The Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry
6 October 1959 - 10 July 1968
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Bob Evered - DCLI & SCLI
As raw recruits in the 48th Intake of The Duke Of Cornwall’s Light Infantry lance corporals were ‘little tin-gods tin’ even trained soldiers had to be addressed as ‘trained soldier’. Early on all the ‘square bashing’ was by numbers and carried out by the Platoon Sjt until we were deemed to be sufficiently well trained to be introduced to the Regimental Sjt Major. “STAND AT EASE, STAND EASY” RSM Royffe voice rattled around the parade ground at Victoria barracks Bodmin on one cold morning in February 1958. “Did you say something?” he snapped at one poor unfortunate trainee. “No Sir” came the reply; “I just had a tickle in my throat!” Quick as a flash RSM Royffe shouted back at him “Well, come to attention take one short-sharp-shit-hot pace forward and cough the sodding thing up, IT MIGHT BE A GOLD WATCH!” RSM Royffe was a fearsome man, yet comic, full of theatre and a quick quip for every occasion all very entertaining, unless you were on the wrong end of one of his outbursts.
One night sometime later after Lights Out (22.00 hrs?) lying in bed I was doing my best mimic of Harold Royffe saying “Well come to attention take one short-sharp-shit-hot pace forward and cough the sodding thing up, IT MIGHT BE A GOLD WATCH!” and other Royffe quotes, there was general sniggering and laughing all round plus some ribald comments when suddenly the lights came on and there in the doorway stood the Duty Sjt and Duty Officer of the day, none other than RSM Royffe. “Who was that man talking?” He demanded – Deadly silence ensued – “Right, everybody up.” At this point my mate Tyrrel Francis bravely owned up to some throw away comment he had made, which was promptly ignored. Taking a deep breath, I spoke up and admitted it. “So you’re the f------ comedian, are you”? Turning to the Duty Sjt, he said, “Take his name Sjt and make sure he reports to Captain Petrie in the morning.” I awaited the outcome with some trepidation, but my only punishment in the end was a session of spud-pealing that evening!
I clearly remember another occasion when the RSM was drilling us on the Square, marching in threes “ ‘eft, ‘ight, ‘eft, ‘iht”, came his clear voice “Open your legs you wont lose anything”, followed by another “ ‘eft, ‘ight, ‘eft, ‘iht”, As we neared the Guard Room and exit, he waited until we were nearly there, then came the expected “A— B—O—U—T (pause) TURN,” some wag in the ranks said “keep going” and so we did, ending in a melee at the Guard room. Well needless to say he (Royffe) didn’t see the funny side of this at all. He soon had his own back as he had us marching at the double around the ‘Square’ for what seemed like an eternity.
Not that these things ended when we joined the 1st Battalion in Osnabruck I well remember one RSM’s Saturday morning parade. We were lined up on the Square by Companies, we were being held to attention when suddenly one of the men in the front rank (‘Bar’ Cocking?) started to fall, quick as a flash the two soldiers either side of him tried surreptitiously to give him support. RSM Passmore screamed “Let that man go” followed by “Stand still in the ranks.” Poor old ‘Bar’ hit the ground with quite a bang. Jan Passmore then called out to the Provost Sjt and Regimental Police to drag the poor unfortunate Cocking off the Square (Hallowed Ground) and lock him in the Guard Room. We then had to endure a lecture from the RSM about how he could hold his drink and anybody else coming on to his Square had better be able to do the same or not drink at all. Sadly that wasn’t the end of the story ‘Bar’ Cocking ended up in BMH (British Military Hospital) Munster with a broken jaw, so bad that they had to wire his jaw up!
Talking of hospitals I managed to get myself hospitalised three times during my three years stationed in Osnabruck. I list these in order of severity, as I can’t remember the chronological order. Now the army didn’t like it if you had anything catching as any infection could spread like wild fire through the battalion. My first experience was reporting sick with flu like symptoms and finding myself whisk away to the MRS (Medical Reception Station) at Osnabruck I was kept here until I was considered to be no risk to my comrades.
On the next occasion having had severe stomach pains on and off through the night (I forget the exact symptoms) feeling a bit better in the morning; I resisted attending Sick Parade, not least because of the rigmarole of having to attend that parade with small pack, packed with a long list of mandatory items, no doubt designed in part to deter malingerers! I lasted out to dinner time by which time I was much worse so I reported to the Regimental Medical Centre as ‘Special Sick’ I was given a full examination by the MO (Medical officer) who diagnosed acute appendicitis and in no time I was in a army ambulance with bells ringing and lights flashing on my way to BMH (British Military Hospital) at Munster. Not an appendicitis as it turned out and I forget what the diagnoses was but as I recall. I was there for a week or so. We were well looked after by the QARANC (Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps) Those on the road to recovery or walking wounded were allowed out during the day but had to wear a special red and white uniform when doing so.
The third and last occassion we were under canvas on exercise somewhere in the south of Germany we were breaking camp when Bill Bulley said to me in his best cornish acent “You alright, my handsome?” then added “You look main green to me.” I don’t remember too much after that, the next thing I knew I was in a Canadian Military Hospital being injected every four hours around the clock for some complaint or virus I never knew which. My behind was like a pin cusion but I do remember that the Canadian medics were first class all round. When I was finaly discharged I was given travel warrants for the return direct to Mercer Barracks.
In one of our early ‘B’ Coy parades during
the Sjt Major’s inspection CSM Cook stopped in front of me looked
me up and down and said, “So you wanted to be a paratrooper
did you? I wouldn’t let you jump out of an aeroplane dressed
like that.” The CSM must have done his homework on all of us
because the only time I had mentioned it has far as I knew was on
my initial National Service entry forms when asked for three choices
I had given 1. Parachute Regiment 2. Somerset Light Infantry 3. Royal
Engineers. Sjt Major Cook was near the end of his time and had been
right through WW2 he was one of those characters whose ferocious bark
was far worse than his bite! Although, not everybody thought so, as
I remember coming out of ‘B’ Coy Office one day and bumping
into young 2nd Lt Peter Carver who said “Good morning Corporal,
is that nasty man Sjt Major Cook in the office?” I replied “Yes
Sir” at which point he turned away and refused to enter the
office. The power of Sjt Majors was certainly far-reaching and certainly
extended to green young officers
I couldn’t help but notice that Johnny Welch has a photo gallery on this SCLI web site. I remember him well, Johnny Welch was a big Bristolian; he must have joined the intake before us (47th)? I can well remember first meeting him in Victoria Barracks Bodmin. It was on our first evening in training when this fellow all smartly decked out in highly polished FSMO (Full Scale Marching Order), nonchalantly leaning against the wall at the bottom of the stairs waiting for the right minute to report to the Guard Room on Jankers (Punishment). He talked very knowingly of these things and of army life in particular. I for one on that very first day in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry was in awe of him.
Later we both ended up in ‘B’ Company. Following Saturday morning’s Barrack Room Inspection and RSM’s Parade, dinnertime would find him at the bar in the NAFFI having sank several pints of beer he would turn out for the local football team. Playing in goal he was quite fearless taking the ball seemingly in mid air right off the toes of the attacking players.
I also remember being with him on one occasion we had been out on the town and ended up in Osnabruck Bahnhof (German: train station), not least because you could get a drink here all night, on leaving the station Johnny Welch fell out with a group of local German lads over WW2 and wanted to take them all on. Somehow the rest of us managed to restrain him – I never had no doubt though, that he would have been a good man to have on your side in a tight spot.
I always thought it was funny when we were issued with loaded 9mm sten guns when on guard duty in Bodmin due to the burgeoning IRA threat. When we arrived in Mercer Barracks Germany with the 1st Battalion we found the guards here were issued only with pickaxe handles! Even more strange when we were on border patrol on the Western side of a divided Germany (1945 – 1990) we were confronted with a high metal grid fence, a six-meter-wide ploughed strip, a line of observation towers and arc lights, manned with armed guards all designed to keep the inhabitants the German Democratic Republic (Eastern Germany) firmly in their place! Despite this many did “run the gauntlet” and tried to escape to the West over the years, but sadly few of them made it. We were armed with Mk 4 Lee Enfield rifles and Bren guns as we carried out our patrol, but not a round of ammunition between us. The ammunition being well away from us in a 1ton truck – No doubt they were worried that one of us might have started WW3.
Early on in my last year (1960) I joined the Transport Section of Headquarter Coy. It was here that I learnt to drive. My instructor was none other than my old training Sjt Bill Bulley, who by this time was also in Transport Section. Firstly in a Jeep like 4x4 Austin Champ, which was fitted with a Rolls Royce engine and as I recall was unusual insomuch as it had as many gears (5) in reverse as it had forward! Later I progressed to the bigger 1 ton Austin trucks and then on to 3 ton Bedford trucks. We were on manoeuvres at Achmere on one occasion when we tried driving a Champ on ice over a pond, next thing the ice gave way and we were well and truly stuck. I had to go cap-in-hand to a nearby Tank Regiment who kindly came over and dragged us out. Finally I took my test in Champ, which lasted over two hours and was carried out on and off road. My examiner was Capt. Petrie who also went back to my training days – After a successful conclusion I was issued with a ‘pink slip’ to claim my full licence for Civy Street.
On or about my last local leave I’d gone home for a few days at my own expense, on the return boat crossing from Harwich to the Hook of Holland I fell in with one of our colonial cousins I’m fairly certain he was an Australian? Anyway he was on a visit to Amsterdam, so having a bit of leeway in my leave I decided to join him for a night on the town. Continuing on my journey to Osnabruck the next day by the time I reached Mercer Barracks and reported to the Guard Room I was a several hours adrift (AWOL). Surprisingly as I checked in no one said anything. On returning to HQ Barrack Rooms I was told by Clobber Cleaves that during my absence a bayonet had been found on my bed or thereabouts that I had forgotten to book back in the Stores. Reporting to HQ Coy. Sjt Major (Who must have been in a good mood!) I was given a rollicking for the first misdemeanour and put on a 252 (charge) for the second. For which I was marched in front of the OC HQ Coy and got my second and last ‘Reprimand’ (Punishment) in the three years I spent at Mercer Barracks Osnabruck.
Robert John (Bob) Evered Cpl 23446278 (3 + 4 years) discharged from the Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry 3rd April 1965.