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Author Topic: Royal West Kent Regiment between the wars - 2nd Battalion  (Read 8056 times)

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Offline peterchall

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Re: Royal West Kent Regiment between the wars - 2nd Battalion
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2011, 16:07:09 »
Hi,
Since this is not directly related to Kent, I've answered to your post in 'Introductions>Hi from Guernsey'.
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Castle Cornet Keeper

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Re: Royal West Kent Regiment between the wars - 2nd Battalion
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2011, 12:15:32 »
  Hi Pete
  I am a keeper at Castle Cornet Guernsey and am reserching the German occupation of the Castle  but I need to get a before and after
  aspect as well so at the moment I'm looking at 1930 t0 1955 but am intrested ether side if there is anything of intrest. You said your dad and family (you) were billited in the MQ's is there any thing you can pass on about his/your time in the castle? This is a privete project for me not work but of course they will get it in the end. My other intrests are the German bunkers around the Island and as such I am a member of a group called Festung Guernsey see web sites http://www.festungguernsey.supanet.com/    and  http://www.steve-powell.co.uk/festung/index.html  thanks

Offline peterchall

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Re: Royal West Kent Regiment between the wars - 2nd Battalion
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2011, 15:56:25 »
Strange how once started, memories keep returning, here are some more:
My dad in white PT vest and blue shorts doing PT with a big group, to the tune of "White wings, they never grow weary....", played by the band. But I can't remember where - it could have been Aldershot or Shornecliffe.
Going to watch the Battalion march off to annual camp and crying my eyes out because my dad, who was in the Cyclist Platoon or Section, rode past without seeing me.
2nd Battalion mascot was a white Billy-goat, who marched at the head of the band dressed in a red coat.
I think the Regimental Quick March was "A hundred Pipers and All....", but am not sure - why would it have a Scottish tune?
 
Married Quarters at Napier Barracks, Shornecliffe, identical to the one I lived in - it may even be the same one; there were some buildings, like those in the photo, at the end of it. I lived about halfway along the top floor and there was a view across the Channel:


Not Kent, but Married Quarters at Aldershot. These were actually on the opposite side of Napier Square to the block I lived in:

Note the communal clothes lines
Aldershot Military Museum
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Royal West Kent Regiment between the wars - 2nd Battalion
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2011, 16:50:46 »
The battalion arrived in Malta on 16th March 1939 and went into St. George’s Barracks, the married families having already arrived from England. The expansion of the territorial army and conscription meant that several Senior NCOs were sent home as instructors, and the regiment again contributed to the ‘higher ranks’ of the army when 2nd Battalion's CO was promoted to Colonel and appointed Officer i/c Army Records at Hounslow.

The battalion actively entered into the local social life, possibly aided by the fact that the regiment's Colonel, General Sir Charles Bonham-Carter, was also Governor of Malta. As well as military style events such as parades and displays, the battalion formed a dance band (the “Invicta Swingers”) that was popular in the dance halls and clubs.

Its military duty was to defend a section of the south-east coast of the island, and when Italy invaded Albania on Good Friday the troops manned the defences over the Easter weekend, against possible Italian attempts to stop the British navy intervening (which it didn’t anyway).

As the war clouds gathered preparations were stepped up, and when war was declared against Germany it was expected that Italy would come in on her side. However, it was June 1940 before that happened, so we can leave 2nd Battalion still at peace.

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Offline peterchall

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Re: Royal West Kent Regiment between the wars - 2nd Battalion
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2011, 17:58:38 »
2nd Battalion arrived in Palestine on 14th January 1938 and went into barracks at Haifa. Apart from not being accompanied by families, the only inkling it had of the conditions it would find was in a letter to its CO from the CO of 16 Brigade, under whose command it would come.

Thereafter its adventures were so complex that no more than an outline can be given here. The background was that the state of Israel did not then exist, so that Arabs and Jews were intermingled, and the Arab opposition to this was growing in the face of Jewish refugees trying to enter the country from Germany. Arab gangs were attacking Jewish settlements, railways, and the Iraq-Haifa oil-pipeline; among other terrorist acts an RAF officer and his daughter were ambushed in his car and shot, for example.

Operations were of three kinds:
1.   Providing crews for armoured motorised rail trolleys to precede trains at night. Fitted with headlamps, they were intended to spot any ambushes or damage to the track and they were known as ‘suicide squads’.
2.   Detachments of platoon strength or smaller stationed in villages to impose curfews or to deny shelter to Arab gang leaders.
3.   Response teams of varying size reacting to intelligence received in advance, or events that had happened. Typically this would be to surround and attack a village where Arab gangs were believed to be assembling, going to the aid of premises that were under attack, or to comb an area for terrorists after an incident.

The situation worsened on 6 July when some Jews drove a lorry through an Arab market and threw a bomb which killed 25 people - the first of similar attacks. So again the army found itself trying to keep warring factions apart and the country was put under military control, as distinct from the army giving “aid to the civil power”; Major Clay of the RWK was made Town Major of Haifa.

Eventually a major offensive, in which the battalion took part, broke up the Arab gangs and then it was mostly a question of maintaining an uneasy peace.

The battalion left Palestine for Malta on 22nd March 1939.

During its time in Palestine the battalion personnel were awarded 1 OBE, 1 DSO, 4 Military Crosses (+ 1 to its Medical Officer, a member of the RAMC), and 2 Military Medals.(Note: In those days the Military Cross was awarded to officers and the Military Medal to Other Ranks – today the Military Cross is awarded to all ranks.)

On 21st May an oak Lectern was unveiled in the garrison church in Haifa in memory of the 11 members of the battalion who were killed during its time in Palestine. In 1948 it was taken to the garrison church at Shornecliffe. Does anyone know where it is now?

Main source: ‘Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, 1920-1950’ by Lt. Col. H.D. Chaplin.
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Offline peterchall

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Royal West Kent Regiment between the wars - 2nd Battalion
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2011, 17:50:14 »
2nd Battalion returned to UK from Mesopotamia in July 1919 and for some reason went to Rugeley, Staffs, where they changed from war to peace footing.

When a revolt started in Germany in March 1920 the battalion was sent to the Solingen area where it found itself as ‘piggy-in-the middle’ by having to disarm both German troops and communist rebels and keep them apart. It then moved to Cologne before going to Silesia in March 1921, to supervise polling stations in a referendum on whether the area should be part of Poland or Germany. It was rushed to Dover in April 1921 because of a national miners’ strike, but fortunately was not required to act against Kent miners.

Next it was to Dublin where the question of Home Rule for Ireland had again arisen. An indication of the chaos was that the Machine-gun Company was still in Silesia, transport and much equipment was still in Cologne, and the married families were in Dover! Operations in Ireland were complicated, during which the battalion lost one soldier killed and two wounded in skirmishes with Republicans.

The battalion arrived at Woking on 1st January 1925 and settled into peacetime routine until it sailed for Guernsey in November 1927.

It was about 1930 that my dad was posted in from the Depot at Maidstone, and we moved into the Married Quarters at Castle Cornet.
The MQ’s were the block seen end-on at the seaward side of the castle, at the extreme left of this photo – now a café and visitors’ centre:
                    
St Peter Port was along the causeway to the right – it can be seen why I regret being too young to remember it!

Battalion HQ and the single soldiers were accommodated in Fort George and the battalion entered enthusiastically into the social life of the island, the band visiting Jersey at least once each year to give concerts. It was another happy time in my dad’s army career, especially as he now had his family with him.

The battalion moved to Blenheim Barracks, Aldershot, in November 1930. The fearsome reputation of Aldershot Command was dampened by austerity measures that limited the intensity of training.

New colours were presented on 16th May 1931 and there was no fewer than 4 Major-Generals at the ceremony who had been former officers of the regiment, which was well up in the army with regard to producing high ranking officers.

Here is my father resplendent in dress uniform, presumably for that occasion:
                    

The battalion contributed to the annual Aldershot Military Tattoo and in 1934 the whole battalion put on a mass display of PT. To the best of my memory, families were allowed free entry to the final dress rehearsal.

As an indication of routine, there was the annual training camp in various places, where there were exercises up to division level; machine-gun competitions at Netheravon; rifle shooting competitions at Bisley; and cross-country running, athletics, and boxing.

The regiment was everything; it provided free family medical treatment long before the NHS, kids' schooling (provided by Queen's Army Schoolmistresses – see Glossary topic), social services, and the NAAFI Shop was the forerunner of the minimarket. It says something about army life in those days that I lived in MQs in Maidstone, Guernsey, Aldershot (my earliest memories), and Shornecliffe before my 6th birthday. So it's not as daft as it sounds to say “I spent the first 6 years of my life in the army”

'Medals will be worn'. Presumably a ceremonial parade - Aldershot:


The battalion moved to Napier Barracks, Shornecliffe, in November 1934. This was the first time it had been stationed in Kent since 1921, and it immediately set-about restoring its association with the county, despite it being east Kent – ‘The Buff’s’ territory!

My father left the army in April 1935 and I had to adjust to having playmates whose dads were not soldiers and to school-rooms heated by radiators; classrooms in the army school at Shornecliffe were heated by a Tortoise Stove in the middle of the gangway between the desks - what price today's H&S Regs?

In June 1935 the battalion marched from Shornecliffe to Tunbridge Wells, stopping overnight and Trooping the Colour at Ashford, Maidstone, Tonbridge, and Tunbridge Wells. A similar march in 1936 went to Ashford, Lewes, and Falmer. That year it also did a period re-enactment at the Aldershot Tattoo.

Shooting was carried out on the ranges at Hythe and Lydd.

1937 was an eventful year:
1.   In July silver drums that had been subscribed to by all ranks were received.
2.   The organisation was changed from 3 Rifle Companies and a Machine-gun Company to 4 Rifle Companies, and its Vickers guns were passed to the Royal Fusiliers in July.
3.   It received mechanical transport and the last horse-drawn wagons were withdrawn. At divisional exercises in September the men were moved about in trucks instead of marching.
4.   It won the Army Cross-country Championship and the Eastern Command Athletics Championship, and came 3rd in the Army Athletics Championship.

Then, on 4 January 1938, the battalion sailed from Southampton for Palestine, where we will leave it for the time being.

Main source: ‘Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment, 1920-1950’ by Lt. Col. H.D. Chaplin
It's no use getting old if you don't get artful

 

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