19044336 SJT Geoff Cherry: I was born at Oakley Bucks, on 26th of March 1930, we as a family moved around a bit ending up during the WW11 at Holton nr Wheatley where I now live in Oxfordshire. I sampled the Cubs, Scouts, Sea Cadets, ending up in the Army Cadet Force in Wheatley, trained as a Bugler in the cadet band. I used to go out with the air raid warden on fire duties I believe mainly to keep him company, we both enjoyed it so it worked well.
During the war we were as school children allowed time off to work on the farms more so at harvesting time I took full advantage of this, I enjoyed it and we did get paid a few coppers and I mean a few, but as my Mother said every penny counted. Dad was away in the army, he was a L/Cpl Pioneer Corps and was blind in his left eye, excused boots from the day he was called up and excused marching. He had various jobs, prisoner of war camp guard, shoe snob which came in handy when he came home on leave; he ended up driving a tractor and plough, helping to camouflage a large military camp.
I left school at about 13 1/2 although officially at 14 years I started work full time I was given a horse that I worked regularly. He was a Suffolk Punch, nobody else would use him as he would jib, because of this he had been maltreated; as soon as he did jib I stopped him eased his collar forward and rubbed his shoulders, gave him some cow cake as a treat and away he would go, I got used to stopping every so often and by doing this I could work him all day, I also joined in with the milking, and later on I started to drive the tractor and the lorry that we used in the fields.
I wanted to enlist and to be able to do this I had to change my job, so I left the farm and got a job with “Lines Aeronautical Engineers” based on Worming Hall aerodrome. I worked as odd job man, I drove the half-track tractor, the ambulance & fire tender and lorry when required to do so and flew as winch operator in the Martinet Aircraft towing target tugs over the Ack Ack ranges in Wales. I assisted the fitters, did jobs in the stores and hanger, and sat on the tail of the Spitfire when the engine was run. I worked there until I was 17. British Pathe News “Target for today.”
At 17 in April 1947 I took the King’s Shilling and had to report to Palace Barracks at Hollywood Northern Ireland the 28th training battalion, the training was heavy infantry, it was an NCO training battalion. After passing out I was posted to Cove and did my Light Infantry training. On completing that I joined the Oxford and Buckingham Shire Light infantry in Luneberge Germany. On arrival I joined the Bugle Platoon and took up where I had left off with the Cadet Force. During exercises we were employed as stretcher bearers, so had a course on first aid, quite different to the civilian first aid. During our tour the battalion moved to Gottingen in the Hartz Mountains, we used to do border patrols while there, it was there I met my first wife.
The Ox & Bucks returned to England in 1949, to reform and deploy to Cyprus, but I had while serving in Germany suffered from wandering appendix as it was termed. One day while Duty Bugler, I went to sound the second dinner call, my appendix burst and I woke up in Shorn Cliff Hospital in Kent. Resulting from the following surgery I was downgraded from A1 to P7 the lowest grade you could hold in those days for a period of six months, that prevented me going to Cyprus and I was transferred to the Somerset Light Infantry on a temporary basis at Borden Camp in Hants As medically I was excused all duties and bored to death, I reported to the Medical Officer and he allowed me to train in the MI room under the supervision of the Sjt to administer treatment. Dispensing and dressing wounds my first aid training in Germany came in very handy, I enjoyed the work, I also attended postmortems and worked in the mortuary, After six months I had a medical and was upgraded to A1 again; the Medical Officer wanted me to remain in the medical side and in England, but I wanted to get back to the Ox & Bucks but this was not to be at this time as all personnel were being recruited for the 1st Battalion the Duke of Cornwall Light Infantry, which at the time were based in Mogadishu, East Africa. So I was transferred and just before we left for Mogadishu I was married in the registry office in Oxford.
I have a bit of a problem with my memory now, but I remember vividly the date we left England we went to a bombed out house in London for the night on bonfire night 1949, we flew out of Northolt Airport on two Dakota transport planes early the next morning. We landed in the south of France to refuel then to Malta for the night. The next day we took off about 0900hrs we had been in the air about 10 min when one of the aircraft developed a fire in the engine and returned to Malta. The aircraft I was in continued to Eriwadi in the Sudan and we spent the night there. The following day we flew on and reached the airport at Mogadishu in the afternoon. On arrival at the battalion, I joined the bugle platoon and it did not take long to settle in the only difference was the Regimental call. We were still occupation forces in those days and we helped keep law and order but did not have a lot of trouble, however we did quell a couple of riots that got a bit nasty, otherwise we spent a lot of time on band engagements, beating retreat etc. During leisure time the sea beckoned and we willingly complied, eventually we handed over to the Italians and came back to England on a trooper, I cannot remember the name, the trooper called in at Cyprus and picked up men from the Ox & Bucks returning for demob. I met some of my old mates again, one in particular Cpl John Badcock, who had been in the cadets with me, we had quite a lot to catch up with, my memory fails me when I try to remember the camp we came back to I think it might have been “Kiwi Barracks” near Salisbury. I can remember being there before going to Minden. It was while we were there that I left the Bugle Platoon and joined A Coy. I had been trying to get posted to Korea but being in the bugle platoon stopped me. I made a nuisance of myself volunteering on a regular basis, then the Adjutant told me in no uncertain terms that I would never go while I was in the bugle platoon. As a regular soldier I wanted to serve my country if needed in action, so I did my utmost to get out of the bugle platoon. After a stint in the hotel I succeeded and on arriving to A Coy I had an interview with Maj Williams regarding a posting to Korea, he then informed me that any posting for me was blocked so kicking the traces did not pay, I then settled down to a life in a rifle Company, then we shipped out to Minden.
I had settled into the rifle company, but not long after we had arrived in Minden while I was on drill parade, the Orderly Cpl, called me off parade to report to company office. I was given the opportunity to transfer back to HQ company to join the MT section as Tech Storeman. I accepted the offer and returned to HQ Company. The Tech Sjt was Sjt Mellorship and I got on with him very well, unfortunately he was found one morning on the pavement below the window of his room three storeys up, he had fallen from there. One of my jobs as Storeman was to get broken-down vehicles to workshops, which I did at the time we were Occupation Forces and did not come under German law but at the time respected it. I had been driving vehicles in and out of workshops for some time, then the M.T.O asked for my driving permit to renew, I didn’t have one and was immediately tested and passed so was issued a permit to drive all the battalion vehicles except track vehicles, these I could drive in barracks but not outside. The Tech Store as such seemed to fade in some way, I did a lot of courses first Education, then Mechanics but ended up as a fitter as to become a Mechanic I would have had to transfer to REME and I did not want to do that so was classed as a (B3 trade). I did the NCO cadre, and was promoted to L/Cpl, a month later I was promoted to full Cpl substantive. I did a course on Gas & Atomic warfare, then I asked for a break on the courses, I was made driver instructor that was really interesting and rewarding when the tests were passed, I also had a chassis for instructing purposes, that worked on a battery and had cutaway sections so that the workings could be observed, I enjoyed my work. On exercises I did P.O.L. issuing Petrol Oil & Lubricants to the battalion vehicles on a daily basis, restocking at night from field locations, I also did recovery of battalion vehicles.
(Geoff’s photo of his 2 children at Prospect Garrison MT lines, lifted from the Barry Cornish Memoirs). I was allocated a Married Quarter in the town and my wife joined me with the children, I found that living in married quarters, I lost a lot of contact with my pals and the men in the MT, I never ever regained that, as I seemed to be in a different world, It became more like a 9 till 5 job, eventually we returned to England and Crown Hill Barracks Plymouth, I was informed that I would be going to Bermuda with “A” Coy in charge of the MT section and supporting stores, so I was transferred back to “A” Coy once more. The Battalion embarked on the Empire Clyde, and we set sail for the West Indies. I was lucky in that we had some very rough weather and I was not sea sick, but I felt for the lads who were. The only other memorable part of the trip was receiving a reprimand charged on the high seas for a coffee ring stain on the locker in the cabin, all four of us sharing the cabin were charged, try as I might I cannot remember disembarking at Bermuda, and I might add I had not been drinking the falling down water.
One of the first jobs I had was draining the water catchment area and tanks with the fire tender which I towed behind the Land Rover, they had not been used for some time. The tanks were cleaned and lime washed, I also hosed down the Officers and OR bathing beaches. I enjoyed my posting to Bermuda and during my time there I ran the cinema, sometimes doing the projecting very rewarding, I was in the Bermuda dart league, reaching the semi finals, I had a married quarter outside the barracks. I used the Motor Cycle quite a lot when we first arrived, we had no helmet for that so used my steel helmet it served the purpose, then the local forces presented me with a crash helmet. I was also at that time driving the Land Rover, so I eventually handed the motor cycle over to the post CPL and assigned the Land Rover to a another driver, allowing me to concentrate on the running of the MT and Stores. I shared the MT office with Sgt Erith of the RASC. Later I was chosen to take over the MT from the Black Watch in British Guiana South America and Promoted to Sjt, I joined Sjt Tug Wilson’s Platoon until my posting, that gave me the chance to run a rifle platoon under his supervision. That came in very useful later when I took over platoon Sgt of 7 platoon “C” Company in Jamaica.
I flew out of Bermuda with my family and on arrival in Jamaica I was billeted with my family in a guest house outside the barracks, with other families who were being posted to Guinea, I left shortly after on the advance party; we flew out, the main party followed later, The airport or airfield was out in the jungle, all the married quarters were built on stilts as was main of the other buildings mainly because the tropical storms we had flash flooded the area to the depth of about a foot but it soon drained away all the ditches were about five foot wide and as deep all lined with concrete, during the war it was an American Air Force base and during a trip exploring into the jungle we came across a small graveyard with a small fence around it there were about five or six graves we reported the location and started to maintain it I often thought about it after I left BG.
My wife had upset a lot of people, including the Company Commander Major Curnow, causing me major problems that escalated, luckily the MT Officer seeing what was happening informed the Commanding Officer of the Battalion in Jamaica and kept him updated. I ended up in deep trouble and was put on house arrest. I was advised by a visiting Officer from Brigade that I would not get a fair trial in BG and to request a posting back to the Battalion in Jamaica, which I did, and the family were flown out, and I joined “C” Company, I was marched into the Commanding Officers Office to answer my charge, and was told all charges were dropped, I was given a dressing down and told to take over 7 platoon pull my socks up and get on with the job.
I will have to end here as I have trouble trying to remember events sometimes I seem to have flash backs, but don’t know if I can trust them.
ED: Well Done Geoff, many thanks for sharing your amusing and revealing memories. I hope that more will come to light in due course. Take it easy on the scooter Ole Mate!! Too bad about the loss of all your historical photos, I hope that others will find some tucked away.