Heritage

Minden Day at Bury St Edmunds, July 31st 2016.

 

By Derek Chilvers…..
Suffolk Regiment in Cyprus 1958/59……

As I left my home for the drive to Bury St Edmunds for the annual Minden Day celebration, I was very glad to see sunshine with a few clouds, something we all look for because apart from the church service which takes place in a marquee everything else takes place in the open apart from one or two small covered stalls where you can purchase army memorabilia or get drinks, a very welcome commodity with all the talking that inevitably takes place.

I arrived at my destination where army cadets directed me to a parking area and as I pulled up and stepped out of my car I could already see Mick Burland and Johnny Douglas chatting to some of the lads and their wives who already had a place in the sun and were having a refreshing drink.  I am sorry to say I didn’t know all of them by name but recognised them from previous Chris Venessget-togethers.  I said my hello’s then moved away joined by Johnny and Mick and moved further into the wooded area heading for the white walls of the stalls knowing we would be onto the main walkway through the site and we joined that where the name posts were situated where you could enter your name on the paper pinned to the post and read through the names already there to see if you knew any of them.  It was in this manner that in 2012 Spike and I found Chris Veness after over fifty years which was great and proves how helpful the name posts are.

I continued walking leaving my friends putting their names up and I was hailed by Brian and Jacqui Stock and Les Andrews and then more people were calling and this time it was Spike and his wife Jean and then we gathered together talking and thinking about where we were going to set our table and chairs beside the parade ground and as all this took place I honestly lost track of time as we were now being greeted by a lot of our normal group, Wally and Wendy Sherwood, Noel and Barbara King and next came Johnny Sexton accompanied by his daughter who apologised for the absence of his wife who has difficulty walking, perfectly understood as apart from one or two gravel/stony pathways the area we were in was uneven grass, dead leaves and twigs, typical woodland.

Group - Minden Day 2016

Leaving them all chatting I made my way to the gate by the museum meeting up with David Leatherdale and his son, at this moment I will ask everybody reading this to please forgive me for not knowing all the family names as at times my mind spins trying to remember them, my old grey matter is getting foggy.

I next met up with Jim Harraway, Derek Heffer, Ken Lightfoot, John peck and Norman Riley and after the normal greetings I walked to the table where magazines were displayed  – The Friends of The Suffolk Regiment Gazette and Castle and Key, both produced annually  by Taff Gillingham and Mark Forsdike which give stories Minden Day 1958of the Suffolk Regiment over many years and up to date news. Mark was talking when I stopped at the table but when he saw me he immediately changed direction saying he had a surprise for me and he handed me a photograph which he said was taken on Minden Day Cyprus 1958 showing a large group of soldiers and a very young looking Derek was in the foreground and to the left of me was Scriggins who was in the ” C ” company armoury and used to hand us our weapons when we went out of Kykko camp and above him was a very young looking Pat Arbon. The photo had taken me by surprise as I had no idea of its existence and then Mark had another surprise for me when he told me it had been taken by our platoon sergeant of the day Mo Mobious and he had sent it to Mark to pass on to me if he saw me. Sergeant Mobious is mentioned in two places in my Army Memories and I have always said I would like to meet up with him some day and although I doubt if I will, Mark is going to give me his address and phone number, it’s a long shot that he will remember me but he did send me the photo.

Men and women groups

Still in shock over the photo and with it in my hand I continued my quest to say hello to as many old friends as I could and of course show them the photo. Among them was Pop Whitwell who confirmed that I was to do the wreath honours in Cyprus this year.  I then met up with Ron Ingram and his son who had also done twelve years in the army and was attending with his dad as it was all interesting to him, it was Ron who attended our last reunion, his first, which he enjoyed so much he said he would be attending all future gatherings and sure enough he was there with a big smile. After pointing Ron in the direction of our group I moved on and found Keith Flood who was looking a lot better, he had a serious motorcycle accident last year and was on two walking sticks at our last reunion but today he had gone down to one then going back to using two as the day wore on.

Marching - Minden Day 2016

Parade - Minden Day 2016

The Marching and Parading the Colours was beginning when I again joined our group and I was very happy to see the lovely Rosie among them, it is a two and half hour drive for her to join us which she does because she wants to represent Chris Veness in his absence and we all really appreciate her company, after a lovely cuddle and kiss we joined the crowd alongside the parade ground and watched the proceedings which was very good considering a lot out there were my age and above and now Jacqui Stock informs us that we have to be amongst them next year so no doubt if we are able we will be there.

Vehicles - Minden Day 2016

After the parade had finished we all then got together for a good old fashioned chin wag and the food came out and cups of tea were purchased from one of the stalls and the inevitable photo albums came out which passed an hour away and then some music was played over the speakers, one was Minden Rose, so I went to find the van where it was coming from and I was very pleased to find it was the same disc jockey from last year who I had given a CD to last year with Let’s Go Round Again and Special Absent Friends  which he had taken home for his mother. Today, in case I was not there, he had borrowed it from her but I asked him if he would play a CD that I had brought with me which was a Steve Travis sing along disc Chris Veness tributecalled Down Memory Lane which is a collection of fifty songs along the lines of Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant Major which went down very well with the army people of course.  Steve was a very good friend of me and Shirley and he is well known as the King of Sing Along and has made a lot of discs to prove it.

Brian Stock said he had one of Chris’s CD’s in his car and I asked him to get it for me which he did then with that and the tribute page Rosie had produced I went back to the DJ and showed him the paper and explained that the CD was by Chris, he was very upset to hear about Chris remembering that infectious character in the cowboy hat he met last year. After explaining to him I asked him if he would play some of the tracks of the CD which was called Chris Fender Black plays 22 Guitar Greats and would he use Rosie’s paper and give an announcement over the tannoy system as to who the music was by and why it was being played which he did and then he played six tracks which was wonderful.  Chris wasn’t there but we all sat listening remembering our sadly departed friend.

Standards

It was by now getting rather cloudy and as the flags were lowered with the last post sounding out followed by a minute’s silence we decided to pack up our chairs and table and make our way home, so as we said our goodbyes at our vehicles we all agreed it had been a great event once again and although Rosie had a long drive ahead of her she had stayed on to wave us goodbye, a truly lovely lady.  I phoned her later to make sure she arrived home okay and she said she was then off to bed and all was well.

So another Minden Day is over and I hope to see all of the lads again next year at the 2017 Minden Day event.

Band and bikers