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John Peel writes: Firstly I have to report my 2 I/C stalwart WO2 Col Shearsby reported he had indigestion the other week. Ever one of making light of something it actually turned out to be a major heart attack! Thankfully I can report that after having 4 stents fitted Col is on the mend. His long haired Sgt Major is, however, having trouble as he is doing more than he should – you just can’t keep a good man down.
We held 2 branch meetings this period. On the 2nd September 20 branch members enjoyed fish and chips followed by branch business and a relaxing couple of wets and a chat. Octobers Mtg 20+ members attended. Following the usual format we had a talk on the only RM to take part at the Battle of Waterloo by our fountain of all knowledge Bruce White. Thanks to Bruce.
A few main events to report on: On the 10th September Tom and Fran Rivenberg moved to Dartmoor to take charge of Yorkie Malone’s annual Dartmoor Yomp Raffle. This year due to other commitments there were no hardy souls walking from the branch for the first time in many years.
On the 15th September a group from the branch and Commando Logisitic Regiment gathered at 0600 at Okehampton to support Jane McGill, who decided to walk the Dartmoor Way – 90 miles in 36 hours. Jane had met us during Taff Davies’s JOGLE in 2015 where we supported Taff for 9 days along the Southwest Coastal Path. With transport supplied by USMCL Bob Martin, rations and kit by Col Shearsby and Roli Jones, we left Okehampton some on foot and some riding support around a circular route taking in Tavistock, Princetown, Buckfastleigh, Bovey Tracey, Chagford and back to Okehampton. I can report that yet again with cross RM support and Jane’s friends and family the challenge was completed successfully by 2200 on the 16th after 39 hours without sleep. A special mention should go to branch member Mark “Harry” Allchorn who walked the whole way with Jane – his resilience maintained by a deep intake of nicotine at each RV’s (that Datrmoor fresh air isn’t good for you Harry). My thanks to Jane who’s “Just Giving” website has currently raised over £800.00 for the RMC. Jane has no connection to the Corps and wanted to do this as a challenge for herself.
The branch had 14 members attend RMA Reunion. As usual an outstanding weekend. We had mixed fortunes again. Our ladies shooting team came runners up to Blackpool but beat our men’s shooting team which included 3 serving RM’s! In the quiz we came 2nd and 3rd behind Exeter – our old nemesis. But we didn’t come away empty handed. The branch received an award for their fund raising efforts during the annual RMC Charity Appeal. The highlight was that Jacky Peel won the Ladies individual shooting competition, beating the groupings of all the men from the branch including husband and branch chairman John Peel. Well done Jacky. The chairman was humbled in front of the entire band concert gathering by being awarded the Presidents Award – but said without the support of the members the branch wouldn’t have achieved their successes and the award wouldn’t have been made. So it’s a branch award.
On Sunday 25th September a group from the branch supported Brain Mulholland and the North Devon Road Runners with their annual running of the Barnstaple Marathon. Our ladies took charge of the Water Station while the lads were dotted around the airfield at RMB Chivenor to direct the runners in the right direction and count them off the base. As usual a great day and great to be able to support local events. Special thanks to Col Shearsby who was I/C again this year.
Yet another branch member sweating blood and tears for RM Charities. On the 16th October branch member JC Bowden swam 400 metres and rowed 10k – arms only. He has serious mobility issues, is registered disabled and uses crutches all the time. JC decided he wanted to do something around the same time the Lympstone Commando Challenge at CTC. So he came up with his own Commando Challenge. Although JC adapts a Concept Rower and rows arms only 3 days a week; he hadn’t been in a swimming pool for some time. He set to, dug out the water wings and arranged the use of a pool at the Barnstaple Hotel where he could train for the event. On the day the branch took their stand and RMA gizzits to the Barnstaple Hotel and supported JC’s efforts. Currently well over £290 has been raised to be shared between the RMC and Devon Air Ambulance. Knowing the work he put in ensuring he could complete his challenge, sincere thanks from the branch must go to JC for coming up with the concept and digging out blind to complete it. When JC served he was a RN blue beret but “saw the light” and transferred cap badges when he entered Reserve Service and has definitely demonstrated his Commando Spirit.
Wishing everyone a Hoofing Christmas and outstanding 2017 from North Devon.
John Peel writes: Life continues a pace in North Devon. We have had two branch meetings this period. With the Mess unavailable we relocated to The Hoof Inn in July for our Annual BBQ. We had around 35 enjoy not so burnt culinary delights cooked by Sgt Ginge Dudley, who we kept plied with liquid refreshment. Roli Jones entertained the gathering with his Survival Cooking Road Show persuading willing and not some willing volunteers to sample worms on toast, create fire and even put fire out using only hands. The raffle raised a magnificent sum of £114. August saw us continue our tour of North Devon venues holding our monthly get together at Bideford RFC. With our usual branch business presented by the Chair, scran provided in the way of a buffet, the usual mandatory raffle and bingo and a quiz for cash prizes – it was another good night.
We had a busy Armed Forces Week commencing with the Flag Breaking Ceremony conducted by Torridge Council. Not as grand as those held in major cities but none the less well attended by local Armed Forces Veterans group. The branch standard along with other Association, Cadets and Youth Organisation Standards paraded behind the Tarka Pipe Band. A detachment from 11 AT&T represented the serving military. This free event attracted the local public along with many Civic representatives. The service was conducted by Rev Janice Honey Morgan from CLR with music provided by the Town Band and a performance of songs by St Mary’s School Choir. Following proceeding refreshments were laid on at Bideford Rugby Club provided by the Council. At the end of the week the branch took it’s stand to the North Devon Vets Expo for 3 days. Over 2000 school children attended on the first two days with the public attending on the Saturday.
The Bikers Branch of the Royal British Legion held a commemoration service for the Battle of the Somme in Barnstaple and the branch standard and a couple of branch members & serving RM’s represented the Corps. Exeter held their Armed Forces Day to coincide with the Battle of the Somme commemorations on Saturday 2nd July with the branch standard joining other RMA standards on parade.
The main event for the branch this period was our take over of Sainsbury’s foyer for 5 days free physical excursions in aid of this year RMC Support Appeal. With massive support from CLR with around 120 serving personnel we cycled 4500K and rowed 1800k around the Falklands region over 13 hours per day for 5 days. Of course the main aim was to entice the public to part with their small change. There was no enticement needed as Sainsbury’s shoppers gladly supported our efforts and the work of the RMA and RMC donating the magnificent sum of £8001.73. Over 30 RMA branch members took part in this hugely successful 6th year at Sainsbury’s. Thanks must go to the public and staff at Sainsbury’s and the serving girls and boys from CLR who showed great enthusiasm for the aims of the challenge.
Members of the branch attended the Warrant Officers and SNCO’s Summer Ball. This year’s theme was The Wild West and the branch members got into the swing of things with the mandatory yee ha’s and considerable moseying over to the “saloon”. Our thanks to our friends at CLR WO & SNCO’s Mess for their invitation.
As a result of the gratitude shown by the branch for the money raised from a tin placed in The Mariners Arms and the fact that our 2 I/C Col Shearsby’s son, Adam, works in the pub we were invited to run a Family’s Charity Day at the pub on the 6th August. This was a first for the branch so we didn’t really know what to expect. On the day we held a “Guess the Weight of a full RM’s Field Kit” and “Find the Sniper” competition. We had a raffle for the grown ups and Tombola for the kids. Roli brought his Survival Cooking Road Show to town. There was a BBQ and band provided by the pub, the branch stand dished out “Gizzits” for a small donation of course, Face Painting in the form of Cam Cream and Ration Pack scran sampling. With kind weather all in all it was a good day, a good PR exercise, a good opportunity to raise awareness of the branch, the RMA, the RMC and the reason why we exsist. As a result of our efforts approximately £500 was raised for RM charities and the pub have asked us back next year.
On the 11th August a group travelled to 1AGRM for the unveiling of the Landing Craft Association Standard. No this isn’t the current RMA virtual Landing Craft branch but the WW2 Landing Craft Association, which was disbanded not so long ago. D Day veterans Clifford Coates and Dennis Small were joined by their comrades from the Association to take part in the unveiling ceremony. WO1 Dinger Bell met us and conducted a guided tour of this impressive base followed by lunch in the San Carlos Room in the Seniors Mess. After lunch we reconvened in the Triumph Building for a presentation of the modern era of Landing Craft and the formal handover of the standard to the CO of 1AGRM. Our thanks to WO1 RSM Davitt and his team for making these veterans and widows so welcome and providing a fitting home for this historic standard.
John Peel writes: The branch provided morale boosting support during the first 2 days of Baz Gray’s Solo630. We had a team leap frogging ahead and bucket rattling along with our resident piper Mike Harper who squeezed his bladder to hail Baz through each pinch point. In addition we provided (along with CLR) runners to accompany Baz from Minehead to Westward Ho! Combe Martin Primary School waited in the bitter clod to cheers Baz through. One heart warming story – the current record holder waited until after Baz had had his massage on the evening of day 1 and guided him in the dark across Braunton Burrows finishing that leg at 0015. In addition to the support the branch collected £260.53 for The RM Charity. I expect many will know by now that Baz’s valiant efforts were not to be this time. Hard luck Mate.
We have had 2 branch meetings since my last missive and attended 1 Joiners and Leavers in the SNCO’s Mess. May’s branch meeting started with sausage a mash and 25 members getting an update on branch affairs. We then retired for a couple of bar games. C/Sgt Joey Davis had a few on his mates from his local Welsh village who were doing their annual cycle for Autism. They joined our gathering for the games and we donated the nights raffle money to their cause. A good night and sharing with those who are unfamiliar with the Corps and RMA was well received. Joiners and Leavers was the usual mixture of welcomes, farewells and Joey games. The branch members won the quiz but were unsuccessful with the other games. June’s branch meeting took the usual format with a DVD show from the Chairman as Part Two to his talk in April.
As usual the branch were represented at Graspan and Beat Retreat this year. The branch standard was on parade at both events parading on the Mall and as part of the Honour Guard for The Captain General. It seems the march down the Mall gets longer each year. Both events and receptions were excellent.
On the 21st May the branch was invited along to Sapper 300 at CLR. 24 Cdo RE were hosting the 300th anniversary of the forming of the Royal Engineers. 4 branch members survived the bleak weather and represented the RMA to showcase what we do. However never missing an opportunity to raise a few “bob” we had the bucket out for the Mike Culley Challenge taking place the next day and I think did very well.
On the 22nd May Ex RAF Snowdrop Mick Culley swam 5 miles in Ilfracombe Pool with Chair John Peel and then mounting his bike and cycling 110 miles. A team of military cyclist from CLR rode the 110 miles with Mike. Why did he want to do this – to celebrate his 75th birthday and raise some funds for Corps charities. Although money is still coming in the current total raised is over £1600. This will be shared between the RMA and RMC. Well-done Mike and big thank you to the lads from CLR for their outstanding support. Mike said it had been a privilege cycling with such outstanding gentlemen.
The Chairman, President and branch members Dave Perkins, TC Davison, Brian Mulholland and Clifford Coates joined serving branch members Col Shearsby, Spud Taylor and Jacko Jackson at this years CLR Ajax Bay Regimental dinner. With over 130 attendees they enjoyed fine food, vignettes and an excellent round of Port fines (it is traditional not to Port Fine the Old and Bold) making a good accompaniment to the speeches.
The branch held it annual Regimental dinner on June 4th. This was very well attended with over 80 members and their guests. As usual the Rafflettes worked their magic, having accumulated over 20 top quality prizes they persuaded the guest to part with their spare cash to the tune of £650. Mess beatings were performed by the Bideford Youth Pipe Band – another excellent display. VIP guests included the CLR CO - Col Baxendale, CLR RSM - Rick Angove, Corps RSM - Phil Gilby and their wives and our main VIP was Jonathan Ball, CEO of The RM Charity. We passed a unique quilt, which Rita Bevan had made, to Jonathan Ball to use to raise some additional funds for RM Charities. An excellent night with good food, good entertainment and good company.
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John Peel writes: March started with a Joiners and Leavers evening at the WO&SNCO's Mess. A few of the branch attended an excellent evening with our serving colleagues. Following a extensive Joiners and Leavers quaicking session the Joey Davis and Ginge Dudley Show got under way. A Raffle, Quiz, Bingo, Catch Phrase and Key in the Box was held all for the princely sum of £10 with many raffle and cash prizes and £50 in the Box. This wasn't won and rolls over to £75 next month.
We held our usual branch night and following food and business had a couple of old peoples bar games - bingo and a "Who Wants to be a Millionaire”. Everyone enjoyed the evening - I think.
On the 19th and 20th some members relocated to RHS Rosemoor to set up our stand for the Survivalist Fair. We had our usual table and display board in the marquee with "Mike the Marine" in a Gilly Suit and a 24 hour ration pack laid out to be viewed. The main event was in the woods where Roli was showing visitors how to light fires, cook local vegitation and even a salmon which he assures me he caught legitimately from the River Tesco's. we also had C/Sgt Smudge Smith in his element demonstrating various weapons form WW2 upto the present day. All in all a good weekend. Although not a fund raising weekend we had a couple of buckets strategically placed with a poster advertising Mike Culley’s Challenge for RM Charities and succeeded in collecting £130 towards his target of £1000. Mike is Ex RAF and was actually at Chivenor for the hand over to the Royal Marines. He will be 75 years young in May and wanted to do a physical challenge – 5 mile swim and 1000 mile bike ride. The branch was approached to support this and the money raised would go to RM Charities. So the chairman – John Peel will be swimming the 5 miles with Mike (320 lengths) and 8 RM’s including the Corps RSM and CLR RSM will cycle with Mike on his 100 mile journey after he has got out of the pool. If you would like to support this event please visit https://www.justgiving.com/IronmanCulley to donate. A report on the event will appear in the next addition.
12 members made the journey to London to attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music on the 9th April. Finaly and Susan McCulloch volunteered to bucket collect for Richie. We became tourists for the weekend taking in some of the sites of the capital before have a pre concert meal and a few wets. An excellent concert and weekend.
In April the Unit Welfare Team at CLR held an event with SAAFA, which the Chairman and his VSO’s were able to attend. This was a very useful coming together of 3 of the elements, which make up the support available here in North Devon and the first step in a seamless transition process.
Also in April we held our AGM. Following the usual food we held our formal business where all branch officials were voted back in for another year. Following the formalities our chairman gave an over-view of some of his time in the Corps.
On the 13th April 3 branch members formally received their Legion d’Honneur from the Honorary Consul to the French Government. There was also 1 veteran from the Devonshire Regiment and one award posthumously, as this recipient had passed away having received his award by post but before a formal presentation could be made. The presentation took place at Commando Logistic Regiment, RMB Chivenor in the presence of the CO , Lt Col Baxendale RM, RSM Angove RM, The Mayor of Barnstaple and over 40 officers, men and women from CLR. Family and friends of the recipients and branch members numbered in the 50’s. The event was also attended by the local press, BBC Radio Devon and TV. Following the presentation refreshment were sponsored by Sodexo.
The call to arms went out in the Southwest Region to support RSM Baz Gray’s Solo630 on the Southwest Coastal Path. So on the 25thand 26th April branch members RV’d with him on his first two days from Minehead to Bude. We managed to have a couple of runners with Baz and Brian Mulholland arranged for runners from North Devon Road Runners to meet up. Our now resident Piper – Mike Harper of 1664 Challenge and Taff Davies’s JOGLE fame – played a few sterling Scottish tunes as Baz approached various pinch points to help raise awareness for what he was doing. Jacko Jackson (C/Sgt RM) co-ordinated the branch and CLR’s support for Baz. We hope we set him on his way in true North Devon style. An update will occur in the next edition of the Globe and Laurel.
The branch has held 2 meetings this period in the Sgt Mess at RMB Chivenor. In January we had 26 members attend the usual format of scran, branch business. However, the highlight of the evening was a talk and DVD by Bob “Mac” Ferguson who gave a hugely amusing and interesting talk and DVD show on the life of Rabbie Burns. To help the night feel more Jock JC Bowden donated a bottle of fine Single Malt whiskey – Jura Origin and the Chairman not wanting to be outdone thought it would be good to provide a Haggis for the talk. Thinking outside the box he choice one that can be microwaved – what do us English know? Presenting it to the Chef had he cooked haggis before. No he hadn’t. Never mind it’s only a simple matter of putting it in a microwave. Expecting the arrival of a proud haggis on a platter what actually greeted us was an exploded sheep’s stomach with crisp over done remnants of the mixture. Not deterred the Chairman passed samples round for a taster. Thank goodness for the fine “Wee Dram”! The raffle made £70. In February 20 members enjoyed a Bingo and “Higher and Lower” evening with the raffle money being used for cash prizes. One error on the Chairman’s part – No 26 escaped and went under ground – it found it’s way down the centre pocket of the pool table and didn’t reappear. It has since been recaptured by the Mess manager.
Sadly the standard has been on parade at funerals twice this period. A group travel up the M5 to Shropshire to attend the funeral of Mne Younghusband who died tragically in December. He was serving at Commando Logistic Regiment at the time. The Corps turned out on massive to see him “Cross the bar”. Also there had been a promise made by the widow of Norman Johns that he would have a bugler playing Last Post at his funeral. Norman was a member of the local RNA branch for before it closed some years ago. Nearly all their members joined the North Devon branch. So it was only fitting that this former D Day veteran should have the appropriate send off.
Following on from a tremendous effort in December’s fund raising I can report that the bucket collection around North Devon along with the contents of the “tins” stationed around the area the branch raised £7501.35. This money has been sent to Central Office where £750.00 went each to the RNBT and BLESMA, £1500.00 came back to Commando Logs Welfare Fund here at RMB Chivenor and the balance of £4501.35 stayed with Central Office for the RMA. A huge thank you to the men from CLR who helped out during the campaign.
Thinking we could have a break from fund raising – how wrong we were. In January we had a request from the RMCTF to support local girl, Karly Thomas with a fundraiser in Green Lanes Shopping Centre in Barnstaple. Karly is doing the “Since 1664” Yomp on the South Downs Way in May. She is part of the RM Charity team and has pledged to raise £1000.00. Karly’s “Old Man” RM Sgt Andy Thomas was stationed at Chivenor for 8 years starting as a Marine and end as an Acting Sergeant. He is now substantive at 40 Cdo. Anyway along with Col Shearsby and a very able mannequin “Mike the Marine” still sporting a broken nose from a fall in high winds on a previous mission – we set up in Green Lanes with pictures of Karly and balloons in Corps Colours (even though WO2 Shearsby pointed out I had them in the wrong order!) flying high and raised £633.01 towards her total. Hoofing effort and the North Devon public were brilliant again. Over to you Karly – keep up the training.
Branch members attended February’s “Joiners and Leavers” in the WO & SNCO’s mess. For once we were allowed to leave without being drummed out for cleaning up on the raffle prizes and bingo. We almost won the Quiz but the Chairman was at the bar and gave a vital answer to an opposing team – our team got it wrong and they didn’t!
Finally we held our 2nd Annual “Seniors Lunch” – a lunch for our more senior citizens at the Barnstaple Hotel. Including chaperons we had 26 attending. Our thanks to Bob “The Yank” Martin provided the transport for the price of a free lunch. A very pleasant gathering enjoyed 2 courses, fine conversation and a raffle (yep my Rafflette never misses an opportunity).
One final announcement Bob – The Yank – has been asked to become the UK acting Commandant of the US Marine Corps League - to translate this into our language – the acting Chairman (equivalent to Ron Bell) of our US cousins who live in the UK. Congratulations to Bob.
25 attended November’s branch meeting with £72 was taken on the raffle (£50 being recycled as prizes for the bingo. It was good to see the Gingells and Mitchell’s who were over for the weekend from Bournemouth and Ipswich. We also welcomed Ex RN Bob Winslow who has moved to North Devon to retire and is has joined the branch. Bob gave us a pocket history of his service man and boy in the dark blues. Welcome Bob.
On the 18th November 18 members and friends from the branch attended the Remembrance Parade at the Memorial Garden, RMB Chivenor, where our standard was on parade and our President, Derek Sargent, laid a wreath on behalf of the branch. 12 of us stayed on for an excellent carvery and couple of games of bingo and a raffle in the Senior’s Mess. We also had representatives laying wreaths in Barnstaple (John Davis), Bideford (C/Sgt Spud Taylor), Torrington (Rodney Oke) and Marwood (Bruce White). Tom and Fran Rivenberg attended the Cenotaph with BLESMA and the Fergusson’s were in Malta. One of our overseas members, Denis Hannan, who lives in Spain, attended the ceremony in Gibraltar as he does every year. My thanks to you all.
We now have 3 branch members who have received their Legion d’Honneur. Congratulations to Clifford Coates, Len Husband and Alan Litchfield. When others have received theirs we will be arrange a formal presentation with the French Ambassadors UK Representative.
As we have done for as long as I can remember branch members turned to during a warm but wet December to carry our annual Christmas Appeal. We spent 11 days between Tesco’s - Ilfracombe and Braunton, Morrison’s – Bideford and Barnstaple Pannier Market and High Street with the branch stand. We had massive support from the serving Corps - Commando Logistic Regiment again and my thanks to the CO, RSM and Squadron Sergeant Majors for making this happen. A special thanks must go to the lads for their enthusiasm and support. They carried out this evolution with the usual “can do” attitude and expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to help with Corps Charities and interact with the public. Over the 11 days we collected over £6280. This will be added to £1000 on hold in our Charity account and pub collection tins. It is expected the end figure will be in the region of £7500, which will be sent to Central Office with a request for it to be split between the RMA 60%, BLESMA 10%, RNBT 10% and Commando Logs Welfare Fund 20%. My thanks to those faithful branch members who continue to support the North Devon RMA so well and be the face of the Corps Family.
The final act of 2015 was the annual branch get together in the Officers Mess at RMB Chivenor for our Christmas Party. 54 members and guests sat down to a 3 course carvery of traditional Christmas fayre along with warm mulled wine and a few party games. My thanks to Fran Rivenberg for providing the gifts on the table, and along with Jacky Peel the high quality 25 raffle prizes which helped raise over £500 for branch funds. Thanks also to our President, Derek Sargent, for setting another challenging President’s Picture Quiz and prize of, I think, a bottle of very good quality Vodka. As this was a carvery and we have some older members who may have needed assistance we called upon Father C to loan us 2 Elves to help with the service in the guise of WO2 Colin Shearsby and his son Iain, suitably attired. My thanks for their sterling effort, even though they served plates of food to members with appetites are no bigger than sparrows. I understand they were heard to enquire whether they should eat or climb the mountain of food placed in front of them. It was great to be able to thank special guest Tim Jordan – our benefactor from Wilkinson’s and wife Hilary and also have the company of the Corps RSM Phil, his boss Anita (long time friends of the branch), son Connor Gilby with his young lady Jess. My thanks also go to WO2 Bob Davis (Mess Manager) and Debbie Davis (Sodexo Manager) who arranged for staff to attend to our every need and special thanks to Adam and his team of Sodexo Chefs who provided some magnificent scran. The evening was rounded off in the bar with a few dits and games with background music provided by Iain Shearsby’s laptop. A superb evening and end to another successful year in North Devon. Final thanks must go to the CO and 2I/C for allowing the branch use of their Mess – something which we are privileged to do every year.
Trusting all readers have had an enjoyable Christmas and best wishes for a successful 2016 from the North Devon Branch. to add text, images, and other content