North Devon attended all the main RM350 parades. At Graspan 8 members attended the parade with the branch standard, relocating to Old Billingsgate to top up fluid levels have lost a considerable amount during the very warm march down the Mall. We also had a good turnout for Beat Retreat, again with the standard taking part in the Guard of Honour for the Captain General. With great demand on reception tickets only 6 attended the formal gathering with the other 8 of us finding a local hostelry to celebrate the day before the long journey back to North Devon late that night. The standard and members attended the 71st Anniversary of Operations Frankton, The Cockleshell Hero’s raid at Eastney. And we had a representative at the City of London march in July. More locally we took part in the Freedom of Exeter parade attended by The Princess Royal. Following the parade and Service of Remembrance there was refreshments on the Green with Beat Retreat by the CTC band which was a great finish to a great day.
Back in North Devon June saw the raising of the Armed Forces flag by Torridge District Council. This has become an annual event and gets bigger each year, with branch members helping to organise. The parade was piped into the park by the Tarka Pipe Band where the Bideford Town Band took over. There were 10 local standards on parade including the branch standard. This year we were graced by the presence of the Military Wives Choir from RMB Chivenor who sang during the service and again at the reception at Bideford Rugby Club afterwards. The Padre, Rev Stu Rason RN and a bootneck detachment from Commando Logs and 11AT&T attended in Blues and with the RMA and other service veterans, cadets and youth groups the parade was around 150 strong. There were a number of serving and former Mayors from the Torridge area as well as the Lord Lieutenant.
On May 22nd Commando Logistics Regiment held their annual Ajax Bay parade and dinner at RMB Chivenor. The branch standard was on parade attended by the Chairman and President who laid a wreath. Both were then guests of the SNCO’s Mess for the Regimental dinner. In July the Memorial Garden at RMB Chivenor was formally dedicated. The Chairman and his wife represented the branch at this event. Our very own Dave “Polly” Perkins had been involved with the monument itself working on the forging of the 3 military crest - Commando Logs, 22 Squ SAR RAF and 24 Cdo RE which formed the focal point.
The branch paid their respect at the WW1 event held in Barnstaple. The standard was on parade as was Bob “The Yank” Martin with the US Marine League standard and we had our table in the Pannier Market. The event was well supported with a detachment from RMB Chivenor marching and CO and RSM in attendance.
For a rural community fund raising has gone very well again this period. On the 30th May 10 members moved to CTC to support the RSM with CTC’s involvement with the 1664 challenge. While the standard and the men marched through Exmouth the ladies wearing their North Devon t-shirts helped bucket collect around the town and back at CTC’s family’s day. Our reward was to join the RSM and mess members for a BBQ and beer festival – more damaged braincells!
As the 1664 Challenge Team were arriving in North Devon on the 17th branch members went out to two Tesco supermarkets as advance part advertising the teams arrival and did some fund raising for them. A total of £2228.37 was raised for the RMCTF. On the 17th the runners, supported by 24 Cdo RE arrived in Barnstaple. CLR put on a public display of military equipment in the town, military wives choir and Corps of Drums included and the branch supported this by bucket collecting. On the 18th our resident piper Mike Harper lead the runners through Barnstaple and on their way across Exmoor to Taunton and 40 Cdo . Over the next 3 days early starts driving to the villages across the Exmoor, the branch supported them handing out lapel badges and collecting donations. The sound of the pipes at 0830 and on route in remote villages certainly attracted attention. The local village schools took time out from lessons to cheer the runners on and of course the CLR runners, who were carrying a telegraph pole (a log) (as you do!) supported the Corps team all the way. Random pubs opened up for us, free wets and even sandwiches at one venue. At one location the WI just happened to be having a lunch meeting and got a bonus of photos with many sweaty bootnecks, for a small charge of course. Over the 4 days around £1400 was collected between Barnstaple and Taunton.
Following a hectic June we had to shake off the cobwebs and double away to Sainsbury’s, Barnstaple for our annual Support Appeal fund raiser. This year’s event had Corps history as the theme. We planned a virtual cycle trip to Gibraltar and back, via some of our Corps Memorable date sites. On the Sunday Dougie Douglas, CLR’s PTI, RV’d with branch members at Saisnbury’s armed with 4 Wattbikes. In a short space of time the foyer at Sainsbury’s was derigged of shopping trolleys and rerigged with bikes, Corps and CLR flags, “Gizzit” table, buckets and the most important ghetto blaster. At 0800 Monday morning the 1st Squadron of volunteers along with the RMA team set off on this journey. Each day there after a new team from CLR spent 12 hours per day cycling, holding buckets and spinning a few dits with the customers. The RMA team, not fortunate enough to have the same manpower was there every day until 2100 cycling and collecting. On a couple of days the RMA team had assistance from members of 11 ATT. By Sunday at 1600 we had covered over 8500 Km and raised £10, 324.07 for the Support Appeal.
Not forgetting the social aspects of branch life we continue to balance work with play. Average attendance at monthly branch nights has been between 20 and 30. Benefitting from holding our meetings in the Senior NCO’s Mess at RMB Chivenor we get to dine before the meeting – albeit Pussers Scran. However it makes for a sociable start to the evening. This period we have had a couple of speakers, The Military Wives Choir, Bob Ferguson on life with Naval Party 8901 pre Falklands conflict – so good we had Part 1 and 2. The AGM came and went with only one change. Polly stepped down as Treasurer after 10 years loyal service and Fran Rivenberg stepped in. We have had 2 bingo nights which have created some serious competition between our veteran bingo goers and we held our Annual BBQ at the Watersprots Centre where Genga took centre stage for the evening. In July a number of members transited to Plymouth Albion Rugby Club armed with cool boxes, deck chairs, blankets and a wide variety of beverages for the Southwest Proms. No glass was allowed into the ground so a variety of ingenious methods of dispensing wets was by “mule” and plastic tube. A variety of lemonade bottles were evident but not necessary lemonade in them. Hopefully the Corps will consider this as an annual event for the Southwest (home to most of the Corps).
The branch highlight of the year was our annual Regimental Dinner held again the SNCO’s Mess by kind permission of RSM Small attended by 61 members and guests. Our VIP guest was Brigadier Mike Ellis and representing the Mess were WO2’s Kirk Allen and Terry Brennan and their wives, who received the “Cup of Friendship”. Mess beatings were again provided by Bideford Youth Pipe Band compared by our very own Bob Fergusson, who incidentally forgot to announce the toast to the band, until prompted. Piper Mike Harper stayed on to pipe in the Top Table and played the lament. Our Rafflettes worked their magic again with the raffle raising £620 for branch funds and following formalities there was a disco. Star turn of the night must go to WO2 “Freddie” Shearsby, who having won the vacuum cleaner in raffle did a take on Freddie Mercury’s “I want to Break Free” – in Mess dress, of course. I see a port fine coming on.
There were 2 main events in September, the Dartmoor “Yomp” and the Reunion. 8 members took part in the “Yomp” this year. Tom and Fran Rivenberg ran the raffle for Yorkie as usual and excelled again while Mr and Mrs Chair and team navigated the moor. Then it was off to CTC to defend our honour. The branch had a detachment of around 20 attend the weekend, entering 2 shooting teams and 2 quiz teams. The result was a repeat of the previous year, winning the shooting and allowing Exeter branch to beat us by 1.5 points in the quiz. All branch members enjoyed an outstanding concert and firework display and were on parade bright and breezy on the Sunday. An outstanding weekend.
In September 7 hardy souls completed the Dartmoor Yomp. Although the weather wasn’t brilliant it was a good day as usual. We had a couple of guest walkers – the branch Chairman’s daughter shamed her Dad by continually having to wait for him. He had recently had a hip replaced and was walking like a penguin! Fran and Tom Rivenberg’s son-in-law carried their grand-son in a papoose. What a motley crew we looked. Hey but we completed it.
Monthly branch meetings have been generally well attended this period. We have enjoyed “Pussers Scran” in the SNCO’s Mess each meeting prior to branch business. This appears to go down well with the members. After 45 minutes covering the business side of the branch a quick refreshment break to top up the “wets” has generally be followed by various activities including speakers and bingo. November saw the inaugural game or two of Bingo. I confess we have taken the idea from the SNCO’s Mess Joiners and Leavers evenings, when you can witness a bar full of highly trained gritty commando’s get wound up over a bunch of numbers and “dibbers” and “dobbers”. That aside our more mature attitude towards this noble game made for an enjoyable evening with Mr Vice, WO2 Col Shearsby as duty caller, although he had forgotten his glasses. So successful was the evening it was repeated in February. 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 – “Legs eleven and Kelly’s eye” - the evening went very well again.
In January Neil Johnstone gave a talk on 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.” In March we were treated to a presentation by the Chivenor Military Wives Choir on their development form conception to present day. We had to earn it though by singing with them.
Our internal raffles still provide additional funds for the branch and this is thanks to our “Rafflettes” who squeeze every last penny out of the members when they least expect it.
The branch was involved with several Remembrance events. We attended the launch of the Devon Poppy Appeal at RMB Chivenor along with ranks from the base, 11 AT&T, the RBL and local school children and dignitaries. We also attended Remembrance parades at Bideford and RMB Chivenor and our standard was present at all 3 events. Derek Sargent gamefully helped with distributing the boxes of poppy’s and tines to businesses around Westward Ho! and Northam, collecting them in afterwards with Jacky Peel counting and banking over £4000 for the RBL. We also attended the Festival of Remembrance at the Queens Theatre; Barnstaples version of the Royal Albert Hall event, where we had our standard and that of the US Marine League carried by our colonial branch member , Bob Martin. The standard was also on parade at the annual RMA Carol Service at St Lawrence, Jewry followed by refreshments laid on by Charlie Hobsons at Charter House.
Christmas Party season came with a challenge. You know when a CO starts “I’ve got a good idea” that the branch is being expected to do something for the serving Corps. So it was when Colonel May suggested we join him and a few others at a Big Quiz, raising funds for the Memorial Garden. The branch didn’t let themselves down coming 10th out of 25 teams, narrowly beaten by the CO’s team.We know our place!
Next up was the SNCO’s Mess Christmas Ball attended by a group of branch members in their capacity as Honouree Members of the Mess. A fun night was had by all and it certainly set the Festive Season off with a bang. Following this Polly “Ho Ho” Perkins (who has been neutering facial hair for a while) was again in touch with the “Ice Sheet north of UK and secured the services of Mr Clause who presided over the Chivenor Children’s Christmas Party. In addition the branch supported this annual event with a donation of £150 towards their entertainment. Next up was our Branch Christmas bash held, by kind permission of the CO and his Mess members, in the Officers Mess. 47 members and their guests enjoyed the usual Christmas fare and frivolities that are any annual event. Mr President, Derek Sargent, provided a fiendishly difficult picture quiz – well I found it difficult – and we had a round of Bingo, but the Irish version this time. Presentations were made to four stalwarts of the branch, who have either moved or are moving away from the area. Susan and Finlay McCulloch moved from North Devon to Cornwall some years ago but remained committed branch members attending over 80% of branch activities having to travel 1.5 hours to get here. They have given themselves a greater challenge having moved to Chichester, some 4 hours transit but still look to supporting this branch as well as attending events more local to their new home. John and Liz Gingell are moving to that well know “Blue rinse” paradise that is Bournemouth - watch out for the “Zimmers” and motorised scooter brigade. We wish them all well. The night finished off with some bar games and the raffle made a magnificent £526 for branch funds.
We carried out our annual Christmas Collection in Morrison’s Bideford and Green Lanes Barnstaple outside Wilkinson and BHS. The huge amount of support and generosity from the North Devon never ceases to amaze me with many generous donors clearly giving their last bit of cash from their purses and wallets. What also amazes is that when they give they say thank you to us – I know that is their gratitude to the whole Corps. In the two weeks we raised £5301.25 and along with the contents of our collection tins located in various establishments around the area we will be able to donate around £3500 to the RMA with£1000 each going to RMB Chivenor Welfare Fund and BLESMA.
At the end of February 8 branch members journeyed down to CTC Lympstone to attend the Passout Parade of169 Troop as guest of WO1 RSM Phil Gilby. The group proffed by getting to attend the Corps Boxing Championships on the Thursday evening. Following the Passout the team were wined and dined in the SNCO’s Mess on the Friday Night again by RSM Gilby and his lovely Wife, Anita.