on in the area until the end of February 1958 when the final move took place to west Johore in the south of the peninsula. Once again considerable success had been achieved in Perak. Accurate figures were impossible due to the nature of operations but a considerable number of CT’s had been eliminated or captured.

On 31st August 1957 Malaya was granted total independence which was known as ‘Merdeka’. B Company obtained ‘a kill’ two hours before Merdeka and on 3rd September C Company obtained two more. These were the last in the old regime and the first under the new one.

As a little aside an interesting event occurred on 13th March 1957. A three story rubber factory collapsed near Taiping. Sheets of latex approximately 2.5 metres long and 1.5 metres wide were hung over wooden poles to ‘cure and dry’. The whole lot collapsed burying workers.  We were called in to attempt a rescue. It was dark and flood lighting had been set up. I was in the first party. We climbed on top of the collapse and formed a chain gang passing along the sheets of latex . We did a four hour shift and by the time mine was over hands were ‘raw’ with handling the latex. Protective clothing not yet invented! Eventually five bodies were recovered but no survivors. The event made the national press as did several of the operational successes.

The Battalion made its final move to Johore at the end of 1958. The area consisted of jungle covered hills to the west and swamp and rubber plantation to the east. Numbers were now being run down ready for departure later in the year. The last engagement was on 10th  May when 2 CT’s were killed and six more wounded and captured. This decimated the last CT fighting platoon in the area. It also brought to an end a very successful tour by the Battalion operations ceasing 16th July. The Battalion lost 10 men on the tour plus one Iban tracker a member of the Sarawak Rangers who was attached. There was also a small number of wounded.

Apart from the three Malayan awards listed above members of the Battalion were awarded four Military  Crosses, two Military Medals, two MBE’s , two OBE’s and 30 mentioned in Dispatches. Some 2000 men were involved over the period with in the region of 75% being National Servicemen. Some 500 men embarked at Singapore in the Empire Fowey on 25th July reaching Mombasa Kenya on 5th August. Instead of continuing home it was diverted to Aden where trouble was commencing and an infantry unit was needed. Here it remained until 10th September when replacement infantry was available. The date of the eventual arrival in the UK was unrecorded. The remainder of the journey  was completed in the troopship Devonshire.

Editors Note

John was serving with the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment during this period.

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Medway Queen Part 2

In the early part of the 20th century a trip on a paddle steamer was a high-spot of a family’s summer with the Medway Queen’s decks often being full of holidaymakers. During these times most seaside resorts had their own pier where many paddle steamers disembarked their passengers. The Medway Queen mainly operated between Strood, Southend and Herne Bay; calling at Sun Pier (Chatham) and Sheerness. Additional trips to

destinations such as Clacton and occasionally Margate were also advertised. She would normally leave Strood Pier at around 9am and call at Sun Pier (Chatham) shortly after. The Medway Queen carried many people on her various excursions from the Medway Towns during the 1920s and into the 1930s.  Special events such as Chatham Navy Days generated extra traffic and in 1937 Medway Queen ran an excursion to the Spithead Naval Review, meeting up with a train load of passengers from London Victoria.

In September 1939 the ship assisted in the evacuation of children from her home county of Kent to East Anglia as part of an operation contracted to General Steam Navigation of which the New Medway Steam Packet Co. was a part. Embarkation was from the Ford Jetty at Dagenham on the 1st and 2nd of the month and from Gravesend on the 3rd.

Medway Queen was requisitioned for war service on 9th September 1939 and taken to the shipyard of the General Steam Navigation Company in Deptford Creek where she was transformed from her black, white and cream peacetime livery to battleship grey. The refit included considerable modification to her aft end where part of the saloon was cut away to accommodate the mine-sweeping gear. Additional items were fitted such as a 12pdr gun and anti-aircraft machine guns. The bridge was extended and enclosed. She went into the yard as a pleasure steamer but came out as HMS Medway Queen with her pennant number N48 which later became J48. The commissioning ceremony took place in November and sea trials commenced.

Her first wartime captain was Sub-Lieutenant R.D.C.Cooke, RNVR. He was a veteran of the first world war. The other officers included Sub-Lieutenant J.D. Graves RNR and Lieutenant Jolly RN. who was a peacetime yachtsman. The navigator of HMS Medway Queen was Lieutenant Keilly who, despite being of pensionable age, managed to persuade the Captain to take him on as a Junior Officer because of his long deep sea experience. Other crew members included Petty Officer Crossley who was to become the Coxswain and also Petty Officer McAllister who became the designated Bo’sun of the upper deck.

After gun trials at Sheerness adjustments were made in Chatham Dockyard. HMS Medway Queen was then posted to Harwich in January 1939, initially as an independent ship and later as part of the 9th Minesweeping Flotilla. During the winter of 1939 parts of the Medway and Thames estuaries were frozen over but the Flotilla continued their daily sweeps for mines with the assistance of a tug to break any patches of ice that lay ahead of them. The harshness of the cold winters took their toll on the Medway Queen with faults appearing in the ship’s structure. This lead to her being ordered into Chatham dockyard in February 1940 for repairs and installation of de-gaussing equipment as protection against magnetic mines.

In March 1940 HMS Medway Queen joined the 10th Paddle Mine-sweeping Flotilla in Dover The flotilla was commanded by Commander Greig RN. of HMS Sandown (another paddle steamer, originally from the Isle of Wight). At about this time the Commanding Officer changed to Lt. A. T. Cook RNR. when his predecessor retired through ill health. Lt. A. T. Cook commanded Medway Queen throughout the Dunkirk Evacuation and for some time afterwards. HMS Medway Queen patrolled the Straits of Dover acting as sub-divisional leader. Often the paddle steamer would anchor in pre-arranged locations in order to act as lookout. It was when the Medway Queen was fulfilling this duty on 27th May 1940 that she received orders to head to the beaches of Dunkirk to embark some troops that would be waiting there. Even then the crew of HMS Medway Queen had no idea of the enormous operation known as “Operation Dynamo”.

To be continued

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Committee member Jennie Gibbons and her music.

Here is a little item which may be of interest to some of our members.

I first started to play a tenor horn, which is held and shaped like a very small euphonium,  in Snowdown Colliery Brass Band, well over twenty years ago. This band plays every year at the Deal Hospital Remembrance Day Service, it also played for several years at the Armed Forces Day Celebration at Deal Pier. I now play for the Deal Brass Academy Band. You will see this band playing at Armed Forces Day on Deal Pier. We also play at several fetes, summer and winter activities, though not at the moment due to Lockdown! Members, including myself, play outside our homes, amid the clapping, patriotic tunes at 8pm on Thursday evenings. Among these tunes are:  Over The Rainbow, Ode To Joy, There’ll Always Be An England and We’ll Meet Again. All very much enjoyed by our neighbours and a pleasure to play.

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Very interesting item from our Youth Liaison Office Stuart Gemmell.

Hello to you all. I hope you are all keeping safe and well during this unusual time. I understand that lockdown has probably posed more of a challenge for some, than others, but to me, it feels like I am on operations again with the Army.

Some of you may know that I served with the Royal Engineers for over 21 years. I was lucky to deploy on many operations around the world. Almost 20 years ago to the day, I was sent to Kenya, providing support to a Kenyan National Park, repairing roads and building a bridge that had been swept away during the previous year’s monsoon season.

                    A young Sapper Gemmell (L) and friend in Kenya (Jan 2000)

                      Camp living Nakuru National Park Kenya (Jan 2000)

Living was basic in the African bush, as you can see from the photos above, but as Royal Engineer’s we made the best of what we had to hand, which was often not a lot.
        The Royal Engineers – A brief history

The Corps of Royal Engineers was formed in May 1716 after a Royal Warrant of King George I authorised the Royal Regiment of Artillery and the Corps of Engineers as separate entities. In 1787 they were granted the title Royal and Engineer officers and were styled Royal Engineer. Commissions were awarded on merit, unlike the cavalry or infantry, where they could be purchased.                                                                The Royal Engineers has no battle honours. Its regimental motto, awarded by King William IV in 1832, Ubique (Everywhere) & Quo Fas Et Gloria Ducunt (Where Right and Glory Lead) signify that the Corps had seen action in all the major conflicts of the British Army.

The Royal Engineers were responsible for the introduction of much new technology to the Army – telegraphy during the Crimean War of 1854 – 1856. In 1870, the Telegraph Troop, Royal Engineers was founded the first formal professional body of signallers in the British Army charged with providing communications for a field army by means of visual signalling, mounted orderlies and telegraph.

The Royal Engineers also introduced photography in the Abyssinian Campaign of 1867 and steam road traction in the Ashanti Campaign of 1873.The Royal Engineers were responsible for the introduction of much new technology to the Army – telegraphy during the Crimean War of 1854 – 1856. In 1870, the Telegraph Troop, Royal Engineers was founded the first formal professional body of signallers in the British Army charged with providing communications for a field army by means of visual signalling, mounted orderlies and telegraph.

With their expertise of firing explosive charges underwater the Royal Engineers became responsible for harbour defences, using submarine mines in conjunction with searchlights. Indeed, the Submarine Mining Service grew into a major specialization and was not handed over to the Royal Navy until 1905.

The Royal Engineers interest in aeronautics began in the 1860’s when they explored the possibilities of using air balloons for aerial observation purposes. This developed into an interest in fixed wing aircraft and on 13 April 1912, when King George V signed a royal warrant establishing the Royal Flying Corps. The Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers became the Military Wing of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) a month later on 13 May.

On 1st April 1918, the Royal Air Force (RAF) is formed with the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The RAF took its place beside the British navy and army as a separate military service with its own ministry.

The RFC’s motto was Per ardua ad astra (Through adversity to the stars). This remains the motto of the Royal Air Force (RAF) and other Commonwealth air forces.

The Royal Engineers (Postal Service) was formed in 1913 from the Army Post Office Corps, this came about as a result of the connection between the Royal Engineers (Signal Service) and the General Post Office. The postal service left the Royal Engineers in 1993 to join the Royal Logistic Corps (RLC).

Todays Ordnance Survey was developed from the early Royal Engineers survey activities. Britain having acquired an Empire, it fell to the Royal Engineers to conduct some of the most significant “civil” engineering schemes around the world. The Royal Engineers, Columbia Detachment, was responsible for the foundation and settlement of British Columbia as the Colony of British Columbia. They also had a hand in the following structures:

  • The Royal Albert Hall
  • Much of the British colonial era infrastructure of India
  • The construction of the Rideau Canal
  • The Western Heights of Dover
  • Pentonville Prison
  • Royal Naval Dockyards across the world, including Chatham Dockyard

Members of the Corps have determined boundaries on behalf of the British as well as foreign governments; some notable boundary commissions include:

  • 1839 – Canada-United States
  • 1858 – Canada-United States (General John Hawkins RE)
  • 1856 and 1857 – Russo-Turkish (Sir Edward Stanton RE)
  • 1857 – Russo-Turkish (Field Marshal Lintorn Simmons RE)
  • 1878 – Bulgarian
  • 1880 – Græco-Turkish (Major General John Ardagh RE)
  • 1884 – Russo-Afghan (Colonel Thomas Holdich RE)
  • 1894 – India-Afghanistan (Colonel Thomas Holdich RE)
  • 1902 – Chile-Argentine (Colonel Sir Delme Radcliffe RE)
  • 1911 – Peru-Bolivia (Major A. J. Woodroffe RE)

As you can see from our history, the Royal Engineers has had a busy 300 years!

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Item of interest from our Branch Padre “In Love” Rev John Lines MBE 

 Towards the end of the war, I was living with my mother in West Norwood near Crystal Palace in South London.  Like most men of that time my father was away fighting in our armed services.  My mother’s mother lived in Chorleywood in Hertfordshire and for some reason we were going to visit, why I cannot recall but it may have been because my grandfather was seriously ill.  However back to my tale!  To start the journey we caught a London Transport LT class bus up to Victoria, the LT class buses were AEC six wheel vehicles and this particular one had an outside staircase at the rear to reach the top deck.  I know my mother was not too keen on the top deck, especially with all the cigarette smoke, but she kindly indulged my plea and we went up to the top deck.  On our arrival at the bus stands outside Victoria Railway Station I was to see a sight that changed my life forever!  Standing in the bus station was a grey painted bus, don’t forget that London bus were usually red, which made a funny tinkling noise as it ticked over.  I was in love, a love affair that has lasted to this very day! I can imagine my poor mother on the rest of the journey, firstly to Baker Street tube station and then train to Chorleywood, as I went on about that bus!!!

My enquiries eventually got me the facts that the bus was a wartime Utility bus with a chassis built by Guy Motors of Wolverhampton and London Transport had around 435 of them.  The grey paint, and several other colours, was used because no red was available during the war.  As I grew I started to research the Utility buses, especially those of London Transport.  I set myself the task of acquiring a view of all 435 of them, either with LT or sold to other operators.  Sadly I now have between two and two and a half thousand  views of the London Guys, but not all 435, mind you I am not giving up, and the collection is still growing.  (Poor Christine having to put up with it!)

Sometime in the 1960 I was on the telephone to a friend who was part owner of a London Transport bus and he suggested that I ought to buy a bus!  I well recall replying that I did not want an AEC or a Leyland bus, I wanted a Guy!  In my innocence I thought that they had all gone long before our conversation!  I was rather surprised when he said that Burton Corporation in the Midlands was still running ex London Guys!  Now I have been a non-drinker all my life so really had no idea that Burton was renowned for its breweries! However, a call to directory enquiries and I was given the number of Burton Corporation Transport Department and when I telephoned I was put through to the general manager.  Result?  Ten minutes later I was the owner of an ex London Transport Guy Utility bus fleet number G 351!  Maybe, if I am allowed, I can continue this story at another time.  Keep safe John Lines.

John we look forward to your next episode in a few weeks time.

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“Item of interest” from Richard Purton our proud Standard Bearer.

 A Festival of Togetherness.

At a time where we are keeping ourselves apart to save the lives of our family, friends and loved ones, being together has never been more important. Usually free to go where we want, when we want, we are all adapting how we come together in these difficult and unprecedented times. From phone calls and text messages we wouldn’t normally make so regularly to increased use of social media to standing at least 2 metres from our vulnerable loved ones front door dropping off food or medicines. In these last few weeks we find ourselves perhaps coming together more closely than ever before and at a time when in fact our freedom has been heavily restricted.

As Legion members, togetherness is at the heart of our ethos. We show this in the many ways the Legion operates. The list is endless. Each year during remembrance tide, members come together at The Royal Albert Hall for The Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance.  I had the honour of carrying our branch Standard at the festival last year. An honour I have been privileged with twice before with the Margate and Kent County Standards.

Inspired by the success of The Great Exhibition in 1851, The Royal Albert Hall was designed by civil engineers Captain Francis Fowke and Major-General Henry Y. D. Scott of the Royal Engineers and opened by Queen Victoria in 1871. The project was part of a series of permanent facilities to benefit the public driven by Prince Albert. Passing away in 1861 the Prince did not get to see the completion of his ideas but is honoured and remembered by his memorial opposite the ‘Great Hall’.

The first festival was held at the Royal Albert hall in 1923 on 11th November and was entitled ‘In Memory 1914-1918 – A Cenotaph In Sound, in aid of The British Legion, Field Marshal Earl Haig’s Appeal for Ex-Service Men of all Ranks’. It was renamed in 1927 as the ‘Remembrance Festival’ and in 1971 took the name we know today after the British Legion received its Royal Charter. The Queen first attended on 8th November 1952 and has regularly attended ever since.

The festival has evolved over the years from a sing song with remembrance service and Last Post to the extravaganza we know and love today. It was first publicly broadcast on BBC Radio in 1927 and of course is now a firm favourite on the schedule of BBC TV.

In these testing and unusual times, embrace the many different ways in which we find to come together, however far apart we are. Many of us will be worried and overwhelmed but we are all doing our best. Remember, you are not on your own. We are in this together. Embrace this Festival of Togetherness and we will make it through to be together again.

References : – www.royalalberthall.com  Wikipedia

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“Item of interest” from our Vice Chairman Malcolm Gibbons.

THE BURMA STAR ASSOCIATION ITS PAST AND ITS FUTURE         

Having begun life as an informal club after the war, the Burma Star Association  was formed in 1951. The following year the Burma Star Relief Fund was established by Trust Deed and registered as a charity under the War Charities’ Act 1940. In 1995 a new charity was formed, with The Burma Star Association combining the membership of the old Association with the benevolence work of relief fund.

Over the years, approximately 56,000Burma Star holders- or holders of the Pacific Star with the “Burma clasp”— joined the Association. Nevertheless, the Association’s benevolence work encompasses all veterans, whether or not they joined the Association, together with their widows or widowers.

The record cards have recently been digitised and will very soon be available to view on our new website www.burmastarmemorial.org

Although the records indicate that Association membership now stands at some 1,700, the actual figures is certainly lower, since the office is often not informed of members’ deaths. In theory, there are 32 Association branches although many of these are inactive, without having formally closed.

Furthermore, over the last number of months has seen the deaths of key Association officers, mostly notably our President, Viscount Slim, and our Vice Chairman Vic Knibb. It was only but two years ago, we reduced the quorum of voting members at the AGM from 20 to 10.

As well as dwindling and increasingly immobile numbers, the Trustees are also extremely conscious of the fact that the Association’s overheads now exceed welfare distributions, a gap that can only widen.

Against that background, the Trustees are extremely keen that the Association should plan in order to close at a time of its own choosing.

VJ Day was commemorated by the Government, under the auspices of the Ministry of Defence, in 2005,2010 and 2015. There is every prospect that there will be commemorations – quite possible for the last time – on 15th  August this year. Our proposal is that the Burma Star Association should therefore seize the opportunity to close ‘on a high’, on an anniversary of national significance. In perhaps his most – quoted line, T S Eliot wrote in The Hollow Men: ‘Not with a bang but a whimper.’ A bang would be altogether better…

In accordance with Section 18 — Closure and Winding – up of the Association’s Constitution (2014 Revision) – the Trustees have the authority to close the Association: ‘ When the Trustees consider that the number of existing and potential beneficiaries qualifying for relief in accordance with clause 3 hereof is so small that the separate administration of the Association is no longer justifiable …. and transfer its assets … to another charity … with priority for the benefit of persons who are at the time of  the winding-up beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of the Association.’

In 2005, the Burma Star Memorial Fund was established  in order to perpetuate the memory of those who fought so gallantly with the ‘Forgotten Army’ in Burma. As well as creating and maintaining a memorial garden and grove here, at the National Memorial Arboretum, the memorial Fund Steering Group has been working hard on an ambitious campaign to raise funds to support post- graduate students at University College London.

Selection is currently taking place for the first scholar, who will be studying Engineering for  International Development, a subject of particular relevance to the Burma Campaign. Future students will seek solutions to the continuing threat posed by epidemic diseases.

Through its carefully – phased Trust Deed, the Memorial Fund is able to assume the Association’s vital benevolence role, thus enabling the transfer of the Association’s remaining funds to the Memorial Fund.

On the 3rd April 2019, after very careful consideration, the Trustees therefore agreed that the Association should close on 15th August 2020, the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day.

Note :  Jeremy Archer (A Trustee) put this message to the Annual General Meeting on 11th May 2019 and it was accepted.     

  The Kohima Epitaph.

 When you go home

Tell them of us and say

For your tomorrow

We gave our today

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“Item of interest” from our President John Elms.

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Medway Queen PS (1)

I first met the Medway Queen as a delicate teenager in 1960 when, with my girl friend Jos’e, later to become my wife and mother of three, we took a trip on her down the river Medway to Sheerness, quite an adventure for a lad who had only ever been on boating lake in Gillingham Park!

Little did I know a good many years later I was to become a life member of her Preservation Society.

The Medway Queen was built at Troon in 1924 specifically for the New Medway Steam Packet Company Ltd. for operation on the River Medway. The ship was ordered in 1923 at a cost of £21,500 for completion in 1924. She was built by the Ailsa Ship Building Company of Troon on the river Clyde using a traditional frame on plate technique. The hull was flush riveted and the internal joints on bulkheads were secured using round head rivets. The engine was also constructed by Ailsa, being a compound diagonal steam engine (with two cylinders working at different steam pressure and set at an angle between vertical and horizontal). A bow rudder was later fitted, in 1936, to better enable the ship to manoeuvre in harbour and the boiler was replaced and converted to oil firing in 1938. The new boiler was constructed by Wallsend Slipway and Engineering Company in Newcastle and installed in Chatham Dockyard.

To be continued

 

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2019

Flag Lowering

A good crowd were there to witness the Union Flag being lowered from the Flag mast in the now closed RM Depot Deal.                                                                         
The flag is raised with due ceremony when the clocks go forward and lowered when they go back, this simple but moving ceremony has been carried out over many years by a dedicated band now residing in the depot with good few “outsiders” in support!

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Fancy a walk on Normandy Beach? click the link for all the info!

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/get-involved/things-to-do/events/normandy-beaches-trek?msclkid=d6c41d0810c016c47f8c4094e3f16328&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=MK%20-%20Bing%20-%20Mass%20Events%20-%20Challenges%20-%20Generic%20-%20Sign%20Ups%20-%202019&utm_term=normandy%20beaches%20trek&utm_content=Normandy%20Beach%20Trek%20-%20RLSA&gclid=CNehs_DBjeUCFUiNhQodlEoApQ&gclsrc=ds

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Did you serve in Malta? have you any connection with Malta? then the following may be of interest. (the link is dated 2018 but the report is for 2019)

http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/all-hallows-2018

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“TIME MARCHES ON” a project to mark the 30th anniversary of the Bombing of the Royal Marine School of Music in Deal.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1TWFHIifPl9GFbPKVxJFFcsaipC1aQ0Wa

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If you have served in HM Armed Forces please take a few minutes to complete the survey below. Thank You!

http://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/haveyouserved

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KENT COUNTY AUTUMN DINNER AND DANCE

Full details in the invitation letter below, please contact me for a booking form and menu. Last chance to book 30th August!

edwarddeal@hotmail.co.uk  OR 07885110384  OR  01304 363947

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The Poppy Event on Walmer Green Saturday 29th June proved to be a great success as the photo’s go to prove!

Deal Army Cadets assemble the Branch marquee

“Spiv” Brian Walton of Dover Branch.

Downs committee member Lydia (L) with her “assistant”

Branch Vice Chairman John Elms with his fabulous paintings, John kindly donated a percentage of his sales to the Poppy Appeal

Poppy organiser Anne Hill and husband Peter

Err? branch member Lindsay Thacker??

Committee member Sue Andrews sells a cake or two to Sheila Watson

Deal Army Cadets set up camp!

Branch member Rosemary Baker on her book stall

Poppy Tombola with Branch member Kath Jarrett

Members Gwen Boucher and Sylvia Roberts

L-R members Sheila Watson, Jenny Gibbons & Anny Elms

Branch Chairman Edward Barkway trying to look useful!!

Branch Secretary Malcolm Gibbons makes an announcement.

Victory War Time Band in full swing

Royal Marines & Royal Navy Cadet Band marching display

Deal Army Cadets Drill Display

A few more photographs follow….

 

My thanks to Bob Davies & Janet Barkway for their photographs.

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IMPORTANT REMINDER!

Poppy Event this coming Saturday 29th June see poster below NOW!

See you there for a great day out!

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Fancy some excellent food at a good price, good company and a great venue? seek no further see below and book NOW!                                       

Come to our meeting Monday 6th May and book your places with Lydia!

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WW1 Walmer Aerodrome Evensong at St Mary’s Church Walmer, 19th May scroll down for full info on previously published poster.

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“Cake Maker” Kaitlin does it again!

Committee member Sue Andrews with husband John were very proud Grand parents at a presentation evening last night Thursday 4th April, See Sue’s full report below.

Ruby 99! a deputy Lord lieutenant and Kaitlin.

Harry Chapman, branch Secretary, Kaitlin and Mayor of Swanley.

                                            Our grand daughter Kaitlin was invited to the British Legion Swanley, Crockenhill and Hextable awards presentation last night.
The ceremony was held in Hextable village hall and was attended by the many Poppy sellers, Cadets and other volunteers who were awarded certificates.
We joined our grand daughter and her family for the presentation.
Kaitlin has for the past two years made ‘Poppy’ decorated cupcakes and sold them at her school to raise money for the Poppy appeal. Her school had given the money she raised  to the local British Legion branch and told them of her efforts.
As a family we were made really welcome. Kaitlin especially!!! She was met by Harry Chapman branch secretary and he then introduced her to the Mayor of Swanley. They both chatted to her and thanked her for her efforts. The branch Chairperson and Poppy Appeal organiser both took time to chat with her too.
Kaitlin was presented with a certificate for her contribution to the Poppy Appeal and was also given a beautiful British Legion necklace, together with a British Legion Poppy   Cake recipe book.!!!
Kaitlin had her photograph taken with Ruby, who is the Branches oldest Poppy seller aged 99!!!
It was a really lovely evening and wonderful to see her being really made a fuss of.

Sue Andrews

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Flag Raising at former RM Depot

This short but meaningful ceremony to raise the Union Flag took place at 11.00 Sunday 31st March, it will fly proudly until the end of British Summer Time 27th October when it will be ceremonially lowered. 

Colour Party L-R John Elms, Peter Hall, Dev Jennings and John Hardy.

Bob Davies RM (Far Left)

A good Job done!

My thanks to all for the photographs.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE!

There will be a short ACT OF REMEMBRANCE at the entrance to the RM Rifle Range at Kingsdown, Monday 1st April Muster at 10.00 for 10.20 SCROLL down to see the full story below at………. 

“Royal Marines Rifle Range Kingsdown”

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Walmer Aerodrome

See the open invitation poster below and the potted history of our local WW1 Fighter Defence Station that follows.

Walmer Aerodrome closed to flights in early summer of 1919.The last Squadron at Walmer (233 RAF) was disbanded on May 15th 1919, but it took some time to remove planes, personnel and equipment. It had been opened in Spring 1917 as a Royal Naval Air Service aerodrome and was one of the busiest aerodromes in this part of Kent. From an Aerodrome with only a flight of planes, usually six and seventy supporting staff, Walmer was to increase in size to accommodate a full Squadron of up to twenty four planes. The last German Aeroplane raid on England by daylight took place on 22nd August 1917. Three planes took off from Walmer mid-morning, along with planes from Dover and Manston to successfully engage the enemy. After this, German tactics changed with future air attacks on England taking place at night. On the first of April 1918 at the height of World War One the RNAS and the RFC were combined to form the Royal Air Force. RAF Walmer now had a new Fighter Defence Flight with Captain W.M. Alexander as Commanding Officer flying Sopwith Camels. Their primary mission was to engage enemy fighters originating from Belgium and by the 20th October 1918, the Belgium Coast was completely reoccupied by Allied Forces. After the signing of the Armistice there was a reduction in the necessity for air power in this part of the world and although the numbers of planes at Walmer was increased in March 1919 when all 233 Squadron arrived from the Guston Aerodrome the plans were already being considered to withdraw and within three months Walmer Aerodrome was closed. The last plane to fly out of RAF Walmer was the Airco DH.9

RAF Walmer was also open during WW2, but was not used operationally for aircraft.

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Royal Marines Rifle Range Kingsdown

 

Please attend if you can.

Thank You!

 

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Holocaust Day, see poster below for full details.

Our Parade Marshal Joe de Zille will be laying a wreath on behalf of the Downs Branch. Everyone welcome!

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Bingo!

The Bingo regulars were out in force for the first session of 2019, the second Wednesday of every month in The Alma function room, everyone is welcome to join in the fun from 2pm to approx 4pm.

Thanks to the “crew” including John Elms, Mary Eldridge, Gwen Boucher and Lydia O’connor for all their help in ensuring everyone has a good time!

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FREE trip to France for D Day Veterans!

This is a golden opportunity to visit the Normandy D Day landing sites in France, if YOU are a D Day Veteran OR you know someone that is then please click the link below.

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/community/d-day-75/

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World War One lost medal “miracle”

Click the link to read this amazing story!

https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.forces.net%2Fnews%2Fpolice-diver-reunites-family-after-making-great-war-discovery%3Ffbclid%3DIwAR1OnZH0AUEFQkUjhiqrFfRPFeSqIZ3oBG90JntjG54Rf4LHSJQnxO34d5s&h=AT1N2Eb5lWgkoRhf4JEtnCaz9roUsmyJSCZwLdZHpyOwdW__jEev34WRw5wcFxViimpphVZRrKio6IJZr1-D6tAcHmcmmP2DXQ0969CxyDP_vpZfaLwXpswKuYxRGCZBelatiZ_RAQ-jGa9dGj5POV3zMerWSG1BO_E

2018

Thursday 6th December at the RMA Club saw 33 members and friends tucking into a superb lunch prepared by Sue and her “girls” the tables were beautifully decorated to put us all into the true Christmas spirit.

Vice Chairman John Elms warmly thanked Sue and her staff for the wonderful meal and prompt friendly service.

Secretary Malcolm Gibbons proposed the toast to Absent Friends.

Chairman Edward Barkway warmly thanked John and Lydia O’Connor for organising the lunch and Lydia for running the raffle, he welcomed all present and wished each and everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy & Healthy New Year.

  

Our thanks to Bob Davies for his lovely photographs.

Don’t forget the Christmas Raffle with buffet on Wednesday 12th December in the function room of the Alma Pub at 18.30 for 19.00 tickets just 50p a go, over 50 prizes!

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MONTHLY BINGO

IMPORTANT! December’s Monthly Bingo (2nd Wed of every month) is on Wednesday 19th December 14.00 to 16.00 NOT Wed 12th.

                            

Just a few of the lucky “winners” at last months games organised by Gwen Boucher tea maker & washer upper’er, Mary Eldridge card checker and dogs body with John Elms money taker, card issuer and all round good egg approaching Molly the caller!

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Display at Deal Town Hall

A very interesting display at Deal Town Hall attracted a steady flow of visitors to see the exhibits arranged by Events Manager Jo Harper which included some 150 post cards written by pupils from Sandown School in memory of all WW1 soldiers.

Hosting the event and helping Jo to set up were members John & Anny Elms, Mary Eldridge and Lydia O’Connor.

Our Downs Branch RBL Poppy man welcomed the visitors.

The crosses supplied by Gwen have pictures of just some of the men from Deal & Walmer who died in the Great War.

Some very touching sentiments written by the pupils of Sandown School.

A fascinating history of the 1500 Belgian refugees who stayed in Deal during WW1 researched by Suzanne Green  displayed along the LH wall.

Our magnificent Book of Remembrance inscribed and donated by John Elms in 2015 attracted a good deal of interest.

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Our granddaughter Kaitlin spent 2 evenings making  and decorating 70 ‘Poppy ‘ cakes to sell at her school.
She raised over £75 for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.
She is on the left of the picture. Her friend helped her sell them.
We are very proud of her.
Sue and John
 
Message and pictures from new committee member Sue Andrews.

Mmmm! they look very tasty, well done and thank you Kaitlin.

(Scroll for three more new pictures)

A small part of the Poppy display in Kingsdown Church.

Well done “Bloody Mary’s” wine bar for flying this flag.

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St Andrew’s Church West St Deal

Extend an open invitation to a short service at this lovely old church this Saturday10th November at 7.30pm where you are invited to lay flowers and tributes in memory of the end of WW1 at their War Memorial within the church.

The RBL Book of Remembrance that John Elms inscribed and presented to the branch will be re-blessed.

Everyone welcome.

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PARKING                                                                                                                                                          There is FREE parking on the Freedown for the very short Service at 09.00 on Sunday 11th November ONLY.

Please scroll for the poster below the poem.

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 Very Special Poem to Masheeda from her Sister-in-Law.

Sq. Leader Anthony Downing RIP 23 Dec 2011 aged 34 Died of wounds from an IED in Afganistan.

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Programme from Walmer Parish Council, poster below.

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Please support this concert if you possibly can as the organisers are very kindly donating some of the proceeds to our local Legion. Full info below!

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Quick Reminder to ALL branch Members there is an open meeting Monday 24th 19.30 @ The Alma Pub in Deal, please come along and have your say!

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This thought provoking image entitled “There but not There” was spotted by Bob Davies at the Military Odyssey Show at the Kent County Show Ground.

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BINGO!                                                                                                                        These regular 2nd Wednesday of every month sessions held in the function room of the Alma Pub are proving very popular with daytime players!

 Just a few of the regular 30 or so that come along, who at this session enjoyed a surprise buffet kindly donated anomalously, so many thanks indeed to whoever you are!

Everyone welcome!

Many thanks to the organising crew, Mary, Gwen, Lydia & John.

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Three pictures of the stalwarts manning the RBL Downs table at Deal Hospital Fete, well done to you all for “flying the flag”

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Branch members will be manning a stall at Deal Hospital Fete this afternoon 4th August so please come along and say “hello” we will be very pleased to see you!

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Respect!

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Canadian Armed Forces in Folkestone see poster below                                              

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Clean plates all round!

Thirty three Downs Branch members and friends enjoyed a very convivial lunch at the RMA Club Thursday 21st June, our President “Aussie” Walker and his wife June and Dover White Cliffs Branch members Chris and Brian Walton were warmly welcomed by chairman Edward Barkway.

The very generous and tasty two course meal with coffee and mints was prepared and served by Sue Cornish and her “girls” at an extremely reasonable cost of £12. no wonder there were “clean plates all round”

The raffle raised £88 so many thanks indeed to all who donated the prizes, thanks also to Lydia and Rosemary for selling the tickets, Aussie managing to draw out his own ticket! and Edward winning a pink Teddy Bear (no comments please!)

 

Many thanks to everyone that made the day possible, especially to Liz Larner and Lydia O’Connor that recorded the sales and payments and to John Elms for booking the venue.

 A generous well deserved  collection being presented by John to Sue and her staff not only for looking after us so well but also for the splendid table decorations, many thanks from us all!

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When a vinyl record was mysteriously handed into the RAF Association’s Flowerdown House hotel in Weston-super-Mare, we didn’t expect to discover such a rare find: A 73-year-old wartime recording made by a serviceman to his wife for their first wedding anniversary.                                  (see below picture)

Contact between the serviceman, identified as Rick, and his wife during the Second World War, likely would have been limited, and the recording demonstrates just one way families kept in touch.
To hear Rick’s message click the “start button” below..
…they didn’t have ecards or Facetime then!!

Many Thanks to member Brian Fawcett for sending me this.                                            Edward

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A poignant reminder kindly submitted by member Bob Davies.                                

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Are you ex WRAC?

Mrs Mary Clark would love to hear from you, please contact her directly at      maryannclark7600@yahoo.com

Many Thanks,                                                                                                                                                    Edward

 

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Free Holidays for WW2 Veterans!

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/community/news/remembrance/help-us-find-ww2-veterans-for-free-remembrance-tours

LIBOR TOURS OF REMEMBRANCE

Remembrance Travel is trying to find all surviving veterans of WWII to participate in funded LIBOR Tours of Remembrance to where they served.

The Royal British Legion has been running LIBOR funded tours for Normandy veterans for the past four years and thanks to additional LIBOR funding is now able to widen the tours to all veterans of WWII.

The Treasury are enabling a series of tours which are being funded by the LIBOR fines, allowing a WWII veteran to return and pay their respects to fallen comrades. In addition, a family member and a carer would be able to accompany the veteran to support and share the experience.

The tours will take place from spring to autumn as numbers demand and will give WWII veterans – now mostly in their 90s – the chance to meet up with fellow veterans, visit significant battlefield sites, cemeteries and memorials. The tours will be led by an official Royal British Legion guide and the tours will include:

  • Overnight B&B accommodation pre and post tour (as required)
  • Accommodation on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis during the tour
  • Air, rail, ferry or executive coach travel as per the itinerary
  • Visits to war memorials, cemeteries and significant sites
  • Entrance fees
  • Medic
  • Up to £50 per person allowance for travel to and from the tour departure point

Tours do not include lunches, travel insurance and items of a personal nature.

These tours are also open to organisations and associations. If there is a group of 10 veterans (30 passengers) or more, we will operate a coach at no charge from a local departure point to join an existing tour or operate a separate tour. Please note the group would not qualify for the £50.00 travel allowance.

There is no database of veterans from WWII who are still alive today, therefore if you are a veteran or know of a veteran who would like to benefit from these tours, please contact us on 01473 660800 to register your interest or download the registration form and send it to Remembrance Travel, C/O Arena Travel, 2 Betts Ave, Martlesham Heath, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP5 3RH.

Click here to download the registration form >>

CALL 01473 660800 TO REGISTER YOUR INTEREST

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This annual event to raise the Union Flag on the flagpole situated in front of the former Officers Mess in the South barracks housing estate took place to-day Sunday 25th March at 1100hrs. Members of the Deal RMA Branch were on parade and a bugler was in attendance to sound the calls. This short ceremony reminds all who live on the estate of the long Royal Marine history of where they live.

A few of the residents ready to witness the event

Flag raising crew at the “ready”

Royal Marine Bugler calls for the colour party

Colour Party to attention

The Union Flag is ceremoniously raised.

Colour Party respond

The flag proudly flying outside the former Officers Mess.

  

Photo shoot of those in proud attendance at this special occasion.

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It is with great sadness we announce the passing last Sunday 18th May of Rev Peggy Fishlock aged 89.

Peggy was a long time member and Padre of the Downs Branch and was loved and respected by us all.

Funeral 10th April 2.00pm at Barham Crematorium.                                                      Photo from Bob Davies.

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If you know of a WW2 Veteran please tell them about the info below!

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Drumhead Service September 2018

(Information Posted 30th January 2018)

Please Note!

  1. For Downs Branch RBL Members ONLY!

  2. Booking through Mary ONLY  at marye1968@outlook.com OR 01304 382235.

  3. Provisional booking NOW please, confirmation will announced in June / July.

  4. Transport depending on numbers interested may be arranged.

  5. Please confirm if you have a wheelchair or a walking frame etc or need assistance.

  6. Details on the poster below.

     Our next Monthly Branch meeting is on Monday 5th February bookings will be taken then on a “first come first served” basis.  Thank You.

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Kent County Conference 20th January 2018

Arrival of the Colour Party and Branch Standards

Roll of Honour and Exhortation

Prayers from our County Padre Cannon Paul Kerr

L -R Tony West BEM County Membership & Secretary, Richard Cast Chairman, Leyland Ridings MBE President, Terry Whittles National Chairman, Stephan Gatward FAAT Treasurer & Richard Graham Vice Chairman

Members and Branch Delegates, Mary & Aussie for Downs Branch

Richard Cast investing Richard Graham as the new County Chairman.

Richard Graham Kent RBL County Chairman.

Mary Eldridge with her well deserved County Vice President Award

Joe DeZille Standard Bearers Competition Runner Up (again!) Certificate and shield.

Many worthy winners with their awards

Richard Cast (centre) presenting a new trophy in memory of his late wife Pauline with daughter Sammie Cast, The Pauline Cast Trophy was presented to the County by Richard Cast as an award for Branch Community Support (BCS).  It will be presented each year to the Best BCS Branch, with the Swanley, Crockenhill and Hextable Branch being the first winners.

National Chairman Terry Whittles inspects the Standards

Standard Bearers raring to go!

All photographs very kindly supplied by Ian Lillford White Cliffs Branch Dover.

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Jennie comes to Deal PThe old pier that had been cut in half by a Dutch ship, having dragged its anchor during the 1940s war years had badly damaged the pier. Following this, the pier was demolished to evade enemy  invasion. Following the war, ships wrecked by enemy action lay in the Channel and on the beach. These also had to be removed. During one of our August visits, the demolition was in progress. This was achieved by explosives. With each explosion most of Deal violently shook, afterwards many fish, all dead, were washed up onto to beach. Not a nice sight, I may add!
A few years later the building of our present pier started, a little further away from the old pier, which was opposite the roundabout on the seafront. I could see divers going out in rowing boats to lay the footings. In those days divers used the traditional diving gear, heavy boots, bulky body wear and diving helmet. The present pier was opened on 19th November 1957 by his RH Prince Philip. As far as I know, this is the most modern pier in the country and the last to be built.
All this though, did not spoil our enjoyment of lovely Deal. During hot sunny days, the family sat on deck chairs on the shingle as close as we could to the shore line. Delicious  Walls Ice Creams and fruit lollies were available from a little light blue and white kiosk situated on the beach adjacent to the promenade. I spent many a happy hour paddling my feet and a couple of times, if warm enough, donning my bathing suit and venturing right into the sea – lovely. Also during the warm weather, many jelly fish the size of tea plates swam close to the shore line. Pleased to say, these were harmless.
During rainy days we would venture into the town, window shopping, followed by a sit down and a nice cup of tea, coffee or milkshake.
Contd……….

 

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John’s Quiz No 31

Political connections.
1. Current leader of the Lib Dem’s.
2. Woman who Clinton never had relations with.
3. Ex. chancellor on Strictly Come Dancing.
4. Once a MP…now seen on TV in a narrow boat….loves a jumper.
5. Political reporting giant who quit GBTV.
Political connections.
1. Current leader of the Lib Dem’s.
2. Woman who Clinton never had relations with.
3. Ex. chancellor on Strictly Come Dancing.
4. Once a MP…now seen on TV in a narrow boat….loves a jumper.
5. Political reporting giant who quit GBTV.
Foodies challenge.
6. Small valuable lettuce (cryptic)
7. Green vegetable iron rich, high protein…name also sounds like slightly burnt.
8. Italian grain….challenge for author accuracy.
9. Royal mushroom….grown on land but sounds like found under the sea.
10. Chef whose latest TV programme is called Together.
Our home County….
11. What our cricket team won this weekend.
12. Town where Brenda Blethyn (TVs Vera) sat out the pandemic.
13. First venue outside Scotland for the Open Golf (1894)
14. Kent home of Lord Kitchener.
15. 1895 Octavia Hill, of Edenbridge sets up this organisation to preserve historic buildings.
6. Small valuable lettuce (cryptic)
7. Green vegetable iron rich, high protein…name also sounds like slightly burnt.
8. Italian grain….challenge for author accuracy.
9. Royal mushroom….grown on land but sounds like found under the sea.
10. Chef whose latest TV programme is called Together.
Our home County….
11. What our cricket team won this weekend.
12. Town where Brenda Blethyn (TVs Vera) sat out the pandemic.
13. First venue outside Scotland for the Open Golf (1894)
14. Kent home of Lord Kitchener.
15. 1895 Octavia Hill, of Edenbridge sets up this organisation to preserve historic buildings.

Answers

1. Sir Ed Davey
2. Monica Lewinsky
3. Ed Balls
4. Giles Brandreth
5. Andrew Neil
6. Little Gem
7. Chard
8. Spelt
9. King Oyster mushroom
10. Jamie Oliver
11. T20 Bash
12. Ramsgate
13. Royal St. George’s
14. Broome Park
15. National Trust

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‘I ain’t got a name?!’

I may have mentioned it before, but you are going to have to read it again I am afraid!  I was raised in a Salvation Army and Baptist family, hence my abstaining from the demon drink etc!  Growing up in South London just after the war, Second World War I hasten to add, I was often given a wicker basket, a purse with money and a shopping list and sent out to the local shops.  The last thing my late Mother used to say to me was don’t go into St Luke’s churchyard.  Now I always was an obedient son so where did I go?  Yes you have got it in one – St Luke’s Churchyard!!!  Most probably your next question might well be why did I venture into the churchyard?  Well in that churchyard lived a man who was known to all and sundry in the area as mad Jack.  He very rarely wore clothes; mostly he was clad in newspaper sitting on one of the benches feeding the birds.  Not just one bird, but literally dozens used to come and cluster around him as he distributed crumbs and seeds that he had found somewhere or the other.  I sat and listened to Jack for as long as I dared and really he taught me a great deal about birds, plants, trees but most of all that everyone has a place in God’s plans for the world.

Jack made me realise that it is very easy to fall on hard times, not always your own fault either. The inevitable happened in that one day, on a shopping trip, I popped into the churchyard and found Jack’s bench unoccupied and I never saw him again.  I guess that he passed over and received what in those days were known as pauper’s funerals.  Hold onto that thought, for I shall return to it! As a family we moved away, but I never ever forgot Jack and all that I had learned from him.  Eventually I ended up attending a Methodist Church and discovered a wonderful place in the East End of London called the Whitechapel Mission.  There they tried to help the wonderful people of the street family and I started to collect clothing and food to take to the Mission. People call them hobo’s, tramps, vagrants and lot of other names that I would not like to repeat here.  However to my mind, and experience, it is easy to fall on hard times and end up unemployed and eventually homeless.  Sadly a great many of the street family people are ex of the various military services, proud of their service but looked down on by society around them.

At my home Church we were sent a minister who really sang from the same hymn sheet as me as they say.  He cared for all people, whatever their problems and saw the good in all of them.  I was smitten by his ministry and, after a rather disgusting funeral for my dear father in law in Kent which really made me angry, I felt the call to ministry myself.  I left the Metropolitan Police with a degree of sadness I must admit, hard to leave colleagues who supported me as I had supported them through some pretty awful situations, but I knew in my heart of hearts God was telling me to move on.

I was indeed fortunate to be accepted for training in Birmingham, a city I really enjoyed, the Brummies were lovely welcoming people.  My first Circuit after college was in the Thames Valley but then I received a call from our President of Conference that they wanted to move me!  Where you may be thinking?  Well it was the Whitechapel Mission where I was able to walk in the footprints of some wonderful men and women who had cared for the street family!  At that time the Mission was striving to care and provide for around eight hundred members of the street homeless community who needed the opportunity to wash, use decent toilets, have a meal and get clean clothing.  To do this the Mission was supported by Churches of all denominations all around the United Kingdom, plus a number of livery companies in the City of London. I was so naive when on the first Monday there, I walked down from the minister’s flat, which was above the Mission right opposite the Blind Beggar Public House where the infamous Kray gang operated, and found the volunteer treasurer who after introductions, asked me what I was going to about money?  In my innocence I thought that money came from central funds – no way – I had to help to raise it and at that time it was around £3,000 per week!  I nearly passed out there and then and went back to our flat and asked Christine if I could borrow a stocking as I wanted to use it as a mask when I went around to the bank to do a withdrawal!!!  To be serious I immediately started contacting Churches, Clubs, RBL and Rotary Clubs to name but a few places.  Thus started my wonderful trips to Churches in corners of the United Kingdom telling people the story of the street homeless family, and thankfully the money started to roll in, plus offers of clothing, food, toiletries and a great many other items.

I really enjoyed the work in the Units meeting the folk, but one man has stuck in my mind all over the years, when I asked him his name he replied ‘I ain’t got one’ which rather shocked me but over the time Christine and I worked there we got used not knowing names of some of the folk because they wanted it that way.  One of my saddest duties was every Friday morning when I went to a graveyard in the East End and buried what some people called the unwanted dead.  To me however, they were all God’s children and entitled, at least, to a decent caring funeral and I did a very large number of them in my time at Whitechapel, young old, male and female.  All too often the coffin said something like male no further details!.  So I had arrived at the place where pauper’s funerals were conducted, although by then they were known as contract funerals.  Those you who know me well will appreciate that I could go on forever and a day about Whitechapel and the wonderful caring work there but I have a feeling that our illustrious chairman might take his red pen out! (NEVER!)

So this will be it for now!

Blessings John L

From our Branch Padre Rev. John Lines MBE

 

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Graham By Stuart Gemmell

VC, GCB, GCMG

Lieutenant General Sir Gerald Graham, VC, GCB, GCMG (27 June 1831 – 17 December 1899) was a senior British Army commander in the late 19th century and an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

 

Early Life

He was born in Acton, Middlesex, and after studying at Wimbledon and Dresden he was admitted (1847) to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and completed his military training in the School of Military Engineering at Chatham.

 Victoria Cross

He was 23 years old, and a lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army during the Crimean War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

On 18 June 1855 in the Crimea, Lieutenant Graham, accompanied by a sapper (John Perie) showed determined gallantry at the head of a ladder party at the assault on the Redan at Sebastopol. He also went out on numerous occasions to bring in wounded officers and men.

 Later Service

During the Second Anglo-Chinese War he again displayed great courage and skill and, although seriously wounded in the storming of the Taku forts (21 August 1860), subsequently entered Peking with the victors. Following his return to England in 1861, he was for 16 years commanding engineer successively at Brighton, Aldershot, Montreal, Chatham, Manchester, and York. In 1877 he was appointed assistant director of works for barracks at the War Office.

In 1882 he accompanied Sir Garnet Wolseley to Egypt as brigadier general, and his forces had a great share in the victorious campaign against Urabi Pasha. In 1884 he took the field against Osman Digna, whose army he defeated at El-Teb and Tamai. In the meantime, he had urged a plan for the assistance of Gordon, which, however, was not accepted. Graham led a second Suakin Field Force which arrived at the port on 12 March 1885. Its purpose was to suppress Osman Digna’s forces which were active in the area, and to supervise the construction of the Suakin-Berber Railway. The field force engaged in two actions: at Hashin on 20 March and at Tofrek on 22 March, before the British government changed its policies, shutting down the railway project and leaving the Sudan in May 1885.

In his book “The Battle of Tofrek, fought near Suakin, March 22nd 1885”, written shortly after the battle for the purpose of correcting erroneous statements in both official and press reports of the battle, William Galloway was strongly critical of General Graham’s planning of the Tofrek expedition on three counts:

  1. Compared to the expedition to Hashin on 20 March which Graham commanded himself, which had been protected by four squadrons of British cavalry and a regiment of Bengal cavalry acting as scouts, the Tofrek expedition which he delegated to the command of General McNeill had only one squadron of Lancers plus a company of Mounted Infantry to provide warning of enemy activity.
  2. Whereas Graham had the protection of a battery of Royal Horse Artillery able to shell the enemy at long range, no artillery was assigned to McNeill’s force.
  3. Whereas the ratio of men to transport animals had been over 5:1 in the earlier expedition, it was no more than 2:1 for the later one, resulting in greater difficulties in keeping controlling of the animals.

Galloway was even more critical of Graham for a last-minute change to McNeill’s marching orders. Instead of following an established track in a south-westerly direction towards Tamai as originally planned, Graham personally instructed McNeill to march westwards into uncharted territory, which turned out to be thickly covered by a jungle of mimosa bushes with long low-lying branches covered in sharp thorns. This caused progress to be both slow and difficult while affording the enemy excellent cover for the surprise attack that they launched later in the day.

Graham was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1896, and a colonel commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1899. He is buried in East-the Water Cemetery in Bideford in Devon in a grave adjacent to that of George Channer VC.

The Medal

His Victoria Cross is currently owned by Graham’s Great, Great, Great Grandson Oliver Brooks and is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum (Gillingham, England).

Works

He published several scientific papers and a contribution to the Fortnightly Review, entitled “Last Words with Gordon” (1887), and prepared a translation of Goetze’s Operations of the German Engineers and Technical Troops during the Franco-German War of 1870–71 (1875).

Reseached by our Youth Liasion Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex Royal Engineer.

 

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        The 2nd Part of Brief History of The Boy’s Brigade 1883 – 2021 

In 1909 William Smith quietly left the B.B. Camp at Tighnabruaich Kyles of Bute  in Scotland and travelled to London. He returned the following Friday morning to resounding cheers and applause for he was now Sir William Smith having been knighted by King Edward V11 for his work in founding the Boy’s Brigade.    

In 1933, the Brigade celebrated its Golden Jubilee, and as part of this in the September of that year , a huge Camp was held at Dechmont, West Lothian, Scotland. Each Company was allowed to send two lads to represent their Company. 

Also, as part of Jubilee celebrations the largest Open-Air Service was held at Hampden Park Football Stadium, Glasgow, where 130,000 gathered inside and 10,000 outside. As a result of the publicity associated with the jubilee, new recruits increased in 1933/34 to total of 10,000. 1943 Diam Jubilee The Boys Brigade Trust Museum

To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee in December 1943, a Royal Review was held at Windsor Castle, and the reigning monarch, King George V1 Inspected a large gathering of Boy’s and Officers, but due to war time restrictions, the event could not be advertised, but in spite of this, a further 9,000 new recruits were added to the membership. 

 The next major B.B. event was  in 1954 this was to celebrate the Centenary of the birth of Sir William Smith. This took the form of a “Festival of Boyhood”, it was held at Wembley Football Stadium, and was by attended by 3,000 Boys. 

The first International Camp, also in 1954 was held on the playing fields of Eton Public School and total of 2,500 boys and privilege of attending.  By now the Brigade numbers had risen by the late 1950’s and there were 91,934 boys on the roll, in 3010 companies in Great Britain, and another 48,000members spread across the world.  1954 Festival of BoyhoodThe Boys Brigade ArchiveTrustMuseum

On July 2nd, 1983 , as part of the Centenary Celebration, the Golden Jubilee Casket from 1933 was opened at Ibrox Football  Stadium, to read the “mystery”, message left there in the Jubilee year.    

In 2008, as part of the nationwide celebrations for the 125th year of the Boys’ Brigade, a target was set to open 125 new companies. Also, in 2008, the Brigade was all allocated a space at the National Arboretum Memorial Gardens at Lichfield.  A collection was made from varours Companies across the country, one these companies that I knew of and was  part of the East Kent Battalion was the 1st Margate Company, the War Memorial Stone was dedicated on June 21st, 2008.  

The Annual Returns for 2008 showed that Brigade numbers stood at 70,000 boys in 16,000 churches. By 2013, 100 new companies had been enrolled and actual numbers of boys has increased.  The Boys Brigade in 2021 is the biggest Christian Youth Organisation in the UK & Republic of Ireland, the present numbers are 40,000 Children & Young People, 11,500 Volunteer Leaders and 1,200 Companies.         

More next time about my time as a boy in the Boys Brigade, Malcolm Gibbons.

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Veteran’s Breakfast Club Re-Starts!

 

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A message from King George

Our President John Elms has sent me this interesting item printed on stout card approx 7″ x 10″ and given to children at the end of WW2 8th June 1946. I believe there is an ongoing debate if it’s his or Anny’s!!

(Free space provided to enter your own family’s record)

Thank you John a fascinating keepsake!

 

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My Malta Part 2

My Malta Part 2

At the inception, the Association was fortunate to have as our President, Admiral of the Fleet, The Lord Lewin.  Sadly, the Lord Lewin died in January 1999.  The current President of the GCIA is Judge Dr.Joseph Galea Debono B.A., L.L.D.

One of the many important events The Lord Lewin attended as President of the GCIA was the inauguration on the 29th May 1992 of a 10 Ton Bronze Bell (known as the Siege Bell) which is situated overlooking Grand Harbour. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh KG.KT. Prince Philip was also present along with the then President of Malta, H.E. Doctor Tabone.  The Siege Bell is a memorial to the 7000 people who lost their lives in the WW II Siege of Malta and was the brainchild of a member of the Malta GC Branch of the GCIA, the late Mr Philip Pullicino. Listen to it here. https://youtu.be/8nlBNfO8ZAc

  • Funds were raised in Malta and UK by all the GCIA Branches. Both the Malta and UK Governments gave big contributions in cash and in kind.
  • The sculptor was Michael Sandle
  • The Bell was caste in the UK and its chimes are the same as the main bell of Cologne Cathedral. 
  • The cladding of the Siege Bell Monument is Gozo stone The idea to have a UK monument came from a GCIA member who felt that it would be fitting for a memorial to be erected in London as Valletta had its Memorial – the Siege Bell. On August 15th, 2005 the then President of Malta, Edward Fenech Adami, laid the first wreath at the foot of the newly-erected monument.
  • An organising committee was set up under the 
  • chairmanship of the Hon. Tim Lewin, son of the late Admiral Lord Lewin, who had been GCIA president when the Siege Bell had been erected in 1992.
  • From Mgarr Harbour by sea and by road from Sicily, a block of stone cut from a Gozo quarry is now standing in the grounds of All Hallows Church by the Tower of London. It stands some three metres high and on each of its four sides is a plaque setting out part of the story of the sacrifice of some 7,000 Maltese men and women and Commonwealth and Allied servicemen and women who lost their lives in defence of Malta.

Dr Fenech Adami had previously attended a service of thanksgiving to commemorate those who served and died during the Siege of Malta, along with over 500 invited guests from the Royal Navy, RAF, Army, Merchant Navy, representatives of the US Navy and other wartime allies.  The Malta G.C. branch was represented by four veterans: Lt. Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE (founder of the Malta branch of the GCIA), Major S.J.A. Clews MBE, Capt. A. Sant Cassia, and Mr. Walter Sullivan. 

After the service the congregation gathered outside around the monument and, on the arrival of HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, who was at that time the George Cross Island Association Patron, President Fenech Adami made his dedication address recalling the bravery of the Maltese people and the Allied servicemen and women. Dr Fenech Adami led the wreath-laying ceremony and was followed by the Duke of Edinburgh, who laid a wreath on behalf of the UK armed forces. Wreaths were also laid by representatives of Commonwealth countries and the Allies. Lt Col Pace Bonello laid a wreath on behalf of the GCIA. Malta’s High Commissioner in London at that time and Mrs. Michael Refalo, and former High Commissioner George Bonello Du Puis were also present. More info here http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

Edward.

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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Joe hits Belize!

Hi Everyone  I hope this finds you all fit and well.

No real adventure for this one, but my thoughts went to a little known posting that most of the Infantry type battalions had to endure.  The place is Belize.  Where you may ask, it’s a small country on the bit of land that joins North and South America.  On the east is Belize its neighbour is Guatemala.

First thing about Belize – it is tropical, typical humidity is 98%, its Hot

Its western border is a dead straight line from north to south, its so straight that a helicopter can fly up it without touching the controls, or even look where you are flying.  I kid you not I was on a heli and watched the flight crew having a coffee and chat.

Guatemala does not recognise the country and their maps do not show it at all.  Which leads them to periodically flex their muscle and threaten to take over the country (hence the British Army being stationed there)

The army use it for their jungle warfare schooling.  Jungle fighting is probably the most frightening thing I have experienced, the realisation that all our training on targeting and shooting was completely useless in this environment, it was about reaction time, and fighting the jungle at the same time as any enemy you may encounter.  We used local natives to show us the ropes, nice people, but boy did these people know how to booby trap, I would not have liked to chase them through the jungle they were lethal, especially as they usually turned up with a knife and a few bits of string.

Generally the people are nice and welcoming, sharing food is always a good way of leaving friends, not enemies, behind you.

No posting is complete without mentioning the local booze.  The local beer was ok as long as it was cold, tried one once that was warm never did it again. The local spirit was called Number one barrel, which I believe was eventually found to be basically poison, probably after some air mechanics managed to get a helicopter off the ground after trying out as fuel.  So of course we drank gallons of the stuff with a splash of coke in it.

Not going to bore you to much, suffice to say we provided security, medical facilities and help to the population.  And had to put up with the humidity for 6 months at a time, I have never been so glad to get back to UK and the good old cold.

From Julian de Zille our Branch Parade Marshal

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Jennie comes to Deal

I first came to Deal in 1945 when ten months old. I can vaguely remember my mother holding me in her arms near to the water’s edge – thus started my love affair with Deal and the sea!

My parents came on holiday to Deal every August, it was a welcome break from our home in the suburbs of south west London, a place called Tooting Bec. My grandmother always liked to be away on her birthday, this being 13th August.

Our journey began at the Northern Line underground station of Tooting Bec. We then progressed to the main line station of Charing Cross, a journey of about twenty minutes. In those days all main line trains were powered by steam. The steam engines were very large merchant navy class, bottle green in colour. The carriages were red and cream. Most of the carriages had a side corridor, where compartments seating eight were entered through a sliding door. There were netting shelves above the seats to accommodate smaller luggage. The journey took two hours, passing through miles of Kentish hop fields, golden corn fields and orchards. On arrival at Deal we made our way to the guest house in Sondes Road. This would be our home for the next two weeks. Guest Houses then offered full board accommodation. The bedrooms had marble wash stands in each, the landlady would enter the room early in the morning bringing in two large jugs containing hot and cold water. An early morning cup of tea would also be brought to the bedroom if requested. The lavatory and bathroom were situated on the landing, to be shared by occupants of that particular floor. Most guest houses then had no on suite! A gong would be sounded to inform guests the breakfast, lunch or dinner was ready. The beach at Deal and shallow sea area,  just following the war were littered with wrecks and barbed wire.

The old pier had been cut in half due to a ship dragging anchor, thus colliding with it. To be continued…….

 

 

 

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The Boys’ Brigade 100 years not out!

 Malcolm Gibbons mentioned something dear to my heart in one of his musings recently – The Boys’ Brigade!  I joined the Boys’ Brigade or BB as it is often known as a young lad and have been involved ever since.

The Boys’ Brigade was formed in Glasgow in October 1883 and soon spread around the United Kingdom and to many places in the Commonwealth. My Company in Croydon was one of the very few in England that had a pipe band and we were very proud of that, great to march to church behind the band with skirl of the pipes – really wonderful!  In 1993 I was privileged to be chosen to go to NJew Zealand as part of the British contingent to the International Celebration Camp to be held in Mystery Creek near Hamilton, New Zealand.  So you can say I was truly up the creek!!!

Yet another one of my many collections is Boys’ Brigade badges and one of my proudest possessions is the International Camp badge which I really do treasure!  New Zealand is a truly wonderful country, wonderful people and scenery beyond compare, I really did enjoy the month over there, if I can find the details I might bore you all in a  future rambling!  You have been warned!  Blessings John L

What a lovely “warning” we look forward to it!

 

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Dover Patrol 25th July

This years ceremony at Leathercote Point was intended to celebrate the memorials 100th anniversary, due to Covid restrictions it was decided to hold a “normal” annual ceremony.

Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL was the reviewing officer, he also read Nelson’s Prayer. Mr James Rouse a trustee of the memorial read a moving tribute to the men of the Dover Patrol ships and said that in 2022 a full scale re-dedication of the memorial would be held.

The service was lead by Rev John Lines MBE Padre of Downs Branch Royal British Legion, Chairman Edward Barkway said the Exhortation. Town Mayors of Deal, Sandwich and Walmer attended, five Standards were paraded along with representatives of Deal Wrens and Royal Navy cadets from TS Lynx, sixteen wreaths were laid.

In his closing remarks Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports Admiral of   the Fleet Lord Boyce said the event was particularly poignant as his Father had served on Mine Sweepers in WW2,  he thanked the Downs Branch, in particular Vice Chairman Malcolm Gibbons, for organising the event, the Standard bearers, the Trustees and the band.

Music and bugler was supplied by The Snowdown Colliery Band.

Photo’s from Janet Barkway Many more at

 https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

And https://no7bcm.smugmug.com/Nicspics/Dover-Patrol-Memorial

 

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Local hero V C holder & Olympic Gold!

Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, VCKBECBDSO

Lieutenant General Sir Philip Neame, VC, KBE, CB, DSO (12 December 1888 – 28 April 1978) was a senior British Army officer and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, and the winner of an Olympic Games gold medal; he is the only person to achieve both distinctions.

Early Life:

Philip Neame was born on 12 December 1888 in Faversham in the County of Kent, the son of Kathleen Neame (née Stunt) and Frederick Neame (b. 1847). He received his education at Cheltenham College, and the British Army’s Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, Kent.

 Early Military Career:

On graduating from the Royal Military Academy, Neame received a commission as a second lieutenant into the Royal Engineers in July 1908. He was promoted to lieutenant in August 1910, whilst serving with the 15th Field Company.

 First World War:

The declaration of war in August 1914 found Neame with the 15th Field Company in the Gibraltar Garrison. The company joined the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front in October 1914.

During the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914, Neame experienced first-hand in the trenches the inferiority of the British issue hand-grenades compared to their German equivalent, and set about creating an alternative, the sappers improvising rudimentary but effective hand grenades made from empty jam tins filled with scrap metal, with the charge being created using guncotton, and a cord-fuse projecting from the end of the tin, requiring ignition by flame.

 Victoria Cross:

Neame was 26 years old when the following deed took place, for which he received the Victoria Cross: On 19 December 1914 at Neuve Chapelle, France, Lieutenant Neame, in the face of very heavy fire, engaged the Germans in a single-handed bombing attack, killing and wounding several of them. He was able to check the enemy advance for three-quarters of an hour and to rescue all the wounded whom it was possible to move.

During a minor night trench action on the Western Front in the Neuve Chapelle district five days before Christmas 1914, Neame was leading a party of sappers in action when he was requested by the commanding officer of a battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment to go forward and to strengthen the defences in a recently captured German trench. When he got there, he met another commissioned officer who informed him that the Germans were counterattacking with bombs, that his own bombers had all been wounded and that the bombs that were left would not go off. At this Neame went further up the trench to the contact point to talk to one of the surviving bombers there and discovered that the problem was that he wasn’t able use the bombs because there were no fuses left. Neame, knowing how to technically ignite the grenades without a fuse by holding a match-head on the end of the grenade’s fuse access point and striking a match box across it, commenced lighting and throwing grenades in this fashion into the German trenches at the two different directions where a German dawn counter-attack was materializing, holding it back whilst under continual return fire for forty-five minutes whilst the West Yorkshire Regiment evacuated its wounded behind him back towards the original British frontline trench.

Neame was promoted to the rank of captain in 1915, and was mentioned in despatches in February 1915, and again in January 1916. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in January 1916.

After a short period as a staff officer (GSO3) from October 1915, he was appointed brigade major of the 168th Brigade, 56th (London) Division, in February 1916, staffing this post through the Somme offensive in 1916, including the actions at Gommecourt on 1 July, and the Battle of Ginchy in September, until relinquishing it for another staff (GSO2) assignment in November 1916.

He was promoted to brevet major in the 1917 New Year honours list. He received further mentions in despatches in January and December 1917. In June 1918 he moved up to a senior staff post (GSO1) and ended the war in November 1918 with the temporary rank of lieutenant colonel.

 Inter-war Military Career & Olympian:

Medal Record
Men’s Shooting
Representing Great Britain
Olympic Games
  1924 Paris

Team Running Deer Double Shotss

Neame was honoured for his war service in France with the Legion d’honneur (Croix de Chevalier) in January 1919, and the Croix de guerre in July. He was also awarded the Belgian Croix de guerre. In June 1919 he was noted in the London Gazette as being amongst several names intended for the rank of brevet lieutenant-colonel, with the substantive rank of major. but the actual gazetting to brevet lieutenant-colonel did not appear until June 1922, and his substantive rank was finally promoted from captain to major in January 1925.

He was a member of Great Britain’s 1924 Olympic Running Deer team at Paris and is the only Victoria Cross recipient who has won an Olympic gold medal. The Running Deer competition was one of the shooting events at the games. It involved teams of four (firing single shots), where a moving target simulated the animal.

He was appointed Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade at Aldershot in January 1924 and then saw service in India with the Bengal Sappers and Miners from 1925 before attending the Imperial Defence College in 1930. In June 1932 Neame was promoted full colonel (skipping the substantive lieutenant-colonel rank) and became a General Staff Officer 1 in the Waziristan District in India. In 1933 he was badly mauled by a tigress whilst hunting in India. He was admitted to a hospital, Lady Minto Nursing Association, in Bareilly where he was nursed to health by Harriet Alberta Drew. He married the nurse, taking leave from India towards the end of 1933 whereupon he was on half pay without appointment until May 1934.

In July 1934 he was given temporary brigadier rank to take up an appointment as Brigadier General Staff with Eastern Command in India. In 1938 he was promoted to major-general and returned to England as Commandant of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich in 1938. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in January 1939.

Second World War:

While Commandant at the Military College, Neame had been given to understand that should war be declared, he would be appointed as Chief of General Staff to the British Expeditionary Force’s putative C-in-C, John Dill. In the event, Lord Gort was appointed C-in-C, with Henry Pownall as CGS and Neame as his deputy responsible for operations and staff duties. Neame organised defences and planned for the campaign, but in February 1940 he was posted to Egypt to command the 4th Indian Infantry Division.

Middle East theatre:

In August 1940 he was made General Officer Commanding British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan in the acting rank of lieutenant-general where his responsibilities were mainly in the area of internal security (the local police forces being placed under his direction).

Defeat in North Africa:

In February 1941 Neame was appointed General Officer Commanding & Military Governor of Cyrenaica, which had been captured from the Italians by the British Empire’s rapid advance in the opening moves of the North Africa Campaign during Operation Compass. Whilst being responsible for a large area of ground, Neame’s command had been stripped of many of its battle-hardened units, which had been withdrawn towards Cairo either for re-fitting, or to take part in the Battle of Greece, and he was left with little air support from the constrained Royal Air Force units available in North Africa at this time.

The two primary formations under his command to guard Cyrenaica were the newly fielded 2nd Armoured Division, and 9th Australian Division. The 2nd Armoured Division had only recently arrived from the British Isles, was under-strength, lacking in training and equipment adapted for desert warfare conditions, and proved to be no match for what it was about to meet in the field in the form of Nazi Germany’s First Axis Offensive in North Africa, which was launched at the end of March 1941 by its newly arrived Afrika Korps, led by General Erwin Rommel. Australia’s 9th Division, while well led by Leslie Morshead, was not yet fully trained, and was suffering from a shortage of transport vehicles.

 First Axis Offensive in North Africa

Neame’s Headquarters lacked accurate intelligence information from its senior command echelon and had no warning about the nature or scale of the massed attack that it was about to be hit with, in a theatre scenario which was thought to be dormant at that time through Italian massed defeat and tactical acquiescence, and he was further hampered by an over-extended line of supply stretching back over many hundreds of miles to Alexandria and Cairo. With hesitant handling of his unprepared troop dispositions in response to a rapidly changing and unexpectedly threatening situation, as the Afrika Korps and Italian Army poured toward him at a terrific speed of advance and began on 24 March 1941 to attack his units’ outposts and appear suddenly amidst, and even far behind them in the lines of supply routes, and his command being limited in effective control by a Headquarters not sited in a battle station and remote from the action, Neame was over the next few days of fighting overwhelmed by Rommel. Faced with the apparent danger of the 2nd Armoured Division’s disintegration which he perceived from its chaotic radio-traffic as it struggled to cope with the rolling blows it was receiving, he ordered the forces under him to fall back eastward in an uncoordinated fashion to avoid being cut off and destroyed by the sudden advance of the enemy.

On 6 April 1941, while driving in a small convoy of vehicles to a newly established Headquarters, Neame and his travelling companions, Lieutenant-General Richard O’Connor (who had been rapidly dispatched to join Neame’s Headquarters by General Archibald Wavell who was alarmed at the apparent collapse of Neame’s forces) and Brigadier John Combe, were over-run and captured by a German advanced force led by Gerhard von Schwerin. Disaster was averted for most of the forces under Neame’s command through a rapid retreat by the 9th Australian Division into the coastal town of Tobruk, where it was joined by 3 Indian Motor Brigade, and surviving remnants of 2nd Armoured Division (most of which had been over-run and captured in the rout), in hastily organising a defensive perimeter, which would go on to withstand the Axis Forces’ subsequent extended siege.

 Prisoner of war in Italy:

Along with the almost 3000 men of the 2nd Armoured Division who had been captured in Rommel’s advance, Neame with generals O’Connor and Combe were transported across the Mediterranean Sea for incarceration in Italy, first being held as prize prisoners at the Villa Orsini near Sulmona, then at Castello di Vincigliata PG12 near Florence. Whilst at PG12 they took part in a number of escape attempts along with General Adrian Carton de Wiart (a fellow VC recipient), and Edward Todhunter.

After the successful escape of six men through a tunnel that Neame had designed in April 1943, including two New Zealander brigadiers James Hargest and Reginald Miles who disappeared in the direction of Switzerland, the Italian Army in reprisal sent Neame’s batman Gunner Pickford (Royal Horse Artillery) to another camp.

Following the Italian Armistice in September 1943, Neame was released from incarceration by the Italian Army, but faced a hazardous journey of several hundred miles through a semi-chaotic countryside, at that time still occupied by German forces, in areas at conflict with the Italians, to reach the safety of the joint British and American lines. Having hidden a manuscript which, he had been writing in captivity of his memoires (to be recovered after the war), Neame’s party, including Air Marshal Owen Boyd and General Richard O’Connor, made their way southwards with the help of friendly Italians along the route. Hiring a boat at Cattolica they sailed to the port of Termoli which by the time of their arrival on 20 December 1943 had fallen into the possession of the advancing Allied armies.

 Repatriation to England:

Arriving back in England on 25 December 1943, having travelled via Tunis (after interviews with Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Harold Alexander, and Winston Churchill), Neame found there was no job waiting for him in the Army, with his star in the descendent after the debacle of his capture in 1941, but he remained on the Active List until the end of the war in his substantive rank of major-general.

Post-war Military Career & Retirement:

In August 1945 he was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey in the local rank of lieutenant-general where he served until 1953. He also held the honorary posts of Colonel Commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers from February 1945 to 1955 and Colonel 131 (Airborne) Engineer Regiment from January 1948.

He was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in June 1946 and made a knight of the charitable Order of St John in the same year. In January 1955 Neame was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Kent.

Personal life:

Neame married Harriet Drew (1906–1994) in 1934, the marriage producing four children: Gerald (b.1935), Veronica (b.1937), Nigel (b.1946), Philip (b.1946). His youngest child, also named Philip, served as commander of D Company, 2 Para, in 1982 during the Falklands War.

Neame died at Selling in Kent, on 28 April 1978 in his 90th year. His body was buried in the graveyard of St Mary the Virgin Church, in Selling.

His medals and awards are held by the Imperial War Museum in London.

 

s

From our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmell https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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                           A Brief History of The Boys’ Brigade 1883 -1983                                              by Malcolm Gibbons Downs Vice Chairman

As to my last article about my visit to National Arboretum I mentioned that one of the other memorials that I visited was The Brigade Memorials. 

One of these was The Boy’s Brigade Organisation of which I said was founded by William Alexander Smith, who later became Sir William and was an officer in the Lanarkshire Rifles Volunteers, he born in Thurso, Scotland, in 1854. 

After the death of his Father, he then moved with his family to Glasgow, Smith was then commissioned into the part-time Lanarkshire Volunteer Rifles in Glasgow in 1877 and was then promoted to a Lieutenant and later rose to the rank of Major.     

At this time, he became a Sunday School teacher. It was a combination of the discipline of the Rifle Volunteers and the unruliness of boys in his Sunday School Class, who were bored, noisy and undisciplined, that led him to start the Boys’ Brigade on the 4th of October 1883 at the Free Church Mission Hall, Woodside. Glasgow.  He realised the need for an organisation based on Christian principles, together with the drill and discipline he learned during his time with Volunteer Rifles. He thought a programme combining gymnastics, games and discipline, together with hymns and prayers would appeal to the boys. Right from the beginning, the Object of the Boy’s Brigade was: 

“ The Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom among Boy’s and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-respect, and all that tends towards a true Christian Manliness.”

Later the same year he adopted the Anchor Emblem we know so well today together with the motto: SURE and STEDFAST, from book of Hebrews Chapter 6 verse 19. 

In 1926 the red cross was added when the Boy’s Brigade merged with the Boy’s Life Brigade. The Boy’s Brigade had been formed in 1899.   

Dummy rifles had been used as part of the drill discipline of the BLB but these were phased out following the merger of the Brigades. Many Churches did not like the use of rifles, it was to war-like for a Christian organisation, especially after the slaughter of the Great War.

Although there had been some opposition, the Boy’s Brigade was an immediate success and spread quickly—first in Scotland, then the rest of Great Britain, and finally World Wide. By 1893, 26,000 boys had joined and in 1900, 40.000 and 3,000 staff had enrolled.   By the time of the Silver Jubilee was celebrated in 1908 there was a membership of 9,324 companies involving 58,000 boys and 6,000 staff. There have, of course been fluctuations in membership over the years, but the object has remained unaltered through the years  of its existence.

William Smith travelled the country to check that all companies were being run efficiently and true to the high standard set out by him. He supplied a guide and manual in 1887, nicknamed ‘THE LITTLE RED BOOK’.     

More about the Boy’s Brigade History next time.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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From our Branch President John Elms

John tells me he knew of Sgt Bench but never actually met him.

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My Malta!

As probably most of you know I am a member of the George Cross Island Association (GCIA) an organisation created to commemorate and celebrate the island’s second great siege 1940 – 1943, the first being that by the Turks in 1565. The GCIA was formed in 1987, I have unashamedly cribbed the information below from the associations web site, three of our Downs branch are also GCIA members. http://www.georgecrossisland.org.uk/

The people of Malta suffered terrible conditions during the siege of Malta and their bravery was honoured by the award of the George Cross in April 1942 by King George VI. The Siege of Malta (1940 to 1943)

The bombing was almost non-stop; during the months 1st January 1942 to 24th July 1942 there was only ONE period of 24 hours without bombs falling. Malta endured 154 continuous day and night bombings.

The memories of this terrible time prompted a retired Navy man called Fred Plenty, to bring together comrades and friends so that they could share their experiences.  He enlisted the help of his one time Captain, Capt. E.A.S Bailey. Together, with a small group of others, they launched the George Cross Island Association in July 1987. The membership included both British and Maltese and quickly grew in numbers drawn from Navy, Army, Air Force, Merchant Navy, nursing and Civil Defence personnel.  Fred Plenty became a Life Vice President and Founder of the Association.  

The GCIA membership operates from several geographical branches (see our membership page for details), including the all important Malta Branch which was founded by Col A.L. Pace Bonello, MBE who is himself a veteran of the Siege of Malta.  We do however, all come together whenever possible at various events during the year.                                           

The Association hold a reunion in Malta every year to commemorate the award of the George Cross and to remember over 7,000 civilians and serving men who were killed during this bitter and prolonged siege.

To be continued.

Edward. 

 

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Some more of my Army experiences by Branch Parade Marshal Julian De Zille AKA Joe!

For this little missive I cast my mind back to 1978 (not entirely sure of the date) At the time my unit was posted to Somme Lines in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. This item occurred after the fireman’s strike.

Again, another arduous task was thrown at us, I was part of a detachment that had to go on a KAPE Tour (no I didn’t know what it was).  As in most cases in the Army it was an acronym for KEEP THE ARMY IN THE PUBLIC EYE.  As the name implied, we were to highlight the Army and our unit at Fete’s, Schools, Open days – you name it we went there for a mind boggling 6 weeks.  Where did we do it, you may ask, answer being anywhere in the South of England.  You can imagine the horror, a southern county regiment, posted in N Yorkshire being sent to southern England for a jolly.  As always, we put our shoulder to the grindstone and put a brave face on and got on with the task.

In those days, the only way from North to South was on the old A1, complete with truck stops every few miles, roundabouts and of course complete boredom.  It was Hot (and remained so for the entire trip).  We stopped every few miles for a cuppa and had to endure the inevitable questions from other patrons – like “my mates’ son, Jonny, joined last year, do you know him”.  I think that the first question like that was met with a dozen blank looks of horror, realising that what we had ahead was a lot of people that didn’t realise the size of the Army and would actually think like that. As it was hot, we had customised our land rovers by unhooking the canopy above the cab, just like a sunroof, we all had sunglasses on, and, in my case, we had Black Sabbath blaring out of a cassette radio in the cab (this was the age of cassettes, yes it was that long ago).  Luckily, we had all just about got the same taste in music, except one and I think he may have been put in our trailer.

Anyway, we managed – being accommodated in various drill halls around the southeast and visiting everyone that asked us, including some very interesting time in rush hour traffic, although we found that most drivers sort of backed of a bit when confronted by a 120MM WOMBAT (recoilless anti-tank gun) on the back of a Land Rover.  We also had a number of cancellations, which unfortunately meant that we had to spend a week in Horsham at the local swimming pool, and of course having the odd drink or 16, luckily none of us got arrested.

Eventually we had to get back to barracks, so back on the A1 we went.  All arrived safely and to my surprise whilst I had been away my brother had been posted into the Battalion and was the gate guard that let us into the barracks, so first night back party was assured, I could not possibly describe how drunk my brother and I were at the end of it.    Cheers Joe!

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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Jennie & Malcolm take the train!

Malcolm and I had the privilege to stay in a remote cottage in the heart of the beautiful North Yorkshire Moors. At the bottom of the pretty garden ran the  North Yorkshire Moors Steam Railway. Having seen a fairly recent series on television about the railway and its workings, this was a great opportunity to travel on it. This was Malcolm’s birthday treat from me!
The day dawned, at Pickering station we saw our train arrive, pulled by a magnificent living breathing locomotive, oh the smell and sound of a steam engine! Our journey was to take us through breath taking scenery to Whitby, famous for fish and chips. Our first station was Levisham, the village of Levisham being one and a half miles away. Next was Newtondale Halt, by request only. We then proceeded to climb to Goathland Summit, the highest point on the moor at 532 feet.  Then onto Goathland station, followed by Grosmont station, the last station before Whitby.
All the old stations on route through the moors, contained original artifices, being, milk churns waiting to be collected, as was done in the days of steam. Leather cases stacked up upon wooden hand barrows. Also the original style gas lamps and station name signs, not forgetting semaphore signalling. However there were no toilets… they were Lavatories!

 We then proceeded to our destination -Whitby, upon arrival, the air was heavy with aroma of fish and chips. Later in the day, we boarded the lovely old train, taking us back to Pickering. A good nostalgic day was enjoyed by us both.

 

https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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‘Looking after the past’

Fascinating recollections from our Padre Rev Jone Lines MBE

 The lock down as a result of Covid 19 has caused a great many problems for some folk/.  However I must say that I have found it reasonably passable as it has made me sort out some of my collections, much to Christine’s pleasure!  Going through all the boxes in my garage I found a box folder full of negatives and photographs which to be honest I had completely forgotten about.  What an wonderful hour, or maybe two, I spent looking through them all, so many memories were evoked!  I am not the best of photographers I readily admit, but the views encompass most of my married life and a bit before!

I never recall seeing a photograph of me when I was a young police officer at the Elephant and Castle back in the 1950’s, but I now have proof that I was there! I found a picture of yours truly in uniform talking to a couple of young ladies in Dutch costumes outside the Trocadero cinema in New Kent Road.  I seem to recall that they were advertising a film called something like ‘Operation Amsterdam’ I might add I was single at the time!

 Next out of the box were a number of photos of various means of transport that I have owned over the years, for instance a wonderful Bond three wheel minicar which got Christine and I around when we were courting!  She relates a tale of how we almost got run over by a coal lorry in West Norwood High Street one day.  I have to say that they were very low slung, but wonderful little machines.  I certainly have not seen one for many a year!  I have never seen one at old vehicle rallies either, I wonder if any still exist? Now there’s a collection to start!!!

Next batch were in colour were all about a certain young couple getting married in the Baptist Church in South Norwood on the 2nd September 1961!  I wonder who they were?  Funny to find colour views because our actual wedding album is all black and white.  We had a honeymoon overseas – yes we went to Shanklin on the Isle of Wight!  Christine thought she knew me fairly well, but she could not work out why the pictures I took of her were all in front of buses – well I had to follow my hobby!!

Then a number of views taken at Theological College where I was part of a group known as the gruesome threesome because we were always together.  Paul was an ex Royal Air Force officer and like me of older years; Stephen had been an inspector for Dunlop Rubber where they made the air sea rescue rafts, sadly although the youngest he died a few years ago. How important it is to keep an eye on the past, after all for me there is probably more of it than future!!!   Wake up I have finished!!  John Lines.                       

John tells me this was the actual bike he rode when serving with the police, he spotted it in a private sale and has refurbished it to the original! 

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Royal Engineer Recipient of the Victoria Cross by our  Youth Officer Stuart Gemmell Ex RE.

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Major General Clifford Coffin VC, CB, DSO & Bar

Major General Clifford Coffin VC CB DSO & Bar (10 February 1870 – 4 February 1959) was a British Army officer and recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Born in Blackheath, the son of Lieutenant General Sir Isaac Coffin, Clifford Coffin was educated at Haileybury and Imperial Service College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers. He served in the Second Boer War and was mentioned in dispatches.

Royal Engineers

Clifford Coffin was 47 years old, and a temporary brigadier general commanding the 25th Infantry Brigade during the First World War, when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross for “most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty”.

Coffin won his VC on the first day of the third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). The objective of the attack was to capitalise on the success of the assault on Messines (June 1917) and to capture the remainder of the ridge, as far north as Passchendaele. The battle began at 3.10 am on 31 July 1917. Coffin was commanding 25th Infantry Brigade, a reserve brigade, but when the advance to the west of the Ypres became bogged-down his brigade was ordered forward to Westnoek ridge to carry on the attack to the third objective (Red Line), when his brigade also became bogged -down, through the effects of the appalling weather and ferocious enemy opposition, he went forward and while under murderous fire allied his men. By the evening his presence ensured that his troops were ‘holding with tenacity’ which caused the German counterattacks to fail.

Coffin served as Commander-in-Chief, Ceylon and ADC to King George V. He later achieved the rank of major general and was Colonel Commandant Royal Engineers. During World War II he was the chairman of the executive council of the British Empire Service League and Temporary Major General with the 36th Ulster Division

He died in February 1959 and is buried at Holy Trinity Churchyard, Colemans Hatch, East Sussex. His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, Kent. In 2012, his grave was renovated by the Victoria Cross Trust.

 Victoria Cross citation:  

[London Gazette, 14 September 1917], Westhoek, Belgium, 31 July 1917, Lieutenant Colonel (T/Brigadier General) Clifford Coffin DSO.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty (Westhoek, Flanders). When his command was held up in attack owing to heavy machine gun and rifle fire from front and right flank and was establishing itself in a forward shell hole line, he went forward and made an inspection of his front posts. Though under the heaviest fire from both machine guns and rifles, and in full view of the enemy, he showed an utter disregard of personal danger, walking quietly from shell hole to shell hole, giving advice generally, and cheering the men by his presence.

His very gallant conduct had the greatest effect on all ranks, and it was largely owing to his personal courage and example that the shell hole line was held in spite of the very heaviest fire. Throughout the day his calm courage and cheerfulness exercised the greatest influence over all with whom he came in contact, and it is generally agreed that Brigadier-General Coffin’s splendid example saved the situation, and had it not been for his action the line would certainly have been driven back.

Clifford Coffin was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 2nd of January 1918.

 Distinguished Service Order citation:

[ London Gazette, 1 January 1917], Created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Lieutenant-Colonel Clifford Coffin, Corps of Royal Engineers. For distinguished service in the field. 

 Distinguished Service Order citation to First Bar:

[London Gazette, 26 July 1918], For the award of a Bar to the Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO), Lieutenant-Colonel and Bt Colonel (T/Brigadier-General) Clifford Coffin VC DSO, Corps of Royal Engineers

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during a long period of active operations, when he handled his brigade with great skill, especially when covering the withdrawal of the remainder of the division. On one occasion he commanded for a time the infantry of the division with marked success, and his personal courage and example at all times inspired all ranks.

Stuart Gemmell.

 

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Part  Five of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire by Malcolm Gibbons our Vice Chairman

After leaving The Armed Forces Memorial I made my way back to the Remembrance centre gardens to meet up with Jennie again. 

As I approached the garden area, I notice some smaller memorials this was the Brigade Memorial Garden this was a project undertaken by members of The Brigade Association and is located next to the south wall of The Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness.

The first of these Memorials of which I recognised was dedicated to all youth organisations of which I new of these, the first of these was Dedicated to Members of The Church Lads’ & Church Girls Brigade’ who served their country in war and peace  

This organisation is often called CLCGB often referred to as “ THE BRIGADE “ it is the Anglican  Churches own uniformed  youth organisation : this welcomes children and young people of all faiths and none. The Organisation has a lot of history and for over 125 years The Brigade has fulfilling its object to extend the kingdom of Christ  among lads and girls.     

The next was The Boy’s Brigade Memorial Garden this was an organisation of which I was familiar with  and joined as young lad at age of 11years The Boy’s Brigade is a worldwide Christian, uniformed youth movement that was founded in Glasgow in 1883 by Sir William Alexander Smith. The stone was dedicated in 2008  as part of the Brigade’s 125th  Anniversary.   

William Alexander Smith, later Sir William, was an officer in the Lanarkshire Rifles Volunteers. He was born in Thurso, Scotland, in 1854 and, following his father’s death, he moved to Glasgow with his family. Smith was commissioned into the part-time Lanarkshire Volunteer Rifles in Glasgow in 1877 and then promoted to Lieutenant, he later rose to rank of Major.

At this time, he became a Sunday School teacher. It was a combination of the discipline of the Rifle Volunteers and the unruliness of boys in his Sunday School Class, who were bored, noisy and undisciplined, that led him to start the Boys’ Brigade on the 4th of October 1883 at the Free Church Mission Hall, Glasgow.  

I then meet with Jennie, and we briefly decided to have a look in the Millennium Chapel of Peace and Forgiveness, and I notice there was a wooded pillar with a group of standards placed around it, and one of these was a Burma Star Branch Standard and British Legion Branch Standard. We than phoned for our taxi to take us back the Station, this completed our visit and a great and memorable day at the National Arboretum, as hopefully will return soon as there lots take in and see. 

Next time more inforsmation and History on The Boy’s Brigade Organisation.

 

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THE MILITARY MEDAL by Our President John Elms

In the 1960’s whilst living in Holbeach, Lincolnshire one of our neighbours was a Mr John Thomas Ward who at the time worked on the railways. Mr Ward had a distinguished career during the Second World War whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment. (The Regiment didn’t become ‘Royal’ until 10th December 1946)

4901964 Sgt. J. T. Ward was awarded a Commander in Chiefs Certificate for good work on 10th January 1942. Later the 2nd Battalion together with the 4th Battalion took part in the Normandy landings. Shortly afterwards on the night of 17th June 1944 Sgt. Ward was to take command of a fighting patrol and destroy an enemy machine and gun post near Galmanche. During the assault Sgt. Ward and his men came under machine gun and rifle fire from enemy positions. In spite of this he led the assault with great dash and determination. All his men were wounded by the time the post had been reached, yet he continued the assault single handed and personally killed all the Germans in the machine gun post which was his objective.

Sergeant Ward then tried to withdraw but found that he had been surrounded by enemy re-enforcements who had come to the help of the machine gun post. Having expended all his ammunition he then proceeded to attack with the bayonet and accounted for five further Germans before he succeeded in fighting his way out. On his way back he overtook one of his men who had been badly wounded, and although still under heavy fire he half carried the wounded man back to the Aid Post, a distance of over 300 yards. 

Throughout the whole action Sergeant Ward showed that his powers of leadership were a very high standard and his personal courage and bravery and determination were entirely responsible for the successful destruction of the enemy post.

Although he was awarded the Military Medal had an officer been present this action must have been close to consideration for a Victoria Cross.

See https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

 

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Joe get free pints in Liverpool

Hi Everyone

I hope this finds you all fit and well.

For this little missive I cast my mind back to 1977, yes, I can just about remember that far back.

At the time my unit was posted to Somme Lines in Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire. We were put on stand-by as the firemen’s union was threatening to go on strike.  So, we duly formed a plan and set about implementing getting our kit ready to move.  We found out that we were to be deployed into Liverpool city.  A joy to me as I am a lifelong supporter of Liverpool.  Each of the Battalion Companies were allocated an area within the city to which whey would be deployed, and they set about learning the ins and outs of roads within their areas.

The Signal Platoon was tasked with providing comms across the whole area.  Those that know will realise this is not an easy task to do on the hoof, comms in city area’s can, and usually is, patchy in the extreme.  So, our packing was for the best- and worst-case scenario.

We duly got the order to move.  The advance party left on time and started to move over the Pennines on route, when we were called back as the firemen had postponed the strike, so we turned ourselves around in the snowstorm we were in and returned to our base.

Followed a week later by the same thing, as the strike was re-established.  My platoon had been told that we would be fitting all green goddesses with Motorola radio sets prior to everyone moving into the city, so we would be going into Southport first to achieve this.  Upon arrival we were greeted by a pile of boxes and various tools to enable us to get the conversion, followed by 48 hours of back breaking work of getting the sets installed.  In vehicles that had never been designed to hold them, and to do so by end of day Sun (we arrived on the Friday), for deployment into the city over night, ready to assume control on the Mon morning.

I was deployed to Lime Street Police centre which is in the city centre and where the main control room was set up.  Combined with Police Officers and Fire Officers, and then proceeded to run a fire service for the population of Liverpool.

Our accommodation was an old store cupboard, emptied and 4 camp beds in it, we had to hot bed for the whole deployment, our companies were housed in the police car garages (the bobbies took great delight in waking everyone by pushing a police bike in and turning on all their syrens)

This became one of the best deployments I was ever involved with.  The population of Liverpool were outstanding, I do not think I paid for a pint the whole time of the deployment, everywhere we went we were given free entry, I even attended Bar BQ’s held by striking firemen and of course night club trips with the local bobbies.

A good indication on how varied the life was in the UK military.

See more here

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Picture from 2019, Jennie front row to left of conductor.

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Magnetism or not!?

As I write this I have just spent a most enjoyable morning in the sunshine going through the treasure trove that is my garage!  I think I must be the original human magnet in that bolts, nuts, screws washers and the like seem to love attaching themselves to me!!  I realise that I literally have all manner of little boxes and tins that contain some of my alleged treasurers, in other words things I might need but in honesty probably never will!!!

Most of my old buses and motorcycles that I have enjoyed over the years use Whitworth thread nuts and bolts, incidentally they are becoming rather hard to find these days.  So allied to my vast collections of bolts, nuts, screws, washers and the like is yet another sets of rather larger boxes normally known as tool boxes.  What is in them you might be thinking?  Spanners by the dozens if not scores!  Yes I certainly could open an iron monger’s shop with all that I seem to have gathered! Allied to that, of course, are screwdrivers and they are a multitude as well because of the different screw heads that are in general use around us these days!  Add to that chisels, hammers, pliers, saws and various sorts of wrenches and I hope that you will see what my beloved Christine has had to put up with for almost sixty years of wedded bliss! (September this year is the BIG date!)

There is, however, an advantage to my magnetism in that I very rarely have to purchase any bolts, nuts, screws washers and the like because I usually can find what I need amongst my collection of  bags, boxes and tins.  It is a standing joke with some of my fellow bus enthusiasts that if you want a nut and bolt John will have it!  Why you may be thinking?  Well knowing that Whitworth threaded bolts and nuts were on their way out every time I took one of the buses I want and purchased half a dozen or so to replace it!  Everyone reckons that I ordered them by the gross, maybe they are right!

One of the BIG problems that seem to be looming in my life is that a great many things that break or need maintenance don’t use Whitworth thread, rather being this new fangled ( well at least to me)  metric!  I claim to be a proud Englishman and I am certainly sticking to my Whitworth bolts, nuts, screws and washers as long as I can!  Having said that, and knowing my luck, I shall end up in a coffin with metric fastening – ugh what a horrible thought!!!

Blessings to you all,  John Lines.   https://www.facebook.com/Royal-British-Legion-Downs-Branch-553666901369172/

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Royal Engineer Recipients of the Victoria Cross By our Youth Liaison Officer Stuart Gemmel.

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George Hawker, VC, DSO (30 December 1890 – 23 November 1916) was a British flying ace of the First World War. Having seven credited victories, he was the third pilot to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry awarded to British and Commonwealth servicemen. He was killed in a dogfight with the famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (“The Red Baron”), who described him as “the British Boelcke”.

Early Life:

Hawker was born on 30 December 1890 at Longparish, Hampshire, England, to Lieutenant Henry Colley Hawker, R.N., and Julia Gordon Lanoe Hawker, daughter of Major Peter William Lanoe Hawker, of the 74th Highlanders and sister of the author Mary Elizabeth Hawker (“Lanoe Falconer”). His parents were distant cousins; Hawker’s father was of a cadet branch of the family resident in Australia since his own father, George Charles Hawker (son of Royal Navy Admiral Edward Hawker), emigrated in 1839, being elected Speaker of the House of Assembly, South Australia in 1860. The Hawker family had a military tradition, with army commissions being held in each generation since the time of Elizabeth I. Lanoe was sent to Stubbington House School and at the age of 11 to the Royal Navy College in Dartmouth, but although highly intelligent and an enthusiastic sportsman, he suffered from a weak constitution, which led to jaundice. With the strenuous nature of a naval career unsuitable, he entered the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich before joining the Royal Engineers as an officer cadet. A clever inventor, Hawker developed a keen interest in all mechanical and engineering developments. During the summer of 1910 he saw a film featuring the Wright Flyer and after attending an aircraft flying display at Bournemouth, he quickly found an interest in aviation, learning to fly at his own expense at Hendon. On 4 March 1913, Hawker was awarded Aviator’s Certificate No. 435 by the Royal Aero Club. Promoted to 1st Lieutenant in October 1913 he was posted to Cork Harbour with the 33rd Fortress Company. His request for attachment to the Royal Flying Corps was granted and he reported to the Central Flying School at Upavon on 1 August 1914, three days before Britain entered World War I.

 With the Royal Flying Corps:

Hawker was posted to France in October 1914, as a captain with No. 6 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, flying Henri Farmans. The squadron converted to the B.E.2c and he undertook numerous reconnaissance missions into 1915, being wounded once by ground fire. On 22 April he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for attacking a German zeppelin shed at Gontrode by dropping hand grenades at low level (below 200 ft) from his B.E.2c. He used a tethered German balloon to help shield him from enemy ground fire as he made successive attacks. During the Second Battle of Ypres, Hawker was wounded in the foot by ground fire. For the remainder of the battle he had to be carried to and from his aircraft, but refused to be grounded until the fight was over

Returning to 6 Squadron after hospitalisation, the squadron now received several single-seat scouts, and some early F.E.2 ‘pushers’. One aircraft received was a Bristol Scout C, with RFC s/n 1609 that Hawker, with assistance from Air Mechanic Ernest Elton (who later became an Ace Pilot himself), equipped with their design of Lewis gun mount, enabling the machine gun to fire forward obliquely at an acute horizontal angle to the axis of flight, missing the propeller arc.

While with No 6 squadron in 1915, Captain Hawker was a comrade of Captain Louis Strange. The Squadron became pioneers of many aspects in military aviation at the time, driven largely by the imagination of Strange and the engineering talents of Hawker. Their talents led to various mountings for Lewis machine guns, one of which won Hawker the Victoria Cross, and one that nearly cost Strange his life. Hawker’s innovative ideas at this time greatly benefited the fledgling RFC. He helped to invent the Prideaux disintegrating link machine-gun belt feed and initiated the practice of putting fabric protective coverings on the tips of wooden propellers, the use of fur-lined thigh boots, and devising a primitive ‘rocking fuselage’ for target practice on the ground. In 1916 he also developed (with W.L. French) the increased capacity 97-round ‘double drum’ for the Lewis machine gun. It was issued for trials in July and after modifications was issued generally to the RFC and RNAS.

Victoria Cross:

Following an initial air victory in June, on 25 July 1915 when on patrol over Passchendaele, Captain Hawker attacked three German aircraft in succession, flying a different Bristol Scout C, serial No. 1611, after his earlier No. 1609 had been written off, transplanting the custom Lewis gun mount onto No. 1611. The first aerial victory for Hawker that day occurred after he had emptied a complete drum of bullets from his aircraft’s single Lewis machine gun into it, sending it spinning down. The second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third – an Albatros C.I of FFA 3 – which he attacked at a height of about 10,000 feet, burst into flames and crashed. (Pilot Oberleutnant Uebelacker and observer Hauptmann Roser were both killed.) For this feat he was awarded the Victoria Cross, as the third military pilot (and the first fighter pilot) to receive the VC following William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse‘s pioneering award for bravery during a bombing raid, and Reginald Warneford‘s award for an anti-Zeppelin attack on an airborne Deutsches Heer airship, using aerial bombing to bring it down. This particular sortie was just one of the many which Captain Hawker undertook during almost a year of constant operational flying and fighting. He claimed at least three more victories in August 1915, either in the Scout or flying an F.E.2.  Hawker was posted back to England in late 1915, with some seven victory claims (including one captured, three destroyed, one ‘out of control’ and one ‘forced to land’) making him the first British flying ace, and a figure of considerable fame within the ranks of the RFC.

It has since been argued that shooting down three aircraft in one mission was a feat repeated several times by later pilots, and whether Hawker deserved his Victoria Cross has been questioned. However, in the context of the air war of mid-1915 it was unusual to shoot down even one aircraft, and the VC was awarded on the basis that all the enemy planes were armed with machine guns. More significantly, by the early summer of 1915, the German Feldflieger Abteilung two-seater observation units of the future Luftstreitkräfte, had by this time, received examples of the Fokker Eindecker monoplane, with one Eindecker going to each unit, with a fixed, forward-firing machine gun fitted with a “synchronization gear” that prevented the bullets from striking the propeller. The first claim using this arrangement, though unconfirmed by the German Army, was by Leutnant Kurt Wintgens on 1 July 1915, some 225 miles (362 km) over Lunéville distant from where Hawker had his three-victory success nearly a month later. Therefore, the German pilots like Wintgens and Leutnant Otto Parschau, another pioneering Eindecker pilot, could employ the simple combat tactic of aiming the whole aircraft, and presenting a small target to the enemy while approaching from any angle, preferably from a blind spot where the enemy observer could not return fire.  Hawker flew before Britain had any workable synchroniser gear, so his Bristol Scout had its machine gun mounted on the left side of the cockpit, firing forwards and sideways at a 45-degree angle to avoid the propeller. The only direction from which he could attack an enemy was from its right rear quarter – precisely in a direction from which it was easy for the observer to fire at him. Thus, in each of the three attacks, Hawker was directly exposed to the fire of an enemy machine gun.

Death:

On 23 November 1916, while flying an Airco DH.2 (Serial No. 5964), Hawker left Bertangles Aerodrome at 1300 hours as part of ‘A’ Flight, led by Captain (later Air Vice Marshal) J. O. Andrews and including Lieutenant (later Air Marshal) R.H.M.S Saundby. Andrews led the flight in an attack on two German aircraft over Achiet. Spotting a larger flight of German aircraft above, Andrews was about to break off the attack, but spotted Hawker diving to attack. Andrews and Saundby followed him to back him up in his fight; Andrews drove off one of the Germans attacking Hawker, then took bullets in his engine and glided out of the fight under Saundby’s covering fire. Losing contact with the other DH.2s, Hawker began a lengthy dogfight with an Albatros D.II flown by Leutnant Manfred von Richthofen of Jasta 2. The Albatros was faster than the DH.2, more powerful and, with a pair of lMG 08 machine guns, more heavily armed. Richthofen fired 900 rounds during the running battle. Running low on fuel, Hawker eventually broke away from the combat and attempted to return to Allied lines. The Red Baron’s guns jammed 50 yards from the lines, but a bullet from his last burst struck Hawker in the back of his head, killing him instantly. His plane spun from 1,000 ft (300 m) and crashed 200 metres (220 yards) east of Luisenhof Farm, just south of Bapaume on the Flers Road, becoming the German ace‘s 11th victim. German Grenadiers reported burying Hawker 250 yards (230 metres) east of Luisenhof Farm along the roadside. Richthofen claimed Hawker’s Lewis gun from the wreck as a trophy and hung it above the door of his quarters. Major Lanoe George Hawker is listed on the Arras Flying Services Memorial for airmen lost with no known grave.

Legacy:

Hawker’s original Victoria Cross was lost when the Hawker family belongings were left behind after the fall of France in 1940. On their return after the Second World War, they found that their possessions, including the VC, had been stolen. A replacement was issued to Hawker’s brother on 3 February 1960 and is now held by the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon. Hawker was a first cousin of Arthur Bagot, a naval officer in the First World War and Albert Medal recipient.

A window (designed by Francis Skeat) commemorating Hawker was installed in St. Nicholas church, Longparish in 1967. The design features St. Michael above an airfield with two pilots in the foreground. There is a copy of the window at the Museum of Army Flying at Middle Wallop. Hawker was portrayed by Corin Redgrave in the 1971 film Von Richthofen and Brown. In the 2008 film The Red Baron, he was played by Richard Krajčo.

 

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Part  Four of our Visit to The National Arboretum Staffordshire by Malcolm Gibbons our Vice Chairman 

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After our visit to the Far East zone and our booked lunch date in the Remembrance Centre Restaurant, due to social distancing this had be booked at the reception desk when we first arrived.  

After a very excellent lunch I then decided to make my own way round to see some of the other zones from a mini guide that had obtain from the reception desk, so left Jennie rest her feet and look round the Remembrance centre gardens and other smaller memorials in the garden area.  

I then made my way to The Beat Zone area, which consisted of The Military Police Association Memorial, Special Constabulary Memorial and the Long Police Memorial garden with lines of plain trees either side of the avenue and at end of avenue a Large Blue Police Lamp on a large high column, of which was illuminated.

 

Alongside the Memorials dedicated to the police, some of these contained Memorials for the campaigns fought in the Mediterranean area during World War Two, as well as the Garden of Innocents and the War Widows’ Rose Garden.       

Other Memorials in this Zone  included The Polish Armed Forces Memorial, a very dramatic and moving Memorial, depicting their sacrifice their Armed Forces and people of their Country had made in the WW Two. 

Other important Memorials in this Zone that was of interest personally to me was The  Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Memorial, as my late Father Sidney was attached to the City of London Regiment of Fusiliers and based for a short time at The Tower of London during the early part of WW Two.

He was also attached to The Royal Engineers when he went out to the India and Burma campaign in late 1944, I also visited that Memorial as I also thought of our Branch Youth Liaison office Stuart Gemmell as know he was attached to The Royal Engineers.   

On my back from the Beat Zone and The Polish Memorial and route to the Remembrance Centre, I decided to visit the Armed Forces Memorial which you  approach by a number of steps as this is mounted at a high level, as the area is surrounded by large stone tablets covered with hundreds of names with varours Naval Officers and Ratings as well as RAF Squadrons and Regiments and names of battles honours, as well huge statues depicting the sacrifices made by Men and Women of our Armed Forces. 

This was a truly moving experience for me even to reading some the names on stone tablets, not enough time to taken to take it all in, so I must go back and visit at some time in the future as many more Memorials are still being being added and his a very peaceful and tranquil place.                            

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A fascinating piece of Military History from President John Elms.