Minden Day – 2nd August 2015

Gibraltar Barracks, Bury St Edmunds

By Margaret Sheard….

Since writing my first article about a British ex-serviceman in Cyprus I have on occasions been  involved in the activities of the men who served with the Suffolk Regiment in Cyprus 1958/59, specifically  7 Platoon ‘C’ Company and have been following their present day lives.  To see the first article which was written as a joint project between Derek Chilvers and myself, via many emails, and is entitled “British Army Memories in Cyprus 1958-1959” see the link at the end of this article and by typing Suffolk Regiment into the search box at the bottom of the cyprusscene home page this will bring up the many articles written about the “lads” then and now.

Where are they Now?

C Company 7 Platoon with names

The Minden Day celebration is a time when ex-members of the Suffolk Regiment can get together and exchange memories and this year was no exception when they attended the 2015 event on 2nd August at Gibraltar Barracks, Bury St Edmunds.

PosterAs we cannot join them I rely on Derek Chilvers and Chris Veness Black to supply me with their recollections of the day and following is what they have told me.

Both Derek and Chris do a lot of preparation in advance of these reunion events and Derek said that over the days before Minden Day he was making CDs and DVDs and all appropriate paperwork tracing everyone’s addresses and phone numbers so that they were all singing off the same hymn sheet.

Derek saidI arrived at the venue at 10.15 and by then there was quite a gathering and where I parked up there was a collection of tents and motor homes which was a surprise to me but after looking at the programme I realised that you could turn up the day before and camp overnight. The parking and camping site is in a thickly wooded area beside the parade square and already all available places on the edge of the square were taken up by small picnic tables and chairs, to some followers it is a day out so they come well prepared and get there early and with the weather being favourable it is a number one spot.  Les Andrews, who accompanied me on the journey, and I positioned ourselves at the gate leading to the museum where we always congregate and almost immediately we had a welcome from Brian Prior and his family who we first met up with at the first reunion party we held at the Rushbrooke Arms and we had a chat about the proceedings as it was their first visit and slowly as time passed our little gathering began to swell as Tommy Lane and his family arrived, Tommy travels down from Scotland and stays with his relations for a few days every year.

Minden Day get-together 3During the next thirty minutes or so we were joined by David Leatherdale on his mobility scooter who is kindly brought along by his son every year and then Terry Covell arrived followed by Chris Veness and Rosie B and then I lost track of the arrivals as Johnny Douglas, Mick Burland and two friends who had travelled with him and Wally Sherwood then appeared with his wife, followed by Brian Stock and his wife Jackie and to anyone reading this I now apologise if I have you in the wrong order or missed you out but never mind we are all together again and that is what the day is all about, comradeship. Once the greetings were all over we decided to get our chairs out and found ourselves a spot in half shade and half sun beside the van where a very friendly gentleman was operating the tannoy system very close to a van selling refreshments.Minden Day Get-together 1

I left the gathering and walked out onto the roadway where I was met by two lads with their wives from the same intake as me, Jim Harraway and Derek Heffer and had a quick chat as by now I was beginning to see other faces I knew and from there on everything was handshakes and hello how are you. When I returned to my main group a lovely young lady came over to me and hugged and kissed me which lasted a few moments and it was Julie Sills, daughter of the late Derek Tye, who I knew was attending because of the correspondence I had been having with her and after we finished saying hello she introduced me to her husband Alan who was accompanying her. Everyone in our immediate group were very pleased to see them and as I left them to go hunting for other friends/comrades they were all talking away and enjoying themselves.

It was now getting close to 12.00 and all the military action with the bands was well under way and I managed to see some of it and what I did see was very uplifting with many more of the old boys taking part in the march past, more I think than in the past. The number in our particular group is growing and I Then and Nowam still meeting up with many more newcomers and the spirit amongst all the lads is tremendous, hugs and smiles are everywhere as newcomers turn up and it is very nice as the number of wives joining in is getting larger too as word spreads that they are part of the celebration. 

All the official business was now over with and a more social event happening as all those along the edge of the square began to mingle and there were more welcoming smiles as more old friends found each other.  You have to be part of this to get the real feeling of what is happening as it is difficult to put it into words.  Beside our group I mentioned earlier that we had a van from where the music and commentary was coming from and I asked the gentleman producing all this if he could play CD’s to which he said yes so I gave him a CD with Minden Rose on it and as it went out from the loud speakers people close by began asking where it came from and I explained that it was written and sung by Wes Cardy who made a gift of it to the Suffolk Regiment and then I followed that with Can We Go Round Again and Special Absent Friends from another CD both of which went down very well with ladies close by so I now have to make copies of the CD for them and after the songs had finished the DJ, as he had now become, read the names of the other songs on the CD and asked if Minden Day get-together 2he could play the entire collection as it sounded much better than the stuff he had with him and so we now had country style music drifting through the trees and this happened twice and as the last song faded the DJ said his mother would really love the music so as he had been so friendly and helpful I let him keep the disc.

During the last two years I have tried to make contact with a gentleman named Taff Gillingham who I believe is known as an army historian  and I finally got to meet him at a stall where a young man had magazines called The Friends Of The Suffolk Regiment Gazette and Castle and Key on a table and it was here that I finally met Taff who was very glad to meet me and we had a long chat about how what I was doing finding old friends was wonderful as it was helping to keep the memory of the Suffolk Regiment alive and as I am sure you know praise like that helps to keep you going. I went back to my immediate group who were now breaking up and beginning to leave all agreeing it had been a wonderful day and were all looking forward to our next reunion at the Rushbrooke Arms, Sicklesmere on 6th December.

Les and I drove home feeling rather tired but very pleased with the day.

There was a nice write-up in the East Anglian Daily Times and the Ipswich Star which are both of the same company and Derek sent a copy of it which we are showing here.

Newspaper article

During the time Derek was writing his recollections of Minden Day, he visited one of his comrades who had served with him in Cyprus – Bob Vine (known as Bobby or Ginge because of his red hair) who was very ill in hospital.  He had always attended the Minden Day events and reunions and this year was unable to attend.   Sadly Bob Bob Vinepassed away on Wednesday 5th August, the “boys” are devastated at the news but also pleased that they have been able to spend some time together in their later years which is why their reunions are so important.   Cyprusscene send condolences to Bob’s family.

Derek has also said that he was so busy on Minden Day Sunday, but he remembered hearing the Last Post sounded while he was talking to Taff Gillingham but apparently over where the boys were they thought it very appropriate after Bob’s passing and they dedicated it to him.

Chris Veness Black sent many photographs which are included in the article and in the slideshow below and he 2014 group newhas also made a comment on the loss of one of the Suffolk Regiment comrades, as follows:-

Bobby “Ginger” Vine was a very close friend of mine in the Army and he was in my draft at Gibraltar Barracks Bury St.Edmunds on 3rd December 1957.  We shared a Tent together in “C” Company – 7 Platoon Cyprus, and he was a special great guy liked by everybody.  He will be sadly missed by all of us and thank God that myself and Derek put the new Reunions on in December and April or we would not have seen him again. He came to the April one and told Derek that he had Big ‘C’.

These are the last photos we had together and we had a great laugh as well. He has gone in 4 weeks and it was very quick and a big shock because he looked and acted so fine in April.  It’s very sad for all of us so we must give him a really good send off and at least he is free from all that terrible pain.

Chris has also sent me a copy of a poem which was written in 1987 and we give courtesy for its use to A. Lawrence Vaincourt.  It was thought to be a very fitting tribute to Bob Vine.

Poem

Chris also sent me this very touching email which shows a tremendous feeling of loyalty and the camaraderie which still exists.

Since ending my C’mon Everybody Show I have had more time to concentrate on my army colleagues and as we are all on the same conveyor belt going through time together waiting for someone to fall off, so to speak, I thought that just meeting up once a year was not enough. The first loss that really hit me was Brian Irvine a few years ago then Lennie Morse and Barry Green (who was my best man & drummer vocalist in my band ) they were all great friends of mine through the years.

They all sadly fell over with no warning and we have just lost three more colleagues this year Derek Tye, Keith Barron & Bobby (Ginger) Vine who all came to our reunions thank God.

Because of the year gap and the fact that the years are catching up with us all I thought we must have more HAPPY meet up’s apart from funerals, so with Derek Chilvers’ help ( I could not have done this without him bless him ) we have got everyone involved and found many new ( old ) army friends in the process. Derek and I are very close now much closer than we were in the Army. As you know out of all this I put together an army condolence card from us all which has gone down so well and been received by the wives and families of our comrades.to such an extent that they have had it framed for posterity with a big thanks. This has been so rewarding for Derek & myself and has involved every one of us in trying to comfort the bereaved wives and family members during a very sad time.

Derek is mission control and works his socks off keeping everyone in touch and trying to further our cause to find our old friends, a BIG HANDS UP to him and a massive thank you !!!!

Isn’t just great to know that someone out there cares about your welfare and well being.  Margaret I would just like to add that all the help and assistance you have given us is priceless and so much appreciated by everyone, especially by Derek & Myself.

Thank you for your kind words Chris, it is a pleasure to work with both you and Derek and I look forward to many more happy accounts of your reunions.

So another Minden Day has passed and the “old boys” of the Suffolk Regiment in Cyprus continue to get together in April and December, in addition to the Minden Day celebration, and although their numbers are diminishing it is still hoped that there are still some ex-servicemen out there who would like to join the reunions and reminisce about the days of their youth in Cyprus in the late 1950’s.

To see the article which started our interest in the Suffolk Regiment, click here

British Army Memories in Cyprus 1958-1959

There are more photos, past and present, in the slideshow below and following this a further slideshow as a tribute to Bobby (Ginger) Vine, Chris has supplied some photographs of past and more recently which include Bob Vine and these are shown in the additional slideshow.

Minden Day 2015

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Bobby (Ginger) Vine RIP

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