As promised an update on other December activities. Firstly we can report a total of £2700.78 was collected on Barnstaple High Street and Pannier Market. This will be added to the total already collected and after the January collection in Green Lane it will all be sent to Central Office for distribution.
Some of the branch attend the WO & SNCO's Mess Christmas Ball. As usual a very enjoyable evening where the branch were successful on the raffle. The evening's entertainment included an "Elvis" lookalike and disco. Royal seemed to enjoy himself as is the norm in the Mess.
Our branch Christmas Party was held in the Officers Mess and followed the usual format. A brilliant raffle along with the Irish Bingo raised £591 for branch funds. Thanks to the Rafflettes who provided an array of excellent prizes. Presentation were made to Kim Marshall, manager of BHS, who has supported the branch for a number of years now (we at last managed to get her to a function) and Mike Harper for his services to the branch on the RMCTF 1664 Challenge when he played his pipes across Exmoor and beyond. Our Mr Vice provided a few party games and the President arranged the now familiar picture quiz. The evening ended at midnight with a few diehards mine sweeping until 0100.
In September we had our usual branch night and following scran and business we had a few rounds of Bingo with cash prizes. Joiners and Leavers at the SNCO's Mess was, as usual, very entertaining and as usual the "Olds and Bold" had some success on the raffle, bingo and "Key in the Lock". One of our most senior members Clifford Coates is on a final warning as he seems to win a joint of meat every time.
6 hardy souls ventured to Dartmorr for the annual ramble across the moor know as the "Yomp". Unsually for dartmorr the weather was fair and we all seemed to enjoy the day, even Mrs Sec who was pressganged into action by her husband, WO2 Col Shearsbt. Mrs Chair deposited some skin from her hand due to not paying attention where she put her feet. But Royal came to the recue and administered 1st aid. I think she just wanted the attention.
20 members attended the Reunion at Lympstone and enjoyed what was a very successful weekend. We achieved another piece of silverware, winning the team shoot. But unfortunately came a close 2nd to Exeter again in the Quiz. Following a great concert and firework display our ladies wnet hunting for young recruits and YO's and could be seen surrounded by young admirers while Royal proped the bar up. Things don't change!
The inaugural Barnstaple Marathon was held in September and the branch were requested to provide marshalling on the airfield at RMB Chivenor. 8-10 members directed runners round the desolate airfield in very hot weather conditions, giving out free advise which I suspect the runners didn't really want. However, the runners were met by our ladies at the Watersports Centre for a refreshing bottle of water on route.
In October our branch members were treated to a DVD on life in North Devon in the run up to D-Day. Joiners and Leavers as usual was enjoyable with the "Old and Bold" being made very welcome in the SNCO's Mess and RMB Chivenor. The Chair and Mr Vice migrated to HMS Raleigh for a Corps birthday dinner care of the Bootneck training team down there. Following a boat ride at RM Tamar and shooting on the range we watched the Navy recruits pass out of training before a very enjoyable and late Mess dinner in the Senior Rates Mess. Mess Beatings by the Corps of Drums was spectacular.
One of members, Ann Stanley, planned to do a tandem parachute jump in October but weather postponed her leap of faith. However, she did eventually, launch herself attached to her partner in November. She was jumping for the RMA and Not Forgotten and lived to tell the tale. Well done Ann.
Another Joiners and Leavers took place in November. As usual a good night. Remembrance events took place locally - the Festival of Remembrance was held in the Queens Theatre, Barnstaple and the branch President and Chairman represented the barcnh. The standard and US Marine standard were on parade. Remembrance Sunday was held at RMB Chivenor at the new Memorial Garden where our President laid a wreath on behlaf of the RMA and the Chairman paraded the standard. Following the parade branch members enjoyed a carvery lunch in the mess and a few "wets". We had great success in the raffle and walked away with many prizes again. On the way home we stopped off at the new Juniors Club for another couple of "Wets". So ended an excellent day. We also had representation at Torrington and Bideford as well as the Cenotaph where Tom and Fran Rivenberg were supporting BLESMA. I am also reminded that John Davis, who was in Aus on leave, went on parade in Sydney.
WO1 Phil Slocombe gave an excellent talk on Combat Intel - only what he was aloud to divulge. Even so it was very interesting and all had a good night.
December is always busy for the branch as we hold our Christmas Appeal, are invited to the SNCO's Christmas Ball and hold our own Christmas Party in the Officers Mess. This year was no exception. Collections in Tesco's Ilfracombe and Braunton and Morrisons in Bideford raided £3320.82. We were helped in Braunton by some uniforms from CLR. The High Street collection in Barnstaple also took place but at the time of writing we haven't totalled up the takings.
As I am writing this in advance we haven't actually held the Christmas Party yet or been to the Ball. So I will report on these in the next bulletin. We donated £150 to Chivenors Childrens Christmas party and Dave "Ho Ho Ho" Perkins doned his red robes and combed out his white set to drop into the kids party representing Santa.
First up in August was the WW1 commemoration events. The branch took part in the parade in Barnstaple where we paraded the standard alongside those from other Associations and the British Legion. Also in attendance was the US marine League standard ably carried by Bob "The Yank" Martin. Bob has not let us forget that he lead the standards and stayed in step. The drumhead services was held in Barnstaple Pannier Market where we had our stall. Although the service was well attended it was quite where we had our stand. However we still received a few donations. Following the service there were displays from the Town Youth Band, The Barnstaple Pipe Band and barnstaple Male Voice Choir. CLR was represented by a detachment of Marines, the CO and the RSM. Following formalities we all headed off to the Ex Service Club for refreshments.
Branch night on the 8th was very well attended. Following a fish supper we had branch business and then settled down to listen to the Scottish twang of Bob Ferguson recalling his year with NP8901 in the Falklands. Even though Bob tried to convince everyone he worked hard down there we were not convinced (he seemed to know a lot of locals where he gained favour). Seriously a very interesting talk and very amusing as well.
May was a busy month with the branch dinner, Graspan Parade in London and a trip to CTC at the request of RSM Gilby to support the 1664 Challenge runners.
Graspan was first up. 10 members including the standard paraded on a very hot morning in London. Those marching had an extra distnace to yomp as the usual route onto Whitehall and through Admiralty Arch wasn't open. So to get everyone facing the right way they went down the Mall and back. The standards took the shortcut! Following the service in front of the Graspan Memorial we were off on our jaunt past the Palace. The crowds were out in force encouraging Royal to keep going. Eventually we arrived back at Horse Guards having lost a few pounds in liquid. A quick fall out and then off to Old Billingsgate for the Corps Receiption. The venue was magnificent with the RMA Concert Band entertaining us all. Welcome drinks on arrival and a feast provided in the way of small dishes of food served by an enthusiastic staff. One hic up - Roayl drank them out of beer and there was a ras to get some more. Great day.
Following Graspan CLR celebrated Ajax Bay Day, when Logs landed in Ajax Bay in the Falklands. The Chairman, standard and President attended for the branch with the President laying a wreath. Following the parade there was the Ajax Bay dinner in the SNCO's Mess which doubled up as Colonel may's Top Table. An excellent meal interdispersed with recalling what Logs achieved in the Falklands and of course numerous port fines (none received by the Chair or Pres however). A late night!
Our branch dinner followed with 62 in attendance (half being guests). VIP was Mike Ellis and the unit was represented by Messers WO2 Brennan and Allen and wives. Awards were given to Wilkos for their continued support, Dave Perkins and Brian Neave for services to the branch, cup of frienship to WO" Allen and Brennan and wives. Mike Ellis received a branch plaque and chocolates for his wife, who couldn't attended. Flowers were given to Dave and Brian's wives. The raffle dinner really well making over £600 for branch funds and the disco went on for ever. One notable moment was your Vice Chair WO2 Shearsby who had won a vacuum cleaner trasnfering into his alterego as Freddie Murcury providing actions to "I want to break free" - check the photo gallery.
CTC was next up in support of the 1664 runners. A pleasant evening in the Moody Brook bar followed on Saturday morning by a parade with standard through Exmouth with the girls shaking buckets. Then back to CTC for the families day and BBQ and Beer Fest in the Seniors Mess. A considerably late night. 10 members supported this even though we were in enemy territory.
June saw the 1664 runners arrive in North Devon. As advanced party we went out to Tesco Ilfracombe and Braunton to do a little bit of fund raising for them and advertise their arrival. We collected over £2200 for the RMCTF. The following week we were out in force in Barnstaple collecting and placing tins in various pubs and businesses. We welcomed the runners into Branstaple and collected around £700 during the day. The following day 3 hardy souls, one wearing a scottish skirt and carrying a haggis with pointy bits marched the runners and CLR log carriers out of Barnstaple on route to Taunton and 40 Cdo over the next 3 days. Each village on route the runners were piped through and buckets held out for support. Given that Exmoor is fairly remote we had great response and another £700+ was collected. Great support from the schools - even the WI broke off their meeting at Ralieghs Cross Inn to come and welcome the team and all for a photo with the runners. The pipes were a great hit in Taunton and attracted more donations.
Armed Forces week started with branch members attended the Freedom of Exeter parade on the 21st which was a good day out. Highlight was Tom Rivenberg and his flunky Bob Fergusson heading the RMA contingent druing the march. On the Monday Torridge held their flag raising parade which was well attended even though the Pipe band played extremely slowly disrupting the marching columns a little (will be rectified next year). The Military Wives choir sand at the flag raising and again at the receiption where Neslon's Blood was evident for those lingerers. The branch had a stand at the North Devon Vets Expo which was better attended this year.
The month finished off with the Branch and CLR relocating to Sainsbury's for this year Support Appeal "Gibraltar and Back" for the RMCTF. In the week we cycled around 8500km and raised £10,324.07 for the Trust. An outstanding effort by all who took part.
Some members graced the Senior NCO's Summer Ball and RMB CHivenor on the 12th where we all seemed to be "Shearsbyed" with numerous variety of liquid refreshment. A great night wa shad by all. The branch BBQ was held on the 18th at the Watersports Centre where there was an attendance of 28 members. Scran was provided by Sodexo and cooked up by a willing naval chef volunteer. The bar was ably run by Liff. Genga took centre stag which after a quite reserved start proved very popular with Mrs Shearsby appearing to demolish the tower most - maybe something to do with the forfeit of a "Tot".
8-10 members atended the Southwest Proms in Plymouth where they encamped on the pitch and partook in a pussers picnic. Naturally we were there to enjoy the entertainment.
And Finally the Chairman attended the dedication of the Memorial Garden and Co's receitpion at RMB Chivenor.
In January we welcomed one of our branch members, Neil Johnstone to talk to us about his experiences with “birds”! I should point out they were of the “prey” type – raptors – I believe. See Neil I was paying attention. When Neil was posted to North Devon to a small RM detachment at Instow he found he had some time on his hands so thought he needed a hobby. What to do? “I know” – he said – “I will fly birds of prey.” “Of course you will” – said his Wife. “What do you know about birds of prey?” – “Nothing – but that doesn’t matter. I’m a Royal Marine. Nothing’s too much etc etc”. So Neil set out to purchase a falcon and train it to hunt. Although Neil apologised for not actually having any live birds to show us he did produce a plethora of equipment that you have to have to fly these big birds. Neil, who’s final postings were to Royal Marines Instow and CTCRM did mention that there was a useful source of technicians who could “knock up a piece of kit” for a crate of beer or long weekend pass. Hence some of his equipment was quite unique in the world of Falconry. On arrival Neil enquired whether we were holding our normal monthly raffle. Naturally was the reply. “Good” – Neil said with some relief, “I got home to my cottage this afternoon and there was a brace of pheasant hung on my front door. I thought it would be a novel idea and authenticate the evening if I donated them to the branch raffle.” Hence first prize was two pheasant complete with feathers and all. A traumatised Mrs Trainee Treasurer, Fran Rivenberg was the lucky winner. I think her recoil said it all. She couldn’t bring herself to driving home knowing there were two corpses in her boot. Unfortunately her son-in-law who knew how to prepare a pheasant was less amused knowing he could have had these fine birds to prepare. Thankfully John Davis, who did know what to do, gladly came to the rescue as he was runner up. All in all a thoroughly excellent evening and highly amusing talk by Neil and we thank him. The raffle raised £48 for branch funds.
February’s meeting was nearly a wash out but 14 hardy souls braved the storms and attended. Food, as usual, was provided by the Mess for a small fee and following branch business members had a choice of a quiz or bingo. All opted for bingo. So Mr Chair switched hats to become duty “Caller” for the night. Jacky Peel and Fran Rivenberg had provided a number of prizes for the raffle as well as the bingo and a couple of donations meant that not only was there a first and second prize for the raffle but a prize for lines and full house for three games. Although there was a request for multiple cards per game, it was decided that concentrating on one card alone was challenging enough. Unbeknown to the Chair a number of members are ardent bingo fanatics and felt right at home with their dibbers and dobbers. Although the “Caller” was unfamiliar with the calling terminology and his legs eleven and Kelly’s eye the evening went very well with more requests to do it again. The raffle raised £31.33 for branch funds, which was excellent given the numbers attending. The 33p came from a Scotsman’s pocket! Admittedly he did buy tickets as well.
At the end of February 8 branch members journeyed down to CTC Lympstone to attend the Passing Out Parade of The Kings Squad, 169Troop, as guest of WO1 RSM Phil Gilby. The group proffed by getting to attend the Corps Novice Boxing Championships on the Thursday evening. Turning too in the SNCO’s Mess at 1845 we joined the Seniors and made our way over to the Gym. Seated with the Seniors and VIP’s we watch an entertaining evening of boxing where CLR had mixed fortunes and 42 Cdo, who had the greatest number of entries, dominated. An extended evening in the Mess saw a number of blurry eyed branch members – ladies not included, of course, join the other VIP’s in the Officers Mess at 0815 for coffee and a briefing. The Green Beret presentation was held in the Falklands Hall and thankfully the rain held off sufficiently for the Passing Out Parade to be held on the Main parade. Following lunch in the Officers Mess RSM Gilby and his lovely wife, Anita, escorted us back to the Seniors Mess, where we partook in a number of wets and Port Toasts, being joined by 169 Troop training team, who had had a heads start with families. Fatigue set in at around 2200 so “the old and bold” took their leave after toasting the RMA and got their heads down. Our thanks to RSM Gilby and his lovely Wife, Anita, for a hoofing two days.
Firstly I have to report that a former Royal Marine, RM 14659 Owign T Owen, crossed the bar recently. Owign was not a member of the branch and we were not aware that he lived locally in Braunton. He joined the Corps in 1955 and served to 1962. I was contacted through the local jungle drums and the branch plan to pay our respects at his funeral in the time honoured tradition of standard and Last Post. It is most sad to report that Owign appears to have had no family ties for some time and it is his local friends who have kept an eye open.
March 14th was branch night. We had 19 attend the meeting with 13 enjoying scran before hand. Following the business section and raffle which raised £51 for the branch we were treated to an evening with members of the Military Wives Choir. Sharon Bristow and her girls gave a very informative briefing on how the choir started and how it has developed into the Global phenomena that is today. In achieving this and wanting to adhere to the reasons behind the choir that of providing a social outlet for the wives while Royal is away playing with big boy toys across the globe, they have formed a Foundation which is a subsidiary of SSAFA Forces Help. This now means they can challenge donations towards the running of the various choirs and the expense incurred performing. The evening with the Ladies finished off as only a choir can, that of singing. However, one catch – this was a participation song which we had to join in with. I suspect it was the most out of tune the choir has been since first getting together with Gareth Malone. A great night and our thanks to the choir for coming along. You can contact the choir on www.militarywiveschoirs.org.
On the 23rd March the branch standard was on parade at Eastney for the 71st Anniversary of Operations Frankton, The Cockleshell Hero’s raid. Mr and Mrs Chair took the opportunity to do an “All Our Yesterday’s” and visit Pompey Dockyard. On the Saturday evening we joined members of Portsmouth branch and the Submariners Association for a dinner dance in Southsea.
The 11th April was AGM night. Branch members were provided with a fish and chip supper care of branch funds before having to sit through the chairman’s melodious tones for an hour – the fish and chips was s sweetener! 23 members, the active part of the branch, attended and following the financial report, Presidents address and Chairman’s report we all retreated to the bar for a couple of games of bingo. Some observations: our branch standard was on parade over 9 times; branch members attended at least 10 events other than branch nights; North Devon won the team shooting at the Reunion with 2nd and 3rd in the Ladies Individual shooting and runners up to Exeter in the quiz. We supported Commando Logistics SNCO’s Mess throughout the year at their Joiners and Leavers as well as Summer and Christmas Balls, providing the standard for the various remembrance parades including the Devon RBL Poppy Appeal Launch. We had 4 guest speakers at our branch monthly meetings as well as a BBQ and preceded every meeting with scran in the Mess. We held two branch dinners with VIP guests being the President of the RMA, Major General Dave Wilson, the CO and RSM of Commando Logs. We raised over £15,000 for RM charities and over £2000:00 was raised through internal raffles and car boot sales to support the branch. Not a bad year really.
During this period branch members attended two “Joiners and Leavers” evenings as guests of the RSM and Mess members of the SNCO’s Mess, Commando Logs. As is becoming embarrassing regular branch members were again successful in the raffle and bingo and a warning has been issued to one Clifford Coates. The winning of two or more prizes on the night will render a ban from the Mess. I guess the branch maybe scrutinised more closely in future. I have one suggestion for the Mess refuse to sell us the volume of raffle tickets we seem to buy each time! A note – one of Cliffords guests for the evening an ex –matelot, AB Tony Cathcart won the bingo house and a leg of lamb. He’s definitely barred.