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The Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry
6 October 1959 - 10 July 1968

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1959-1968

Bob Evered - DCLI & SCLI

 

 

Some Memories of the DCLI & SCLI January 1958 until April 1965.

by Bob Evered

 
Bob - 2007

 

Some Memories of the DCLI & SCLI January 1958 until April 1965.

As a newly conscripted just turned nineteen-year-old National Service man I arrived at a snow covered Bodmin Railway Station early on the morning of the 23rd January 1958, having shared the latter part of the train journey with a “Teddy Boy” (Pte Burnley?) who was also going to the same place. Little did I realise what a great leveller a haircut and ten weeks or so training would be. We were if memory serves me right the 49th Intake under Captain Petrie? Sgt Edwards was ‘A’ Platoon Training Sergeant I found myself in ‘B’ Platoon the Sergeant, who took the Roll Call, was a fierce looking man with a bent nose and the coldest most piercing blue eyes that I’ve ever seen. “My name is BULLEY. WILLIAM ARTHUR DUDLEY BULLEY. You may have heard of me from some of your mates or brothers”, he cried.

The Roll Call started okay, through the A’s and B’s until he reached the C’s and called out the name “CODY” – no answer – “CODY” – still no answer. Then from the far end of the barrack room a quiet, tall blonde, well-spoken lad came the words “My name is CODE sergeant” The reply was instantaneous “C-O-D-E he spelt out, theirs an “E” there and we’ll use it” he said. Needless to say he was always known as “Cody” from that day on. At the end of training this lad along with A N Other was selected for a W.O.S.B. (War Office Selection Board) as a potential officer.

That was the first day over, for the next ten or twelve weeks we went through the mill together, 120 assorted men (boys) from all walk of life, thrown together by being called up for National Service, by the end of training we were down to 90 the rest having been rejected or transferred to other units. After the passing out parade we were allowed to proudly wear the Green Beret and DCLI cap badge with red cloth backing. Regimental history was taught almost from the beginning starting with the raising of FOX'S MARINES in 1702 It was the custom in those days to call a regiment by the name of its Commanding Officer and this Regiment was therefore raised under the name of Fox's Marines The Regiment afterwards became the 32nd Regiment of Foot and eventually the 1st Battalion The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. During the American Revolution or American War of Independence (according to which side you were on!) American troops attacked unawares on a dawn raid at Paoli in 1777. The Americans promised no quarter to all British troops, so as to identifying themselves the regiment proclaimed they would wear a ‘Red Feather’ as a means of identification, this gave rise to the wearing of the Red Cloth Backing on the Cap Badge which still continues to the present day!

A trip to the ranges far away on Bodmin Moor usually we would be transported by truck and we would be marched home. On one occasion we were practicing throwing live Mills 36 Hand Grenades. Before being used the base plate / plug had to be unscrewed and removed and the 7 second fuse fitted and the base plate replaced. Overseeing this operation from a protected watch-tower was the officer in charge, in case of failure he had to wait 20 minutes or so and then go out to the grenade, pack PE (Plastic Explosive) around it, retreat and explode the device remotely. On this day the officer was a young over exuberant inexperienced officer. The grenades were primed in a small alcove by two NCO’s before being handed out, two grenades were passed out at intervals as ‘primed’ but having only gone through the motions they remain un-primed and harmless. After the allotted time he had to go out and deal with them not once but twice! I wonder if he knew that he’d been had?

I recall one instance when I had committed some horrendous act (like being out-of-step, or something similar) whilst marching back to barracks I was dressed in faded denims, which clearly showed where two stripes had been previously on the upper arm. Sgt Bulley screamed at me “You’ll never get those stripes on your arm as long as you got a hole in your ass” he shouted. But far worse was the much-feared disciplinarian RSM (Regimental Sergeant Major) WO1 (Warrant Officer 1st Class) Harold Royffe; he only had to glare at you, to keep order.

One day midway through training we were told by Sgt Bulley to fall in outside in two minutes, last man out is on fatigues, dressed in PT (Physical Training) kit Best Boots with socks rolled down, we were taken over the assault course by Cpl Benny and L/Cpl Smith. On return to barracks we were told by training Sgt Bulley and Corporal Benny “Your Best Boots are now your 2nd Best Boots and your original 2nd Best Boots are now your Best Boots”! Towards the end of training and on our last run over the assault course, which had been, booby-trapped with PE (Plastic Explosive) or similar to make it more realistic, Cpl Smith unfortunately whilst swinging over water ditch managed to get caught up with a PE device on his boot, which was detonated causing severe damage to his boot and part if not all of his foot!

Towards the end of training PTI Mallet us all through a 3 minute boxing session, we had to pair off with each other between our selves I paired up with a fresh faced, quiet lad Pte Gill, but Mallet decided that one or two of us were poorly matched so he altered us about, putting me with Pte McCormack as I recall. Well our bout came and went and we were more or less even, although I thought that I just had the edge. When Gill’s turn came he turned out to be a real handful, handing out a severe thumbing to his opponent to the extent that he fled the ring half way through and Mallet put a stop to it. On completion of training Pte Gill went off and joined the Royal Marines, I wonder what happened to him?

At the end of basic training and the Passing Out Parade behind us I signed on for twenty-two years with a three-year option to come out! We were almost ready to join the 1st Battalion in BAOR (British Army Of the Rhine), when Pte Bunney one of our number and a nice lad went missing AWOL (Absent With Out Leave) over a girl most likely? Anyway he later joined us in Germany having spent twenty-eight days in the Guard Room back at Bodmin, joining us in Germany a month or so later, he went into the Bugle Section and the rest of his army career went without a hitch.

We caught the train to Harwich on the 22nd April 1958. At the Embarkation Point we had supper from there we took the overnight flat-bottomed troop ship to the Hook-of-Holland from there we boarded the train and were given Continental style breakfast, the train took us through Holland and into Western Germany and finally to Osnabrück. At Osnabrück Railway Station Army transport took us to the out-of-town Mercer Barracks near the village of Dodesheide, arriving some twenty-four after our departure! This procedure was repeated every time anyone went home on leave or any other business. Attached to our camp below us was a tank regiment, The 3rd Dragoon Guards. Movement between the two was minimal.

 

Cpl's Bob Evered and Joe Rowe. - 1959

On our arrival we were all posted to ‘D’ Training Coy under Capt Harvey for a further period of training before being sent to our respective Companies; which in my case and my friends from day one Tyrrel Francis and Ray Beeks was ‘B’ Coy. The OC (Officer Commanding) was Major Bush. The Company Sgt Major was WO2 (Warrant Officer 2nd Class) Cook. As we lined up out side ‘B’ Coy Office for our first roll call, with CSM Cook taking our particulars, when he came to me I came to attention and said “23446278 Pte Evered RJ, Sir spelling out my surname (as most people got it wrong) “E-V-E-R-E-D”. Quick as a flash he replied, “If you’re going to be my f****** Company Clerk I don’t want you teaching me how to f****** spell.” Well later, somehow I managed to talk myself out of that one and my mate Tyrrel took my place as Company Clerk, I’m not sure if it was willingly or not? Not too long after being posted to ‘B’ Coy I was appointed Lance Corporal and life settled down to normal Regimental routines in barracks, guard duties and the like for the unfortunate few and muster parades, square bashing and weapon training etc. etc. for the rest!

As the “greenhorn” Lance Corporal my Section Leader Cpl Harrison told that we had a new man joining our section and that he would be assigned to my Barrack Room his name was Pte George Bolton well George must have been nearly forty had at least twenty years service in and was a complete ‘one off’ It seems he had been promoted to sergeant many times and each time had ended up being busted for some reason or other. On this occasion he had been busted and RTU (Returned To Unit) having told a WRAC (Women’s Royal Army Corps) Officer to “F*** off” or words to that effect. It was soon obvious that no one wanted George because he was seen as Trouble! Whatever, he must have seen how green I was, knew the score and settled in with us youngsters fine, in fact he couldn’t have been more helpful, and when I was lecturing he would always help asking you good questions or prompts. He was certainly not like that with everyone and could spot a smart ass from a mile away. Not only that but he was a first rate Barrack Room Lawyer too, he once got away with a minor charge (252) refusing to accept the OC’s (Company) punishment and like wise the CO’s (Battalion) when asked if he accepted their punishment? He replied No and asked to be tried by District Court Martial, needless to say it was all thrown out long before that point was reached.

Quite early on we had a trip over the German / Dutch border to Enschede, Holland in the DCLI Regimental bus, an old Bedford decked out in Regimental Colours, not too far over the border we dived into the nearest pub eager to practice our newfound German language skills “Guten morgan” or “Guten tag” followed by “ein bier bitter” etc. etc. For a few minutes we were meet with a frosty silence then as we started speaking to one another in our native language their faces lit up “So you’re English?” “Yes” we said to their delight. It would seem they still hadn’t forgotten the war! All in all we had a fine day and we even managed to meet some local nurses in the park. Exchange rate for the Pound in those days was 10 Guilders.

Every day life in barracks was regulated by bugle calls from Reveille to Last Post and in between Assembly (Fall in ‘A’ fall in ‘B’ Fall in every Company), Battalion Orders, Post Call and most important the three times daily Cook House Call (Come to the cookhouse door boys, come to the cookhouse door). Away from camp we had frequent visits to the Rifle Range and the extensive training ‘In The Field’ (as it was known) at Achmer. Back in barracks the highlight of the week was RSM’s Parade on Saturday morning followed by Barrack Room Inspection, if all went well the rest of the weekend was your own barring Duty of course. This might mean staying in camp and visiting the NAAFI, or going into Osnabrück, also very popular were the two or three pub type establishments and the Army Globe Cinema in Dodesheide, which was, shared with our Tank Regiment neighbours.

This photograph. was taken at the rear end of D Company block. JNCOs Cadre Jan/Feb 1959
-Back row Left to Right. - Bob Evered - Mick Brock - Burley - Joe Rowe - John Tanner
Centre Row left to Right. XXXX - Terry Joll - Dennis Barratt - Alexander
Front Row Left to Right, Stephens - XXXX - Smudge Smith. (Old Soldier) note his war ribbons.-

We also took part in a large NATO Exercise on Lüneburg Heath. After the exercise we visited the former Nazi concentration camp at Belson, with its huge burial mounds, an eerie silence pervaded over the whole place and it was true “no birds sang here” as if reminding us of the horrors that had taken place here some fourteen or so years earlier. CSM Cook told us of his painful memories when he had helped relieve the camp at that time. I don’t think that anyone came away without a good deal of foreboding!

One very sad early on event was, whilst a group were swimming in the canal one of the lads L/Cpl Terry ‘Ticker’ Greenacre, was pulled out of the water dead, as I recall he had suffered a heart attack rather than drowning? He was buried in a Military Cemetery with full military honours. I was one of the Guard of Honour chosen for this occasion, we were trained for the best part of a week by the RSM (Regimental Sgt-Major) Jan Passmore, this included slow marching, and the arms drill Rest-On-Your-Arms-Reverse as well as the Firing of a Salute over the grave. When the day came practice made perfect and he was finally laid to rest with Regimental Bugler sounding haunting refrain of the Last Post. It was a very moving occasion all round! See Farewell Salute photograph.

 

On a more positive note a Border Patrol along the Great East / West German Divide, an outward bound training trip to Bad Lauterberg in the Hartz Mountains during the summer. In April 1959 many of us went to Frankfurt to take part in the 10th Anniversary Parade to celebrate the forming of NATO in 1949. We stayed at a USAAF Base for a week. We certainly saw how the other half lived! Another time I went with Bonar Featherstone and others on a Ground Crew Course for light Army aircraft ran by the Army Air Corps at Bielefeld. After all that we were only called on once to attend a landing, the pilot took no notice of our markers or signals landing on his own accord. On top of all these goings on we had to fit in 42 days Leave, plus 10 days Local Leave!

Farewell parade / Night-time Tattoo for the DCLI resulting in much preparation and square bashing ready for the big day to which all the top Brass and local dignitaries were invited. On the 6th October 1959, the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry merged with the Somerset Light Infantry to become the SCLI (Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry) and took the name and badge of the Light Infantry Brigade. These changes were brought about by the Government White Paper of July 1957 and the intention was to group the Infantry into fourteen brigades and the Parachute Regiment. Each Brigade was to consist of three or four Regiments so it was necessary to merge certain Regiments and lose about fifteen. There was a certain hostility towards this, as the Regimental system breeds a loyalty that is a distinct advantage in terms of morale!

The tank and other ranges at Sennelager near Paderborn were much used by the troops in BAOR us included. Here we could practice section and platoon attacks etc, etc using live ammunition instead of the usual blanks we used on Achmer and other places. Another popular training set up was Sten-Gun-Alley. You proceeded down a wooded trail with eyes peeled and armed with a loaded (live) sten-gun, out from behind a tree would pop a man shaped target shooting at you, you had to quickly fire at the target and move on. This would be repeated over and over until you reached the end of the trail, never knowing where an attack might come from. Not only was the Firing Ranges lively. But Sennelager at night was quite a lively place too with several bars and hotels not too far from the camp. One well-known local lady was known far and wide as the “Ten Mark Queen”.

About this time we lost a very popular young lieutenant killed outright in a light aeroplane crash everybody was very upset. One chap said on hearing the news “It’s a pity it wasn’t that bastard ****** , rather harsh I thought at the time, but I certainly knew where he was coming from! It was also about now that we started getting the first influx of the new SLR (Self Loading Rifle), which replaced the Mk 4 Le Enfield Rifle – This meant the virtual re-writing of the Light Infantry small-arms drill-training course. Along with this came much trial and error training until we got it right!

Not long after the amalgamation I was promoted to substantive full corporal and transferred to ‘C’ Company. The OC (Officer Commanding) was Major (‘Mad Matt’) Guy Matthews and the Company Sgt Major was WO2 Lynas-Gray many new faces and friends including a strong group from Bristol to whom I became quite attached, although Bristol born, I lived six or seven miles outside the city limits! Life in ‘C’ Company more or less mirrored that of ‘B’ Company or any other Rifle Company for that matter. At some stage during 1960 I was transferred the Transport Section of Headquarters Company. Here I found myself back with my old ‘friend’ Bill Bulley, but under completely different circumstances, unbeknown to me he had only been acting training sergeant (A good one with hindsight) in the Training Depot at Bodmin – On Posting back to the 1st Battalion he was reduced to the Rank of Substantive-Full-Corporal. The same rank as myself at that time. Bill was also posted to HQ Company (Transport Section). And it was Bill that taught me to drive, starting out in an Austin Champ (sort of Land Rover) and then progressed to Bedford 3 ton lorries. I took my test (well over an hour) on road and off my examiner was none other than Captain Petrie from my early training days. Happy memories!

Duke Godfrey - Bob Evered - Ken Lemon - C Coy SCLI 1959

If you were good at sport you could expect special treatment in the army or any of the armed services I expect. In our case Cpl Rex Davies was a good rugby player who played for the Battalion and one day when they were holding athletics trials for a BAOR Athletic Competition, Rex decides to try his hand at throwing the javelin, well he threw it further than anyone else by some margin and booked his place in the Regimental Athletics Team and was relieved of all guard duties etc to boot. I went to school with Somerset cricketer and opening bat Mervyn Kitchen his opening partner Roy Virgin was posted to us, no sooner had he arrived than he was promoted to Lance Corporal and put in charge of the Sports Store, also represented the Army at cricket. What a doddle!

As a Full Corporal and a single man on 22/3 year engagement I was paid about £10 a week all found (No Tax). This was paid weekly at Pay Parade the money was divided into two or three varying parts:

BAFVS (British Armed Forces VoucherS) For use in the NAAFI etc. This was a sort of paper money with denominations as low as a few pennies I.E. 3d note.
German Mark (Exchange Rate was about 12 Marks to the Pound) For outside use.
Savings (A percentage of your money as previously agreed). Some did, some didn’t!

During the summer of 1960 I was posted with a driver and a Bedford 3ton truck with rations to a remote Regimental Skiing out post in the Hartz Mountains. On taking over the Post from the previous occupant it was immediately obvious that a fiddle had gone on because the fuel dump petrol supplies used for cooking and running the truck were somewhat deficient. All became apparent that night when we drove up to the nearest isolated hostelry to find the place in almost total darkness. “Nix benzine” declared our host with a shrug! Without going into too much detail we managed to keep local Anglo German relations on a good footing and managed somehow to redress the fuel imbalance overtime, fair exchange being no robbery!

One night back in Mercer Barracks whilst on BOC (Battalion Orderly Corporal) duties which involved closing the Corporals Bar and the Privates Bar in the NAAFI one of the drinkers a non-regular took a dislike to NCO’s me in particular came at me armed with his army belt, as he was about to hit me, one of the bar-regulars punched him smack on the chin he went down like a pack of spuds slid along the floor and came to rest with his head against a radiator, just like something out of a film! My defender and I half carried, half dragged my would be assailant back to his billet and put him to bed – an act which certainly saved him from a serious charge and maybe twenty-eight days in the Guard Room. Anyway we got away with it, or so I thought. It was a few days before Christmas and I was duty COS (Company Orderly Sergeant) the position was actually held by a corporal. RSM Jan Passmore was rattling out the Christmas duties “Guard Commander Cpl Evered Battalion Orderly Corporal Cpl Bloggs”. Then, he stopped looked at me and said, “Change that, Cpl Evered Battalion Orderly Corporal, Cpl Bloggs Guard Commander, he then just carried on as normal. But I just knew that he knew and he knew that I knew. Those left in camp over Christmas could go to midnight mass at the Regimental Chapel if they so wished and on Christmas morning, the other ranks would be served tea in bed by the officers and senior NCO’s

A small group us including Tyrrel Francis and I left Mercer Barracks for the last time on 28th February 1961 en-route for Bodmin. After a spell of leave we finally left Victoria Barracks Bodmin and headed for home on the 3rd April 1961!

What effect all this had on me as a young man I’m not sure but I’m certain it did me no harm! All those who went through the rigours of basic training together whether Regular or National Service had a lasting affinity to the DCLI and with one another to the very end! Just before I was called up the DCLI had just returned from the West Indies and just after I left the SCLI were posted to Gibraltar. So you could say I drew the short straw. One Company from the Regiment (‘A’ Coy?) went North Africa at this time and served as extras in David Lean’s 1962 epic film LAURENCE OF ARABIA every time I see the film those SCLI extras particularly in the Officers Mess scene remain frozen in time including CSM Bedser and his men, including my would be assailant recorded above.

On leaving the SCLI, I spent 4 years on the Army Reserve attached to ‘A’ Platoon 502 Coy RASC based in Clevedon with HQ at Headley Park Bristol. On completion stayed with 502 Coy until the Harold Wilson’s Government carved up of the TA in 1967/8. During one annual camp at Penhale Camp near Perranporth in Cornwall I met a small detachment under Captain Harvey (from ‘D’ Coy days) on a flag waving exercise for the SCLI, one of the few was an old friend Cpl Higginbottom we met up in Bodmin for a few beers latter in the week and bumped into none- other than our old RSM Jan Passmore, by now he was Captain QM (Quarter Master). Funnily enough I was not the only SCLI man serving with the 502 Coy RASC. The other one (name forgotten) was at Headley Park he had been in the SCLI Signals Section.

After nearly fifty years of fading fond memories. Any corrections or additions would be much appreciated. If any one featured here in word or image should happen upon this little contribution I bid you a fond Hello! And hope that the intervening years have been good to you?

Robert John (Bob) Evered Cpl 23446278 (3 + 4 years) discharged from the Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry 3rd April 1965.

Bob's second Article - More Barrack Memories

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