HISTORY OF THE NORTH DEVON BRANCH.
(Note by Derek Sargent. The following is a History of the Branch written by the late Reg Bettiss and passed to me by his widow, Muriel. The article is in his own handwriting and any errors you feel may be therein may be corrected if any one wishes to write their own history for the period.)
During the month of May 1946, a small crowd of ExRoyals were invited to meet Lieutenant Colonal Kimpton at Fremington Camp to discuss the formation of a branch in North Devon. It was duly formed under the chairmanship of Colonel Hugh Channer who was living in Orchard Hill, Bideford where we held most of our meetings. The Hon Secretary was Mr Reg Bettiss, the Hon Treasurer Mr Frank Knul DCM and there was a small committee. We held social evenings at various places with the membership approximately 25 to 30, but als by 1953, owing to family and work commitments, interest began to wane and the branch folded up, although a couple of individuals attended the national RMA reunions in London.
Once again in 1968, a group from Bideford, Barnstaple and Torrington were asked to attend an informal meeting at the Tantons Hotel, Bideford to meet Major Jimmy Powell DSC and Clifford Coates to discuss the reformation of the North Devon Branch. Fired by the enthusiasm of those attending, we decided to contact as many ex Royals as possible to attend a meeting, this time at the Ring of Bells, Bideford and this meeting proved a great success and \officers were appointed as follows:
President Colonel John Harvey CB; Chairman Major H J Powell DSC; Hon Secretary Mr R Bettiss; Hon Treasurer Mr A Wiggington, the Hon Treasurer at present Mrs Muriel Bettis, former WRNS. A general Committee and Ladies Committee were formed and to our ladies committee, we always appreciate the way they present our buffett eveningsand the highlight of these buffets is the paties that Mrs Schiller produces. Our Standard Bearer George Dellar who has won the SW Region Standard Bearers Competition on several occasions. Deputy Standard Bearer was Mr John Wiggington. The Deputy Standard Bearer at present is Mr Dave Jaggard who has also won the RMA National .22 Rifle Competition.
The highlight for the Branch was on 7 September 1969 when we held the dedication of our standard at the Vicarage Field, Torrington by the Venerable Archdeacon AWM Weekes QHC AKC, Chaplain ofvthe Fleet, assisted by the vicar of Torrington the Reverend P G Harrison, a wartime Royal Naval Chaplain. On completion of the service, the parade was inspected by Major General Willasey-Wilsay MC MBE who also took the salute. The parade then marched from the Vicarage Field to the Town Square led by the Plymouth Group Band under the direction of Staff Bandmaster Dave Walton. The square was packed to capacity. The parade was under the direction of RSM George George Fordham and the Standard Party under the direction of First Drill Wally Preston. The two companies on parade were commanded by Sgts John Flockhart and Jock McCullum, all of the Infantry Training Centre Royal Marines, Lympstone whillst the Signals Section supplied loudspeaker amplification. The Standard was carried by George Dellar and the escorts were Herbert Oke and John Wiggington.
The Standard was presented to the Branch by Mr and Mrs E Olde, brother in law and sister in law of our Torrington representative Herbert Oke. Prior to the Service of Dedication, the dignatories of the other Towns were entertained in the Town Hall by the Mayor and Mayoress of Torrington,Councillor and Mrs W D Cockray and after the march past, tea was taken in the Town Hall. All Branches of the South West gave us good support and we were able to entertain them to tea in the Drill Hall. We regularly hold our Dinner Dances and Social Buffet evenings which are always well supported and we pride ourselves in supporting the annual RMA Reunion and any invites we receive from the Serving Corps and to them the branch always appreciates what they arrange for us.Over the years, the Branch has had its sad losses, namely Colonel High Channer, Colonel John HarveyCB, former Royals Reg Hearn, Sid Snow, George Parry and Harry Mock but happily the widows still support our functions.
The Branch has twice had the honour of providing the Mayor and Mayoress of Bideford. Our Chairman and his wife Clifford and Evelyn Coates and also our vice chairman,and his wife, Douglas and Jenny Vickers have each filled these offices.
Unfortunately, owing to the widespread area of the Branch, the forming of a club is out of the question, but if any branch is in the North Devon area and we are given notice of the visit, every effort will be made to entertain them. It was regretted that when the Corps celebrated the Tercentenary, this Branch was not in existence, but we were fortunate enough to attend the Silver Jubilee review of the Royal Marines at Plymouth by Her Majesty the Queen. With the enthusiasm and support that we have, this Branch will go from Strength to Strength.
We have over the years entertained at our dinners Senior Officers serving and retired, including General Sir Campbell Hardy,General Sir Ian Riches,General John Owen with their ladies. Also Captain John Brown Royal Marines, former General Secretary of the Royal Marines Association..
The above company consists of as you look at photo, Reg Bettiss, left 1st file, John Forster right 1st file, Clifford Coates, centre 2nd file, Dave Jaggard 4th file right, Doug Vickers, 7th file left., Peter Willey left 2nd file.
The first Branch Standard was blessed at Torrington during 1964. Wo2 Wally Preston was the First Drill and the Drill Instructors included Corporal Sam Maclachlin, who was well known to the members of the Branch. There was a full Royal Marines Band on parade, a Major General and over 600 members of the RMA. Herbert Oke is the left hand escort to the standard.