Category Archives: Random Notes

Some random blog entries

A Footnote in History – The Destruction of a Battalion – October 1914

A story close to my heart, the 100th Anniversary. If your touring near Ypres this year, spare thought for these young men……

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Goodbye to All That and Cambrin Churchyard

Not my article. But I know the book and the regiment very well. Well worth a read in this centenary year.

Tommy at War

Robert Graves’ “Goodbye to All That” was published in 1929. Its appearance aroused considerable controversy, not least because parts of its content are undoubtedly a mix of Graves’ best recollections and fiction. A number of men who served with Graves took exception to certain aspects of the book. However, there are passages which give a vivid account of events from World War 1. On the opening day of the Battle of Loos, 25 September 1915, Graves’ battalion, the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, were in support of the Middlesex Regiment and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, who were leading waves in the attack. This was the first occasion on which the British Army had used poison gas and in Graves’ sector its use caused considerable casualties to British soldiers due to the lack of wind. We visited Cambrin and Cambrin Churchyard Extension cemetery on a recent World War 1 tour…

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The Quiet Man!

Ted Jones MM. A quiet unassuming man with a remarkable story.

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Ted Jones MM on the right, pictured with another WW2 Veteran Mr George Beedles RAF.

The man pictured on the right is Mr Ted Jones MM, a Welshpool man who served with 2 RWF in WW2. A remarkable man and a tough lion of a soldier. I started digging into Teds service and was astounded to piece together one story, that until now, its importance was not widely understood.

Many of us connected to his regiment knew that Ted as a Section Commander with 2 RWF won a Military Medal for Gallantry in Burma in 1945. Where in the space of 30 minutes, he single handedly attacked the enemy on two separate occasions, killing a large number and thus prevented his own men and 2nd Battalion comrades from being decimated in a planned enemy ambush.

But! There’s another story…

On June 14th 1940….He joined 11 Independent Company…the forerunner of the commandoes and special forces. We know that at least one other man from the RWF, Mr Hugh Maines also joined this unit.

Ten days later on the evening of the 24 June 1940 at Dover, Ted, Hugh and 113 other men climbed into four RAF search and rescue speed boats, and crossed the English channel to attack 4 objectives, one per boat.

The aim was to kill or capture the enemy and obtain intelligence.

The mission was called “OPERATION COLLAR”. The task was personally sanctioned by Churchill, indeed the officer who dreamt it up; LT Col Clarke, accompanied Ted’s troop in the boat, as an observer.

 

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Ted and Hugh listed together on the 11 Ind Company Orbat.

This was to be the first ever commando style raid, which is what makes it so important and historical. We think Ted’s objective was Stella Plage – Beach.

Teds group landed and was immediately spotted by German sentries. The raiding party opened fire and killed them, which then resulted in a further firefight. Ted and his comrades were stuck on the beach for over an hour, hiding from the German forces, before their boat returned.

The only British casualty was the observer and planner Lt Col Clarke, who suffered a flesh wound from a German bullet.

By the time they had got back into the speedboat, they were wet, out of ammunition and only partially clothed. On the way back to Dover, they discovered bottles of Rum in the boat and made short work of them….Ted tells me the boys were quite boisterous by the time they reached Dover and the Military Police had to be deployed! It sounds like an scene from “The Dirty Dozen”….But its all true.

The operation only had mixed success, but it had opened up the possibilities and it convinced Churchill that units like this, with the best training and weapons could be devastating against the enemy. Within 12 months the Commando’s were in action.

Hugh Maines remained with the Commandoes for the rest of the war. Post-War, Hugh returned to the RWF. He was CSM B Coy 2RWF during the Malaya Emergency in the early 1950’s. He retired from the regiment in the early 1960’s

After a hard fought war, Ted Jones MM returned to Welshpool to lead the life of a peaceful farmer

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Burma Star Veterans AGM 2014 – National Memorial Arboretum

Sometimes you have days you know that you’ll never forget. Yesterday was one such day for me.

The Welshpool Branch of The RWF Comrades Association, escorted two of their Burma Star Veterans; Harold Jones & Ted Jones MM to the Burma Star AGM, held at the National Memorial at the Arboretum, Stafford. Seven of us in total, all from different eras of the regiments history. On arrival our two boys were immediately approached by Viscount Slim and Lady Slim. The lads were so pleased and they all happily had a picture taken together.

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Harold & Ted MM with Viscount and Lady Slim

A short time later the boys attended the AGM escorted by myself and another “younger” veteran, looking around there was about 50 people in the hall, with about 10-15 of them actual holders of The Burma Star….Years ago, the Association would have in excess of 3000 men sitting down for the AGM!! Today the meeting was addressed by Viscount Slim, son of “Uncle Bill”, himself a soldier of pedigree, Gurkhas, SAS etc . You can see that Lord & Lady Slim thoroughly enjoy meeting up with these old soldiers.

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Viscount Slim addresses the Burma Star AGM 2014

We then attended a short service at the Burma Grove, whereupon Harold laid a wreath in remembrance of ALL Royal Welchman who never returned from the Far East conflict. Later as a Branch, we gathered together at the RWF Memorial Tree, as Ted MM laid a wreath in remembrance of all the Welshpool men of the regiment who never returned.

The Welshpool Branch

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Ted MM & Harold at the Burma War Memorial

Ted and Harold were brilliant company, two old soldiers, who speak the same language as us more modern versions, the same jokes and punchlines, knowing nods as we pass a pretty girl, plenty of mickey-taking and a genuine expression of happiness of being around other Royal Welchman. They are impressive men and on days like this you get a glimpse into their characters. Priceless.

That is all.

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May 22, 2014 · 10:23 am

The Battle of Kohima – 70yrs On

The Battle of Kohima: Sitrep 1RWF(Royal Welch Fusiliers) 2 May 1944 – 2200hrs

At 1800hrs yesterday evening 2 x Hurribombers (Converted Hurricanes), bombed and strafed Kukis Piquet. 2 x Bombs landed on the RWF positions on Garrison Hill, additionally C Company and Bn HQ were subjected to friendly fire strafing! 1 x 250lb UXB later detonated by the Royal Engineers.

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Note:

Harold Jones, a current member of Welshpool RWF Comrades Association was at the latrine when the bombing run started. I had a drink with him last night 70yrs on, he’s in good spirits and very healthy for his age. He remembers this night very clearly.

Looking through his written account of the 2nd May 1944 he recalls that the guys had been briefed that anyone above ground after dark that evening should be considered enemy and shot. So just before dark, he visited the latrine and was making his way to his dugout when the earth in front of him started ripping up. He was spun around and thrown to the ground.

Harold was wounded in the arm. The Padre helped him to the dressing station where he was bandaged up and then placed in a trench, without his weapon, his arm in a sling, to await evacuation in the morning.

During the night the enemy breached Garrison Hill by the cookhouse and although the Fusiliers managed to fight them off. Harold still recalls how scared he was, sat in the bottom of the trench, watching the enemy running past his trench. He describes it as the longest night of his life.

Harold was a signaller with B Company, that wound almost certainly saved his life, over the next three days many of Harold’s friends would die on Kohima Ridge.

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Crufts 2014 – Extreme Showdogs

Yesterday a Standard Poodle won “Supreme Champion 2014”. Now as an owner of a 18 month old Standard Poodle, you’d think we would be well chuffed that our breed is now top dog? Well no actually, I’m very disappointed. I watched the final selection and Ricky the Poodle looked like a bizarre aberration amongst all the other “normal” breeds, who didn’t require the strangest hair-do imaginable, in order to win.

Whilst I’m sure Ricky is genetically 100% top mutt and a fantastically loveable dog, why oh why does the professional show dog world feel its necessary to display a dog with a grooming style that bares no resemblance to the average poodle in the UK or anywhere else for that matter.

I must point out that I’m no dog expert, but I am an average bloke who happens to love his dog and the breed. I also understand the reason why the working poodle breed had certain grooming cuts in its distant past. But where we are now it seems to me, is at the extreme end of the spectrum and its totally unnecessary. Yesterdays win gives poodle show breeders a stamp of approval to carry on….I worry this will only get worse, remember the genetic issues a few years ago, that resulted in the BBC pulling the plug on their coverage, perhaps that mindset still exists?

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Ricky. Supreme Champion 2014 © Daily Mail

I believe the selection of this dog as the winner will further lower its popularity in the UK as a choice for a family pet and that is extremely sad. We are a nation of dog-lovers, but the poodle always ends up being discarded to the “Freak Show” category, because of the publics negative perception of the extreme grooming that the dog show circuit seems to encourage. Its not required and spoils the popularity of a great breed of dog.  If your poodle is routinely in and out of water, being utilised as a working retriever then fair enough, build up the hair around the vital organs, but I do doubt if a working dog would look anything like Ricky. Indeed I would wager Ricky has never even seen a dead duck floating in a reed bed, never mind actually being required to retrieve it.

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© The Independent

The result yesterday will only reinforce the perception of the breed as ostentatious, a powder puff dog, a breed the average person would be embarrassed to walk down the street with.  I think it will also perversely exacerbate the breeding of the cookerpoo, labradoodle, spoodle and various other cross-breeds that have emerged as the popularity of the poodle is further destroyed by the bizarre media images of extreme poodle styling, so beloved by certain sections of the dog show fraternity.

So what about a normal poodle, a rare dog without the bizarre styling.  What are they like?  Well Muttley our standard is about 18 months old, we’ve had him since a pup. He’s big, handsome, boisterous and very loveable. He’s intelligent, quick to learn and very very fit. In terms of grooming he is quite low maintenance. He doesn’t moult which is a huge plus point and we keep his hair fairly short depending on the  time of the year/temperature.  He gets brushed most days, and professionally cut every 2-3 months. We don’t ask for any specific cut, but do stipulate, nothing fancy, a level cut, no pom-poms or any back combing.

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The Winter Coat – The Yeti

We walk him every day 3-5kms, including hard exercise and that really is the biggest commitment, otherwise they can get bored quickly. Basically a loyal, fit active companion, who loves human interaction and touch. When we meet other walkers they almost always stop and chat. Normally the comments will be along the lines of…..

1. Lovely to see a poodle, a rare dog these days, you never see them about do you?

2. Wow, he looks great, I hate all those fancy cuts.

3. Is that a Labradoodle?

4. He looks like a proper dog!

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Chillin with his Mum!

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Learning all about the dangers of height!

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Happy on his holidays

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With his girlfriend Ffion a black lab. Both are retrievers, both designed for water, both very similar in temperament, but only one has an image problem

Maybe sometime in the future, somewhere a show breeder will make a stand and just show the dog as it would be in the average home, just like the spaniels, the labs and all the other much-loved breeds.

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A Conversation with a Kohima Veteran

Not my normal blog entry, and certainly not a glorification of war, but definitely a recognition of ordinary people called on to spend their youth and vitality undertaking terrible tasks, often at odds with the way they would like to live their lives.

Soldiers sometimes recounting military stories with mates will often finish a frightening anecdote with a humorous ” Tell you what mate, I sh** meeself

As ex-forces, last night I went to a regimental comrades branch meeting in Mid Wales. Whilst there I had the privilege of having a beer with a 2nd WW veteran from my old unit. He had fought at the Battle of Kohima against the Japanese in North East India in 1944.   A close, bitterly fought battle with the Japanese that lasted many many weeks, their defensive positions only metres apart.

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The aftermath – Garrison Hill Kohima.

The veteran is now in his 90’s but talks like a 30yr old soldier. A few classic comments about that battle that even today makes you stop and think:

The Japs were so close to us, when they were digging in, their topsoil was landing on our heads”…..He then looked me in the eyes and said “I’m not joking!

There was that many bodies littering the battlefield which they were unable to remove or bury, that the RAF dropped bags of lime soil without parachutes, which then dispersed on impact. Some of the enemy bodies actually formed the trench parapets on the British units trenched positions! The British soldiers unable to remove them, because of the snipers that harassed any movement above ground level.

The veteran was wounded by RAF aircraft strafing the battlefield of Kohima, the evening before his sub-unit was due to launch a daylight attack on an enemy-held feature called Kukis Piquet. He said ” Somebody patched me up, they then stuck me in the bottom of trench until I could be evacuated the next day, during the night the bloody japs broke into our position, I can remember watching them run past my trench…..By god I sh** meeself “( He then laughed!).

He puts his own personal survival down to that wound. He was a company signaller, a specialist role, the guy who replaced him was killed the next day during the assault on Kukis Piquet. The veteran returned to the fight some 6 weeks later with the same battalion and fought all the way through to Mandalay in 1945.

As with many of these guys, they didn’t let the bitterness of war destroy them. He recounted to me that many years later he and another Kohima buddy attended some sort of service commemoration. As they walked in his mate said “Bloody hell there’s a Jap over there!”  The veteran turned to me and said almost apologetically “We had a lot of bad feeling towards them in those days”!  It transpired that the guy was a former Japanese army officer, who had fought in the same areas as the veteran. He recounted that they spent a very pleasant time in each others company swopping stories, even now he could still recall the Japanese soldiers name.

For me? A fantastic gentleman, who had experienced the best and worst of mankind. A real privilege to spend some time with him.

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The battle was fought over a small piece of ground surrounding the District Commissioners Bungalow in Naga. With battle sites named for example “The Clubhouse” and “Tennis Court“…As I said previously the opposing sides were only metres apart. If you look closely at the picture above of the Kohima Memorial and cemetery erected on the site of the bungalow, you can clearly see the markings of the tennis court, thats been left in situ at the foot of the memorial..a sombre reminder of this battle and its ferocity (Image courtesy CWGC/Trekearth)

That is all.

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Fantastic Mr Fox…Not

We are now sharing the garden with a “Skulk” of Foxes…..

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Covering the 3 and 6 o’clock arcs

Now I quite like them, although probably wish they wouldn’t wantonly slaughter anything small, furry or feathered that is unfortunate to cross their path. Still each to its own, but I don’t really want them peeing. poohing and digging up my already patchy garden. So a War of Attrition(humanely fought of course) has began, which I hope will be fought with fairness and honour!!!

Muttley’s not so keen on his usual entrance into the garden “Yahooo..look at me Dad”  by leaping off the top of the patio decking into the garden below. Now he’s a little more cautious, instead he now stands on the decking, sniffs the air and has a good look below, before descending the steps.

I’m hopeful that these young cubs may wander off to pastures new in the next month, as evidenced in the chart below, showing their life cycle. I’m counting on the “Dispersal” bit:

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But as with all competent commanders (I command the potting shed, and the little path), I must plan for war! Total War!

At the moment I’m concentrating on strengthening my defences against the intruders, I’ve already increased the perimeter security, but as seen below, like an extra from the Great Escape, they quickly overcame my efforts. We’ve also identified their exit point, their deception plan is shoddy and that may prove to be their downfall, I’m onto them….

Now we move to the next stage:

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Mr Fox exhibiting a sloppy deception plan, whilst exiting the garden!….Oooh bad drills!

Tomorrow, the first of my offensive equipment arrives…The Repellents. Now I know there is probably more chance of a Psychic being able to speak to the dead, than these products actually working, but its a road I have to travel, my tree hugging friends are watching! So soon I will be deploying “Scoot” and “Get Out of My Garden”.(other products are available). I’m not convinced…More to follow.

That is all.

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October 1, 2013 · 4:54 pm

“Every Little Helps!”

After a months break from the world of blogging, I thought it was probably time for an update. On the motorhome side, we’ve installed an improved TV ariel, this will be crucial during the winter months, as I do need my “Strictly” fix on the run-up to Xmas, although I’m distraught that Flavia’s left the show……Any bloke that tells you he enjoys the interpretation  and choreography of a particular dance on the show is lying!!!!

On a personal level, I’m now officially “Semi-Retired”. After some 10 months of doing absolutely nothing, I picked up myself a little temp part-time job with Britain’s biggest grocer. Spending a couple of induction shifts with a few 16/17yr olds was an enlivening experience “I’m tired, I’ve got school in the morning”and don’t even mention the Till-Training….3hrs of my life I wish to forget about(Shudder). But once that was out of the way, happy days. A couple of 5hr night shifts per week, just me, an aisle of dairy/fresh produce and some stonking 70/80’s music being blasted out over the store tannoy. Life doesn’t get any better than date-rotating yoghurts to the 80s classic sound “AEIOU” by FREEEZ!

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The Badges of Office.

I’m in heaven and really enjoying the experience, no responsibilities, no decision making, just a few hours concentrating on nothing, perfect! The overall aim is to:

  1. Keep me occupied and away from mischief.
  2. Earn a small sum that will cover all the associated running costs of the van.

So far, so good.

Our next trip away will probably be at the end of Sept, somewhere local..ish, just to get back into that winter mode and give the van run out.

Thats is all.

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Day 5 #grandtour13 – A Trip Down Memory Lane!

Yesterday, the “Other Half” prepared for me a small knapsack with sandwiches, a bottle of pop, my camera and a notebook and pencil.  She then gave me a kiss on the cheek, a pat on the head and packed me off to the  Army Tank Museum at Bovington, which is a short walk from the Ponciau Royal Family’s summer residence here in Dorset.

The reason for my visit was to view an old friend who resides in an area of the museum not currently on view to the general public….

“The Manned Moving Target Tank”:

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Now as the name would suggest, this is a tank, that acts as a moving target, thats “Manned“, which is where I fit into the story.  I for a few short, but pant-wetting months back in the early 80’s, used to drive one of these bad boys for a living! Only three of these vehicles were ever produced. The tank was basically a Mk3 Centurian Tank, that had all the apertures and gaps (supposedly) sealed up, some extra armour added and weighed in at 70 tons.

A crew of two would then drive the tank on ranges at Otterburn and Salisbury Plain, whilst being fired  at with various anti-tank missiles and rockets including  Swingfire, Milan, Carl Gustav and LAW. The missiles were inert (i.e. no explosive warhead), but in particular the Swingfire impact was pretty unpleasant, as the rocket had a ballast weight which would inflict damage on softer part of the tanks body, the resulting impact would also cause cordite and flash flames to enter the inside of the turret and drivers compartment, through any gaps. I get the feeling that the boffins who developed this tank, never actually had to use it!

The first time I drove it was in 1982 at Otterburn….The vehicle was low loaded from Warminster, Wiltshire all the way up to Northumberland. It took the movers 48hrs to complete the journey, they even managed to get bogged in the peat as they moved their huge truck across the Otterburn Range road. The move must have cost a bloody fortune!

Once the tank was set up, we would spend 10 days, driving the vehicle on the range, whilst a Swingfire regiment fired their annual allocation of missiles at us from a firing platform 2km’s away. Only one small problem….Me and my buddy had forgot to pack the turret periscopes…oops! This meant two things. Firstly we wouldn’t be able to see when the missile had been launched(pre-warned is always better). Secondly and more importantly, it meant we had two holes on top of the turret, where the periscopes would normally fit, which would allow the nasty explosive bits into our little chamber of safety!…..So lets recap:

1. We’re two lowly squaddies.

2. The army has spent literally £1000’s moving our vehicle from one end of England to the other.

3. 650 men had also been moved to Otterburn and were now eagerly waiting to fire their missiles.

4. We now had two holes in our turret! Where rocket thingys could sneak in.

5. Our bosses reaction if they found out our error and had to cancel the shoot, was likely to be more painful than any Swingfire Missile.

So in the finest tradition of the British Squaddie, we decided not to say anything to anyone and take our chances with the Swingfire missiles….Ex military types will sympathise with our crazy-arsed decision, the army can be a scary parent when pushed. I couldn’t see them being all nice, warm and cosy, when our army bosses found our we’d cocked up a whole regiments life firing package……. Shit rolls downhill or Life’s a game of chance! Or it is when your 21yrs old.

Anyway, sure enough that 10 days was a bundle of laughs and side splitting fun….I drove and my mate commanded the vehicle…Well when I say commanded, he was supposed to be in the tank turret all “commandering-like” similar to  Field Marshall Montgomery, but in reality he spent the 10 days hunkered down behind my drivers seat in the bottom of the tank, as we careered down the range, eyes tightly shut, screaming our lungs out, waiting for the impact and inevitable flash and smoke entering the turret. Each missile run was like a scene from a Laurel & Hardy movie, driving a 70 ton tank with my eyes closed, whilst my mate hugged me for mutual comfort and safety! I want my mum!

In all they fired about 40 missiles, by the end of the 10 days the tank was in a pretty sorry state,  but we didn’t care. We were just relieved we had got away with our packing error…….In the words of that other great Tank Driver; Mr Oliver Hardy “Stanley! No-one will ever need to know,  tee-hee (flicks tie). ”

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