The Open Door

Boy Service to Man Service & Air Despatch: Dave O’Bee

January 1955 saw me leave Boys Company and proceed to Yeovil to 6 Trg Bn, where I was to carry out Driver Trg with six other Ex Boy soldiers.

Six months at Yeovil was quite a doddle, Boys’ Company training was a blessing it meant that we knew more than the Trg Cpls, so we spent many hours in the NAAFI, and many hours in the Chippies (Carpenters Arms) the local pub just down the road, where scrumpy was only 9d (4p) a pint.

Having completed six months at Yeovil it was time to get our first posting, 47 Coy RASC (AD) which was to start my journey with the Air Despatch. Watchfield was still then an RAF Camp controlled by RAF Police on the gate (Snowdrops - who needs them).

I was put in the MT Platoon, with other regular soldiers, but many of the platoon were National Service lads, who could not wait to go home at weekends. Weekends were only free every three weeks as it was OC’s Parade, Drill, Weapon Trg, and sports on the Saturday, with Church Parade on the Sunday. Another weekend ruined as they would say.

Guard duties and Fire Piquet were also to be considered when planning your weekend. But with the payment of 5/- (25p) to the CSM’s clerk you could be removed from the rota and never have these problems.

Winter at Watchfield was very cold, and as coke and coal were rationed the pot-belly stoves could only be kept alight for a few hours a day in the billets. But the Officers Mess never had a restriction on their fuel. So you see, the MT billets were only 30 yards from the Officers Mess just on the other side of the main road out of camp. This meant that Field Craft training played an important part in keeping the billets warm, Stealing from the officers, how could you? No problem for the MT boys. Our fire never went out if you know what I mean?

But there were problems in the pinching of fuel. We had one or two Cpls that thought they were RSMs already, but we beat ’em.

During the two years at 47, we spent seven months in Cyprus for the EOKA problems, building a RASO at Nicosia, and could not wait to get back to the UK.

A posting to THE AD Coy 55, next on my travels, three years in the Far east. Was the best posting of my army career which lasted for 23 years plus a few months.

55 Coy was a well organised unit who played and worked hard, with many NS boys making up its numbers, all who could not wait to go home, so much so that they kept what they called a peachy calendar on the locker door and marked the days off one by one. But the number that cried when it was time to go home, and were thinking of signing on if only they could stay in 55 Coy would surprise you. Many boys completed the para course while at 55, also the important jungle survival course, which played a part in the saving of lives on more than one occasion.

Time to move on again and its back to Blighty, and once again Watchfield. This time 22 Coy, and as a Cpl, I was looking forward to a nice life as I knew the area and many of the locals. But ‘he who must be obeyed’ put a stop to that. The RSM, Cyril Lawrence who was the CSM at 55 when I arrived there, I knew well. He informed me that the CO was pleased that I was posted in. He was Lt Col WC Grierson OBE, who I also knew as the OC of Boys Company. He had an important job he wanted me to do for him. Its good to be well liked or is it???? What was my job - Regimental Police Cpl. Only for three months I was promised. Sort the camp out, both 22 & 47 Coy, and you will have my full backing and that of the RSM. Dressed up to the nines on day one, I went to the cook house at 0700hrs, I placed two soldiers in the nick for being there in their pyjamas and unwashed. Ruling with a rod of iron did me no good, it took me over two years to get off the RP staff, and that was only when I cross posted with John (Jock) Kirk to Buller Bks Aldershot.

Eight years with the Air Despatch was interesting and enjoyable. It was long enough, but a period of my service that brings back many happy memories that I can always look back on. Also meeting up now with friends, both regular and National Service, many of which I see every year at the annual reunion. Looking forward to the next. I still wear my AD Brevet with pride. Do you? I would like to add that Lt Gordon Murray, as he was then, was the first officer to control the training of the Malayan soldiers in AD duties, together with the aid of, to name but a few, Crew Commanders; O’Bee, Sharp, Kirk, Drury, Leyland, Hickling, Watson & Bird.

The very first drop carried out with the Malayan soldiers was with myself and two fully trained Despatchers from 55 COY RASC and It took place to the police at Fort Brooke. So to those of you that claim to have taught AD Duties to the Malayan Army So sorry but you’re wrong. It was I who has that honour.

P.S. Never let the training wing get their hands on your Austin Champ, they can not be trusted, I trusted ’em and lost my beloved vehicle when they dropped it on the DZ. Talk about the instructor. Who was he now,? Have a guess, his name starts with A.

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