Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Falklands 25 - London June 16/17 2007 - Reunion Dinner

All dressed up and wearing my regimental tie (for the first time ever!) I headed over to the London Scottish Drill Hall where the reunion dinner for the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards had been arranged.

I had my name checked against a list and then was greeted by the ex RSM McKay a man who 25 years scared the crap out of a fair number of us me included. He seemed genuinely pleased to see me and asked me what I did with the battalion. When I said I was with Right Flank up on Tumbledown he looked me square in the eyes and gave me a hearty well done before letting me pass.

One of the first people I was to meet was John Bay. Meeting John was just fantastic as he was Left Flank's pay clerk. When I had found out that the Scots Guards were having a reunion I contacted them to find out if I could attend and if anybody else I knew was attending.

I gave them details of the people I was interested in meeting and they responded that they had lost contact with John, Gordon O'Leary and Vic Williams. This prompted me to talk to the RAPC Regimental Association who informed me that they had also lost contact with them and that according to their records John had died in 2001 and Gordon had committed suicide in 1995. Rumours of John's death though was premature and I was able to track him down through his brother who passed on a message to him. When I told him of the reunion he signed up we got to meet again for the first time in a very long time (20 years). It was great to know he had done well for himself and catch up on his news :)

Sadly I was able to confirm that Gordon (left) had indeed passed away when I spoke to "Kenny" Everett on the phone.

It turned out that the only person missing from the pay team of 1982 was Vic Williams (right) who is now living in the USA running an Aikido dojo. We exchanged a couple of emails and it turned out that the USA immigration had been so slow to renew visas that he couldn't leave the states even if he wanted to. He sent his best wishes and a few photographs that I hadn't seen before taken down South.

Kieth Foley, my Div2 (that's the warrant officer in charge of our pay team) hadn't changed one bit! He was in fine fettle and still smoking like a chimney :) Kieth was an honorary Scots Guards and loved them so much he arranged for transfers between 1st and 2nd battalions just so he could stay with them. I don't think this did his career any good but he quite frankly didn't seem to care and was just happy to serve with them. I got to fully appreciate this point of view myself when I was posted away. I always look back to my 2 years with the Scots Guards as my golden years in the army. I have just not experienced the same degree of camaraderie since.

Lastly I got to meet and say a huge thankyou to my paymaster at the time Denis O'Keefe (chap on the right). At the time he was a Captain but was to retire as a Colonel which is no mean achievement for someone who had come up through the ranks. The chap on the left is CSGT Allender who was my immediate superior on Tumbledown. As ex G squadron SAS he had seen combat along with our CSM Ian Amos (who sadly wasn't there) and he was the one that had told me to crawl back and tell Left Flank to stop firing at us :) He thought he had sent me to my death that night and put my name down for a mention in dispatches for my bravery, though I think stupidity at not realising what I was doing would have been a more apt description. He was very happy to see me and likewise I would have loved to have been able to spend more time talking to him.

It was Denis who has had the biggest impact on my life. When I left the guards I was posted to the Queens Own Highlanders and I had a terrible time adjusting to them. In fact I rebelled and had a huge falling out with my paymaster who, not knowing any different, threw the book at me. My reports went from O for outstanding to F for totally usless and it was Denis who stepped in and stood up for me that resulted in me being posted back to the UK and for me getting my training in computers that have stood me in such good stead since.

A rather bad photo of the pay teams of the Welsh and Scots Guards taken on the day we were presented with our medals in the gardens of Buckingham Palace.

Scots Guards are from right to left back row me, John, Gordon, Vic and front row Kieth and Denis. Paul isn't in this photo as he had been posted away from the battalion before this was taken but Meridith Butt is back row far left. Meridith was my room Corporal during my training.

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