The Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry
6 October 1959 - 10 July 1968
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SCLI Memoir by - Jeremy French - DCLI & SCLI
I reported to the Light Infantry Training Centre (1st Bn. Somerset Light Infantry) in October 1948; and after a short, sharp, shock, found myself in 'X' Cadre. The Platoon Commander was Lt. A.J.Collyns, assisted by 2/Lt. R.E. Waight. The Platoon Sgt. was Sgt. Frampton MM.
X Cadre - October 1948
J.F. rear row 2nd from left/ Front row, 4th from right: 2/Lt. R.E. Waight,Lt. A.J.Collyns,Sgt. Frampton MM.
From there I was posted to Mons OCTU, and whilst there decided to apply for a regular commission.
The Regular Army:
From Mons I went to a holding company at The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and in 1949 joined Intake V1 for the 20 month course. This was a very formative period in my life when, perhaps, I started to grow up. Certainly, many of my most enduring friendships were formed over this period.
The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry:
I was commissioned into the DCLI in Feb 1948 - along with John Pedley who later transferred to the Parachute Regiment. From the same intake, Hugo White was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry.
After initial courses I joined the Battalion at Bulford where we were part of 61st Lorried Infantry Brigade. After 6 months as a rifle platoon commander (B Company,Major J.S. Maclaren), I was transferred to the 3 Mortar Platoon, and in late 51/early 52 we moved to Minden. (Support Company Commanders - Majors J.E.E. Fry MC. and W.H. Hine-Haycock.)
In 1953 I returned to the Depot at Bodmin as a Training Subaltern. At this time, apart from basic training for recruits, both regular and national service, for 1 DCLI in BAOR and then the West Indies, we sent others to 1 KOYLI in Malaya and 1 DLI in Korea. National Service left a mark on most young men of that time, and it was an honour to be responsible for them as they found their feet, for most of them in a very different environment from anything they had known before. The Commanding Officers of the Depot over this period were Majors S.N. Floyer-Acland and J.T.C. Howard MC.
In 1955, there followed an 18week course at the Signals Wing at Hythe and I re-joined 1 DCLI in Jamaica, then commanded by Lt. Col. P.D. Daly, DSO, MBE. I became Assistant Adjutant and in the latter months of the tour Acting Company Commander of B Company until we returned to Walker Lines in Bodmin.
I later re-joined 1 DCLI in Osnabruck as the Regt. Signals Officer, the Commanding Officer being Lt.Col. D.N.H.Tyacke.
In 1957 I was appointed OC Training Company at the Depot at Bodmin. The Commanding Officers were Majors D. Ruttledge and G.T.G. Williams. The Training Subaltern at that time included Messrs Harvey, Vyvyan-Robinson, Petrie and latterly Reynolds, the Sgt. Major was CSM Hallett. Whilst there, I was able to study and pass the exams for entry to the Staff College at Camberley. Following the announcement of the plans to amalgamate, I took an active part in preparing for the merger of the two Depots.
I continued as Training Company Commander until sometime in 1958 - I was posted to HQ Land Forces Persian Gulf Bahrain. (This was a small staff HQ, responsible for administration of, inter alia, the resident detachment of an infantry battalion stationed in Bahrain and based in Kenya, an armoured car squadron in the Trucial States but based in Aden, as well as a small liaison unit in Kuwait. The Trucial Oman Scouts and the Sultan of Muscat's Armed Forces were also under command. Close liaison with both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force was an essential part of our role. We were also the control base for the force that came in from all quarters to prevent Sadaam Hussein's first attempt to invade Kuwait. This was my first time away from Regimental duty and proved to be a fascinating part of my short career).
The Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry:
The amalgamation was not something that any of us would have wished for, but the Regiment was very fortunate to have some outstanding officers, warrant officers and NCO's amongst its members who with great leadership, skill and determination ensured that all went well. As we all know the Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry went from strength to strength.
Ready for Colours Parade - Gibraltar May 1962
I returned to the Battalion in Gibraltar, at that time commanded by Lt. Col. W. Hine-Haycock, whilst in Gib I was the PRI and 2i/c HQ Company (Major ANL Thom)
After a great deal of thought I decided to retire from the army in 1961 and joined Shell-Mex and served them for 24 years, my last appointment being Public Affairs Manager for Shell in UK.
Captain J.G. French can be seen in the background between the Officer and C/Sgt. of the front row., on the right.
This website shows the Presentation of Colours at Europa Parade Ground, I had the honour to command No 3 Guard on that parade, the other Company Commanders were Messrs Collyns, Shapland and Stevens (not shown). It was a memorable occassion, and a high note on which to leave the army in which I had served 13 very happy years, made some very good friends and learnt a lot about what makes the world tick!
We came to live in Somerset in 1991 where my close neighbours include Lt.Col. RI. Field and Majors Bill Stevens and John Corringham. I was delighted to be asked to join the Somerset County Committee of the Army Benevolent Fund, and particularly enjoyed our meetings back in the Depot at Mount Street. The members included several Light Infantrymen - Colonel John Howard, John Mackie and Brigadier Alastair Fyfe amongst them.
Life somehow seemed to come full circle when I was invited to be the first President of the newly formed branch of the Light Infantry Association here in South Somerset. It was a great honour for me, and a joy to meet up again with many old friends. 'Once a Light Infantryman - Always a Light Infantryman', and there is no finer thing to be.
Copyright Text and Images: Jeremy French
Webmasters note (Keith)
My grateful thanks to Major Jeremy French for being the first officer to contribute to this website with an article, I remember him well from his time in Gibraltar, it was a delight to talk to him again after so many years. I am able to keep in touch with him and will pass any messages on.