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National Service

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In June 2011 we heard from Brian Flude. He lives in Kettering, Northamptonshire. In his email Brian said the he had been looking at my website which he found to be most interesting. Brian carried out national service with the 4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards in 1952 and 1953 and was with the Regiment during its final year in Libya and its first year back in England. Brian was employed in the Regiment as a pay clerk. Additionally, due to his smartness, soldierly bearing and skills, he was selected for the rifle team, the athletics team and all the guard of honour parades. His smartness earned him the award of the Silver Whip and back in England with the Regiment in 1953 he was selected for the Regiment's coronation colour party.

Brian was called up for national service in September 1951. He subsequently joined the 66th Royal Armoured Corps Training Regiment at Catterick, North Yorkshire. After general military training he undertook further training as a clerk. This was due to the fact that prior to his national service he was a counter clerk in a post office. On completion of training he was posted to the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards then at Sabratha, Libya. He sailed from Glasgow on board the aircraft carrier, HMS Vengeance which was most unusual for almost all troop transportation in that era was by troopship. Trooper Flude, and no doubt many others, disembarked in Malta from where he was flown to the Castel Benito airfield in Tripolitania again a somewhat unusual mode of transportation of junior ranks at that time. He subsequently joined the Regiment at Sabratha where he carried out the duties described above.

In mid-to-late 1952 the Regiment left Libya and returned to the UK. On arrival at Liverpool the Regiment was transported to a camp at Church Crookham, Hampshire. Trooper Brian Flude was released from national service in September 1953.

Brian and his wife Jenny have been married for 55 years. They have a son and a daughter, two granddaughters and a great grandson. Brian was a sub postmaster for many years and then, with his wife, ran a holiday business in Cornwall. Subsequently they moved to neighbouring Devon. After five years in Devon Brian and Jenny returned to Kettering to be with friends and relations.

 

4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards winning rifle team. Sabratha, Libya, 1952.
Seated (left to right) SQMS Ryans, Major Barraclough, SSM Edmunds.
Standing (left to right) Tpr Flude, Tpr Whitworth, Cpl Sadler, Trp Branford, REME sergeant.

The members of the rifle team look extremely smart as they pose for the camera with rifles and their recently won trophy. The sergeants and junior ranks are wearing berets, open-necked shirts, shorts, web belt with brass buckles, hose, anklets and boots. The officer, centrally seated, is wearing a peaked hat, shirt, collar and tie, jacket with chained mail at the shoulders, Sam Browne leather belt, trousers and shoes. The officer and sergeants, who would be several years older than the junior members of the rifle team, are wearing medals. These will be Second World War medals and the Palestine General Service medal gained for service in Palestine (now Israel) immediately prior to the Regiment`s service in Libya. An additional point of interest in the photograph is the embroidered flash seen on the upper left sleeve of SQMS Ryans. This is the `D` Day flash awarded to all units in perpetuity that took part in the first wave of the Normandy landings in 1944. The 4th /7th RDGs was one of these units. Major Barraclough and SSM Edmunds would be wearing the flash but they cannot be seen in the photograph. The men wore the flash on the sleeve of battle dress during the winter months.

 


4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards Coronation Colour Party
Church Crookham, Hampshire, 1953
Group at left: Lt-Col S R M Jenkins MC, the commanding officer, Brigadier L E Misa DSO OBE (civilian dress) the regimental colonel, Major D C Atkinson (left shoulder only visible in the photograph), the officer commanding the colour party.
Colour Party from right inwards: LCpl Green, Tpr Flude, Tpr Ind, Sgt Griffin, SSM McClaren, Tpr Shreeve, Cpl Wainwright.

This is another excellent photograph provide by Brian Flude. It shows the regimental colour party being inspected by the regimental colonel at Church Crookham prior to setting off for London to take part in Queen Elizabeth`s coronation parade . Trooper Flude is one of the escorts to the colours carried by SSM McClaren and Sgt Griffin. The colour party are wearing peaked hats, dark blue uniform with chained mail at the shoulders, white canvas belts and pistol holsters, white cotton gloves, trousers with a yellow or gold stripe, boots highly polished. They all look extremely smart. Camp troop accommodation can be seen in the background.

The Regiment also provided a route lining party for the event.

 

 

Enquiry from the USA

In March 2007 we had an email from a correspondent in the United States. The correspondent was a former national serviceman with the 4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards at Sabratha, Libya, in 1948 and 1949. He had been reading the RDG memory albums on the Internet and had contacted Home Headquarters RDG to ask if they had any contacts from old comrades who had served in Libya. Home Headquarters gave him this website's contact details. The correspondent, Angus Mackenzie, was a lance corporal in 1st Troop, 'A' Squadron, 4th /7th RDG, during the period mentioned above. He retired from Scotland to upstate New York twelve years ago. It was a pleasure to hear from him. He and Ron were with the Regiment in Libya at the same time and would have shared many experiences.

Sabratha, Libya, in 1949.

The view is of officers and men of the 4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards on parade in their camp at Sabratha on the 24th August 1949. The occasion was the presentation to the Regiment of the Divisional Pentathlon Cup which the Regiment had just won. The presentation was made by the General Officer Commanding the 1st Infantry Division. He is seen above standing on a dais at middle right immediately prior to the presentation. The 4th /7th RDG was the divisional armoured regiment. The commanding officer of the 4th/7th RDG, Lieutenant-Colonel TGG Cooper. OBE., is standing behind the GOC. The members of the Regiment's pentathlon team are at the centre left in the hollow square which the regiment formed for the presentation. Ron remembers the occasion well and is among the troops facing the camera in the front rank second or third in from the right. Angus too would have been on parade for the presentation. Troop accommodation of 'A' Squadron, 4th/7th RDG can be seen in the background. The photograph is reproduced by kind permission of Home Headquarters, Royal Dragoon Guards, York.

 

National Service Contacts

A number of former soldiers, both Regulars and National Servicemen, who served in Libya with the 4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards in the late 1940s and early 1950s, contacted us in 2003 and 2004. Besides Email addresses several of the contacts had an English postal address and one, or more, had an address in Wales or in Scotland. Without exception the contacts sent warm greetings and news of themselves which was greatly appreciated. In addition, in many instances, the contacts sent photographs of their service days which were also much appreciated. One contact sent on loan three Regimental Journals. These were of tremendous interest as they contained photographs of many of the personalities in the Regiment during the years mentioned above and also numerous views of the camp at Sabratha, Libya, where the Regiment was based from 1948 to 1952 whilst part of the occupying troops in that country.

 

In August 2006, we had several e-mails from Montague Chapin (Monty). He was a national serviceman with the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards in Libya in 1951-52.  We were delighted to hear from him.

Monty lives in the USA in the town of Monroe in the state of Georgia about an hours drive east of Atlanta. Prior to his present residence Monty lived for over 50 years in Florida.  He was born in England but he was evacuated to the United States during the Second World War (1939-45).  He returned to England in 1945.  In 1950 he was called up for National Service.  After training as a tank crew gunner and clerk with the 17th/21st Lancers at Basra Lines, Catterick Camp, England, he was sent by troopship to Tripoli along with, among others, Sergeant Scriven.  Monty and the sergeant eventually joined the 4th/7th RDGs at Sabratha.  He served as a trooper in 'B' Squadron.  At Sabratha he worked in the Regimental Headquarters as a telephone exchange operator.  On completion of his National Service he returned to England and resumed his former occupation as a clerk.  Monty informs us that he joined the Westminster Dragoons (presumably in a Territorial Army part-time capacity) and was preparing to take part in the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation parade in June 1953 when he decided to return to North America, Canada initially, and then Miami, Florida, USA.  Monty is married.  He has one son, four daughters and eight grandchildren.  He had a brother and sister but his brother was killed in 1953 whilst serving with the Malaya Colonial Police.  His sister lives in England.

Attached to Monty's e-mails were a number of photographs for which we are most grateful.

Monty kindly provided the following additional information about himself which as will be seen is a compelling account.  His family were living in London during the German air raids in the Second World War.  In the Blitz his house was destroyed.  His family, however, found refuge in Victoria Coach Station, London.  They were subsequently evacuated to Rhyl in North Wales.  As Monty's father was an American (see additional information below) Monty, then 10 years old, together with his brother and his sister, were evacuated to the United States.  They crossed the Atlantic in November 1942 sailing from Scotland to New York in the Queen Elizabeth with naval escort.  The Queen Elizabeth was a fast passenger liner then used as a troopship to bring US soldiers and airmen to the UK in preparations for the Normandy landings and other actions.  The liner could make the voyage from the UK to the USA and back within 12-14 days.  Its speed was such that it was difficult, if not impossible, for German submarines to attack it.  In the USA the two boys and their sister stayed with different families in New Jersey.

Monty's father was a distinguished soldier  He was the only son of wealthy parents and received $25,000 on his 21st birthday in 1896.  Subsequently he left the USA to serve with the British Army in South Africa first in the war against the Matabele in 1896 and then against the Boers in 1899-1902.  Between the two wars Monty's father, as a captain in the British Army, took part in Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee parade in 1897.  In 1902 he received the D.S.O. from King Edward VII.  During the Great War (1914-18) he was awarded a commission as a lieutenant in the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards which - with the 7th (Princess Royal) Dragoon Guards - amalgamated in 1922 to form the 4th/7th RDGs.  Due to his previous military experience advancement came quickly and he soon reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  He lost an eye from a grenade in 1915 after which he wore a monocle which Monty still has.  Monty says he loved his father dearly but he was an odd fellow.  He never spoke about his war service but he left numerous papers and diaries so it has been possible for Monty to re-construct his father's military experiences pretty accurately.  Monty's father had many friends from his army days with whom he kept in touch.  Among these was a former commanding officer, Lt-Col Julian Byng, later Governor  General of Canada and a Field Marshall.  Another friend was Major General Arthur Solly-Flood CB, CMG, DSO who was the 4th/7th RDG's Colonel of the Regiment from 1930 to 1940.  Monty's father died at the age of 77 years.  He never returned to the USA except to be buried there in 1952.

He left a fine collection of medals which Monty has passed down to his son along with his deceased brother's General Service Medal with a Malaya clasp.  In addition to the medals Monty's father left a collection of papers including personal documents received from both King Edward VII and King George V.  Monty is presently trying to decide where best to deposit the papers and documents.

It was due to Monty's father's friendship with General Solly-Flood that Monty came to be sent to the 4th/7th RDGs in Libya in 1951.  For otherwise after completing his training he might have been sent to one of the dozen or so other British Armoured regiments then in existence.

Monty says that following on from approaches made by his father, presumably to General Solly-Flood, the commanding officer of the 4th/7th RDGs, Lt-Col J A d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, MC, wrote to the 17th/21st Lancers at Catterick to request that Trooper Chapin, M H, 22402947 be posted to the 4th/7th RDGs on the completion of his training.  The request was complied with and after 5-6 months training in England, a voyage on a troop ship to Malta, possibly, and then from there to Tripoli and temporary accommodation in a transit camp, Trooper Chapin, M H, joined the Regiment at Sabratha in January 1951.

As we have mentioned earlier, Monty was employed as a telephone exchange operator in the 4th/7th RDGs' regimental headquarters.  He would have had other duties as well including internal and external security duties as these arose or as were routinely carried out.  However, to return to the telephone exchange at Sabratha which Monty says was a real antique.  It is likely that the telephone exchange was installed when the Italians built the camp in the 1930s.  Monty says that by working in the regimental headquarters he had the opportunity to speak on a daily basis to Lt-Col d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, MC (later Major General Sir James d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Bt., CB, OBE, MC).  Monty was a frequent visitor at the Colonel's quarters and Monty still has a number of mementoes of him.

Monty mentions the following names of some of the men he served with in 'B' Squadron, 4th/7th RDGs.  Monty regrets that he cannot recall first names.  Their surnames are : Gavin, Wilson (two Wilsons), Millar, Donough, Packman, Errington, Fryer, Gilbody, Styant, Bryers, Humpage and Kirby.

In his first email to us Monty mentions the Roman ruins at Sabratha.  These, it will be recalled, were a feature of the email from our previous correspondent, Cliff Dowsett.  Monty says that he remembers the ruins well and has many photographs of them.  He also has a photograph of a group of his fellow soldiers in the 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards.  This photograph is among those presented below.

 

Group photograph taken in front of the 4th/7th RDGs Regimental Headquarters at Sabratha, Libya, on June 14th, 1951.  Trooper M H Chapin (Monty) is second from the left in the front row.  Also in the front row at centre is SSM Edmonds.  It is likely that the group are a team and possibly the winners of a small-arms competition as they appear to be holding light machine guns.  Photo courtesy of M H Chapin.

 

Group of three officers of the 4th Royal Irish Dragoon Guards somewhere in France in 1918.  Monty's father is in the centre of the group.  The photograph was taken on the occasion of his 43rd birthday on February 23rd, 1918.  He was a Major at the time.  All three officers signed the photograph.  Monty's father appears to be pointing to the basket in the foreground but the significance of this is unclear.  Photo courtesy of M H Chapin.

 

Sabratha, Libya, March 1951.  Field-Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein is greeted by Lt-Col J A d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, MC, commanding 4th/7th Royal Dragoon Guards, on the F-M's arrival at Sabratha to inspect the Regiment.  The Divisional Commander, Major General F R G Matthews is at the left.  The 4th/7th RDGs were the divisional armoured regiment.  Photograph in the Regimental Magazine of June 1951 courtesy of our correspondent in Scotland.  Please renew contact.  Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Home Headquarters, Royal Dragoon Guards, York.

 

A guard of honour (centre left) present arms with Sten guns held across the chest for Lieutenant General Sir George Erskine KBE, CB, DSO on his visit to the Regiment at Sabratha in April 1951.  Buglers are at the left.  Lt-Col J A d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, MC in foreground (back to camera).  Regimental headquarters is in the left background.  A triumphal arch constructed by the Italians when they built the barracks in the 1930s is in the right background.  The troops are wearing battle dress.  The officers are wearing service dress.  Sleeve embellishments included the D-Day flash awarded to all (British) regiments landing in the first assault wave on D-Day 6th June, 1944.  Photograph in the regimental magazine of June 1951 courtesy of our correspondent in Scotland.  Please renew contact.  Photograph reproduced by kind permission of Home Headquarters, Royal Dragoon Guards, York.

 

Trooper M H Chapin (Monty) at the Roman ruins at Sabratha.  Photo courtesy of M H Chapin.

In September 2006, we received an e-mail from Cynthia Chapin. The e-mail relates to the above description of Monty Chapin's military service and that of his father, Lt Col Sydney H Chapin DSO. The e-mail is reproduced as follows:

"Hi Ron,

The article on your website was just great. I'm showing it to all my kids. I hope someone who served in Sabratha sees it. Keep in touch.

Monty and Cindy"

The reader is also referred to the 'Aftermath' website in which additional information relating to Lt Col Sydney H Chapin DSO is included. See http://www.aftermathww1.com/chapin.asp

In March 2006, we had an e-mail from Cliff Dowsett. He was a national serviceman with the 4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards in Libya in 1949 - as was Ron. See the 'Recollections of National Service' online article in this web site. Cliff, who lives in Kent, asked his daughter to locate any RDGs sites on the Internet. Of those found, he says, mine looked the most promising. Cliff was kind enough to say that he enjoyed my online national service article. Attached to his e-mail, and to subsequent e-mails, were, and are, copies of very interesting photographs which he has kept safe for well over fifty years. The photographs are of various scenes and groups of soldiers in and around Sabratha, Libya, where the 4th /7th RDGs had substantial accommodation in a former Italian barracks. Two of the photographs are reproduced below. Cliff has kindly provided brief details about himself which we were pleased to receive.

He was born in the village of Cliffe (see the connection) near Rochester, Kent, in 1929. He is the third of seven children. His father was a shepherd on the North Kent Marshes. He attended a local school where for his last two years i.e., war years 1942 and 1943, one half of the local children attended school in the morning with the other half attending in the afternoon. With this arrangement only half of the children were in school at any one time. This was a damage limitation precaution in case the school was bombed or shelled which then was a daily hazard for those living in Kent and the nearby counties. Cliff says that a decoy airfield on the marshes deflected many enemy bombers from his immediate locality so that losses were not as great as they might have been. Nevertheless, over six hundred heavy explosive bombs and thousands of incendiary bombs landed within his parish boundary. In one air raid three local farms were set on fire. Three V1s and two V2s landed in his local area. One of Cliff`s cousins was killed when a RAF Stirling bomber crash landed into a row of cottages. All seven crew members were killed. Cliff says they were frightened at first when the bombing started and slept in home-made shelters but eventually everybody went back to sleeping in their own houses. Ron recalls people in his own locality in Leeds doing the same.

After leaving school Cliff worked as a butcher's boy. He was called up for national service in August 1947. After four months training as an armoured car driver-mechanic at Barnard Castle, County Durham, he was dispatched with other troops by sea to Egypt. From there he went by train to Palestine to join the 4th /7th RDGs on internal security duties near Nazareth. In 1948 the Regiment left Palestine for Libya where they became part of the occupation troops there. At Sabratha Cliff became the Regiment's ration truck driver with the rank of lance corporal. (see illustration)

He returned home in August 1949. He worked as a lorry driver for many years. He was a transport foreman when he took early retirement in 1985 aged 55. However, he subsequently returned to work when he and another man were selected from a large number of applicants to work for Kent County Council on a mosquito control project on the North Kent Marshes. Cliff retired from the project in 1996. He married a local girl in 1952. He has two children and four grandchildren. His eldest granddaughter married in August 2005.

 

Sabratha, Libya, 1949

The illustration shows Lance Corporal C L (Cliff) Dowsett of HQ Squadron, 4th /7th RDGs climbing into his truck. The west side of the accommodation blocks in North Camp, Sabratha, can be seen in the background. A washing line presumably being used by the outdoor laundry operated by Arab women employed by the Regiment can also be seen in the background. The vehicle is believed to be a four ton truck.

With 800 plus junior ranks (corporals, lance corporals and troopers); 30-40 warrant officers and sergeants and 30-40 officers in camp in 1949 the provision requirement must have been considerable. Lance Corporal Dowsett would have had a heavy work load bringing supplies from the divisional depot (of 1st Infantry Division of which the 4th /7th was the armoured regiment) in Tripoli some 30-40 miles away to the Regiment`s kitchens, four in all. The kitchens were one each for the dining rooms as follows; Junior Ranks, North Camp; Junior Ranks, South Camp, Sergeants Mess, Officers Mess. He may also have brought provisions from Tripoli for the married families with quarters in camp. Cliff would have had other duties as well including internal and external security duties as these arose or as they were routinely carried out.

 

Sabratha, Libya, 1949

The illustration shows a swimming party from HQ Squadron, 4th /7th Royal Dragoon Guards standing on part of the Roman 'ruins' near the regimental beach. The Mediterranean Sea is in the background. Ron Addyman is second from the left: Wally Wright is in the middle; Cliff Dowsett is second from the right and Tex Lister is at the right. Ron recognizes the swimmer at the extreme left in the picture as one of his soldier friends but cannot recall his name. As far as Ron is aware they were all national servicemen. The Regiment`s barracks were two to three miles inland from the regimental beach which was fenced off for their exclusive use

The swimming party are standing on the ramparts of the spectacular amphitheatre built by the Romans in the third century AD. The beautifully-proportioned tiered pillars of the stage rise three stories high. The `ruins` were partly restored by the Italians in the 1920s. After clearing the sand dunes from other parts of the site the remains of the Roman city of Sabratha, one of the three cities of Tripolitania, were discovered. The other two cities being Leptis Magna and the capital Tripoli.

See the website: http://www.walker.demon.co.uk./sabratha.htm for magnificent colour pictures of the theatre at Sabratha. See also other sites listed under Sabratha, Libya.

 

For information, Ron's personal account of his national service with the 4th/7th RDG in Libya (see Publications Section this Website) is presently out of stock but a new edition is being prepared. Enquiries welcomed.