CPL. MARSHALL ‘NOBBY’ CLARK

CHETUMAL, QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO


Following the earlier precedent established by Major Tom Howell in offering his Military Memoirs for publication on this blog site, we are extremely pleased, and greatly impressed by the following efforts of Marshall ‘Nobby’ Clark (Cpl) “E” Company, 1DCLI Belize 1954-1955. The initial draft will be embellished with additional photos, as Nobby unpacks his old kitbag.

NB: Many photos from Nobby now received and will be posted to a separate Picasa Album here for easy viewing purposes. Too many to place within the body text of the Memoir. Watch this space.

THE CPL (NOBBY) CLARK BELIZE 1954-1955 PHOTOS PICASA ALBUM

Thank you Nobby, a very interesting read.

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The Belize Memoirs of Marshall ‘Nobby’ Clark.

RECOLLECTIONS OF AIRPORT CAMP, BRITISH HONDURAS. MARCH 1954 TO FEBRUARY 1955.

When we arrived in Jamaica and still on board ship I was informed, that I was going to Airport Camp, British Honduras. I was given injections for yellow fever and a few other diseases, which I had never heard of. I had seen a newspaper advertisement in the early nineteen fifties “Join the British Army and go to nice exotic places”. One ad showed soldiers shooting alligators in B.H. In my innocence I believed this was going to be an interesting new experience for me. All these travel to exotic places courtesy of the British Government, its illustrious Army and the DCLI.

The changeover of regiments took place out to sea, a lighter came along side and we watched the Welsh coming on board with their brown skinned, colourful wives. There did not seem to be many Welshmen, certainly not a Company. We got onto the lighter with a quantity of ammunition and sinister looking green metal tubes said to contain tear gas. Was this landing going to be like some refined form of D Day? The Empire Clyde sailed away to its next stop, British Guiana, not without a lot of banter about “You’ll be sorry” etc. We chugged off to Belize which eventually appeared over the horizon, a tatty looking place with fading paintwork, timber buildings and it all looking a bit rickety with a rather funny smell. It looked like the opening scene of Porgy and Bess. We found later that the only buildings of any substance were the jail, the police station, the Governor’s residence, the post office and a school.

Government House, Belize. This is a recent photograph. It

The town became even scruffier on the outskirts with sinister looking vultures sitting on the fences. We drove through a swampy looking area and eventually arrived at Airport Camp, a distance of about eleven miles from the town. The timber huts, called BASHAS by those in the know, also looked pretty scruffy. The Welsh had not wasted any time or effort in making them look good. Being DCLI we soon had a guard mounted and an I.S. picquet in battle order, ready to take on any rioters or infiltrators.

The Guard was dressed in KD with sleeves rolled down, with long KD trousers and short puttees. The IS picquet wore khaki shirt, longs with puttees, steel helmet on the pack. The MMG platoon took over the Vickers, which were in sandbagged positions inside their hut, these were lined up on the airstrip. They might have had mortars too, but this was “S” business. The only incident that first night was when the sentry (a simple fellow from Newlyn) was terrified out of his wits when a dark faced popped around the sentry box, asking “You wanting a taxi and girls for tonight, man”? The first lesson we learnt was every sentence was followed by ‘‘maun”. We soon picked up the local dialect. As “E” Coy was a detachment, we had an HQ platoon, an MT Platoon and a MMG Platoon. The second lesson we learnt was that the insects wanted to eat our blood and pass on diseases into our bodies, which were all nice and fresh from the UK. The locals had developed a certain amount of immunity. We were supplied with Mepecrine daily, or was it Palludrine? This kept malaria at bay. The vicious little sandflies that managed to get through our mosquito nets passed on a disease all of their own called Leishmanaisis causing ulcers on the skin and eventually attacking the liver and spleen. We did not know this at the time! There were scorpions that liked to scamper around on the floor at night, they would crawl into berets or groundsheets that had fallen on the floor. Quite a few people had a surprise when the put their berets on morning. This was inside the huts, outside was a complete new group of creatures waiting for us. We always wore berets, the silliest headgear for a hot climate ever invented. I have seen British troops in Kenya and Malaya in a soft bush hat- like a green fisherman’s hat, we were issued with them towards the end of 1954.

Major Tanner, who was then the Detachment Commander, he rarely left his office apart from fighting ‘Tanners War’ which lasted for four hours and back to camp for tea, would never let us wear the, ‘unsoldierly’ might lead to indiscipline. The civilian was waiting to break out of the uniform at any time and must be kept under control.

CPLS. LOFTY FAHEY, NOBBY CLARK, STAN PICKERING AT SGT'S CAY, BRITISH HONDURAS


During the day we wore bare tops (no concerns about skin cancer in those days). ‘‘Get a good sun tan! Makes good camouflage,’’ said Sgt. Major Fidocq, a tough looking Cornishman who looked as if he had been in a few rough situations. He also showed us some rough bayonet work, which was not in the instruction book. ‘‘Stick it in his bloody throat,” he would roar in a Cornish fisherman’s dialect. He also informed us that we were professional bloody murderers, a concept, which had not occurred to us. Was this a new career we had stumbled upon? I have never mentioned of being a professional murderer for 57 years, not even to my wife and it has required a lot of self control. I have been tempted. It never appeared on my CV. I have never been debriefed. We were given a lecture by the second in Command, Captain Case “ Marrying the local women” and how they would fade away in a cold climate and for us to contemplate the benefits of a celibate life, like monks, free from the fear of social diseases. We took no notice, we decided this was the Army’s way of controlling our lives completely. We just wanted to have fun and screw the local women. I don’t think any of us wanted to marry them except one of corporals who was suffering from a temporary derangement. One of our privates just went down town and got married in a church, came back to camp and did his C.B. and is still married to the girl fifty-six years later. We noted that the Welsh Regiment loaded about thirty of them onto the Empire Clyde. The Welsh seemed much more relaxed about a lot of things. In fact there was a rumour the Welsh had women living in the barrack rooms.

Our Company Commander was Major Fry, M.C. who I found out thirty years later had won his Military Cross in Normandy stalking a Tiger tank armed with a PIAT and eventually blowing it up. Major Fry would punctuate his speeches to us with phrases like, “What is the training cliche, I wonder?” and “ie. that is”, all
very elegant language which tended to confuse a bunch of soldiers who had never really understood what he was talking about. As far as 15 platoon (the platoon I was in) was concerned we went though a series of platoon commanders, Lieut. Tidmarsh, Lieut. St. George Clarke. And Lieut. Balance.

The fastest debus in history, except for one fellow who was fast asleep,why is this military property on the edge of a precipice.
Can David Ballace get keep it on the track with rifle slings, how did we get out
of this pickle?

We embarked on a series training schemes, just carrying on as if we were back in Germany but on a smaller scale of course. Travelling to out of the way places in trucks and them marching possibly 12 miles where we would camp the night. This would continue for about three days.

Mariner (from Durham) on the left. Unknown person on the right. Scudder in the truck. Merv Chandler might be sitting slightly in front of him. Note the sea horse insignia on a dirty yellow rectangle.

We marched in Battle Order, wearing a shirt with K.D. longs and wore the cloth puttees. We carried a mosquito net in the pack. We had Brens and Stens and sometimes we carried the full G1098 gear but minus the steel helmet. N.C.O.s carried machetes and torches. We had a snake serum, needles etc. but I was never given any instruction on how to use them. Nobody was ever bitten by a snake during the time I was there though there were snakes everywhere, there were thin skinny ones where we did our weapon training, close to the “bashas.”. There were great thick, long creatures with heads like dogs that lived in the swamps.

PLACES
I never kept a diary, but names like Orange Walk, Stann Creek, El Cayo, Punta, Gorda, Corozal, Progresso, Pine Ridge, (where we did live field firing) and Benque Viejo seems to ring a bell. I am sure the platoon commanders must have kept diaries, so where are they now? I can remember carrying a few rounds of
303 ammunition in case of emergencies with animals, snakes etc. I can also remember marching along lonely roads with just a section on its own, where were the others? When we camped at night we have to keep a sharp eye out for giant hairy spiders, ticks, snakes, ants and vampire bats. This was on the job training, by trial and error- we did not know it was possible to get rabies from animals, (bats, dogs etc.) there was no instruction book on the subject. Sometimes we would march all day in the rain, set up camp in some village where the people lived (after a fashion) in the most primitive of conditions. Sometimes we would experience incredible tropical storms and we would shelter under the truck or inside one of the local huts.

INCIDENTS OR PERSONS THAT PERHAPS OTHERS WOULD LIKE TO COMMENT ON OR SUPPLY IMAGES.

1. The night we thought the Guatamalans had arrived.
2. The Galloping Ringworm Epidemic.
3. The Queens Birthday Parade, 1954. The official photographs with C.S.M. Fidocq and Lieut.Rose leading the parade.
4. David Balance’s little problem with the truck on the way to Pine Ridge.1954
5. How I nearly sank the Belize supply ship OXON? In Feb. 1955. (Cpl. Clark).
6. John Tanner’s short war which took place on the site of a Maya Temple, and
possibly invoking a curse being placed to upon us, (there is no known remedy).
7. The eight lonely soldiers and the letters from the eight thousand women.
8. Where are Cpl’s Aggazi, Bill Boyd, Barnhouse, Bill Oates, Bedford, Powell
Thomas,Worley, Fahey, Stan Pickering, and lots of others.

ATTITUDES OF THE LOCAL PEOPLE

One group who were possibly descended from the original pirates, timber cutters or land owners were very pro British. Another group were very anti British and usually followers of George Price and the Peoples United Party. I was sitting in a carrier at an intersection when two African Belizeans yelled “Russia, China get you, maun’’. The local newspaper was also very anti British claiming the warlike activities of the DCLI was alarming the local people.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF BELIZE

English (and Scots) began using the Bay of Honduras as a base for raids on Spanish commerce. They became known as the Baymen. 1638 has become the official founding day. A Scottish Captain, Peter Wallace organised the building of a port town. It was difficult for the Creoles to pronounce Wallace, when they said it sounded like Belice. The Baymen found another way of annoying the King of Spain by stealing his mahogany. The Spanish attacked the settlement a few times, eventually burning it down, the conflict reached a conclusion with the Battle of St. George’s Caye (now a National Holiday): a victory for the home team. The Spanish gave up and eventually Belize became part of the British Empire, a Crown Colony with a Governor. Belize society is made up of mixes of the original British pirates, Africans, some free and some slaves, Maya Indians, Spanish, Asian Indians, Chinese, Garifuna (mix of shipwrecked African slaves, Carib and Arawak Indians), Mestizo (mixed Spanish and Amerindian descent or Creole (descendants of English loggers and slaves. Mennonites (an Anabaptist group, similar to the Amish) have moved into B.H. in 1958. They now produce most of the countries dairy products. At one time there were ex-Confederate soldiers running sugar and cotton plantations trying to recreate the “old South” further down south. The Americans were allowed special privileges and this did not go down well with local white landowners, also the local blacks refused to return to a form of slavery, which had been abolished in the British Empire in 1838. Eventually most of the Confederates returned home. During the 1930’s an anti- colonial movement staged rallies in Battlefield Park, discontents developed between impoverished blacks and the white merchants. This developed into boycotts and strikes, this ended with the leaders being thrown into jail. In the 1950’s the Peoples United Party became active, anti British demonstrations were held and eventually became more violent. Britain finally introduced universal suffrage and limited home rule within the colony.

Spain had never renounced its territorial claim to Belize, which was later appropriated by Mexico and Guatemala. In 1945 Guatamala included Belize as part of its territory. Britain stationed troops in the colony, mainly around the airport as this was the only way an attack could come from as the road from
Guatamala to British Honduras was just a pot holed track. In the time that the DCLI were at Airport Camp there was a British Honduras Home Guard unit armed with a 17 Pdr. Anti tank gun at El Cayo in the west and close to the track. By 1964 the border threat had been stabilised and the demand for independence was renewed. In 1964 the colony became fully self-governing and independent with a (Westminster style) parliamentary system. Guatemala recognised Belize as a sovereign nation in 1991 but still maintains its territorial claim. Belizean politics was long dominated by the founder of the P.U.P, George Price. His party
won nearly every election, consolidating political independence movement and promoting a new middle class. He finally stepped down in 1996 aged 75. Even with all these changes there was still a lot of unemployment, one third of the population lives now lives abroad. There are Belizean communities in New York and London thanks to the high standard of the Belize education system. There was a movement of refugees from Guatemala and Honduras into Belize due to the civil wars and the general poverty, which was affecting Guatemala and Honduras (which we then called Spanish Honduras). The Belize population doubled in size. In twenty years from 150,000 to 321,000 in 2008. Tourism and ecotourism became a viable source of revenue in the 1980’s. Tourism is Belize’s fastest growing economic sector, outdoing agriculture. Viewing Maya architecture, culture and the wild life of the region has become a major tourist attraction. American cruise – ships now disgorge their passengers at the city’s new Tourism Village at Haulover Creek, Belize City.

Guatemala1954, the democratically elected Guatemalan government of Colonel Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán was toppled by U.S. – backed forces lead by Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas who invaded from Honduras. Assigned by the Eisenhower administration, this military opposition was armed, trained and organised by the U.S. Central Intelligence. The directors of United Fruit Company had lobbied to convince the Truman and Eisenhower administrations that Colonel Arbenz intended to align Guatemala with the Soviet Bloc. Besides the disputed issue of Arbenz’s allegiance to Communism, the Arbenz government’s agrarian reform legislation and new Labor Code were threatening UFCO. United Fruit Company UFCO was the largest Guatemalan landowner and employer, and the Arbenz government’s land reform included the expropriation of 40% of UFCO land. U.S. officials had little proof to back their claims of a growing communist threat in Guatemala, however the relationship between the Eisenhower administration and UFCO demonstrated the influence of corporate interest on U.S. foreign policy. The overthrow of Arbenz, however, failed to benefit the Company. Its stock market value declined along with its profit margin. The Eisenhower administration proceeded with antitrust action against the company, which forced it to divest in 1958. In 1972, the company sold off the last of their Guatemalan holdings after over a decade of decline.

Marshall Clark, Cpl.
22862714
1DCLI ECoy
Airport Camp,
British Honduras,

15 Responses to CPL. MARSHALL ‘NOBBY’ CLARK

  1. Marshall Clark says:

    Hi John,
    Looking for royalty and you found us. We have been wondering when you would turn up. Would be interesting to see your photographs. Can you upload to Derek in Brisbane? Sorry about the delay in replying, I have had a few health problems. Marshall Clark.

  2. John Buckingham says:

    22920393 Pte Buckingham J. (John) signing in. You can blame Prince Harry for going to Belize and me googling and finding this site. Thanks Cpl Clark for stirring up so many memories. I have turned out my scrapbook and scanned a load of pictures. I was Coy Clerk to Maj Fry and SM Fidock and later Tanner. Slept in a room at the end of the HQ Hut. John Wilton and Dave Brunyee were also there from Padstow (no longer around to share memories). Typed up a lot of orders so names come back if not faces. I went up to Chetumal on the back of Jim Blackwood’s (Pay Clerk) Francis Barnett motorbike. I have the postcards to prove it. More to follow if anyone is interested. Came home to the family grocery business, still here in retirement

  3. Marshall Nobby says:

    Hi Tom,
    I spent an interesting ten minutes in Belize. It looks much cleaner than what I remembered it. They must have been spending a lot of money on paint. Did not recognise anyone!

  4. Tom Howell says:

    Marshall
    Tried to send a map to you via your other address but it was rejected twice by Postmaster. Is it still valid?
    If you want Belize sites try http://www.belizedistrict.com.

    With regard to the lighthouse; I am pleading 5th Amendment!! Belizeans may not have made it to the front in WW1, but they volunteered in droves for WW2 – many of them aircrew.

    I remember the south side of the river very well. A Brit expat and his adult son operated a garage and repair business there. He owned the only recovery/crane vehicles in Belize, and from time to time we had to call on his services. The road to camp as you will remember, was built on mangrove swamp, and used to sink under the heavy weight of the vehicle – it was like driving on a roller coaster!

    The south west area did not look great, mainly because it was a mix of residential and industrial/commercial premises i.e. not many bright lights. The Ration Sgt (RASC) also went there a lot for bread and other victuals.
    Cheers
    Tom

  5. Tom Howell says:

    Marshall – My Hero!

    Tom

    • Marshall Nobby says:

      Hi Tom,
      Yes, I do have a fan club. I have been studying a street map of Belize, courtesy of Lonely Planet “Belize” published 2002. This is where I got most of my information on “The History of Belize”. I was mainly interested in finding the area where I used to do my sociological research in 1954, I.E. (as Major Fry used to say) down by the lighthouse in the Fort George area, chatting and fondling an exotic brown skinned creature in the beautiful, warm Caribbean night.

      I noticed in southwest Belize (the town that is) a number of the streets were named Baghdad, Kut, Basra, Tigris, Euphrates and then I spotted an Allenby Street. This was another war in 1914-18, not the present conflict. Evidently Belizeans volunteered for military service in the British Army in WW1 and ended up in what was called Mesopotamia at that time, now called Iraq. They wanted to fight, like the British, Australian, New Zealand and Indian troops. Due to their dark skin they were not permitted to go to the front line and fight alongside white troops but were kept in rear areas doing fatigues. This caused great resentment and when they returned to Belize in 1919 they organised protests against the existing order.

      This is the first time I have heard of people protesting at not becoming cannon fodder. They could have ended up missing arms and legs, blinded and mad, then they would have had something to complain about.

      I think this area in southwest Belize was so tumbledown and stinky that we kept well away from it. Can you remember it?

  6. Jean Pritchard says:

    Hello there my cousin! Just talked to brother Leslie who gave me your info which I looked up. Excited to read your Memoirs. I am in Texas but son who is still in Scotland will also love to read about your time in the Army. Martin is in the process of emigrating to Australia, fed up of the way Britain is being run into the ground.

    A belated thank you for putting your life on the line for freedom.

    • Marshall Nobby says:

      Hi Jean, Surprised to get an e mail from you. Perhaps it would be better for us to communicate through my private email address. captd@dragnet.com.au

      I have passed this on to Leslie. If your son has any questions about Australia, I will do my best to reply.

  7. Swanny Swanson says:

    Hi Marshall
    Thanks for your quick reply, we don’t realise its a long time ago, it is nice to have you on the blogs. I don’t see George these days, he was From St Ives had many a run ashore with him in the past. I used to see him in the Legion in St Ives but haven’t seen him for ages but he is still around in St Ives I have been told. He was a real charactor I have had many piss ups with him in the past.

    Quite a few still left of the DCLI but a lot have passed away, like you say Marshall it was over 55 years ago and we had 54 years Caribbean Re-Union last year organised by Derek the editor of the blogs and we met many of our old mates thanks to that Re-Union, nice to have you on board, Marshall.

  8. Swanny Swanson says:

    ED
    As said very interesting comments from Cpl Marshall Clark, I noticed his Army number and I think it is the number of the intake of Cpl Alan Mitchell, Maurice Truscott (RIP), Cpl Bob Cook (RIP), also Marshall you would have known a great friend of mine after military service, Sjt Paul (Cushy) Grange (RIP). He married a coloured girl while serving there he was Sjt’s Mess steward I believe. Also a George Stevens from St Ives who did his training in our editors and my second intake. Also some time later a member of West Cornwall Branch DCLI-LI Geoff Marshall who when he arrived in Belize took over the Coy Clerks position under Maj. Fry. Would be interesting if you remember these guy’s names? Also I am from Newlyn and you mentioned someone on guard from there in your comments could you remember his name? Finally very nice to have you on the blogs.

    • Cpl. Marshall Clark ('Nobby' of course) says:

      Hi Swanny,
      I do not recognise any of those names, sorry! I was in Sgt. Hawkins Platoon in Bodmin starting March 19th. 1953. I have a photograph of that Platoon. George Stevens was in my section in Belize. I think, if thats the fellow in the E coy photos in Picasa, dresssed in IS gear, looking cheeky and full of fun. All set for riot supression. If it is the Stevens I knew, ask him about the “Seven Lonely Soldiers”.

      The Company Clerk was a fellow with glasses, I think he was called Blackwood. His parents chatted with my parents in Helston once, where I used to live. His father was a doctor in the Lizard area. I do not recall a fellow called Marshall during Major Fry’s period as Company Commander, perhaps I was not paying attention at the time. We used to drink a lot, or I might have developed another interest (women). As for the guard coming from Newlyn (it could have been Marazion), I just made use of a typical Cornish town. After fifty seven years its a bloody wonder I can remember any of it.

  9. PICASA ALBUM LINKED ABOVE

    Marshall, many thanks for the further delivery of Belize photos, now compiled into a Picasa Album, captioned as supplied and publicly viewable on the Internet via the link at the page header. I have also added (alphabetically) that same Picasa Album under our Old Mates Military Albums – checkout the title above.

    I’ve been pleasantly surprised in being able to add lengthy captions to the photos, a feat now possible with the latest version of Picasa3. If you are able to forward more photos – in due course – following the same email procedure, I shall simply add to that original Picasa file, which is then ‘synced’ up to the Picasa URL.

    Thank you for some great photos – interesting recall. I liked the bit about the ”A” Company Guards on Government House. I was the first, with Dutch Hoon, to mount that Guard in Bermuda’s House of Representatives.

  10. Tom Howell says:

    Marshall (Nobby)

    A great piece of writing that has raised the bar in blog writing. Hopefully others will follow with their own reminiscences. Congratulations
    Tom

  11. Margaret Royffe says:

    Nobby, I have read your memoirs with great interest thank you so much. As a young girl at the time that you left the Empire Clyde I knew nothing of Belize or why the troops were there. Your recollections have helped put it all into perspective. I recognised Jan Fidock, his daughter Carol and I have been friends for many years.

  12. Congratulations Nobby.

    A first class Memoir and an important piece of DCLI History. We look forward to the photos. Many Thanks.

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