Having discovered that the older one gets the less one remembers of current events, names and experiences, the more memories from such times flash through one's mind, and fishing having finished for 1990 the thought came to me that I might fill in some time during winters, and to some extent exercise my mind, by jotting down these flashes and arranging them in more or less the right order. Whether the result would be read by anyone remains to be seen, and anyway does not matter. It is perhaps just possible that Regimental HQ might use bits of it to pad out the Regimental Magazine later on.
Born 19/2/1913 I was commissioned into the Border Regiment on 2/2/1933. Gavin Elliot and I joined the 1st Battalion in Palace Barracks, Hollywood, Northern Ireland in February 1933. We had been told at Sandhurst to arrive during the afternoon, so met in Belfast and shared a taxi, arriving at the Barracks at about 3 pm. Of course, there was no one in the Mess, but we entered our names in the Visitors Book and one of the Mess staff showed us our rooms. Our baggage was pretty shabby compared with that of Edward Hedley's, which was in the hall; leather matching pieces and a huge leather golf bag! He arrived the same day but at a more reasonable hour as he was a university graduate who had not been briefed at Sandhurst. That night we were dined in, in our new mess kit, with red jacket, yellow facings and Kendal green waistcoats. This kit we learned Monday, Wednesday, Thursday (guest night) and Friday - dinner jackets on the other nights. Our stiff shirts could be cleaned by our batmen to last two or three nights, unless they became too battered after a guest night. That night we dined free out of Regimental guest's funds, and were not entirely ignored, as we were to be for at least a few months! In those days newly joined subalterns were truly to be seen and not heard.
Looking back over nearly sixty years that particular night was certainly a most important one in my life, but I don't remember realising it at the time. It soon emerged that the young officer's routine was not too arduous: RSM's parade 7- 7.30 under RSM Peters, ex Grenadiers; breakfast, then walk over to Company Office by 9 am, watch individual training, tapping one's regimental cane against one's leg, possibly attending the Office to witness the awards of punishment mainly for fairly trivial crimes under the Army Act. Usually we were free by 12.30. After lunch we played games with the soldiers and once went for a cross country run, led by the Commanding Officer on a horse (Lt Col George Darwell on Miss Snooks). Years later, in the same position, I jolly well had to run myself! Another CO I knew well, H S Cooper, (Coop) also ran, but anyone finishing after him had to run the course again in that week.
Soon after we joined the CO appointed Captain Duncan Dunn to run a young officers course, attended by the newly joined Elliot, Hedley and me, as well as the not so newly joined T H Birkbeck, Warren and Trappes-Lomax. In those days Christian names were rarely used except among intimate friends, but Dunn decided the first thing he would do was to decide on what we should be called. The result was Long John for Birkbeck, Rollo for Warren, Hedders for Hedley, Flood for Elliot (who was not really wet but posed as such), Trappes for Trappes-Lomax and for me, Tommy. These names stuck with us throughout all our service. The subjects we studied, apart from Drill, were Military Law, Military History, Imperial Geography, of course Map Reading and the setting of Tactical Exercise without Troops (TEWTS). It was all pretty basic but we had all had rather different military training, Flood and I at Sandhurst, the rest Supplementary Reserve and School cadets. Personally I have never ceased to be grateful for that grounding by Duncan, an excellent teacher. He subsequently taught at the Staff College, and after being invalided out with ill health as a Brigadier, he set up the Police staff College and ran it for several years. I don't think we all took it desperately seriously, but most of it stuck. Duncan also coached us in game shooting, fishing and sailing, as also did Michael Ashby, a good shot and a very keen fisherman. One amusing incident I remember was during sword drill. The RSM demonstrating the salute knocked off his hat. Hedders, not knowing the form, roared with laughter. Mr Peters was not amused, and shouted "double, march!", which we endured for about a quarter of an hour, after which we were not amused, either.
The main weapon which the infantry employed in those days was the rifle and bayonet, the SMLE Mark S, and we went annually, by company, for a month to the shooting range at Ballykindler. There we had good ranges for the firing on the annual range courses. A qualification was required of every man's proficiency pay, so it was taken very seriously. I remember one soldier, who needed an inner to scrape through, seeing his last shot going down the range hitting the firing points en route, moaning "there goes my 6d a day, hop hopping to buggery!" Officers also shot with their rifle and Smith and Wesson pistol. We had to do well - a marksman if at all possible - and we had to qualify with the pistol - we all did! although our pay was not affected, possibly because it was so small anyway.
On off duty hours we often went down to Newcastle and climbed the Mountains of Mourne. Hedders was particularly good at this. I was able also to find time to fish for sea trout in the nearby streams. My two stroke motor bicycle came in very handy therefore, racing up and down the ranges, nipping up to Belfast or Hollywood of an evening. It was a Royal Enfield I bought for £10 and sold many years later to Bobby Patch in India for about the same price.
Collective training involving most of the battalion usually meant hiring buses to get out to the country. I remember the first occasion I was involved. The CO had evolved a drill for operation from buses. A red flag pushed out of the side meant "Stop at once and debus, taking up defensive positions on either side of the road". A yellow flag meant "stop but stay in the buses", while a green flag meant "Go on". I was in the leading bus and had been briefed to practise the drills. Being very keen I kept looking out of the side window to make sure the other buses kept their right distances. Just as we were in the middle of a village my steel helmet caught in the window frame and fell off. In a flash I hoisted a red flag, by mistake for a yellow one, and walked back for my helmet. Meanwhile the rest of the troops milled round the street and it took some time to get them all back into the buses. Luckily no one noticed me pick up my helmet and I never let on, but I wasn't very popular. Transport was very difficult in those days as all we were provided with were a few chargers and two or three horse drawn waggons and a mobile boiler to cook the stew while on the move.
About six months after we had joined, Flood and I were sent off to the Small Arms School at Hythe. There we really got down to learning about the rifle and bayonet, the grenade and the Lewis Gun, an automatic weapon with a circular magazine full of the same ammunition we used in the rifle, i.e. 303 calibre bullets. As well as learning all about the weapons we were instructed and practised in giving Fire Orders, including means of identifying targets such as "bushy topped tree". The accommodation was all hutted, and my bedroom was next door to a subaltern called Hackett. He hunted twice a week and I instructed him in the lessons he had missed. He got a "D" (Distinguished) and I passed! He ended up a full General with a "K".
The other course I attended in my first year was at the Army School of Education at Shorncliffe. Education was a pretty important subject then as a good many soldiers were illiterate on joining, or very nearly so. I gather it was even worse in my father's time. He told me once that soldiers used to have to get officers or bright NCOs to read the letters they got. Apparently they used to put cotton wool in the reader's ears so that the readers could not hear what they were reading! Anyway it was quite an interesting course. I remember listening in to an instructor explaining what the prefix "tri" meant. At one stage he asked one of the class of so-called backward students to give an example. The immediate reply was "Tripe, Corporal", showing, I thought, he was pretty bright really. We officers had to write a few essays during the course and the staff were somewhat put out to read two or more having exactly the same text. The officers concerned had unfortunately copied out from the same Readers Digest. I enjoyed the course and particularly the local Repertory Company, the Arthur Brough Company.
It was just after that one of the regimental officers was trying to sell his ancient car, a Windsor, before going off to West Africa. Gavin and I bought it from him on his last for £2.10s each and it enabled several of us to play golf and tennis and get about generally. We were all members of Ulster Club, the Yacht Club and the Caltrau Sailing Club where four of us kept a boat, a Dancer Class Bermuda rigged racing dinghy. We eventually sold the car for scrap for £4 when it seized up for lack of oil. We were asked out quite a lot too to play tennis and not always too happy to accept. On one occasion, one of our less popular hostesses complained to the CO that he had at least three orderly officers the previous Sunday. All things considered we really enjoyed Hollywood days; what a pity it is not quite the same now. We certainly lived well beyond our means and learnt quite a bit about soldiering.
After a couple of years there Gavin and I were posted to India. In a final interview with the CO I was told that "if I kept my nose clean and worked hard I might one day command the 1st Battalion". In fact, rather to my surprise, I commanded it three times, once during the war, once acting for six months whilst Coop was on leave in 1948 and finally in Germany in 1955-57. In the Mess in Ireland was an Army List which we subalterns annotated with such remarks as BF, LD etc. The CO asked what LD meant and eventually we had to admit that it meant Likely to Die. Promotion in those days was extremely slow and we had three Lieutenants with over 15 years service. Our chances of promotion looked pretty bleak.
So I crated up my trunks and motor bike and embarked on HMS Lancashire, an ancient trooper, in February 1935. For then this trooper was considered pretty comfortable. Officers shared four berth cabins; soldiers had hammocks slung in the mess decks, thus they slept, ate and sat in the same space. As orderly officers we all had to go through the mess decks bent double in blue patrols, i.e. tight trousers and pretty tight tunic, and very distressing it was. Food was pretty basic, lots of bully beef stews in the steamy hot weather beyond Port Said. Housey Housey was very popular and Crown and Anchor illegally flourished. Systematic browning of the body was supervised. The journey to Bombay took 21 days. Drink was cheap and we all survived.
On arrival at Bombay I had to get my gun and motor bike through Customs, a very lengthy and tiresome business. I was made train adjutant and given a rocket by the O i/c for wearing suede shoes, which I said was a Regimental custom. At one stage in the three or four days journey I was on the platform dealing with some detraining soldiers when the train pulled out. Luckily it stopped at the end of the platform and I was told to climb on board at the end of the train. The carriages had fans and we bought chunks of ice which we placed under them. This kept our drinks cool and to a certain extent us. The men fed in dining cars in relays which could only be reached when the train stopped on a platform. I seem to remember that the train stopped at Lahore and the draft I was in charge of had to change for Ferozepore which was where the 2nd Battalion was stationed.
Anyway we duly arrived there (in the Punjab) and very hot it was. My first accommodation was a bed sitter in a bungalow in the junior officers compound. Only the most senior and married officers lived in proper houses. The CO was M U Manly, second in command was Gerry Tarleton and the Adjutant was Cottrell-Hill, one of the 15 years service subalterns. I went down straightaway with dysentry contracted on the train and went to hospital. I was really cured by the Matron with a pan peg a day. Up to then I had not drunk whisky but was then convinced that one a day kept one reasonably clear of tropical and many other diseases.
Life was pleasant in Ferozepore. We worked in the morning starting at 6.30, had a siesta after lunch and then played games, including rugger, cricket, hockey, squash, golf and tennis. The soldiers were less comfortable. Their barrack rooms were large, cooled by huge canvas punkahs swung back and forward by coolies or electric power. They creaked badly. Social life for the soldiers and their wives was minimal, and although we did our best to keep them occupied, life was pretty dim for them. Tours in India were then 6+ years. Our social life was not all that good either. We had almost non-frat with the local population, except when one was invited to shoot with a Maharaja. On one occasion I was one of four or five of us in Dagshai, our hill station, to be asked to a big shoot by the Maharaja of Patiala. In the morning, aided by, we understood, 300 beaters, we walked up partridges and snipe, the odd bear, then after a huge lunch of both Indian and European food, we continued to walk up game against the 300 beaters who had moved round our flank during lunch. The bag was not enormous as I remember it but it included one Karka, a sort of mountain goat, shot by Bunny Warren, my company commander.
In the hot weather, from April to September, half the Battalion at a time moved up to our hill station, a relatively cool place in the Simla hills. We shared this place with the Royal Scots from Lahore. A very pleasant break with an officers club, a cinema, tennis courts, polo ground and good tracks for horseback riding. There were two peaks, one had the barracks, the other the officers quarters - married and otherwise. The first time I went there was to take up and look after the women and children of the Regiment for a month before the men arrived. I had a clerk, Corporal Gladwin, and one other man.
Corporal Gladwin's main task was to shield me from the various women complaining about the lack of this and that, baby food of the right type etc. The permanent OC Station at the time was Colonel St John Wright, who very kindly put me up in one of his spare bedrooms. He and his wife were terribly kind. Another permanent resident was a Mrs Wallace, an English lady, who had in fact never been in England, and lived in a large bungalow surrounded by a large Indian staff, and an even larger  of cats, wild and tame. Mrs Wallace moved around in a Dandy, a chair supported on two long poles carried by four of her staff. She would never answer the telephone, regarding that as beneath her dignity to be bothered with. In fact I think she was scared stiff of it. There was plenty of social life. For the larger dinner parties the Indian bearers used to borrow silver from others, so that there could only be one or two at a time. The Royal Scots were a very pleasant lot and we all got on well together. That was where I first met Clodagh staying with her sister Ursula, married to Stanford Burn, a Royal Scot. We were married some years later two days after the war started, with Gerry Tarleton's permission - as was necessary then.
Training in the Simla hills was all individual, and the main sport boxing. Again the soldiers had a pretty dull time of it, but at least it was cool and fresh whereas in Ferozepore the temperature rose to over 100 degrees in the shade. It was claimed that at times you could boil an egg on the pavement. By this time I had become a Machine gunner, in D Coy which was armed with the old Vickers MG mounted on a tripod and capable of indirect fire, so in 1935 I went on a MG course at Ahmednagar for a months course. It was quite a change from Regimental soldiering and I enjoyed it. The golf course there was very rocky and often one hit a ball only to see it hit a rock and bounce back sometimes to behind where it had been struck. I did reasonably well on the course and got back to the Battalion in time for collective training. This was great fun and there was plenty of open country around. As a platoon commander of MGS I had a horse, usually a five bob a month hired one, but on one occasion I was given a horse that normally worked a water wheel in the 3rd Cavalry lines. It was jolly difficult to get it to go anywhere in a straight line. I shelf there, much to the relief of the poor chap involved. I had what they called an Imprest Account and, never having been much good at accounts, sweated blood keeping it up and balanced out at the end. Military Law I liked and could cope with but accounts, no. Later on in life I learned to read balance sheets. In fact I passed out at Sandhurst First in Military Law. My theory is that although one has only to answer 8 of the 10 questions, I answered all 10; whoever corrected my paper totted up the marks without noticing, hence my high result. I was very pleased because the prize money bought me a Sam Browne belt and a watch. I did quite a lot of work on the subject in the regiment, first as defending officer and later as prosecutor when I was adjutant.
I really enjoyed the SSO job and returned to Ferozepore rather reluctantly. However I soon settled down again and resumed the ordinary Regimental life. We worked all mornings, except Thursdays, starting at about 6.30. On Thursdays some of us went out shooting while others did other things such as polo, golf etc. The shooters had access to the game by courtesy of A V H Wood and Desmond Shepard, the only two who had cars, though I sometimes took another on the back of my motor bike. Game included yellow-necked partridge, duck, snipe and pigeon. It was good fun but not very successful. We did once get a shot at a Mugger, a sort of crocodile. All four of us shot at the same time and thought we had at least hit it. However it disappeared back into the water. Our shikari said it would go down river and he would put a man on to watch for it. He, in a day or so, reported no sign of it. It so happened that one of us spotted a new skin soon after in the District Commissioner's office. To reach the river we had been lent camels and that was the last and only time I rode one. Never again - could hardly stand after a cross country ride. The Mess were only too happy to receive our bag. In season our favourite breakfast was snipe, junket followed by Emglish (sic?) sausages and rumble-tumble, scrambled eggs.
It was the duty of the Battalion to maintain a company strong guard in the Ordnance Depot in the Fort a little way away from our barracks. It was a large store of ammunition, all kinds, kept in cells, well protected by iron bars, huge padlocks and fire fighting appliances. One officer had to live there and inspect the guards periodically at irregular intervals. I volunteered to do that duty for a month, and trained myself to wake up at a specific time each night, without an alarm clock - which at least one of the dozen guards would have heard. I was allowed out once a day for exercise. At the end of the month my quarter had been given to someone else, so I was billetted in a large bungalow occupied by the Brigade Major, a man called Gale, who much later became General Sir Richard Gale. In Ferozepore he was known as "Puggle Sahin" whereas later he was known as "Windy"! Anyway, he did pretty well.
For some reason I was put in charge of soccer. I did not play, just organised. The Battalion side did rather well, winning the Durand Cup two or three years running. I arranged the training, more or less chose the team, and travelled with them on away days to Peshawar and Rawalpindi mainly. On one of those occasions I found myself in Sam's Restaurant in Peshawar, and was persuaded to try, for the first time, a fruit machine. I immediately got a jackpot and had to stand a round of drinks which used up most of my winnings.
Each year we were entitled to one month's leave which we could take, or save up. In 1935 and 1936 I did no leave, but in 1937 Bobby Patch and I went to Kashmir for about six weeks, by train to Peshawar and Taxi to Kashmir. That was the only way to go anyway! Srinagar was our first stop and we hired a houseboat there, on Negime Bag, complete with cook and khitmagar (waiter etc). There we bathed and lazed around for a week or so and booked a shikari and staff, 6 ponies, tents, etc. and set off for a trek up the Liddar Valley, up Mount Kolohai and over a pass into Ladakh. We then walked up the Sind river. It really was a most pleasant trip through lovely flower-strewn valleys, seeing no sign of habitation. We walked about twelve miles a day and then set up camp. We fished for snow trout when we could. When we reached the snow our shikari made us snow shoes of reeds. We actually saw a bear but did not have anything to shoot it with, only my old 12 bore for marmot. When we really started climbing we changed from ponies to coolies to carry our kit up the mountain. The going was not too difficult, but slow, and when we reached about 17,000 feet our coolies sat down and refused to go on. They complained of sickness and headaches, so we gave them half an aspro each and they took up their bundles and ploughed on up!
Practically our only contact with the locals took place every morning before we set off. They suddenly appeared in tens to be doctored with aspros and potassium permanganate, the former for anything, the latter for sores and bruises. We saw some pathetic sights, broken bones, rashes and festering sores. Laxatives were also much in demand. They were all very grateful, but I doubt if we really did much good. Certainly they enjoyed being treated and seemed to have great faith in our treatment, and it was good for their morale. The Sind Valley was very beautiful and we greatly enjoyed the whole trek, we met very few people, but on one occasion we stopped to talk to a man with a very heavy black beard and only discovered after some time that he was Flewitt of Regiment. Not one of us three had shaved since being in the snow, but it only took a day after we left the snow for us to have a good shave, partly I suppose because we saw some young trekking the same way as us.
We had another week or so in Srinagar, bathing, fishing and visiting Gulmarg, a smaller place than Srinagar but very pleasant, with a golf course. We could not play having left our clubs in Ferozepore. And so feeling very fit we returned there.
The following year (1938) I managed to get an indulgence passage home on a troopship, provided I escorted a draft both ways, well worth it anyway. It meant travelling free both ways, a tremendous saving. I spent some time with Clodagh in London as well as going north to see my Mother. In Scotland I managed to buy a Humber limousine with a glass partition between the front and back seats, for £18, and sold it at the end of my leave for £10. It was drinking oil by then but still went. I remember going to the National with a coach party from the Regimental Depot and backed the winner, a horse called Battleship, at 30 to 1. Unfortunately my bookie welshed. Luckily I had put Clodagh's bet on the Tote, and we dined out in London on the proceeds. Her old Nanny's husband had worked out from the stars that Battleship would win!
On return to India I found we were moving to Calcutta, to the Fort with its elephant stables and high outer walls. The climate was very humid and hot but conditions were a bit better than in Ferozepore, certainly for the officers, and there was more for the soldiers to do. No sooner had we got there than the Adjutant, Coop, decided to take home leave, and Gerry Tarleton the CO appointed me to act for the six months. I was very pleased, though very young for the job in those days (25), however I seemed to cope all right in spite of being told off by the senior subaltern Lt Bellamy (Blimey) for working too hard. I was warned that if I went on like that I would be bound to crack up; in fact I was only working in the morning with an occasional visit of half an hour or so in the evening.
There were many things for the officers to do, clubs racing, golf, tennis, shooting - tiny snipe - and riding. For the soldiers there was the cinema and non-Army clubs such as the Railway Workers Club. War clouds were growing in Europe, and I decided to go home again in 1939 by Lloyd Triestino. They ran a steerage passage for £30 return in 12 days from Bombay to London, by sea to Genoa and then by 3rd class train to London. My job as adjutant would cease in June and I could get away then. Meanwhile I was quite happy. Bobby Patch had been made ADC to the Governor of Bengal and I was quite often hired in to make up dinner numbers. The snag was that Lord Brabourne was a non-sweater and so there were no fans in Government House and we had to wear stiff shirts and red mess kit. At the same time Zvegintzov was appointed ADC to General Moberly, the Army commander, and I gather he only just survived the episode of allowing the General to go on parade wearing his old school tie. Golf at Tolley Gunge was good, except that there were too many water hazards. We had to use floating balls which small boys retrieved for a few annas. Anyway the time passed quite quickly.
One of the highlights of our year in Calcutta was the annual Proclamation Parade. This took place in early January, and in 1939, being acting adjutant, it was a big day for me. I had of course to be mounted, and an ex-racehorse was laid on for me as it was one of the few horses which would stand still during the firing of the Feu de Joie, during which mounted officers went to the rear of the parade. It was a big Parade, on which not only the two regular Battalions took part, but the many TA units also, such as the Calcutta Scottish, the Bengal Nagpur Regiment and several others. The parade formed up on the Maidan outside the Fort and was inspected by the Governor of Bengal, then marched past, at the end of which the Governor sent for all COs and Adjutants. This was the moment my racehorse had been waiting for, and it set off at full gallop for the saluting base, followed much more sedately by Gerry Tarleton. However, I managed to pull up in time and all was well. Another parade I was involved in was the march through Calcutta on the occasion of the funeral of Lord Brabourne. That was awful. We had to march in slow time along streets lined by the local population in the heat of the afternoon. The march took about two hours, and then the burial and then the march home in the now almost dark.
In July I was free to go home. The journey started off with the three days train journey to Bombay before embarking in the Monte Biancamana. On arrival I was met by Clodagh and taken to stay for a few days with her sister Joan and then to her father in Camberley. The next stop was with my Mother. Before leaving Calcutta I had been asked to take over Adjutant on my return and had agreed, after consulting Clodagh, not to marry until Tarleton handed over to the next CO, who we knew did not object to a married Adjutant. However the war seemed inevitable. I was ordered not to go back to India, so wired Tarleton for permission to marry straight away. He agreed, and anyway I was ordered to join the 1st Battalion in Aldershot. So we had 24 hours to get married and then the Battalion went to France 10 days later. During those 10 days I was put on to help the QM and he allowed me to draw up all our anti-gas equipment.
On arrival in France I was sent off to be Traffic Control officer to the 1st Division. I joined a group of Military Policemen, all ex-AA patrolmen, and our function was to form up by units the military transport soon after disembarkation and send it off to its first location. I was told that the first serial to reach us would be Number One, followed by Number Two etc. However, whoever did it had not realised that the first on board went to the bottom of the ship and the last on would be the first off. So there was a slight hitch to start with but we soon settled down and things went very smoothly thanks to the ex-AA men. I had a large BSA motor bike, very fast and heavy. The only snag was that it developed a front wheel wobble at 60 mph. The trick, I was told, was to accelerate out of it, and fearfully I did, and it worked. In fact all we had to do was to allot each serial number a field and usher the vehicles into the right field as they arrived, and then send them off to their first destination. After about a week we finished the 1st Division's vehicles and I rejoined the 1st Battalion in Bapaume. The Mess was in a large house, and I remember Dr Geoffrey Black, our Medical Officer, and I trying to to make the central heating work, only to find that it leaked like a sieve.
It was there that I was put on to prosecuting an officer being Court Martialled for drunkenness and fraternising with soldiers. I learnt quite a bit and got a rocket from my CO for not establishing his identity when he was called as a witness. In my ignorance I assumed that everyone knew what the CO looked like.
We moved up in short stages to the Belgium/France frontier. Taffy Morgan, the second in command and I were sent ahead to get the necessary billets for the Battalion. The men we usually fixed up in barns or empty factories or warehouses, the officers had to have a bedroom in a house. The most difficult bit was to find a house with a workable bath. Some had baths, but not connected to the water supply, others were connected but the water supply was frozen up. Some sported portable tin baths and some had nothing at all. For the soldiers we laid on mobile bath units. You entered, stripped, showered and picked up clean clothing at the end. Later we managed to fix up hot showers by means of an ingenious apparatus consisting of a drip feed oil boiler and empty oil drums. We ended in Orchies, about 10 miles from the border, and set about digging a defensive position covering the frontier. Hard work it was too. There was an outpost at Ouchin on the border. Billets were good. While searching for them I picked a very good one for the CO with bath and bidet in a lovely bathroom and a good bedroom in a town house owned by a solicitor. However, before he took it over I had a visit from an irate clerk who said that it was earmarked for the Duke of Gloucester and would I find somewhere else for my CO. I could not argue.
In early December 1939 we were told to prepare to take over a part of the trenches between the Maginot and the Siegfried Lines, with the rest of the 6th Brigade. So we celebrated Christmas a week early, Christmas puddings and all, served to the soldiers by the officers as usual on that occasion. We embarked on the train on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas Day en route to Metz where we detrained, and stayed in some empty barracks before marching to the first line of defence. The next was known as La Ligne de Recouille (or something like that). I think we spent a week in each of the three lines. The front line was the worst, trenches in deep snow, where we had to keep a careful watch not only for the enemy but also for frost bite. My moustache used to freeze and be most uncomfortable. The Brigade HQ organised the reconnaissance patrols. By this time I was commanding a company. I had bought in Metz a dozen or so white nightdresses for our patrols to wear at night. Our Padre, who spoke good German, volunteered to go out with a patrol, and he brought back a lot of useful information which was sent up to higher HQ in return. All he got was a rocket for, as a non- combatant, going into enemy territory!
In fact we had no real excitements. German gunners shelled an unoccupied bit of our line and our gunners replied at the same time every day. By mistake our gunners fired out of hours, as it were, and the Germans were furious and replied viciously, although they did not do so much damage. Our main enemy was the cold. I used to wear silk pyjamas under everything, and that helped. Every morning the Brigade Commander used to call on me and every morning there I was, shaving in my silk pyjamas; apparently he understood, as he never commented. He was known as Fighting James Gammell. This was of course just after stand down.
We were in the Saar just over a month, and I was sent on in advance in Transport to get all ready back in Orchies for the Battalion returning by rail. En route I stopped at Rheims and stocked up with champagne for the Mess. On arrival back in Orchies the QM fixed up for rations while I checked up on the billets and met the transport arriving by rail. Very cold journey they had on flats and anti freeze was essential. Normally all the vehicles were parked in a field with the bonnets inwards. The MT piquet went round starting up each vehicle in turn by hand. The rest of the Battalion arrived the same day unexpectedly, and the CO was furious with [?] for not meeting me too on another station. However we managed to give the Royal Scots [?] before they moved on to their station. We were all very pleased to be back in the comparative comfort of billets.
Soon after we got back I took over as Adjutant from Paul Ryding, an ancient Major. Almost my first task was to draw up a list for home leave. The CO picked names from a hat and drew me first! This was of course tremendous for me though it looked a bit fishy. Anyway as soon as leave started off I went for a week at home. It was about the end of February, and Clodagh met me at Victoria Station with our Morris. I then proceeded to drive down Victoria street on the right hand side. England seemed very peaceful at that time, everyone wondering when the war would start and the phoney war end. Food and drink were still reasonably easy to find though rationing had started. At the end of my leave Clodagh and I went to Folkestone by train and spent the night in an hotel ready for an early start the next day. I duly embarked in a thick fog, and soon was told to get off again and report the next day. I managed to stop Clodagh returning to London and we had an extended 24 hours together. I had a hard job explaining this when I eventually got back to the Battalion.
Having pretty well finished the digging we began more mobile training. The difficulties of movement at night in military transport were increased by not being allowed any lights. We had a small light under the vehicle shining on the differential which was painted white. This helped following vehicles, but not the leading one, which was usually the one I was in. We had a big Humber Box staff car, and when L/Cpl Haythornthwaite became too drowsy I took over. It was no fun, though the French roads tended to he straighter than ours. Eventually the French came up with the idea of having very small battery powered guide lamps on the curb side, pretty nicely spaced. They helped a lot. Haythornthwaite had been Shepard's groom, and towards the end of the war I was able to introduce Lt Col Haythornthwaite to Lt Col Shepard!
Soon after the Saar party we moved to Rumages, a mining town near Lille. The powers that be had decided that each TA Brigade in France should have one regular Battalion and each regular Brigade should have one TA Battalion. The lot fell on us, being the 34th Regiment of Infantry, to move to a TA Brigade. The Royal Scots were the 1st of Foot and the South Staffords the 31st. So we joined the 125th Brigade of the 40th Division at Comines and Beulemont. I remember being wakened in the middle of the night shortly before the invasion of Belgium by a dispatch rider with an urgent demand for a return of the number of prayer books held by the Battalion. This from the HQ of a Brigade! Soon after the invasion started, and our first task was to deal with the thousands of refugees streaming through. A very sad sight. Then we packed up our "not wanted in battle" goods such as blue uniforms and administrative appliances we could not cart around or use whilst constantly on the move.
My memory from then on until we finally stopped at Dunkirk was one of continuous withdrawal, without any real rest, from the River Escaut. I perhaps had an hour or so sleep in 24 hours. The final position I remember was near Lille after the CO and I being the last to leave with the Carrier Platoon lost touch with the rest of the Battalion, which was diverted from our planned route by Military Police. We learnt later that a good number of the Battalion got away from Dunkirk before we reached there under Bob Stockwell. The CO and I managed to collect about 100 of the Battalion on the beach. Life on the beach at Dunkirk was pretty chaotic, being almost constantly under enemy air attack and being admonished by a very senior officer with a megaphone to sit down until it was our turn to join the queue for the boats. A fine collection they were too. In fact there was a constant [stream] of lost soldiers trying to find their units. The odd thing was that often a man wearing the insignia of say the Manchester Regiment was asking for his old regiment, the one he had served in from enlistment; there had been a lot of re-badging since the war had started. However eventually we, the CO and I, (Brandy Hennessy) and the 100 men [got away] on a Thames mudlark, a flat bottomed barge, commanded by a Wavy Navy lieutenant. Dolly Chambers had been relieved of command after a grave difference of opinion with the TA Brigadier. Most unfortunate. The Captain of the ship explained that he had to locate a mine-free channel marked by a special buoy before crossing the Channel. In fact he never found it and we advised him to push on regardless and gave him a bearing we thought would get us home. We then lay down on the hard deck and slept until we reached Margate. Here we entrained and were told we were bound for Reading. In fact we ended up in Prudoe, County Durham, where the Battalion was to re-form and to some extent retrain.
It was a very friendly place. The first Sunday there we laid on a special lunch for the men. Not a single one turned up for it. They had all been asked out for the midday meal by local families.
We did a lot of field firing there and Filey Ranges were a great help for this and Battalion exercises. Of course there was a great deal of anxiety at that time as to whether the Germans would invade us. We moved to Ainderbury Steeple in Yorkshire for a short time and when there was a genuine alarm we went by train to Newbury. The alarm turned out to be a false one, however, in which all church bells were rung. There we occupied some racing stables and Clodagh and I had a lovely billet in a large house. Our next move was to Leiston where we took over a big stretch of beaches on the Suffolk coast, and my first son was born during this time. I was still adjutant, and remained so until May 1941, when I was lucky enough to be nominated for a place at the Army Staff College, Camberley.
Before I left, however, we moved to South Wales on joining an independent Brigade. There we experimented with the loading of mules and pack horses and drafted loading tables for a Battalion. Glanusk, where we lived, partly in the big house belonging to Lord Glanusk and partly in huts in the grounds, was a lovely place where we had to rely entirely on our own resources. One thing we did was to run a farm under Major Tui Montgomery. [We grew] our own vegetables. We also had a piggery and fed the pigs on our swill. I was allowed by Lord Glanusk to fish his beats on the Usk. Some of us were able to have our wives with us, and we got a billet in a big house in Crickhowell, and later in an empty cottage in Crickhowell Park where we stayed with son Paul, a Nanny and a batman. This was great luxury. Also in the Park were the Indian platoon and the mules and pack horses. Some of us actually rode the horses as chargers on exercises. I remember one exercise when the whole issue panicked, shedding their loads en route. By and large it was a very happy time and we were sad to leave to go to Camberley. However, we were very lucky as my Father-in-law lived in Camberley and very kindly put us all up. Clodagh was an expert typist so my written work was so much easier. The fact of attending the Staff College meant that I never had to pass any promotion exams and became PSC.
The course itself was quite hard work as it covered the same curriculum in three months as it did before the war in a year. However it was a great change from other wartime soldiering. At the end of the course I did a short attachment to the 6th Battalion commanded by Val Blomfield who later became Colonel of the Regiment. It was also the first time I met Jack Triggs - he was adjutant. After about six weeks I was sent to be interviewed by Brigadier Hollis in the Cabinet Offices for a job as number two secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee. - at that stage all unknown to me. However I got the job and it turned out to be terribly interesting.
The committee consisted of the chairman, the Foreign Office representative, Bill Cavendish Bentinck later Lord Portal, the Directors of Intelligence of the Navy, Army and Air Force, M15, M16 and a representative of Economic Warfare, and two secretaries, Lt Col Denis Capel-Dunn and me. At first I was a Captain, but early in 1942 I was promoted to Acting Major, then 29. Whilst still a captain, when phoning the Admiralty I was always addressed as Sir, as they thought I must be a Naval Captain, quite a senior officer. Then there were two Joint Intelligence Staffs, consisting of representatives of the three services, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Economic Warfare (MEW). They were the drafters of papers and summaries, and always had a secretary with them. Usually what happened was that they had a meeting at which they put over their parent office's views, then the secretary produced a working draft. At the next meeting the team corrected that draft, a revised draft was then prepared by the secretary and so on until they were all satisfied, and the final paper was produced by the secretary and circulated in the main committee. Usually this was approved by it either on the telephone, or if there was time, at a meeting, before being sent to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, or whoever had asked for it in the first place.
Our main concern at that time was assessing the enemy's next move and producing the intelligence material for the Allies' next move, i.e. "Torch" in the Mediterranean and subsequent invasion of Europe. The Russians were very keen that the invasion of Europe should take place as soon as possible to take the strain off them. We were not nearly ready for that, however, and had to try in the Middle East first. We were of course without the Americans until Pearl Harbour, in December 1941, but after that we also had to assess Japan's intentions.
Working in the Cabinet Offices was quite different from my other experiences, limited as they were to the Army. For instance, as a mere captain I had direct access to General Pug Ismay, or even the Secretary to the Cabinet Sir Edward Bridges, and when I drafted, say, an answer to one of the questions requiring "an answer this day" type from the Prime Minister, after consulting the Ministry concerned, I knew it would not be messed around by the next senior member of the staff. All I had to do was to give it to General Pug. He might rearrange it a bit, but I was prepared for it to go unamended to Number 10. Usually one got to see General Pug after midnight when, it was said, he closed one eye and worked with the other.
When one of our papers were being considered by the Chiefs of Staff, i.e. the First Sea Lord, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff and the Chief of the Air Force, either Denis or I would attend and were often asked to draft the Minutes of our part of the agenda. After the war I was to become a member of the Chiefs of Staff Committee Secretariat.
It so happened that I was duty officer of the Cabinet Offices on the night the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, but somehow the staff of Number 10 heard about it before me and took all the necessary action, like calling a meeting of the Defence Committee. It did of course mean a lot of extra work. I worked for ten days at a time and then had two days off. During the ten days on, I slept in the underground bedroom earmarked for Lord Beaverbrook, and had all my meals in the underground Mess run by the Royal Marines. There were notices in the corridor showing whether there was a bomb alert and what the weather was doing. Denis sometimes went out early and had breakfast in the Berkeley. He lived in Essex; whereas I and Clodagh had a flat in Paulton Square, and so very occasionally I could get home for the night. I had managed to take my batman Horrocks with me to London and he lived in the Duke of York Barracks which was quite near. Unfortunately this did not last long as questions were being asked. On one occasion when Denis was visiting the States I did not leave the offices or see daylight for ten days. Normally I worked from about 9 am until sometimes 2 pm (am?), but never before 9 pm.
In February 1943 the Colonel of the Regiment, George Harrison, asked me to try to get away to become 2 i/c of the 1st Battalion, with the prospect of command fairly soon. Naturally I was thrilled, at the age of 30, and explained the position to General Ismay who agreed I should go. I joined the Battalion in Barton Stacey. George Britten (of the Northampton Regiment) was in command. Clodagh stayed on at Paulton Square and I saw her about once a week - by bicycle to Mieheldever station, train to Waterloo and bicycle to Chelsea. That did not last long. We were preparing to take part in the Sicily landings in gliders. The Battalion had volunteered to become glider borne in the 1st Airlanding Brigade of the let Airborne Division. So I had to learn all about gliders and loading tables. As I knew that the Joint Planning Committee, with whom I had worked pretty closely when with the JIC, were working on plans for Sicily, I invited the directors of plans to visit us and see what a glider looked like. They came, and the directors of plans in the Navy and Army had a short flight. The Airman declined to go up as he said he already knew too much about gliders!
In April we embarked in gliders (Wacos) to fly non-stop to North Africa, and arrived without incident having had to put down in a bit of waste ground near an American bivouac area near Phillipeville after dusk. The next morning, struggling to wake up, we witnessed the strange sight of a squad of American soldiers being marched to the latrines and back! The sun soon got up, and we only had fore-and-afts, for security reasons, instead of our berets red. I was used to wearing a topee in hot weather and was concerned at having none, so I called on an American Camp Commandant to ask his advice. He said the only answer was salt tablets and gave me a sack full, and I formed up the Battalion and made every man swallow two tablets. Just then the Brigadier arrived and asked how we were. Apparently the other units had had very many cases of heat-stroke. On hearing why we were alright he said he was feeling pretty hot himself, so I offered him two tablets but he insisted on taking four and was violently sick. However he soon recovered and treated the whole Battalion to salt tablets.
At that George Britten decided that I should run the day to day business of the Battalion and leave him free to plan for the operation. This was fine by me, and I moved the Battalion through various staging places to Sousse. We went on preparing for the operation in Sicily. One set back was the burning and explosion of all the Glider Pilots ammunition store. Eventually we were all ready, with time in hand. We took off from Algiers in Wacos towed by Dakotas flown by American pilots, on a very wet and windy evening which the enemy regarded as non-flying weather. Navigation was primitive, the leading aircraft of each flight only had the capacity to navigate, the rest just followed on. Pilots were used to flying on beams in the States, and that and the bad weather added to some flak off the coast of Sicily, caused near disaster, and only one glider, carrying the brigade defence platoon found by us, actually landed on the target at the Forte Grande bridge and took and held it. This was on the road leading north into Syracuse. The rest of us landed mainly in the sea. In my case we landed about 4½ miles out to sea opposite a place called Avola. I left those who could not swim on the floating glider and they were picked up by the landing craft of the assaulting troops. The best swimmers went off and I am afraid were never seen again. Ronald Hope-Jones and I and a signaller set off rather slowly, supported to some extent by inflated Mae Wests. The water was warm and we shed most of our clothing, and thanks mainly to Ronald's navigation we eventually found ourselves in shallow water, exhausted but alive. We lay on the beach until it was light, watched the seaborne troops land and went aboard a troopship for a meal and some clothes. Then we set off to find the Battalion some 20 miles to the north. Luckily we stopped a large map carrying vehicle which took us most of the way and we arrived in time to march with some of the Battalion into Syracuse - once we had deprived a couple of Italian soldiers of their boots! The Divisional Commander was there to take the salute. By then of course the town had been taken and very many prisoners.
In requisitioned buildings we had no transport so we rounded up a few horses and donkeys, hitched them up to the odd cart and went round salvaging military equipment to replace what we had lost in the sea. The order then came to embark in landing craft that had brought in the seaborne assault to go back to North Africa, leaving any heavy equipment we had behind. George Britten strongly objected to this and made such a fuss that he was relieved of command and I was appointed instead - much to my delight, though I was not really very surprised. Looking back I am amazed that I was not more surprised to find myself in command at the comparatively early age of 30.
Our first job was to round up the soldiers who had landed away from the Battalion area. Some had been picked up at sea and taken by troopship and other craft to all over the coast of North Africa. Some even ended up at Gibraltar and hitch hiked by US aircraft and civil ships back to the Battalion. We had lost through drowning quite a lot of men, so our next job was to re-form and to some extent retrain. We made a live ammunition shooting range in the local hills and soon were ready for the next effort, which came pretty soon, but without gliders. At short notice we motored to Tunis and embarked in two Cruisers, Dido and Sirius, and sailed for Taranto in south eastern Italy. The Italians had just given up and the Germans were moving north out of Italy.
We made an unopposed landing at Taranto as the Germans were getting out. One of the other ships, the Abdiel, carrying Paratroopers, blew up on a mine in the harbour. Most of the passengers were below decks so a lot were lost. However we got ashore without any trouble and started chasing the Germans out of the town. Just as we got to the northern outskirts of the port the OM reported that he had found a large warehouse full of Martell brandy marked "Oberkommando Wehrmacht" and asked what he should do. I told him to put a guard on it and tell Division where it was. They eventually relieved our guard and issued the brandy in lieu of rum. We got quite a lot of it and when we left Italy we swapped it with a wine merchant for Liqueurs which we took home. We never really made contact with the German Paras. We pushed on by day and rested at night mainly in olive groves. We were greatly handicapped at first as we had not been allowed to bring any MT except a wireless truck with us. So once again we had to requisition. This time there were plenty of vehicles lying around and I had laid down that the MT could only spend one day on any vehicle, after which I had to drive it myself to make sure it was really road worthy. We ended up with enough to carry the whole Battalion, including large diesel buses with a concertina junction to a trailer. The only real nonsense we did was when Ronald requisitioned a very smart Fiat for me - I was informed by the Divisional Commander that it belonged to the only civilian in the place - the Bishop, and I must return it immediately with apologies.
I actually gave orders for a few Battalion attacks but each time the Germans had bolted before we got there. We went through Bari and Barletto and only stopped at Foggia, a large rail junction and airfield. Ronald and I discovered it was unoccupied, guided by a local riding a motor bike wearing a bowler hat. There we stopped and sent out reconnaissance patrols to the north and northwest.
After a few weeks we were ordered to return to Taranto and go to North Africa, Phillipeville, before embarking for England to prepare for the invasion of Europe. We hoped to be back at home for Christmas, which we just did, after a hazardous sea voyage. We did in fact hit another ship near Gibraltar and it had to go into port for repairs and so missed Christmas at home, but we being built with a reinforced hull were able to sail on. We landed one dark night at Liverpool and moved to Woodhall Spa. There Clodagh was able to join me with Paul and we had accommodation in the Golf Hotel, much used by the golfing fraternity in peacetime. The Battalion was billetted in the usual barns, large buildings etc.
We had Christmas leave and then got down to preparing to take part in the invasion of Europe. Soon I was told personally that the King was going to visit the Division and would end up taking tea with us. I was not allowed to tell anyone who was coming, only some VIP. We decorated the officers mess, which was a private house, (housing only HQ and Battalion HQ officers). Clodagh did a whip round for sugar, which was of course strictly rationed, to make a cake for the occasion. The King duly arrived, escorted by the Divisional Commander, General Boy Browning. He was to see various exhibitions of Battalion activities and equipment, starting off with a stand showing the emergency rations we carried in action. He had a bad stutter and had not spoken a word as we were approaching the rations stand. I felt I should tell him what he was about to see and did so, whereupon Boy Browning hissed at me that I speak only after being spoken to. Anyway, the King did not seem to mind and the inspection went ahead quite well. Then we all walked over to the Mess where a special small table had been prepared for the King and me and company commanders one at a time, then others if there was time. On the table was Clodagh's cake and some sausage rolls the mess sergeant had bought at the last moment. I tried to interest the King in the cake, but to my horror he insisted on having a sausage roll. I had to admit this later to our wives who were not at all pleased. Anyway, the subalterns enjoyed the cake. The King was pretty tired, having seen the rest of the Division before us.
My next important meeting was with General Montgomery, who ordered all commanding officers to attend his presentation of the plan for the invasion. He started off by announcing that there would be no smoking, no coughing and no note-taking. Then he really put over a very impressive exposition of the Plan, which I was able to pass on to the rest quite easily in spite of not taking any notes. The operation started on 5 June and we moved once again to the Andover area to be near to the airfields. In fact it was a most frustrating time. We planned some sixteen different operations and each one was cancelled. We even got into the gliders on a few occasions, only to be dragged out before take-off. Each time we were to relax, arrange 48 hour passes and start again. It was not until September that we were at last airborne for Arnhem. In our plane were Ronald, our batman, clerks and signalmen, and we no sooner took off in a thick mist than losing sight of our tower we broke our tow rope and landed in a field near Oxford. Not much damage done except we missed the opening of the operation. It was not until the next day, Sunday, that we took off again in another glider with all the Sunday papers on board. These were to prove to be very useful. We took off I think from Brize Norton with a few others and an escort of fighters. We seemed to get off course and the tug tried to cut off a corner. The next thing we knew was that we and the tug were being fired on and the tug went down without us, out of control. Our ailerons were shot away and the only thing we could do was to get down as soon as possible. We were doing about 150 miles an hour but managed to lose speed by ploughing through a few hedges. We finally came to rest in a field near Antwerp just on our side. I learnt this from a CSM at the end of a pistol - his. All we could do was to unload the glider, which wasn't too difficult, as there was not much of it left, climb on board and try to find some more transport to take us to Antwerp. We landed up at a 30 Corps HQ where I persauded the BGS Brigadier Pete Pyman, to swap our Sunday papers for a 15 cwt truck and driver. Thus, better equipped, we drove to Eindhoven and then Grave along the axis of the advancing 30 Corps. The bridges over the Rhine at these two places had been taken by American Airborne forces and we held only a narrow corridor, which was constantly being broken by counterattacking Germans. Going was therefore very slow and we were very impatient to join the Battalion. Our own seaborne tail was in the column and we joined it with Uncle Barnes, the QM, in charge. En route we saw quite a lot of Major General Roger Bower, who was on the staff of 30 Corps, and who had commanded the Battalion between Hennessy and Britten. Gradually the column worked its way towards Arnhem without any news about what was going there. Eventually Ronald and I and our batmen were able to contemplate crossing the Neider Rhine. Our first attempt was with the Polish Brigade, which had parachuted into the land just south of the river, but that came to a grinding halt very soon, and we were still at Dreel at the end of the night. We then tried to get over with the Guards Armoured Brigade, but that got held up well short of the River Mainz by 88mm gun fire. Our next and final attempt was with the Dorset Regiment who were to do a night river assault. It was ill fated from the start. The boats did not arrive on time and when they did the enemy were fully alert and waiting for us. The far bank was steep and they were established at the crest. We had no covering fire and they were lobbing grenades at us down the slope. I could see we were getting nowhere, and having lost touch with Ronald I went off on my own towards where the Battalion should be. This meant going along the river bank avoiding Germans and stray Poles and Paras. Well, after daylight I thought I was pretty close to the Battalion, near Oesterbeek. However I was wrong and I soon found myself being a one man target for mortar fire. Eventually I was rounded up by a German patrol and that was that. I heard later that the CO of the Dorsets had surrendered soon after I had left.
I was hurried from one interrogation to another and eventually realised that a large proportion of the American Airborne Division had been captured. My last interrogation was at a chateau called Deitz, and I was locked up in a cell for a week with sessions of interrogation roughly once a day or night. They were very interested in Airborne Forces but I did not know much anyway, and they eventually gave up. I was then sent off to join some of the other prisoners of war in various camps. Travel was usually by train mainly in cattle trucks with about a dozen to a truck. We were all pretty hungry but were only given a sort of soup once a day and sometimes a small bit of rough black bread. I had on me a 24 hour special ration pack which the Germans had not pinched, and this I doled out between my truck load. Being mainly dehydrated it was possible to slice it up very easily into thin strips. Anyway it was very welcome. We finished up in a place called Hadamar in a hutted camp alongside a railway yard. I suppose there were about a hundred of us and I was the senior British officer. The only soldiers were a few orderlies and cooks, and 11 French officers who had been prisoners since Dunkirk. Looking back, I would have been wise not to have crossed with the Dorsets as I knew they had very little chance of relieving us and that it was most likely the remnants of the Brigade would be withdrawn back over the river the next night - which is what did happen. However, I was keen to rejoin the Battalion and thought I should be fresher than anyone and more able to organise the withdrawal. Ronald and our batmen were taken prisoners with the Dorsets, and I met up with Ronald in Hadamar. My batman, Lance Corporal Nolan, was wounded in the stomach but pulled round, and after the war became a postman in civil life.
The camp I was in was really a transit one and soon Ronald and Co were moved on to a permanent Oflag near Brunswick. I was left with a British doctor and the eleven Frenchmen. They were mad keen to play Bridge in the evenings so I had to make up the twelve. Other British officers passed through, but the stream was drying up. The French officers led a very serious and ordered life. They worked on translations until about 4 pm, and then discussed what menus they would have if they could. After a bit they would add the wines, and then down to Bridge. Food was scarce, even for the Germans, mainly soup, black bread and what was called either tea or coffee. Escape attempts were made but came to nothing. The weather was pretty severe and we had no facilities to prepare clothing and the necessary papers.
In March 1945 the camp was bombed by American Lightnings along with the railway yard and made uninhabitable, so I was moved up to the local Schloss which held the British officers of the Highland Division captured at St Valery. General Fortune had just been removed to hospital so the senior officer was a gunner, Brigadier Eden. Most of the officers were in rather poor shape, but the place was much more comfortable than my camp had been. I handed over the wine I had been brewing from prune stones, and ersatz cheese, and they found it a bit strong. Very soon the German Commandant Col Flatt, became frightened that the Americans would arrive on our doorstep, so he moved us by lorry further east. However, we soon ran out of petrol and camped in the open. We now had access to the Red Cross parcels, so could eat. Col Flatt eventually gave up and handed over the arms to us and as it were, they became our prisoners. In fact they were not keen to go anywhere and guarding them was no problem. We formed ourselves into a unit of officers, and the first day I was appointed Pioneer Officer, because I could show the others how to make cooking stoves out of cans. The next day I was asked to be 2 i/c under Brigadier Eden to organise the patrols that were wanted to send out to find the Americans. This we did after about a week. Their arrival at our camp was notable. A few armoured cars drove slowly up led by a Lieutenant who, when told how many we and our prisoners were, said, taking off his helmet and scratching his head, HOLY JESUS, WHAT A BAG!
Within a few days the Americans flew us home. I organised a few of the more nervous senior officers on to trains and made for Camberley where Clodagh was with her father. It took me a few days to get used to being free again, but quite soon I was keen to find something to do. I went to see Denis Capel-Dunn in the Cabinet Offices and somehow I got taken on there again, this time as a sort of Liaison Officer between the British and American Chiefs, and also between Lord Mountbatten and the Cabinet Offices. He was Supreme Commander in the Far East (SACSEA) and moved to Singapore when the Japs gave up, after the nuclear bombs fell over Japan. At the end of the war an Allied Conference was held at Potsdam in East Germany, and I attended in the place of one of the Secretaries of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was sick at the last moment. Winston Churchill was accompanied by Clement Attlee in case he won the Election and had to take over. Much to our surprise this is what happened, but after our bit of the Conference was over.
Our party consisted of the American Chiefs of Staff and the British - Alanbrooke, Portal and one of the Cunninghams, John I think. I remember also that Mountbatten was summoned to attend, to advise about the South East Asia area. He had been going to Paris on private business and was not amused when diverted to Potsdam. General Pug gave me a letter to him and told me to meet him at the airfield and bring him to the Conference. I had a big black car and four Military Policemen on motor bikes. I wondered whether to have two in front and two behind, but decided to have them all in front for show. I was vigorously cross-examined but managed to persuade him to read the letter and survived.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff were very interesting, but I don't remember what was actually discussed. The secretariat worked in pairs, one American and one British. I had a very decent Colonel and after each meeting we all got together to decide what had been agreed and then he and I retired with three shorthand typists to dictate the actual minutes. For some reason I did the dictating while the American either nodded or shook his head. It seemed to work out all right. By the time I had finished dictating; the first batch of typing was ready and we went straight ahead and corrected them. Years later Clodagh and I, when stationed in Berlin, got permission to revisit the Conference Room, in the Russian Sector, and I found that everything had been carefully preserved as it was at the time of the Conference (Cecilian Hoff and the Russian guide got most of the facts right).
One evening, on which Churchill Was having a dinner party at his lake-side bungalow, George Mallaby and I watched the arrival of the guests. First Truman walked up from his place, and then the Russians, led by a large wagonful of armed officers who surrounded the bungalow, then Stalin in a huge black car, probably armoured, got out and shot down the short drive through a double line of officers to the front door where Churchill was waiting. After dinner we went back to see the party break up. Truman left first and strolled down the road, then Stalin with Churchill holding his arm came out and seemed to be made to walk slowly to the Waiting black car. Finally the party that had been surrounding the bungalow formed up and marched to their transport.
One afternoon the British Chiefs decided to have a look around and paid a call on Hitler's old office. It was a huge room with only a big marble top - and Portal got the Russian guards to bring a crowbar. We all used this to break off bits of marble. I picked up two bits and took them home. One I gave to my then secretary, the other I gave to the Regimental Museum where it is still.
Soon the Defence part was over and we went home. Attlee unexpectedly won the Election and took over at Potsdam. I was then told to take over as Secretary of the Joint Intelligence Committee where I had been Number Two. It was a most interesting job. The Chairman was Harold Caccia of the Foreign office. Afterwards he became Lord Caccia and head of the Foreign office. General Templer was the Army Director of Intelligence, later of fame for sorting out Malaya. There was plenty of work and I rarely get home to Headley before 9.30 pm. Sometimes I had to stay the night and used Lord Beaver's bedroom again. After about a year of that Joe Hollis asked me to take the minutes of a high powered committee that was looking into ways of getting a Ministry of Defence - in my spare time, he said! It did not get very far in my time as I moved up to the Chiefs of Staff Secretariat. The Committee was now made up of Andrew Cunningham, Monty and Tedder, with Pug Ismay still the Liaison with the PM, now Attlee. The Secretariat consisted of General Hollis, Col Price, Group Captain Stapleton, Lt Col Waterfield and myself (still a Temporary Lt Col). The Vice Chiefs met in the morning and the Chiefs in the afternoon. We dictated the morning meetings at lunch time and the Chiefs' at tea time. The first lot of minutes were corrected then and the necessary action taken, e.g. Telegrams and Letters. The afternoon minutes were usually ready for correction by dinner time, and all action finished that evening with the agenda for the next day. Sometimes a few of us would take the minutes of the Defence Committee which the Chiefs attended with the Prime Minister in the chair. A Foreign Office representative and the Minister were members. Usually the FO man was Ernie Bevin, a tremendous personality. It was hard work, but I had the usual two days off a fortnight. One of us was on duty at the weekend and he prepared the King's Summary, telling him about the business dealt with during the last week.
I remember going to St Paul's Cathedral with the Chiefs of Staff and their wives to give thanks for the ending of the war. The odd thing is that I cannot remember anything about the subjects we dealt with, even though they are no longer secret.
In early 1948 I was recalled to the Battalion, this time to be 2 i/c to H 5 Cooper in Palestine, who almost immediately went home on six months leave. I moved the Battalion to El Balla in Egypt on the banks of the Suez Canal. We were not long there when I was sent for and told to move the Battalion to British Somaliland. The first party to fly there and the rest by sea in slower time. Apparently there was trouble at a place called Jigjigga, a waterhole on the border with Ethiopia. Luckily I remembered a little about air loading and off I set about a week late with a skeleton HQ and one company complete with tentage and the kitchen sink - there being nothing at the other end. As soon as we got there (Hargeisa) I sent off the best part of a company to Jigjigga. As soon as they got there the trouble dissolved and the contestants disappeared. Meanhwile the rest of us were preparing for the seaborne party to disembark at Berbera, the only port in British Somaliland. It was not equipped with any jetty big enough to allow our troopship to go alongside. However I managed to persuade the Prison Governor to lend a work force to make a big enough jetty to enable lighters to discharge their cargo.
I should explain that Somalia was two colonies, one British and one Italian. We had a Governor, a Commissioner of Police and a very small colonial administrative staff. There was a regiment of Somali Scouts, locally enlisted with British officers and a few British NCOs. Lt Col Oliver Brooke was in command and we were under his command for administration i.e. the supply of rations and fuel etc. Having dealt with the so- called trouble we had to amuse ourselves and keep fit and ready to deal with any more trouble that might arise. This we did by sending off patrols all over the colony to show the flag and to get to know the place. Each patrol had two or three 4 x 4 trucks, a water trailer, a platoon, weapons and sporting rifles and shotguns I managed to borrow. I had an arrangement with the Commissioner of Police that if we shot an elephant I would then apply for a licence. Otherwise there were plenty of game birds and deer of various types. We also had enough wireless long range sets to maintain communication with the patrols. All this was much enjoyed by all ranks. At bases in Hargeisa and Mandera we ran our own canteens and cinemas, games etc. There was no crime. The climate was pretty hot and sticky with rain coming only at specific times and every now and again a very high wind called the Kharif, which covered everything with sand. The few Europeans living in the colony had two baths, one to wash in and another to sleep in during the Kharif. We also set up a holiday camp to which officers and NCOs could go for a change of scenery and some rough shooting. Tony Farrant was Adjutant and the Director of Mechanical Transport was John Gibbon on whom we relied very heavily. He had managed to get all transport with four wheel drive as all roads were sandy and corrugated - you had to drive quite fast to keep going and ride across the high bits. HQ Company was commanded by Hoppy, an ex Indian Army Brigadier who had transferred to us on Indian independence. I also remember Ralph May arriving on his first joining with l think Peter Butterworth. They both soon settled down and enjoyed, this strange type of soldiering. All too soon Coop arrived back and resumed command. The only trouble we had to deal with was very quickly dealt with by one shot at the ringleader of a riot, but that as I now remember was at Mogadishu. Otherwise, apart from a bit of trouble getting fresh vegetables we had a very [good] time in Somalia.
Soon after Coop got back we were ordered to move to what had been Italian Somalia, several hundred miles to the south. I was sent in advance with a small party to get the accommodation ready. We moved in ten ton diesel open lorries along the only road, a rough, sandy but wide track, and I found we only made decent time if I drove the leading vehicle. Then we got on well, much to the discomfort of the Italian drivers, who were probably paid on a time basis. Our main accommodation was the airport, the officers mess being in what had been a clubhouse of sorts. The plumbing was pretty basic and there was only one bedroom which I earmarked for Coop. The rest of us were in nearby accommodation. Our arrival was enough to calm down a possible riot and we were able to get on with our jobs in peace. In due course the Battalion arrived and all went smoothly. The place was more civilised than British Somaliland and there were more Europeans. We gave a party soon after we got there and found Cioffi spirits quite drinkable. This was made locally of cane sugar and given a shot of essence to taste of gin, whisky, brandy or rum, and it was cheap and available.
It was now my turn to go home, and we got a vacancy on a Combined Ops course at Barnstaple for me. I was at home for about five weeks and Clodagh was able to stay in the local Inn with me. Paul and Martin also came down for some of the time, A very pleasant time was had by all. Soon after I got back, out of the blue came a posting for me as 6801 Intelligence Hong Kong, still no wives. I flew to Singapore and was briefed by Paul Gleadell whom I had known in the Cabinet offices, and who had recommended me for the job. My job was to coordinate Intelligence between the three Services, the Police and the Secret Services. I was Chairman of the local Joint Intelligence Committee. The Secretary was the Political Adviser Clifford Heathcote-Smith. It was a fascinating job. The Chinese Communist Army was sweeping south and had reached Shanghai when I got to Hong Kong, and obviously they would soon make for Canton, our nearest Chinese town. Would they stop there, or would they try to overrun Hong Kong? That was the question!
The defence forces in Hong Kong had just been increased to over a division, but the inhabitants were worried. Intelligence flowed into the Colony from all directions. Most of it was sheer conjecture and some of the old Chinese Army officers were trying to make a living out of it. Anyway, it was all very interesting, if worrying. When the Communists reached Canton they failed to identify our military representative, a Gunner Lt Colonel, and he managed to let me know by a message brought by a refugee. He brought me a pen in which I found a piece of paper setting out a code we could use in a weekly telephone conversation. This was very useful as it gave me an up-to-date tally of the number of Communist soldiers there were in Canton and the surrounding countryside. Eventually, however, he became so ill that he had to be withdrawn, but he covered the most dangerous time. Clodagh did manage to come out for my last year there and we had a very pleasant quarter in Stanley.
I remember on Christmas Eve I was phoned from the border and told that the Chinese were flooding over the border. I asked whether they were armed and after a bit was told no. The Chinese authorities had thought it a good idea to cause alarm and despondency by pushing a large number of refugees over the border. We managed to round them up and send them back again in a few days. The Commander British Forces to whom I answered was General Bob Mansergh, a bachelor. On one occasion a visiting American General brought him a very nice ladies handbag - for his wife - a bit awkward, but we got over it by saying he would give it to his best girl, a daughter aged ten of one of his staff. The Americans were very interested in Hong Kong and frequently came to call, On those occasions I had to brief them on the latest intelligence. We even had an American Liaison Officer, Ken Harold, and I saw a lot of him. I also had a lot to do with our secret organisations and one of them offered to take me on. I thought about it and decided, although I might be better off, it was not really for me. Before Clodagh could join me John Darlington and I lived in the Senior officers Mess. It was the first time we met. In our discussions about the army we always assumed that one day our two regiments would amalgamate - and so it happened eventually.
In 1951 my tour in Hong Kong came to an end and we went back to Headley Down. Up to then I had been a Temporary Lt Colonel, but now I was given Brevet tank. This meant that my substantive rank dated from then and I was always Lt Colonel when serving outside the regiment. I was also awarded the OBE for service in Hong Kong.
My next posting was to the Army Secretariat. Before I could settle down in that job I was asked for by the Cabinet Offices to act as Secretary-General of an African Facilities Conference in Nairobi. South Africa and UK were joint hosts and all African countries and Italy were represented. The object was to agree to the use of land, sea, postal and telegraphic facilities in the event of war. The conference lasted a fortnight and achieved all its objectives. I was asked if I would take on the job of permanent Secretary to a follow up organisation. Having just come home and taken up the job in the War Office I thought not, and the War office agreed. It was of course interesting and the South African Air Force flew the staff round Africa at the end of the conference.
I soon settled in at the War Office and discovered there was not enough work for the two of us in the Secretariat and put up a case for reduction. The Director of Staff Duties agreed and took me on in one of his sections, SDS Future Planning. One of my jobs was to speed the end of training of ex National Service personnel (2 Corps I think it was called swill and were housed in the stables) with the money we made we were able to subsidise sports kit, travel and general welfare. I decided to do away with booking in and out in the evenings we were in barracks. The only thing the men had to do without fail was to be on parade at the right time day or night. Anyone taking advantage of this was very severely punished. And it worked. We did well in the sports line, too, and usually finished up in the Divisional Finals. Training was tough but interesting and worthwhile and we did well in that too. All in all it was a very happy time. Bill Scotter moved on to a staff job and Alan Cox took over. Bill did very well as we all knew he would and became Sir William and C-in-C Rhine Army before dying a very early death of a heart attack. He made an excellent Colonel of the Regiment who will well be remembered. Bart gave way to Bob Stockwell, and it was a good training ground for many of the bright young subalterns we had then. David Miller was signal, Bob Hodges a very young subaltern, both became Colonels of the Regiment after Bill. Joe Milburn and James Howard were 2nd Lieutenants and both now Brigadiers (Retd) and doing very important regimental jobs. Company Commanders included John Petty, John Gibbon, Peter Brandwood, Denis Sole, John Brough, all distinguished members of the Regiment. Ralph May was Intelligence Officer who later did so much for the Regimental Museum and, with Charles Breese, made the Museum as it is today. How lucky I was to have such a team.
In 1956 General Blomfield wrote to me and told me we were to amalgamate in due course with the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, which came as no great surprise, as John Darlington had foreseen in 1949. He told me to announce it to the Battalion, and to say that as the decision had been taken there was to be no bellyaching or nonsense. It must be made loyally to work. I had the Battalion on parade and passed on that message with a few knobs on, and then went to the Sergeants Mess and later to the officers Mess and rubbed it in. They all accepted it loyally and in due course, after I had handed over to Peter Gillam, it worked well.
Two further things I remember with pride were, one, when we left Gottingen for Berlin in November 1957 we were invited by the city authorities to march through the streets with fixed bayonets and colours flying, which we accepted as the very rare honour it was. The second thing was, being the last British Battalion in Gottingen we had to hand over the Barracks to the German Army. We did our utmost to hand it over clean and in good shape, and were delighted to hear that the German officers taking it over insisted on their men walking round to see how a barracks should be left, particularly the stables where we had kept the pigs.
We duly left Gottingen and found Berlin a great come down. We had delayed the Arroyo Parade until we got there, and put on an impressive show. It was November and just as we got off parade the snow started. Anyway it all went well, and the Commander of the Berlin Garrison immediately detailed us to do the next year's Birthday Parade. Life in Berlin was pretty hectic socially and I soon had to ask Company Commanders to deputise for me! I laid down that every soldier had to go on a bus tour of the Eastern Sector and see for themselves the full horror of some of the Communist part. In Gottingen it had been found possible to do away with booking in and out, but in Berlin, being adjacent to East Germany and other nations' sectors, it was vital to ensure that soldiers did not go astray. The thing was that the men were then allowed to go into the Eastern Sector by Underground, but it was not easy to get the timing right. Consequently I gave them notice that for every minute they were late in booking in they would be forfeited one day's pay. I was reminded of this the other day when an ex member of the Battalion at that time told me how it appeared to the soldiers then. They thought it very harsh, but saw the point. In fact, one had to notify Brigade at once if any soldier was adrift, and all sorts of Military Police activities were brought into force. Anyway the buzz got around that it was just not worth taking the risk.
Alas, I had to hand over the Battalion to Peter Gillan in early 1958 in order to go to Singapore as a full Colonel. Luckily this was changed to Brigadier Commanding the Singapore Military Forces. The Battalion gave my wife and me a great send off and we left Berlin in a snowstorm towing our caravan. One of the things I remember about Berlin was the idea of self- service in the men's dining room. We managed, with the help of the ACC officer in Brigade HQ, to amass a week's rations in hand and then started the self-service with a Choice of 4 dishes, Lei fish and chips, roast beef, lamb and something else. To start with they all went for the fish and chips but after a few days they settled down and were very pleased with the idea. The only thing was we had very little swill and had to do away with the pigs. However, we did not have to subsidise the messing. I think we were one of the first Battalions to try out the idea which is now universal practice.
After handing over, and a few months leave, I went out to Singapore and took over the Singapore Military Forces. My wife stayed behind for a few months to cope with the children. The Brigade consisted of a regular battalion of infantry, a part time Regiment of Mortars with a regular battery, sappers, RASC, REME detachments to match. All units had some British officers and NCOs. The first time elements were conscripts, but very keen and willing. I had to maintain a balance of 50% between Chinese and the rest, being Malay Indians, Gurkhas, Eurasians and Tamils. The regular element worked all day and the part time in the evenings and week ends. I decided to play nine hole golf most afternoons to keep fit in the very humid and continuously hot climate.
I had a deputy commander, Lt Col John Gabain, a part time volunteer who was Ellermans Shipping Agent in Singapore. Miles Skewes-Cox was Brigade Major and Stan Kidd DAA & QMG. It was a fascinating job. I took orders from the Defence Ministry; Ong Pang Boon was the Minister. Frank Copeland was my channel normally. I discovered through the Prime Minister, Lee Kwan Yew's secretary, who was a volunteer officer, that a parade was to be held to mark the independence of Singapore, and the inauguration of the Yang de Pertuan Negara, due to take place after I had been there six months. I volunteered to draw up draft orders for the parade, and did so. It went off very well, too. The G.O.C of the British Army from his special fund (Concorde) was able to provide free transport to bring all schoolchildren to watch the parade. I met the Yang de Pertuan Negara and escorted him round the S.I.R. Guard of Honour. All branches of the community took part, including, bringing up the rear, 50 "Stop Me and Buy One" icecream sellers on bicycles. An incident during rehearsals reminds me of some of the touchiness of the locals. Our Band was reported in the Straits Times as marching the SMF into captivity to the tune of "The Bridge over the River Kwai", and the Prime Minister sent for me and told me that the Band must only play "Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag" and "Marching to Georgia". I later discovered they were well-known revolutionary tunes!
Most of the Ministers were friendly enough, though a bit suspicious at first. On one occasion, having visited the officers Mess in Beach Road, Ong Pang Boon objected to the Queen's picture at one end of the ante-room. I suggested that we should hang a picture of the Yang de Pertuan Negara at the other end and this was accepted. He also objected to the Queen's health being drunk on guest nights. I had to give way on the understanding that any officer who wanted to do so could raise his glass to the Queen. By and large, however, all went pretty well. So much so that when the Government set up an unemployed labour camp I was asked to draw up a scale of equipment needed and provide cooks.
Training was pretty basic and never, in my time, was it far enough advanced to cope with higher than Battalion and Company training in the field. Our regular Battalion's security team entered for the British Army competition and actually won it several times, under Major Wee Soon Watt! My position was a bit odd. Although I took orders from the local Government, who paid me, my annual confidential report was written by the British Army General officer in charge. This was all right with General Richardson in charge, but under General Tommy Harris I reckon I was done down by only being recommended for promotion to Major General on the Staff, rather than in Command. However, I did get a recommendation to attend the Imperial Defence College out of him. As it happened, that probably ensured that I missed promotion because of age and available opportunity, and not knowing members of the Selection Board, mainly Home Command commanders.
Lee Kwan Yew made it quite clear to me from the start that he would take no overt interest in the SMF, and he stuck to that; never once did he attend a function at Beach Road whilst I was in Singapore. It it interesting that very much later his son became a Brigadier in charge of SMF!
Conscription in Singapore was operated by ballot, adjusted between Chinese and the rest. Only a small proportion of the young population could be coped with. It was also important however to ensure that those accepted for voluntary service were not predominantly Chinese, who were very keen and dominant in business, shopkeeping and professional circles. The Malays were charming, but lazy and lacking ambition. All recruits into the regular units were taken from the ranks of conscripted volunteers, and competition was fierce. A well-educated Chinese boy from one of the good schools would, for instance, be lucky to get a job as a messenger or clerk to start with. Lee Kwan Yew himself was an English-educated lawyer, bilingual in Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) and English.
One of the powerful elements of the non Chinese population was the Eurasian community. They were not, as in India, ashamed of being of mixed race, they did not talk about "Home" being UK, and they had their own Club. The head of the Defence Section of the Home office, for instance, was one called Stewart, and he had no chip on his shoulder. I was told that when the Japanese were doing a house to house round up he had already left to join up with the militia, and his wife when asked what race they were said MIXED, whereupon the Japanese said "Ah, Mexican" and noted accordingly. This story was told by Stanley Stewart at a dinner party in my house attended by British, Malay and Chinese. No Indian Eurasian would have dreamt of admitting such a fact.
I managed to appoint a Chinese to command the militia Battalion, whereas before it had always been a British serving officer or ex-patriot, and also to get some Chinese officers admitted to the Tanglin Club, previously very much Whites only. All in all it was a fascinating job and we both enjoyed it very much. At the end of the three years secondment we came home and had the three months leave due. Having been pre-posted as chief of Staff Western Command I was suddenly told to do a year at the Imperial Defence College, usually a prelude to promotion to Major General, and the Western Command job was taken over by Brigadier Hamilton. He was promoted, I was not!
The IDC was, of course, most interesting and instructive, including a month's visit to the USA and Canada. We were assured that no report was made on our performance there and I have no reason to believe that this was not true. I did write to the Director of Army Training, my friend Charles Richardson, because of my age, but he did not think I would lose out. I did, however. Part of the value of the IDC course was the meeting and working with one's contemporaries in all three services, Foreign Office, Civil Service and foreign officers. Most of them did in fact achieve very high rank and friendships and even acquaintances might have proved useful.
I had hoped for a good job after the IDC but the powers that were decided to send me back to the Far East, Hong Kong. Quite a good job but out of things rather. Clodagh certainly hated the idea to start with, from the family point of View, and I shared her disappointment. However, though I protested to M.S., I got no change. Apparently General Hewetson had asked for me. In fact, when I had only been there a few months he went off to Singapore and General Craddock took over.
Having been in Hong Kong before was a help, though enormous changes had taken place since I was last there. I arrived in early January 1963. Clodagh stayed at home until after the Easter holidays. Our quarter was two Warrant Officers quarters knocked into one, no thing of beauty but big enough and quite comfortable. Our bedroom had air conditioning which came in particularly useful during the water shortage period as it made nearly a gallon of water each day! I was not to know then but during the time until June 1965 there were 10 typhoons passing over the Colony, nearly all with the centre passing over us, and there was a period of water shortage of nearly a year, the allowance of water being one gallon per day per person for all purposes! Luckily our loos were flushed by salt water. In a hot steamy climate this was no fun.
The job itself was interesting and worthwhile. After a few months General Hewetson went down to Singapore and General Dick Craddock took over CBF Hong Kong. We got on very well but his false leg made it hard for him - so much so that after about a year he had to go home and I was Acting Army Commander for nearly six months before General Rory O'Connor took over. During that time I was a member of the Legislative Council and of the Executive Council. This period coincided with the water shortage period and was also on the Colony Water Procurement Board. We actually hired cargo ships to sail up the river towards Canton, fill up with fresh water and come back to pump it into our mains. The Chinese Communist Government also helped by selling us fresh water over the frontier.
We laid on an annual Queen's Birthday Parade and I ran it, as Chief of staff. The Commander of the Kowloon Garrison actually commanded the Parade itself. It was really a "showing the flag" exercise and was very successful. Even at that time the population of the Colony were very keen for us to retain the largest possible garrison to deter the Communists from taking over before 1997. The Press always had a representative at the airport counting the ins and outs of all Navy, Army and Air Force men. The wealthy Chinese businessmen were particularly sensitive too, and senior officers were constantly entertained by them.
The worst thing about the place was the typhoons. We had a system of alerts and appropriate action was laid down for each phase. All non-essential movement ceased and at the half way stage the Army set up sort of soup kitchens to feed the homeless and distressed. In my case I manned an emergency centre in Army HQ to deal with the crisis arising. Each unit had a sub-unit available to help. At the peak of the storm with winds over 100 miles an hour no movement was possible, but afterwards there was plenty to do clearing up and rescue etc, as soon as it was safe to move outside.
Social life was pretty hectic and we had to be firm if we wanted to ensure one night a week free of engagements. We had, too, a fairly continuous stream of visitors both at Flag Staff House and ours. It irritated us when visitors talked at length about how and where to spend their travelling allowance - while living with us for free!
We did play golf quite a bit at Sheko. In General O'Connor's time I was one of a three or four made up of the Governor, O'Connor, the Naval Commander, Commodore and myself. The General was good but the rest of us, including HE, were pretty poor. Clodagh and I played quite a bit too, quite often with the Coopers who now live in Hindhead.
In all we were 2½ years in Hong Kong and quite enjoyed most of it. Getting the children out or going home for a holiday was truly at that time only once a year. We let our house in England (Combe End) to people on holiday from abroad, mainly Hong Kong, and on one occasion we sub-rented it back to cope with a school holiday.
Towards the end of my time there MS told me I was not to be promoted- "Though I was fully qualified there was apparently no slot into which I could fit before I was 52 years old"! I was very disappointed, but there it was, and on hearing that my next job was to be at the Regular Commissions Board, Westbury, where I gathered work was three days a week, I wrote out my resignation. The General and Clodagh persuaded me to withdraw it, so we came home in May, with the next job not until January 1966. Meanwhile, after leave, I was temporarily appointed as a "Vetter" after a short course at Woolwich.
Eventually in January 1966 I reported for duty at Westbury as Vice President. It proved to be very interesting. Usually I motored from Hindhead on the Tuesday returning on the Thursday, but sometimes we had two Boards which meant Monday to Saturday. The course consisted of interviews, essays and outdoor command tasks. I had two teams of eight to supervise, each under a Lt Colonel. The candidates varied considerably. By and large Public School boys showed up better than others, but there were exceptions. The tests were designed to assess latent, basic suitability for being an officer. A rather small percentage of candidates passed, something like one in three.
When I had been at Westbury a few months the President left and I was in charge. The Ministry of Defence soon telephoned and asked me if I would allow the BBC Television service to cover a complete test. After thought I said "Yes, but only on condition that anyone failing in the group filmed should have another free try, and the filming team must come down without their cameras and mikes and witness a complete session before coming down again to take action". These conditions were accepted and the scheme worked well. I was asked to vet the film once it was completed; this I did, and made a few suggestions which were accepted. The result was broadcast one evening after the nine o'clock news. I hoped it might help future candidates and their parents. It was interesting that one boy who failed and was given another chance, failed again, and one man (a serving soldier) who did extremely well during filming was expelled from Sandhurst six months later - for being too flamboyant (?)
We had some very interesting candidates and some very sad - the latter usually the son of a split family. We also tested a few women. The advice I gave to everyone was: "Be yourself, don't try putting on an act"
It was about this time that Major General John Birkbeck suggested I took over as President of the Border Regient Association. I was duly elected as such at the annual weekend meeting in May 1967, and I continued as President and arranged the amalgamation with the Kings Own Regiment Association soon after Bill Scotter became Colonel of the Regiment in 1973. The amalgamation was actually approved in the spring of 1974 and I became Vice President (Border affairs) This meant that I continued to oversee the running of the accounts of the Border Regiment Benevolent and Charitable Funds by Major Aggie Mann, and I went on doing so until I handed over to John Petty in June 1986. By then Aggie was well over 95 and not able to do the accounting. I persuaded him to move into a home at Silloth and to sell his house in Carlisle. As a Past President I continued to attend the meetings of the Regimental Association during the May weekend.
I was dined out at Westbury and retired from the Regular Army when reaching the age of 55 on 2nd February 1968. The chance of a retired officer Grade II job came up at that time and I took it - Project Liaison Officer at the RAOC HQ at Deepcut. The idea was that if the architect planning a new building wanted any information he asked me, and I got the answer from my knowledge of the Army, or from the relevant member of the local unit. I worked very closely with the architects involved. In the case of the rebuilding of the HQ and barracks of the RAOC training centre, the main architect was John Read. Equally I was in close touch with the Department of the Environment at Chessington. The senior member there, whom I got to know very well, was Fred. Slaney. I reckoned I owed loyalty to both the Army and these two other agents. During the ten years I did this job I was Project Liaison Officer for the following:-
Rebuild of RAOC Training Centre at Deepcut; new build of an HQ RAOC officers Mess (over 100 bedrooms); refurbishing of the RAOC Apprentice College; married quarters at Deepcut and Aldershot, and the improvements to the officers Mess at Church Crookham. I also supervised the erection of a wooden church room and offices at Deepcut - for which I was presented with a small whisky flask by the Chaplain General to the Forces! None of this was particularly hard work, but it kept me going and I, by and large, enjoyed it.
I got a great deal of satisfaction from my service, both regular and after I retired, from my service with the Regiment. Certainly it was most rewarding, and continues to be so. I get a great deal of pleasure (and pride) from watching the careers of my former young officers: Bill Scatter, who became a General and Colonel of the Regiment, followed by David Miller and Bob Hodges, others who became Brigadiers or Colonels, John Petty, John Brough, Joe Milburn, James Howard, Paul Elrington, Denis Sole, to mention just a few. And membership of the General Purposes Committee helps me to keep in touch as of course do the succession of Regimental Secretaries and Ralph May did in the Regimental Museum.
The Glider Pilot Regiment held their 50th Grand Reunion in the Grand Hotel, Scarborough on Saturday, 30th October 1992. 500 attended. Brigadier T Haddon proposed the Toast to the Regiment and reminded pilots of his experiences at Sicily (landed in the sea together with 60% of the 1st Battalion The Border Regiment) and Arnhem (tow rope broke on first day and shot down near Antwerp on the second). Altogether he had flown eight times and crashed on seven! He emphasised that in none of these mishaps could the Glider Pilot Regiment be blamed - their President, Major Ian Toler, had recently reminded them that "we were pioneers, carrying troops and weapons in wooden matchboxes, depending on a thin tow rope and the skill of our tug pilot to get us there, and after that it was up to us". Brigadier Haddon added that it had been his experience that tug pilots were very much at the mercy of the weather and enemy action. This was well received.
Other speakers were Mr David H Trepler, representing the 60 US glider pilots, who proposed "The Queen", Major T I J Toler, the "President of the Republic of France", Brigadier M W Sutcliffe, "The President of the United States of America", Lt Colonel RWG (Chairman), "Our Guests", and Mme Arlette Gondrée Pritchett (of Pegasus Bridge Cafe) responded. General Sir John Hackett responded to the Toast of the Glider Pilot Regiment and Brigadier M D K Dauncey proposed the final Toast to "Absent Friends". Altogether a very splendid evening.