The last 4 articles published in
the Globe and laurel - latest first.
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.
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.
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 Taw/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 fulfill 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.