WELL MERITED AWARD
The most notable event since we last contributed to the Wire, happened on 18th September when our RSM, W.O.I Jim Thornton, was awarded a Mention in Despatches in the Honours and Award List for Northern Ireland. W.O.I Jim Thornton has been a tower of strength since the squadron was formed in Shoeburyness on 25th October. All members of the unit offer him our warm congratulations.
CHANGES OF COMMAND
As the squadron is now two years old there has been a large change-over in personalities during the last few months. The most notable of these being new Brigade and Squadron Commanders. Brigadier P.J. Bush, O.B.E. handed over command of 3 Infantry Brigade to Brigadier C. S. Wallis-King, O.B.E. on the 24th August. Five days later after two years as Officer Commanding the unit Major Keith Ryding handed over command to Major Rodney Dorrell. In September 1971 Major Keith Ryding started to form the squadron, the unit was officially formed on the 25th October, 1971 and came to Lurgan four months later. His two years in command have not been without incident and the various headaches associated with forming a unit, moving it to Northern Ireland, and making Kitchen Hill Factory a habitable place to live, work, sleep and play have taken their toll. Major Keith Ryding, so rumour has it, did have a good thatch of hair once, he left semi-bald. All concerned thank him for his efforts and wish him and his wife Sue, who he met and married in Northern Ireland, a good tour in Berlin. As a parting gift to the Squadron, Major Ryding planted a flowering Cherry tree in the dog compound, the only piece of green real estate owned by the unit.
On Wednesday, 26th September the complete cast of 'Does the Team Think' programme visited the factory to record a show. This is the first time the programme has been recorded outside the BBC studios since the show started some 15 years ago. The team arrived at mid-day and looked remarkably well after their flight from London, Jimmy Edwards was the pilot for some 20 minutes. After a couple of quick drinks in the Officers Mess, the jokes come quicker after a little lubrication, the show started. The recording lasted one hour and will be edited before going on the air in late October. The audience feel that the better parts will be edited, but it can safely be reported that Jimmy Edwards, Ted Ray, Arthur Askey, Cyril Fletcher and MacDonald Hobley were in good form, Sylvia Simms, the guest questioner added a touch of glamour and colour to the proceedings.
We are constantly being reminded that during internal security operations everyone is in the front line. At the beginning of August the IRA decided to disturb the Saturday afternoon peace by firing several mortar bombs at the Factory. Fortunately they 'lobbied' short (local word to describe IRA mortar flight) doing little damage, apart from shaking some dust about in the convent school next door.
Staff Sergeant Brown, RPC the Pioneer platoon commander had a much closer shave when the guard land rover he was driving from the quarters area was ambushed. Only one bullet pierced the makralon armour, hitting the fire extinguishers by Staff's knee before being deflected down into the engine compartment. The fire extinguisher exploding caused more fear to its occupants than the fact that they were under fire.
One evening in August Terrorists bombed the pub near to the married quarters, in the mistaken impression that it was used by our squadron families. The quarters guard attempted to stop the terrorists getaway, but were hampered by women and children being in the line of fire. This emphasises the point that though one attempts to lead as much a normal life as possible here, everybody must be prepared for the unexpected, must be able to think quickly and in extreme cases be able to use their weapons effectively.
The operational activities still continue apace with Alpha Troop regularly providing communications for special operations as well as maintaining their normal communications commitments. Bravo Troop cleared 50,000 messages through the comcen between July and September. On three occasions though the SDS nearly didn't get through. Most afternoons the SDS has a helicopter available to help cover locations in the Brigade Area. One afternoon the helicopter caught fire over Bessbrook, County Down, another time an SDS helicopter found it couldn't fly forwards whilst over Omagh, Tyrone and the last occasion the rotor gearing gave up, again over Bessbrook. We are assured that the fact that Signalman Warner, one of the Comcens SDS drivers, was aboard had nothing to do with it.
MT Troop under W.O.2 Tuppenney successfully overcame the problems of having a UEI whilst maintaining a 24 hour operational transport service, thanks to the splendid effort of all concerned, the RCT drivers led by Sergeant Corner as well as the Combat Drivers. Many thanks as well to Sergeant Bentley and his three REME craftsmen.
Staff Sergeant (F. of S.) Hall and M Troop (all six of them) managed to acquit themselves well over UEI whilst continuing to assist the Brigade in all things communicating. For example Sergeant McGarry ably assisted by Lance-Corporal Priday and Corporal Byrom have become quite expert in intercoms, after fitting them into almost every infantry border location in Counties Down, Fermanagh, and Armagh. This involved crawling in and out of sangers, over roofs and generally exposing themselves in locations where any sane angel would fear to tread.
Indoor sports flourish in our magnificent gymnasium, Badminton and Squash being the favourites. W.O.2 (R.Q.M.S.) Donovan organised a very enjoyable tournament which illustrated the general high standard of the participants. Staff Sergeant Cook, RAOC, won the squash final narrowly beating Sergeant Downie in the final.
Our lack of playing fields continue to plague our hockey and soccer teams, nevertheless despite several resounding defeats our sportsmen are not deterred and have even won a few victories lately.
There have been so many changes of faces in Kitchen Hill recently that to name everybody would take up too much space. Suffice it to say that to all the old original members of the squadron who have left, you have all done a difficult but valuable job, well done.