John Peel writes: Firstly it is my sad duty to report the passing of WW2 and D Day Veteran Royal Marine, Bill Baverstock. Bill came back into the fold only a few years ago but enjoyed being back part of the Corps family again. He was a bit of a “Jack the Lad” and wasn’t phased by rank, protocol or seniority and not hesitant in “Giving a perspective according to Bill”. However, it was never really that controversial. Bill had never received his WW2 campaign medals, choosing to take the train home to London after his demob rather than waiting to receive them. Through branch Support Officer, Bruce White, this situation was rectified as was the application and approval for the Legion d’Honneur. But when it was mentioned the Honorary Consul to France would be presenting it and would be carrying out the French tradition of welcome he announced, “No bloody Froggy is going to kiss me!” Bill, being given a days leave from his hospital bed, was kissed by the Consul! Never loosing the “Can Do” attitude that seems to be inbred in Royal Marines, Bill wasn’t ever phased by driving his mobility scooter for a day out on the local coastal path chatting to the dog walkers and feeding their dogs with a handful of dog biscuits. Did I mention the day out was a round trip of 20 miles – not bad for a 90 year old. Bill passed away peacefully at home with branch members and friends with him. Bill will be sadly missed, a great character who we were glad to have been able to reintroduce to the Corps family, provided friendship and support to and make those finals years enjoyable – stand down Royal your duty is done.
Onto happier events – the Autumn period is always a busy time for the branch. Not withstanding family preparations for the festive season the Branch had our November Branch gathering, 3 Remembrance Parades, 2 Christmas Parties and 11 days collecting for our Annual Christmas Appeal.
The Branch gathering in November saw 27 members enjoy a PAYD meal followed by a little branch business and a film about the US Army Amphibious Assault Training for D Day on Braunton Burrows. Special guest for the evening was USMC Veteran and branch member John Bigwood who was over for the week from the US. John had enjoyed visits to CLR, CTC and 11ATT and attended CLR Remembrance Parade as well as laying a wreath at the Bideford Remembrance Parade ably assisted by branch Ladies, Nita Marshall and Liz Gingell. At the meeting John received a branch plaque and the journal about the History of the Royal Marines. As Jenny Staines had had her picture published in the G&L and it being mentioned that you can be “Crated” for this she presented the gathering with a bottle of Pussers Rum. So following Binyons Lines from Roger Staines we all toasted Absent Friends.
On the 8th November the branch attended the CLR Remembrance Parade on the beach at Crow Point, Braunton Burrows after which we moved to the Memorial Garden at RMB Chivenor where Finlay McCulloch and Bob Martin laid wreaths representing the RMA and USMCL. On Remembrance Sunday the branch had representatives at 6 Parades around North Devon with the main group attending the parade at Bideford where wreaths were laid on behalf of the branch and USMCL. That afternoon the WW1 Commemoration Beacon Lighting event took place at Pollyfields Community Centre, Bideford organised by branch members Pat Fergusson, ably supported by Bob Fergi. The branch stand was there and a display of WW1 RM related photos, a Tombola for the kids and bookstall of military books. Never wanting to miss a chance a bucket was on hand and £50 was raised for the RMC and £34 for the branch from the sale of the books. The Beacon Lighting took place at 1900 followed by a reception. Prior to the days activities starting the Bideford Youth Piper Band had marched across Bideford Old Bridge playing the Battle’s O’er. Branch members Bob Winsolw and Bob Fergi were on had to marshal.
In December the branch, with excellent support from CLR, carried out a round of bucket collections for Royal Marines Charities. This is the 11th or 12 year this has happened and is now a firm fixture in the branch calendar. In all 15 branch members, supported by around 10 personnel from CLR, raised over £6,600 for the Charity. Include accumulated “Tin” money we will be able to send over £8,300 to the Charity.
Interspersed around our collections a group of us attended the Mess Christmas Ball, the standard was on parade on the waterfront at Devonport at the annual Memorial Service for Cpl Sheard of Operation Frankton (Cockleshell Hero’s) fame and we held our annual branch Christmas Party. The Branch Christmas Bash was yet again a great success with 64 members and their guests enjoying a 3 course meal including a carvery with “Santa’s Little Helpers” our Elfettes - WO2 Jacko Jackson RM and former WO2 and Mr Vice Col Shearsby RM - on hand to assisted where necessary. As usual we had the mandatory Presidents Picture Quiz - this year catering for the male contingent that only watch football on TV with the addition of Football Club emblems, the Irish Bingo with a £50 cash prize and 2 hours of excellent entertainment from “Crooner” Steve Valentine. Our thanks to Mrs Raffle – Fran Rivenberg and her Chief Rafflette – Jacky Peel and their helpers on the night for an outstanding raffle as always. There were 20+ quality prizes with the branch benefiting by £700 in takings.
Finally, albeit belated, the North Devon Branch hopes everyone had a Hoofing Christmas and may the coming year be a happy, safe and healthy one for you all.