The last 4 articles published in
the Globe and laurel - latest first.
Yet again it is my sad duty to report that Associate Branch Member, Sylvia Lindsay passed away last year. Sylvia has been a hugely enthusiastic supporter of the branch in support of her husband and former RM John, attending as many meetings and function as possible. In recent months her health hasn’t been brilliant and as John’s health has also been fluctuating they have both had to cut back a great deal on what they would have liked to do. Sadly we were just starting to put some additional support in place to ensure they enjoyed their twilight years. A lesson learned – don’t leave asking for help too long. John has good support around him though. Our thoughts are with John and the family at this sad time.
Yet another busy period for the branch – but when is the North Devon Branch not busy?
On Monday 24th June there was the now annual Flag Break Ceremony for Armed Forces Week held by the local Council. We play an active part in this ensuring the short march to the Park goes off well and the services runs smoothly. A good branch turnout with uniform support from 11 ATT Instow. One small comment was that the service is becoming more of a Remembrance and not a celebration. It is hoped this may change next year.
This year we are supporting serving Cpl Matt Mason in his epic challenge to raise a huge amount for the RM Charity as well as Plastic Ocean UK by rowing the North Atlantic from Brooklyn Bridge, New York to Tower Bridge London in 2020. There will be a team of 4 with 3 former RM’s who served with Matt in Afghan and they intend rowing unsupported, carrying all supplies with them. In the run up to the event Matt as carried out some smaller challenges – a channel swim with a team of 4, the classic Commando 30 Miler, the 3 Peaks, a swim across an number of lakes in the Lake District to mention a few. He and the team also intend to hold a number of Corporate Dinners. So we are providing manpower to help Matt at various venues throughout North Devon. Having provided bodies for his first outing to Asda this time we took the entire branch stand and his boat to Ilfracombe Gig Regatta. We had great support from the public and raised £569.00. It was good to meet 2 more of the team. We have also co-arranged attendance at the Bideford Water Festival and the Braunton Big Bash. So including Matt’s trip to RNAS Yeovilton Air Show we have helped raise over £2k towards his target of £30K for RM Charities. We have a few more scheduled outings with Matt in the coming months – Sea Ilfracombe, Tesco and Asda collections and a B&M Challenge not to forget s sharing bucket rattling at Princes Hey Exeter, hopefully with the Exeter and Exmouth Branches.
The branch deployed to Sainsburys, Barnstaple in July for our annual “Free Phys” session for the Royal Marines Charity. Over 5 days at 12 hours per day a mix of around 80 serving personnel from 11 ATT and CLR and 25/30 branch members (with a guest appearance and mammoth cycle session from Team Gilby) we ran and cycled across the Atlantic. The public were brilliant and staff hugely supportive of our efforts. The total raised was over £7400 and we get to do it all again next year.
On the last day we had to double up our Resource as we had been asked to run the bar at 11 ATT, RM Base Instow for the Staff Party. The aim was to ensure the serving detachment at Instow were able to relax and enjoy the evening without having any duties. It work really well and again demonstrates how the new and the “Old and Bold” have integrated here in North Devon. Not the reason we took on this task after an full on week at Sainsbury’s, but Sgt Joe Long and his bosses at Instow had pledged that 50% of the profits on the night should be allocated to the RMA-Royal Marines Charity. We also ran a small Tombola, which raised £50 for the branch. So a great night, great company and benefit to the Charity.
In July the Branch had a table of 8/9 at the WO&SNCO’s Summer Ball. The theme was Festival. A full on buffet and plenty of drinks on the table along with a good band and disco made for a great evening with our serving colleagues. Free transport (well nothing’s free I know) but included in the cost of the evening was minibus transport to and from the venue – so no having to suffer the bunks in the Mess, which are just about past there sell by date – particularly for my “Old Bones”. Thanks to the Mess Committee for the invitation.
The usual branch nights in July and August and as the Unit are on leave we deployed to our summer venues away from the Mess. In July by kind permission of the Cpl Committee we moved to the Hoof Inn, RMB Chivenor where we held our annual BBQ. Around 38 members enjoyed the food expertly cooked by former RM Chef Stephen Boden supported by ex Army Catering Corps WO1 Jimmy Headrick and the £1 bar was run very smoothly by Ex Matelot Bob Winslow and serving Cpl Sam “Dibs” Dibble. At the BBQ we welcomed new members to the branch Jeff and Jacqui Phipps who have just moved to North Devon – welcome. In August the Summer Buffet and Games Night was held at Bideford Rugby Club with 30 attending. Duty bingo caller – Jacko – did a better job than the chair but still needs some extra curricula training on what call goes with what number. The Chair ran a quiz and the eventual tiebreaker was won by Team Grenny, who donated their cash prize back to the branch. Both evenings were well attended and all seemed to enjoy themselves.
Finally congratulations to branch members Tom and Fran Rivenberg who celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary recently. We are surprised Fran has put up with Tom that long! Seriously well done to them both and let’s have many more.
Firstly it is my sad duty to inform you all of the passing of former RM15875 Gerry Scoins. Although not a branch member, he came onto our radar when the Funeral Directors were trying to get a bugler to sound last Post at his funeral. As we do we went further and provided the branch standard and an Honoir Guard to see him over the bar – RM style. His family informed us Gerry had always held the Corps close to his heart – so he was one that got away. Gerry joined the Corps in 1955 and served in 40, 41, 42, RMB Eastney, ITC (as it was then) and HMS Loch Alvie. Operational deployments in the Gulf and Borneo – Gerry died at the age of 80. His family were very grateful for our support at his passing and through this we have managed to spread the word of the RMA and now have a new contact in his widow Edith Scoins.
Our AGM was held in May and the Chair gave an overview of the branch year, the achievements, thank yous and Accounts. The President, Derek Sargent, gave his usual address on the Association developments. Derek also announced he was stepping down from his position as Regional Trustee, Chair and RMA Shop. The branch would like to acknowledge the many years of dedicated service Derek has given to the RMA. Derek did say is priority and focus would still be with the North Devon Branch as our President. We thanked him for his commitment. All officers were re-elected - that is except Team Shearsby. Col and Sue are emigrating to Cumbria and this was their last AGM in post as Secretary and Vice Chair. Sue started her tenure way back in 2008/09 we think. It was that long ago we have lost count of the years. In 2011 Col came on board as Unit Liason and Mr Vice. Both have been hugely loyal to the branch, upheld all that is good with the RMA, supported and guide Mr Chair through the many pitfalls of the office and steered him back on track when he has decided to drift of into his own little world. A massive thank you to Sue and Col and we wish them well on their move North. They do intend to remain with the North Devon branch and with the ties they have down here. So we expect to see them back at least once or twice a year.
Everyone will be aware that it is the 75th anniversary of the D Day Landings. Here on our patch we joined forces with 11 ATT, Instow, part of 1 AGRM who were holding a number of open days for local schools, scout groups and cadets all to do with how the base was involved with Hobart’s Funnies and what they today and into the future. So breaking out our well-used display board, change a few items and get along to Instow for 10 to 12 2-hour sessions talking to the kids about RM and RMA business. A variety of questions challenged our grey matter but we managed to keep everyone happy.
Following the Schools visits a small group of us were fortunate to be selected to travel with the RMA and Corps to Port-en-Bessen to celebrate D Day. This was a great opportunity and well worth the personal cost for the trip. I am sure this will be well documented in other articles so won’t go into detail. However, we had excurions to the battlefields of Normandy, recreated the 12 mile Yomp 47 Cdo took when liberating Port-en-Bessen from the rear after landing on Gold Beach near Arromanches, a number of parades and receptions in the town, a trip to the main Remembrance Parade at the UK cemetery at Bayeux, finishing off with a trip to the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach. A few wets (one or two or three) and scran with our serving colleagues from CTC, RM Poole and 1AGRM and regular evening spinning dits at the 47 Commando Bar in Port-en-Bessen cemented relationships. A great trip and well organised by Richie, Phil, Anita and Richard to mention the main protagonists.
June saw the branch hold it annual Regimental dinner in the WO&SNCO’s Mess at RMB Chivenor. We never take this privelge for granted and our thanks to WO1 RSM Liam Douthwaite RM for allowing us to invade his Mess for this event. I believe we returned it in one piece. Thanks also to the ESS staff who look after us admirably. 72 members and guests enjoyed Mess Beatings by the Bideford Youth Pipe Band, which were excellent as always, a 4 course dinner, wine and port. After listening to the Chair extolled the virtues of the North Devon Branch and Port fining himself for misdemeanours throughout the year, Richie Puttock gave a “from the heart” address about everything good about the RMA, the RMC, the merger and what we as a Corps Family stand for. One presentation was made and that was to Team Shearsby for services to the branch. Col and Sue received a silver Corps crested bottle stopper, a branch plaque and a pledge to have a “Corps” rose dispatched to their new abode when they had settled in. The chair did mention that the bottle stopper might never be used as it was a rare occurance when a bottle opened in the Shearsby household was left with partially full. In return, and a complete surprise to the Chair, Col and Sue presented the branch with two drinking receptacles – a Quaich for the men and a goblet for the ladies, both engraved. It was noted that except for the RMA Quiz trophy the branch display cabinet is bereft of silverware. The night ended with a discos, where a few of the guests demonstrated their expertise on the dance floor. Last man standing left the Mess at 0300.
Last event this period was 5 members attending the Dartmoor yomp. The weather was excellent with not a drop of precipitation in sight. An excellent jolly with a few wets and Hog Roast in the SNCO’s Mess at 42 Cdo to finished the day.
We had two branch meetings this period. In March 28 members enjoyed the usual PAYD scran of fish, chips and peas followed by duff. We welcomed Matt Mason of Hunted fame, and Michele and Ed Gibbet (family of Neil Gibbet). After the chairman’s usual round of branch business we retreated to the Ajax Bay Bar for an informal talk by Matt on his experiences on Hunted followed by an outline of his planned epic for next year – rowing the Atlantic from New York to London – what is known as the Northern Route. It is planned to support Matt in some fund raising outings this year. April’s meeting saw 30 members attending. Following the usual format we had a challenging Chairman’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” social quiz in the bar. As usual our attending members supported our monthly raffles, which go some way to supporting our branch overheads. Special thanks to Bob Winslow, who offered to commence the occasional “Meat” draw, having run them at his old RNA branch in Swindon for many years. Mrs Chair and assistant Rafflette was very quick to accept his offer. So for the April meeting there was a selection of fine cuts of meat on offer with a joint of lamb being held back for the quiz. As long as there are no reports of “Delhi Bellie” it is hoped to have further meat draws in the future.
This year a group of 19 members, friends and family attended the Mountbatten Festival of Music. Arriving on the Friday afternoon we split up with some going to the “Ceremony of the Keys” at the Tower of London – always an excellent evening, while others explored the nightlife of China Town. On the Saturday again the group split up to do their own thing. As Mrs Sec – Sue Shearsby – had a birthday celebration – her family treated her to a day at the London Aquarium along with other exciting surprises. At around 1630 the group expanded to 25 for pre concert dinner at the now favourite French Restaurant – a stones throw from the Royal Albert Hall. Of we had a few scoops to set the evening off. Arriving in our 4 boxes prior to the commencement a quick foray to the bar for replenishment and we then all sat to enjoy another outstanding concert by the Massed Bands and then back to the Tara Copthorne to enjoy a nightcap or two or three in the main bar, which was, as usual, taken over by the Corps.
Our fund raising season started with a trip to Wilko’s Barnstaple for a days cycling on two static bikes. This is the third year we have done this, including a cycle challenge between BHS and Wilkos 3 years ago. A great day where we interacted with customers and staff, had staff support taking turns to pedal and great branch support. Not a huge event but very worthwhile. We covered 328 miles in 7 hours across the two bikes and collected £909.52. Wilko’s were really pleased to be able to have us in store and have asked us back again later in the year and again next year.
On the 1st April the Chairman visited the local Sea Cadet Detachment in Bideford and gave the first of hopefully a number of presentations to the Cadets. This one was on what it takes to become a RM. Although there were no RM cadets in the detachment those listening appeared to enjoy the evening and a number of questions were raised at the end. As said it is hoped that there will be more visits to try to establish a relationship between the branch and the cadets. This might lead to a helping hand with our events and maybe further down the line establish an RM detachment here in North Devon.
On the 2nd April we ventured into enemy territory – around the Bristol/Bath area for our second Track Day outing. This started last year with a group of serving and former RM’s, wives, girlfriends and families have a free day out experiencing going at speed round a race circuit in high performance cars – all in the name of Corps Charities. This year we repeated the exercise with a group of serving RM’s from Termoli Troop 40 Cdo + personnel from CLR and the branch having a fun day out. Richard Spencer came along early doors to give an overview of what the combined RMA and RMC do and why. It is expected a cheque for around £1000 will go to Royal Marines Charities, money raised from the drivers who pay for the privilege of using the facilities to show off their pride and joys.
On the 4th April Commando Logistic Regiment took advantage of the Freedom of Barnstaple by marching Colours flying, bands playing and bayonets fixed through the street of the town. The branch were invited to attend, although were not able to join the parade and march, did get VIP places near the saluting dais to witness the presenting of the Freedom. Following the parade we were invited back to the Park Hotel for a “Paste and a Pint”. More speeches by the Mayor of Barnstaple and CO which emphasised the importance of the relationship between the Corps family and the Town and in which the branch were mentioned on a number on occasions for the part we play in this relationship. It is heartening to hear that our work here in this little backwater of North Devon doesn’t go unnoticed.
Sadly my first duty is to report the “Crossing of the Bar” of associate branch member Norman Kitchen. Along with wife Paula, Norman enjoyed attending branch meetings and lending his support to our annual bucket collections. He and Paula could be seen in tandem on their motorised scooters with a bucket hanging off the handle bars. Norman served 37 year in the RAF, finishing his time at RAF Chivenor, prior to it becoming RMB Chivenor. As a member of the RAFA he used to frequent the Mess and following the disbanding of the RAFA branch Norman was keen to continue this and so joined our branch. Just before he passed Norman mentioned to Paula that if he had to do it all again he would have preferred to have joined the Royal Marines. The branch will sadly miss Norman. However, Paula intends to continue supporting everything we do.
Following last months Annual Appeal and the “Tin” totals for the year and being ever mindful of the mutli-cap badge membership we have, the branch requested donations to be made to CLR Welfare Hub, SSAFA North Devon, BLESMA, RNBT (all who support serving and former RM’s). These were approved by the Central Office and distributed on behalf of the branch. The balance of £5676.12 was placed in the Royal Marines Charity Benevolence Fund.
The branch had two meetings this period. As the last branch meeting was way back in November, in January, 29 of us dusted off our winter blues and enjoyed an evening catching up. Following a Chicken Kiev dinner we had branch business followed by watching a DVD on the Limbang Raid at the start of the confrontation in Borneo. Why this raid – one of our newer members – John Grebby - was fresh out of training and found himself drafted to L Company, 42 Cdo and very soon travelling upstream to rescue British and Commonwealth Nationals taken hostage by the rebels. It should be noted that unlike operations today, there was little detailed planning for this operation. But typical Royal – they just got on with it. We also have Bob Fergusson, who was with 40 Cdo, and carried out a number of deployments to Borneo during that time.
For the last few years we have held a Mini Burns night in February and this year was no exception. Branch business was brought forward with the “Gathering” piped in to dine at 1900. The format of the evening was a Welcome and Selkirk Grace by the Chairman and although he had a Jock Mother it is thought that as he was speaking in a mild Manck accent it was his bottom half which was “Jock”. Following this the “Haggis” was piped in. For those not familiar with Burns suppers the Haggis then has to be ceremoniously “killed”. This year we had a “newbe” – Jimmy McHeadrick, reciting the Address to the Haggis. A fine Malt was provided as always by JC Bowden and we toasted the Haggis. Talking of fine malt it appears when Mr Headrick was getting instruction from Mr Fergusson at his home; the latter emphasised that for it to sound authentic they should consume vast quantities of the amber nectar. Needless to say neither remember much of the rehearsals. PAYD scran with a side order of Haggis (for those who wanted it) was followed by the Address to the Lassies complete with Toast by Col Sheasby in a genuine Scottish lilt, dessert and Reply from the Lassies with Toast given by Mrs Treash in her Cornish accent but should be said connected to “North of the Board” by husband and genuine “Sporran Swinger” Finlay McCulloch. The final toast of the evening was to the Bard himself, Rabbie Burns, which was scribed by another Jock- Bob Fergie – who was AWOL in Gozo. Now as a branch we don’t profess to be experts at Burns Suppers but we had a very enjoyable evening and did our bit for his Immortal Memory.
In January long time branch member and one of the original RM’s who served in CLR, Finlay McCulloch was invited as a special guest to CLR’s 47th birthday celebrations in the Officers’ Mess at RMB Chivnor. He was surprised but pleased to be met by the CO, Lt Col Aldeiy Alderson RM and the 2I/C, Major Luke Davies RM before being escorted to dinner by Lt Henry McCready RM. It was a very enjoyable evening and Finlay was honoured to be wined and dined by the Officers and SNCO’s of the Regiment.
Finally this period we held our Annual “Seniors” lunch in the Barnstaple Hotel. 30 guests enjoyed a 2 course roast dinner and great company. This event was established 5 years ago to host and stay in touch with members, including our widows, who could no longer get out for our evening branch meetings. Deputy Rafflette & Mrs Chair was on form and those gathered were not only generous with buying raffle tickets but also donating prizes. Everyone is looking forward to next year’s event.