The Memoirs of John J Goddard, 1DCLI Bugler. KSLI Depot, Copthorne Barracks, Crownhill Plymouth, HMT Empire Clyde, “HQ” & “B” Companies, Jamaica. 1954 – 1955. Now in October 2010 lives in Labrador, Gold Coast, Queensland Australia.
From my early age of a few months in 1935, my family moved from Newcastle on Tyne to Shrewsbury, to an address in Copthorne Road just 500 meters from the Regimental Home of the KSLI – Copthorne Barracks. For most of my early years I recalled hearing the bugle calls of the Light Infantry, and during WW2 the sights and sounds of soldiers in uniform everywhere. It never occurred to me in my wildest dreams that on 5th November 1953, at the age of 18, I would walk through the Regimental Depot gates to start 24 months of National Service as a soldier in the KSLI.
The Korean War Armistice had been signed and National Servicemen were being released back into civilian life after enduring the rigours and the hardship of Korea. The Officers and NCOs’ who took over our basic training were hard bitten regular soldiers back from the front lines, many having been wounded. Quite soon after our induction we were transported to a training area in North Wales for exposure to live ammo firing from all the standard Light Infantry weaponry, including live grenade throwing and staying out in the snow and harsh environment both day and night. We were told that we were off to Korea so “Pay Attention”.
Basic Training completed with the ‘buzz’ that 1KSLI was being posted to Germany and we all thought that it was a good idea, but then came the news that only regular soldiers would be posted and that we NS men were bound for either 1DCLI in Jamaica, SLI in Malaya, or KOYLI in Kenya. We were all sent on embarkation leave for 3 weeks, following which I arrived at Crownhill Barracks Plymouth to be informed by RSM Royffe of 1DCLI that I was posted to that Regiment as a Bugler in HQ Company Jamaica. All this just a few days before the Regiment entrained for Liverpool to board the HMT SS Empire Clyde to sail on 19th February 1954, bound for the Caribbean. I had never played a musical instrument in my entire life.
Life on board the Empire Clyde was no pleasure cruise, especially for a poor sailor and land could not arrive soon enough for me. During calmer moments it was a pleasure to lean on the rail and try to dodge the ship’s RSM and keep a low profile to avoid kitchen fatigues and picket duties. Our first port of call was Hamilton Bermuda where we watched “A” Company disembark onto the lighter “The Chauncey M Depew” with bag and baggage and the DCLI Band, to march with all LI speed to “A” Company’s new home at Prospect Garrison. The Band later returned to the Empire Clyde where once again we set sail for Belize and finally Kingston, Jamaica.
Our destination was Up Park Camp in Kingston, a barracks built in the early 1900’s for Garrison duty then and had remained a very basic camp. We relieved the Royal Welch Fusiliers, which regiment left it in a highly sorry state. Nightly we were bitten by bed bugs and mosquitoes and the food was awful. Thank God for the NAAFI! We eventually got things in order and settled in to do our patriotic duties. I learned to play the bugle and mounted many Quarter Guards and performed all the usual LI drills and other ceremonial parades. As a Bugler I was in “HQ” Company, but for field games, training exercises and Internal Security Drills, I was seconded to “B” Company. We spent a couple of weeks away in the hills every now and then for games and exercises that I found to be good fun and enjoyable. On these occasions the CO usually indicated that we of “HQ” Company pitch our tents away from the regular “B” Company lines, which to a degree kept us out of the mainstream activity.
About a week to go towards the end of my National Service I was told to report to Palisades Airport (now Kingston International) and board the Boeing Stratocruiser for the UK via Nova Scotia. I sat in the bar on the lower deck as all seats above were taken and during the night was allocated a sleeper berth. I arrived in London early in November 1955 and immediately trained to Bodmin Depot for discharge and then home. My memories are vague except that it was cold in Blighty and my BD that I had not worn for some 20 months was terribly itchy.
After a couple of weeks holiday I returned to work and part time study and completed my Architect’s Diploma. I have worked all my life in architecture, in Canada from 1962 until 1982 and eventually made my way to Melbourne Australia with my Australian wife whom I met in Toronto and 3 small children. I believe that living in Jamaica with the DCLI opened my eyes to life in post war Britain in the ’50’s and early 60’s, which I found to be a sad and dull place to live, so that when I met a Canadian architect from Halifax, Nova Scotia in London, who offered to “double whatever you’re getting paid now” to come and work for him, I simply said “when do I leave?”
My first wife, the Australian lass, sadly died of lung cancer in Melbourne and in 2002, my current wife Sheila and I removed to Queensland where we live in quiet retirement at Labrador on the Gold Coast, close to the famous Broadwater, alongside which we walk our corgie dog Eddie most days.
I often ponder on my National Service days in the DCLI and at the KSLI Depot in Shrewsbury and reflect on the age factor of us all and wonder how many of that November 1953 Intake are still living. The published photographs that you view here have refreshed my memory and I in turn hope that you, dear reader, will contact the Editor with names to faces that I have long forgotten.
The other day I read a saying which I think is a fine quotation “A man thinks meanly of himself for never being a soldier”. We all belong to a great Club! The Army was very good for me and although I never fired a shot in anger, I remain confident that with my LI training – if I were ever called to action – I could put up a pretty good show. I would not wish to let down all those Light Infantry men who went before me and whose conduct and sacrifices are legendary through the long histories of many famous Regiments – most of all – the DCLI. (John J Goddard 27th May 2007)
(Editor footnote): John Goddard responded quickly to our invitation to make this pictorial contribution of his Jamaica photos, after he initiated email contact in early May 2007. The collection of his many photos are too great for just a simple inclusion in these pages of his Memoir, so John has been allocated a Picasa Album (hotlink). Click to explore.
(Photo left) John J Goddard (rhs) and Editor pictured at John’s home in Labrador, Queensland in May 2007, meeting up for the very first time. Our contact was quickly established from emails and common interest in the ongoing development of 1DCLI Caribbean history.