John Peel writes: Firstly I can report that former RM Dennis Hannen who “Crossed the Bar” in March this year in Spain returned home to the UK. On the 17th September a small contingent from the Branch, the standard, a bugler from the Plymouth Band, friends and family accompanied Dennis’s widow Sue on Dennis’s final journey on board a Landing Craft from 11 ATT, Instow out into the Tor/Torridge Estuary where his ashes were scattered.
With the return of Logs Regiment in early September, the WO&SNCO’s Mess held their annual Beerfest. Branch members took advantage of the excellent value for money and enjoyed the Mess hospitality, unlimited liquid refreshment, BBQ and bands. Later that month there was the first Joiners and Leavers of the term, with branch members again being made welcome by the new RSM, WO1 RSM Liam Dowthwaite RM and his Mess members in the new “Scruffs Bar”. As always, an enjoyable evening with the branch being very successful with the raffle.
With this year being RAF 100 a group of Ex RAF bikers took it upon themselves to ride around current and former RAF stations in UK. With RMB Chivenor being RAF Chivenor in a former life they contacted the branch to arrange a visit, a request we were able to fulfil and they had a pleasant “Pit Stop” hosted by Jacko Jackson.
The main event of September was the annual RMA Reunion/Corps Families Weekend with around 12 members having an enjoyable weekend. Richie and his team had obviously worked hard to continue to develop the weekend and this was evident. The highlight of the event is always the band concert, buffet dance and parade on the Sunday and these didn’t disappoint. It seems North Devon has scared off the opposition, as fewer teams entered the Branch Quiz. However I can report success for the branch, coming 1st and 2nd and retaining the trophy. Come on branches lets make a challenge of it next year!
September also saw branch members supporting the local community in Barnstaple. First up was a small team with transport turned to at 0700 on both the Saturday and Sunday of the Barnstaple Carnival Weekend to help the organisers put out crowd control barriers. Being good Bootnecks the team arrived at 0655 but no sign of the organisers who rolled in at 0800. Anyway the task was completed in half the time it has taken in previous years. I’m sure our assistance will be requested again next year.
At the end of September 15 branch members had another early start as we were to patrol the airfield at Chivenor, directing the runners during this year’s Barnstaple Marathon. We counted them all on and counted them all off. The ladies, ably assisted by Paul “Jan” Newland with his ghetto blaster were a welcome sight half way round with entertainment and refreshments. One notable dit was that Unit CO, Lt Col Alderson RM, must have had a late night before the race as he didn’t have time to change into his phys kit and was running in half Lovett’s and beret. However, it didn’t slow him down, beating all the youngsters from the unit who had entered the race – absolutely hoofing. Following another successful evolution, co-ordinated by WO2 Jacko Jackson with his usual efficiency the cheque presentation and photo shoot was completed the following Wednesday with Logs receiving a cheque for £1000 for the Memorial Garden Fund and the Branch £200 for marshalling duties – and we get to do it all again next year!
We have had 2 branch meetings this period. In September after the usual scan and Branch business we had an excellent talk by Bruce White on the Deal Bombing – it being nearly 30 years since the tragic loss of 11 RM Bandsmen. In October we ventured into something new for the branch. We celebrated the Corps birthday. Now some may say – a heinous crime not acknowledge this key Corps date in the past – accepted - this has now been rectified. However, being a Tri-Service branch we had to keep our other cap badges happy so combined the evening with the Army, Navy and Air Force by commemorating WW1, Trafalgar and RAF 100 with short vignettes and music provided by the Appledore Band. Of course we saved the best until last and WO2 Jacko Jackson RM, who believe it or not was the youngest serving Warrant Officer in the Mess (don’t let that fool you into thinking Jacko is a “Sprog” even though he would like to think so, read out the Convening Order and toasted the Corps in the appropriate manner with a tot of Pussers Rum.
October 13th saw a group set up in B&M Barnstaple for the 2nd year of the B&M Challenge. B&M are huge supporters of Royal Marines Charities having 7 “Tins” situated at their check out tills. This produces significant returns from their customers and although a great deal of copper - the frequent emptying and replacing of the “tins” has resulted in donations of over £600 for RM Charities in just over 18 months. This year’s staff challenge replicated the distance cycled by the Tour of Britain race when they came to Devon, but on a static bike with branch members doing the bucket rattling. This was primarily the staff’s challenge. So acknowledging that on the busiest day of the week the staff were working their normal shift as well, the achievement of 211Kms completed and over £574.00 raised for RM Charities was outstanding.
John Peel writes: As always we remain busy. First up was our annual deployment to Sainsbury’s, Barnstaple to beat ourselves up with 5 days of free phys in aid of RM Charities. After 12 hours a day on 2 Watt Bikes, having cycled the equivalent distance from John O’Groats to Lands End and back via RM Units clocking up over 2200 miles, we raised just over £6500. A total of over 50 serving and retired personnel turned to over the week to make this happen. Special thanks to the boys and girls of CLR, who had recently returned from their annual verification deployment, Green Dragon, 11 ATTRM who covered a 2 hour slot each day, former Corps RSM Phil Gilby and members of the RMA Cycle Branch – Morph, George, Jan Newland (now a branch member) who all put in huge chucks of time on the bike to the detriment of their under-carriage, supporting branch members in this endeavour – and we get to do it all again next year - Yeah!
We have had 2 branch nights – July and August. Both events were well attended and support for our raffles was outstanding. The first was our annual BBQ in July at the Hoof Inn and my thanks to the Corporals of CLR for allowing us to use their club. Special mention goes to John Davis who received an Unsung Hero’s award for his services to the branch and to Stephen Boden and Richie Bray who cooked the BBQ without cremating the offerings. Also thanks to Roli Jones who did a wild salmon cooking demo over an open fire. In August with the Unit on leave we got free access to Bideford Rugby Club where some of our “Older and Bolder” who live in that area took the opportunity to attend. There was a subsidies buffet provided, the usual bit of branch business and a game of bingo and quiz. It was good to see the wives of some of our members who don’t normally attend branch meeting.
A group of 10 of us had a hoofing evening at the Mess Summer Ball, one of the best we have been to. The theme was Fun at the Fair and there were a number of fairground rides to entertain the guest– and being on the dodgems after a few scoops was an experience! This was RSM Tim Jukes last outing and I believe he ensured he enjoyed this last Hoorah at CLR’s WO&SNCO’s Mess. It was noted the RSM can throw a mean hoof around the dance floor.
The branch stand and shop turned to support 11ATT RM, Instow, Families Day. An excellent event again with our other RM Unit here in North Devon – and thankfully the weather stayed fair. We managed to raise £86 towards the Long Swim (and RM Charities) and sold around £219 of stock from the RMA shop. Roli, rucked up with his Field Craft Road Show and entertained the visitors with demonstrations of fire lighting etc. A good turnout of support from branch members and a great day. It was noted a couple of members were with the “Last Men Standing” Club as darkness closed in around this sleep backwater of the Corps – no names etc.
Our, now, annual outing to The Mariners Arms in Braunton took place in August. 15 branch members went along to support this small fundraiser, manning the Splat the Rat, The Stocks, Tombola, Raffle, RMA Shop and Branch stand. The Branch stand also had WO2 Jacko’s full deployment kit (which looked pretty unused!!!) and our now resident former RM Chef, Stephen Bowden cooking up rations for the punters to sample. The pub laid on a band and BBQ. A slow start with the North Devon mizzal forcing the stands to relocate in doors – it did dry up and more people came along. Not the biggest event in the world but a good PR exercise and those who attended were very supportive. We raised £281.93 for RM Charities and sold £57 pounds of merchandise from the RMA shop.
And finally The Long Swim 2018. On Tuesday 21st August branch Chairman, John Peel with support from two RAF veterans moved to a lake in the Braunton area where they set up camp for 12 hours. The aim was to swim half hour stints or 1 mile (6 laps) which ever was the longer up and down a fresh water lake for 12 hours. Avoiding the pondweed and variety of wildlife who felt we were intruding into their home they completed our mission successfully between 0700 and 1900. It can be confirmed that no-one swam for less than 30 minutes and in all cases at change over the person finishing still had half a lap or so to go so two swimmers were in at that time. The owners advised the team that their estimate on the length of the lake was short of the official length, as measured by laser. So taking off about 30 metres where the turn buoys were positioned the actual distance covered by the swimmers was nearer to 30 miles. The fund raising target of £1000 for the RMC has been achieved. But there are those in the Corps Family who will always need our support. So if you still want to boost this total, it is not too late to make a donation, however small, to www.justgiving.com/fundrasing/john-peel2 .
John Peel writes: Firstly I have to report the loss of one of our Associate members who passed recently having been ill for some time. John Carr was an Army Commando with the Royal Signals. He went ashore from landing craft with 3 Cdo Brigade at Suez. He also trained Ghurkhas in Nepal. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.
The branch held their AGM in May. As usual the evening started with a meal before moving to the Ajax Bay Room for the meeting. After a moments silence to remember those who had passed in the last 12 months we welcomed Clifford Coates and Jennifer, his daughter, Derek and Marj Sargent and Pete Phillips. It is always good to see those who can’t make many meetings. 28 members listened to reports on the branch year from the Chairman, an address on the RMA as a whole from our President, Derek Sargent, followed by the voting in of our branch officers and approval annual accounts. The only officer to stand down was our Treasurer, Fran Rivenberg. Fran has been treasurer for 4 or 5 years and has decided to take a break from “bean counting” responsibilities. She will continue as Chief Rafflette and has offered to do other admin jobs as and when. The Chairman and branch members thanked Fran for her time as Treasurer and welcomed long time branch member Susan McCulloch into post.
A small group with the branch standard attended the Graspan Parade. For those other RMA members who attended you will know this is always a great event with an excellent reception back at the UJC afterwards.
Back at CLR there was a change of format at the annual Ajax Bay Mess Dinner. This year the Mess held a Boxing Dinner. The boxing was organised by branch member Brain Mulholland with around 130 guests on tables of 10. An excellent dinner with wine was enjoyed by our group and some great entertainment by the boxers who represented Barum Boxing, CLR and 24 Cdo RE. Branch members also attended 2 Joiners and Leavers where we returned to winning ways with the raffle and Mess games – always a good evening and made very welcome by the Mess.
Back to London at the end of the month where the standard was on parade again to welcome the Royal guest to Beat Retreat by the Massed Bands. Another excellent spectacle and thankfully the predicted rain didn’t materialise. Following the musical extravaganza it was back to Lancaster House for the Corps Reception. The following day Branch Vice Chairman, Colin Shearsby, had his Top Table. WO1 (RSM) Phil Gilby presided over this mini marathon. At around 1900 Mrs Sec – Sue Shearsby – decided the ladies should have their own Top Table. And so a large group – of which a number were branch lady members – descended on SQ’s in Braunton for cocktails and dinner. Those with stamina then rucked up at the Mess at around 2200 to join the celebrations of Colin’s 37 years in the Corps.
In June 14 branch members plus a small number from Torbay met at 11ATTRM, Arromanche Camp, for a day out with the Squadron. Following an interesting brief from Major Martyn Heenan RM the group moved outdoors to be shown various vehicles on base and have a go in the dip tank. Following scran we moved to Zeta Berth, boarded an LCT for a trip up the “Trot”. An ORC was also deployed which then took groups of 6 for a quick spin and some fancy boat handling by the Coxswains. Meanwhile the remainder were landed at Crow Point with the former Royal’s amongst the group itching to recreate “Down Ramp – Out Troops” but at a more sedate pace and no hitting the deck! All in all a great day out, good food, good weather and good fun. Our thanks to those at Instow RM.
On the 9th June 77 members and guests turned to at the WO&SNCO’s Mess on the occasion of our annual Regimental Dinner. The Top table included distinguished guest Brigadier Richard Spencer CBE, WO1 (RSM) Phil Gilby MBE RM, WO1 (RSM) Tim Jukes RM, Maj Luke Davies, CLR 2 I/C & Maj Martyn Heenan RM, OC 11 ATT. Following Mess Beatings by the Bideford Youth Pipe Band we sat for an excellent dinner. There was the usual entertainment in the way of some port fines, an excellent raffle, presentations to Dave Rowland for his support to the branch and RSM Tim Jukes who is due to go on draft in July. RSM Tim presented the branch with a picture. With the milestone of leaving the Corps after 37 years, Mr Vice and Mrs Sec – Team Shearsby - were quaiched. Following the Chairman’s report there was an excellent address from the Brigadier. A point of note was in Brigadier Richard’s time in the Corps he had never taken the salute at Mess Beating by a pipe band – another 1st for North Devon! He presented the branch with a silver Cdo dagger for services to the RMA. Retiring to the bar and disco the last to leave dragged themselves off at 0330.
John Peel writes: The branch has held 2 meetings since our last missive. In March 25 members had Gammon Steak for scran and the Mess was decked out with Happy Birthday wishes to our Mrs Sec, Sue Shearsby. She insists she is 59 + 1! Prior to commencing the business section of the evening there was a birthday cake with candles and mandatory singing of Happy Birthday. In April 28 members attended with BBQ chicken on the menu. This was the first trail of the new reduced format for branch business, before we listened to WO2 Jacko Jackson give an overview of life at CLR. Sadly we also showed our respects with moments reflection for the passing of branch member Bob Winslow’s wife Pauline who took ill and died very suddenly recently. As always our thoughts are with Bob and his family at this sad time.
A brief correction about our Mr Vice – it seems they can’t trust him with a gun on the gate so have dressed him as the proverbial Commissionaire in peaked cap, shirt and tie and Hi-Viz jacket. He still gets to say “Who goes there” and is in charge of pressing the buttons for lifting the barrier as well! He has recently been reported to have requested some of our lady members vacate their vehicle to be stripped searched!
Last month a group of us transited to the capital to attend MFM on the Saturday night. Travelling up on the Friday we got to attend the “Ceremony of the Keys” at the Tower of London, hosted by the Corps RSM. Former RM and Yeoman Warden, Andy Merry gave us an amusing tour of the Tower with the usual anecdotes about less than successful beheadings - a great evening and great hospitality in the Warden’s Mess. On the Saturday, after a trip up the Shard, posh nosh in a local French restaurant in Kensington, we took our seats in boxes for the concert – outstanding as usual. The weekend was rounded off by a few wets back at the hotel where most of the Corps appeared to congregate.
We had 4 other outings this period. A small team deployed to Wilko’s Barnstaple with bike, buckets and gizzits and spent the day cycling. With support from the staff we cycled around 250km and raised £817.00. This money formed part of our obligation to help RM Colin Reynolds raise the £2k he pledged to get the RM Charity place in this year’s London Marathon. I am pleased to report between North Devon and Colin the target was reached and some. Colin, now only has to complete the 26.2 miles in a GOOD time.
As part of our commitment to support the local community WO2 Jacko Jackson, our CLR Unit Liaison and I held 2 “Meet the Marines” evenings for groups of disadvantaged kids. Jacko brought his field kit, I showed a DVD and we let them sample the modern day field rations – boil in a bag etc. The kids were great and seemed to enjoy what we had to offer.
Early April we were invited to go to Castle Combe Race Circuit near Bristol for a Track Day. This came about as members Roger and Jenny Staines met a “Petrol Head” who used to fly jets off aircraft carriers – (yes -we had jets flying off carriers once!!!). Christopher Darwin runs a number of events like this annually. He gets a bunch of like minded “Petrol Heads” to turn up with their very speedy vehicles, pay a fee, and spend the day hurtling around a circuit at great speed. The money raised is donated to various military related charities. As a consequence of Roger and Jenny’s chance meeting it was suggested RM Charities could benefit. So for the princely sum of a £20 per head donation we set to arranging for a small group of serving RM’s from CLR and branch members to spend the day as passengers in these cars. As a first outing we secured the support of the outgoing and incoming RMA CEO’s Messers Brigadiers Mike Ellis and Richard Spencer. Richard pointed out that with CLR and North Devon plus wives, girlfriends, a very young cadet/son of Royal, a “Green Lid” reservist from RMR Bristol – son of Mike and a “Green Lid” YO at week 30’ish at CTC – son of Richard - the group of 20 of us pretty much covered the entire Corps Family. The drivers really enjoyed our attendance, saying it gave relevance to the day and Mike Ellis received a cheque for £1000 for RM Charities. It is actually likely this amount will increase to nearer £12-1500. A fun day out, flying the Corps flag and raising some cash for the RMA. A big thank you to Chris Darwin, the drivers and especially to Maria Fisher and her team at Castle Combe who provide the facilities and made us feel so welcome. We hope to make this an annual event.
Final outing of the period was another none fund raising community event at RHS Rosemoor here in North Devon. Again the serving RM’s from Logs Regiment and retired Corps teamed up to talk survival, demo cooking and generally have a bit of banter with the public. This year we took the RM Shop with us to see if we could peddle some RM related merchandise. Of course we had a couple of buckets strategically placed to relieve the public of their loose change. The shop sold £118 of RM memorabilia and the buckets took £113 in donations. It wasn’t a fundraiser so taking a bit of loose change was a bonus.
The branch have had 2 evenings since December, both supported by around 25 of the usual suspects. In January following scran and branch business we held a quiz and February saw us holding our second Mini Burns Supper. We employed the voluntary services of 1 proper Jock and 1 Devon Jock. Bob Fergie recited – from memory – the “Ode to the Haggis” which was humanly killed before our very eyes. Bob also returned to recite some of Burns’s poems. Our musical entertainment was provided by branch friend Mike Harper, who piped the Haggis in and out and tickled his pipes after the dinner. A great evening, which will be expanded on next year. As usual, the raffles were well supported.
The results of our annual Christmas Appeal were again outstanding. With great support from branch and 34 personnel from Commando Logs we collected over £6000 from the North Devon public. Adding monies accumulated in our Charity Account throughout the year we were able to donated £7303.35 to the RMA. We requested donation be made from this to BLESMA and the RNBT £500.00 each, £300.00 to SSAFA North Devon and £1000.00 toe CLR Welfare with the balance of £5003.35 going to RMA funds. These requests were approved. As always we took no monies to operate the branch.
We held our 3rd outing of our Seniors Annual Lunch at the Barnstaple Hotel. A group of 24 enjoyed a Welcome drink, 2-course lunch and coffee, a few words from the Chair and the President and a good chat amongst old friends. Mrs Chair and assistant rafflette, who never misses an opportunity to run a raffle, was there catching everyone on arrival.
At the end of the month a small group of branch members attended the first Joiners and Leavers of the year at the WO&SNCO’s Mess. As usual, we were made very welcome and had an enjoyable evening of banter and the opportunity to go home with a couple of prizes.
The Branch year will soon start ramping up with trips to MFM and Graspan, as well as a number of fund raising endeavours starting with a 7-hour team static bike challenge at Wilko’s Barnstaple in aid of RM Colin Reynolds, who is hard at it training to run the London Marathon for the Royal Marines Charity. We are also hoping to host some disadvantaged kids at RMB Chivenor and fly the RMA flag at various community events throughout our area. More about those in future articles.
Finally, our Vice Chair – WO2 Col Shearsby – having had an illustrious career in the Corps enters the world of Civvy Street. I am sure there will be many reports of events to celebrate his retirement but to kick off his life as a “Mr” those serving at RMB Chivenor can sleep easy as Colin is brandishing an SA80 on the gate and has been practising those immortal words “Halt - who goes there?”
Peel writes: November’s
branch meeting saw 30 members attend the WO&SNCO’s Mess with 22
apologies. Following the usual scran we
sat down to branch business. The Chairman
welcomed Susan and Finlay McCulloch who have moved back to North Devon. It is great that we will see more of them. We also welcomed Mike and Jackie New. Mike served at Commando
Logs and on Tx’ing he eventually ended up in the Plymouth area. Mike has always been an active member of the RMA, being Regional Trustee as well as sitting on various Branch Committees. He and Jackie were hugely active with the Plymouth branch. They are settling in back in the area – welcome Mike and Jackie. Following Branch Business we rolled back the years for the “Green Lids” amongst us and showed a DVD of Chris Terrill completing the Commando Tests prior to embedding in the Brigade in Afghan. The raffle raised £92.00 for branch funds.
November also saw the branch attend various Remembrance Parades. The main event was at the Memorial Garden at RMB Chivenor with Cdo Logs. 20 members and the branch standard shared the parade with the men and women of the Unit. Our President, Derek Sargent, laid a wreath on behalf of the RMA. Following the parade it was back to the Mess for a Carvery Lunch and social with the Seniors. We also had representatives at 4 other local parades laying wreaths on behalf of the branch. As usual Tom and Fran Rivenberg and Brian Mullholland ventured to the Cenotaph in London with BLESMA and the RAF Association respectively. They were all pinged on TV – and were crated for the privilege.
December has always been a busy month for the branch and this year was no exception. We had arranged supermarkets collection s for our Annual Christmas Appeal. So on 4th December we relocated to Tesco, Braunton. Over the next 2.5 weeks we carried out collections in Morrison’s Bideford, Tesco Ilfracombe and the Pannier Market/High Street in Barnstaple. In all 62 hours collecting with 20 branch members and 24 serving RM’s from CLR. We collected over £6,000 – this figure to be finalised when our Treasurer has got over her Christmas indulgence. So it is hoped with funds already held on account we should be able to send around £7000 to Central Office to divide between charities supporting Royal Marines. As ever the North Devon public and the staff in our local supermarkets were hugely generous and supportive of this essential work to help improve the lives of those in the Corps Family less fortunate than ourselves.
Another little funds raiser, which the branch has been involved with, is supporting RM - Colin Reynolds who is representing The Royal Marines Charity at next years London Marathon. He has pledged to raise £2000. Utilising branch friends and local contacts to date we have boosted his fund by around £900. One event arranged by USMCL and branch member, Bob Martin raised £300 from a raffle he ran at the Ilfracombe and District Community Transport Company’s Chrsitmas Party. Our sincere thanks to Bob and his team.
Christmas is party season and the branch played their part. We had a group at the WO&SNCO’s Mess Christmas Ball and I can report that as this was the last Mess Christmas Ball our 2 I/C WO2 Colin Shearsby would be attending while he is still serving he partied, Oh did he partie!
By kind permission of the CO, our branch Christmas Bash was held in the Officers Mess again. As it was still term time the Mess was still decked out for Christmas, which was a bonus. 66 members and guests enjoyed a starter, 2 meat carvery Christmas Dinner and dessert + some nibbles at the table and in the bar. Entertainment during the dinner included the traditional Presidents Picture Quiz, Irish Bingo and “Santa’s Little Helpers” were on hand to assist with helping our more senior members transport their food mountains back to their places without any spillages. On the signal the Chairman stood to call the “Helpers” in expecting Mr Shearsby and Mr Taylor to enter clad in gnomes outfits. However what followed was certainly not what everyone was expecting as Colin and Spud leapt into the dinning area in “French Tarts” attire with their footwear being the only representation of gnomes! The rest of the evening could have been dominated by these two fine examples of the Corps Senior Non-Commissioned Officers. However, we had crooner Steve Valentine entertain us all with Christmas classics from the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole etc. This definitely went down well and so Steve slid seamlessly into more modern music from the 50’s and 60’s – well modern for the average age of the attendees anyway. An outstanding evening with the stayers leaving around 2am
Finally on behalf of the Branch may I wish all our readers a Safe and Happy 2018.