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Worcestershire Regiment Reserves in the County post 1967:

After Re-organisation

 

Introduction

The recent history of the army reserves in Worcestershire from 1967 to the present is one of constant review and re-organisation. The cold war of the 1970s brought with it a massive expansion in the numbers and role of the TA. However, as the cold war faded away, the army began re-adjusting to new roles. This process of change streamlined the provision of reserves. In essence, this story has been underpinned by a fundamental re-appraisal of the role of the reserves army in the UK post cold war period and has seen a shift away from the traditional need for a massive expansion of the army in time of national emergency to a reinforcement role of the regular army in order to meet more specific, smaller scale campaign oriented requirements. This shift in rationale has brought with it major implications for unit organisations, resources, recruiting and equipment.

 

This re-appraisal has raised concerns amongst TA officers and soldiers, including those who served throughout the cold war period and who built up an extensive repository of skills, knowledge and expertise related to the organisation and deployment of coherent, formed units. For some, it has led to the perceived diminution of the volunteer spirit in the county and a weakening of the traditional links between the citizen soldier as a volunteers and their local political and social milieu. The process is still evolving. family commitments and civilian employer/employee relationships and it effects on recruitment and retention are two important factors in this evolution and only time will tell if the new system will work into the 21st century.

 

The one weakness in all this change is that the UK has been left generally unprepared militarily for a national major threat to the homeland. Change has been brought about with little regard for preserving the best of what went before to meet such a potential threat. The TA has lost its numbers and equally importantly its ability to operate as formed units. However, equally one could argue that we do not need this any more and that future threats will come from small scale terrorist groups rather than hostile nations. But who is to say? Given the fact that the 20th century suffered two mighty conflicts that changed the world for everyone, perhaps it would be foolish not to make plans for a future major national threat to the homeland.

 

Worcestershire Regiment TA and its successors

The reserve army, therefore in Worcestershire post 1967 was created on these premises. On the re-organisation of the Territorial Army in 1967, the Territorial Army Volunteer Reserve was formed. This was divided into TAVR I, selected units for instant recall for service in an emergency, TAVR II who were to reinforce the regular army, TAVR III which was committed to home defence and TAVR IV which included Bands and University Officer Cadet Units (OTCs).

 

TAVR III

Under pressure from the Duke of Norfolk and the Territorial Associations, TAVR III Home defence units were formed from some of the disbanded TA units. They were lightly armed and had little or no transport and other equipment was limited. Within Worcestershire, a Squadron of the Worcestershire and Warwickshire Yeomanry (TA) was formed at Stourbridge under the command of Major AW Wiggin. The Worcestershire Territorial Regiment RA (TA) was formed with batteries at Worcester and Malvern. The Regiment was commanded by Lt Col AWRH Pettigrew, with Majors A Mothom and Major EG Gray TD as Battery commanders. These TAVR III units had a very short life and were held together by the enthusiasm of the members. They were disbanded when the TA underwent further expansion after 1970. Small TAVR III cadres were then set up to enable expansion to take place in the future if and when required. The RA Territorials wanted their lineage to go to the new TAVR II Air Defence Battery being formed at Malvern and Worcester as part of the expansion. Therefore    a new cadre was formed at Worcester titled ‘The Worcestershire Regiment’ Cadre under command of Major ER Vines TD. It was a small unit of approximately six personnel and was administered by B Company Mercian Volunteers. The Yeomanry lineage continued by developing into TAVR II units,  A Signals Squadron and the Queens Own Mercian Yeomanry.

B Company (Worcestershire)  at the Shrubbery, Kidderminster, Remembrance Sunday 1969 with Colonel E R W Tooby OBE,MC.TD Sponsor Officer of B Company later to become Honary Colonel of the 1st Battalion

 

 

Within the overall TAVR framework in Worcestershire, B Company (Worcestershire) Mercian Volunteers (TAVR II) was formed at the Shrubbery at Kidderminster commanded by Major KH Jeavons.  This Company was   the direct successors to the 7th Bn Worcestershire Regiment TA retaining the privilege of the Freedom of Kidderminster. A privilege it exercised on many occasions. It was the only infantry TA remaining in the county after re-organisation. Its initial role was to provide an additional Company for the regular battalion on mobilisation. Under the banner of the ‘One Army’ this role was tested by replacing regular companies in Germany, Gibraltar and Cyprus whilst they were committed elsewhere. The Company was part of Mercian Volunteers; a Battalion formed from each of the Mercian Brigade TA Battalions. Its cap badge was the double headed eagle of the former Mercian Brigade. Mercian Volunteers had a high proportion of regular army staff, including a regular commanding officer and was equipped to a high level. In 1969 B Company had raised an infantry platoon at Worcester under command of Lt BL Clarke. This continued until 1971 when the TAVR III cadre was expanded to form A (Worcestershire) Company Light Infantry and Mercian Volunteers at Worcester with an outstation at Stourport with a home defence role. B Company Mercian Volunteers continued to host the mortar platoon at Droitwich and raised an infantry platoon at Bromsgrove to replace the one at Worcester. The Company was privileged to march with the 1st Bn The Worcestershire Regiment on their final parade through the city of Worcester before amalgamation.

 

This situation continued until 1975 when there was a further expansion of the TAVR. Light Infantry and Mercian Volunteers became the 2nd Bn Mercian Volunteers with an enhanced role in BAOR to defend the communications centre of 1 British Corps. Mercian Volunteers then became the 1st Bn Mercian Volunteers   B Company at Kidderminster with the outstation infantry platoon at Bromsgrove under command of LT R Adams and the mortar platoon at Droitwich under command of Lt TE Phillips. The battalion had an enhanced role in BAOR initially to defend the BAPD Ammunition and Petrol Supply Depot. Later their role was upgraded again to become part of 49 Brigade in 2nd Division, a Regular Army Division with Headquarters in York. In this role the battalion, together with its sister battalion was involved in the largest post World War 2 exercises in Germany under the names of Ex Keystone and Crusader.

 

The two Battalions were well respected throughout the Reserve Army carrying on regimental traditions in the shooting world. Both battalions won the coveted ‘China Cup’ and featured regularly in the District Competitions. The 1st battalion made its mark in the world of Orienteering, in both Regular and Territorial Army Competitions. Members of the Worcester Companies were prominent members in the teams.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1st Battalion Shooting Team with the China Cup at Bisley 1980.

  S/Sgt Templeman,  L/Cpl Bacon, Cpl Williams, Pte Dixon, Lt Col Woolnough, OBE, S/Sgt Lambert,  Cpl Bettany, Pte Hazelhurst, WO2 Foss, S/Sgt Prosser, Cpl Leigh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Battalion winners of the China Cup Bisley 75th Anniversary of the TA

 

 

These   arrangements continued until the advent of another review of the TAVR in 1987. Mercian Volunteers were to have a third battalion. But this was not to be as the TA reverted to its county affiliations and new units were formed.  3rd Bn The Cheshire Regiment, 4th Bn the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and the 3rd Bn The Staffordshire Regiment were created out of the 1st and 2nd Bns Mercian Volunteers. The 4th Bn Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters now had companies at Worcester, Kidderminster, Shirley and Nottingham with Bn HQ at Kohima House in Redditch, losing its NATO role and becoming a home defence unit.

There was stability for four years until another review took place in 1991. The 4th Bn Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters was disbanded and after a long and hard fight, B Company was retained as part of the 5th Bn The Light Infantry based at Shrewsbury. This, however, was only a short respite before more re-organisation and change of role for the TA. The 5th Bn Light Infantry was disbanded and from it was created the West Midlands Regiment, B Company survived to become the Worcestershire Company in the new regiment. During this time members of B Company in the new role have served as individual replacements for regular units in Bosnia, Kosovo, United Nations, the Falklands and in composite units in Afghanistan.

 

2007 saw yet another re-organisation, this time on an even more massive scale for both the Regular and Territorial Army and occasioned by the recent experiences of the Gulf wars and involvement in the Balkans. A new Mercian Regiment was born out of the regular regiments of the Cheshire, Worcestershire and Foresters and Staffordshire. They became respectively the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Bns the Mercian Regiment, wearing as their new cap badge the double headed eagle, the emblem of the former Mercian brigade. Their 4th Bn was to be the TA element and it was formed from units of the West Midlands Regiment. The TAC at Kidderminster was retained with two platoons of G Company, based at Burton on Trent and remains the county’s only infantry representative in the new 4th Bn Mercian Regiment.TA.

 

Sponsor Officers

Both Companies had ‘Sponsor Officers’. These were officers appointed to retain the links with the parent regiments. B Company’s Sponsor Officers were Colonel E R W Tooby  (who later became Honary Colonel of the 1st battalion), Colonel J Stuart, Lt Colonel K H Jeavons, Mr Charles Talbot and Colonel I Bramble, now known as a Deputy Colonel. A Company’s Sponsor Officers were Colonel Cronin and Lt Col Vines.

 

Other developments and appointments.

 

In 1980 the MOD decided to form District Training and Advisory Teams. The 1st battalion then commanded by Lt Col H A Woolnough was tasked to set up the West Midland District Training team. Lt Col K H Jeavons was appointed to command and recruit this team from officers and Senior NCOs in the District. Early members were Major B M Sayers and Colour Sgt Culter, both originally Worcestershire Regiment and WFR. This team developed and was later commanded by Lt Col Colonels B L Clarke, B P Lewis and I Bramble. Senior NCOs from Mercian and WFR continue to serve in this much expanded team which is now known as 143 Brigade Regional Training Team. One of it’s mainly and varied tasks were to train members of the regular Army in NBC before the first Gulf war.

 

The Worcestershire Way

Major Abell and Sgt Owen planned and instigated the ‘Worcestershire Way’, a long distance walk, which starts at Kinver Edge and finishes at the Gloucester shire border having crossed the Malvern Hills.  This now features in the County Councils Leisure Services leaflets although no acknowledgement is given as to its origin.

 

 

Home Service Force

  The Home Service Force was formed in 1982 as a direct result of the perceived threat from the ‘Spetznaz,’ or Russian Special Forces, to Key Points on the British Mainland. Following the 1982 Defence White Paper, four ‘Pilot’ Home Service Force Companies were formed. Enlistment was restricted to serving and former members of the armed forces, officers and adult instructors from the ACF or equivalent and former MOD policeman. Age at enlistment was to be between 20 and 50, but members could serve until they were 60. F Company was the fourth of these pilot companies and was attached to 2 Mercian with Headquarters at Worcester and platoons at Kidderminster and Hereford. Major S P Etheridge TD took command on 13th July 1982. Recruiting was brisk and the Company quickly became effective with highly qualified and experienced members.

 

F Company was called out for service on 6/8th September 1985 to take [part in a major nation-wide Home Defence Exercise ‘Brave Defender’. The Company was responsible for Key Points in Ross on Wye and Malvern. The Companies carried out similar exercises through their life. In the same year, 1985, the HSF was expanded to 47 Companies. G Company was raised at Kidderminster, attached to 1 Mercian, and E Company at Walsall, attached to 2 Mercian.

The Home Service Force,

By

Major J J Featherstone

 

I joined the Regular Army on 5th November 1960 as an officer cadet at Mons Officer Cadet School and spent an interesting and varied three years as a sapper subaltern in Hong Kong, Singapore, Nepal and finally at Chatham. I retired and, with the exception of a brief and unsuccessful brush with the R Mon R E (TA), had nothing to do with the Army until a chance meeting with Nick Bury at a Christmas Party in December 1984.  He quickly discovered my military past and explained that he was OC of a company of the Home Service Force based at Worcester.   The Cold War was then at its peak and the Government had become aware of the threat posed by the Russian Special Forces (Spetznaz) to key military and economic points in the UK.  The HSF, he explained, was a newly formed force, drawn from a pool of ex-servicemen, with the long-term aim of becoming capable of guarding vital installations in the UK, thus releasing the overstretched regular army and TA for other tasks.  Under the influence of a substantial amount of the Christmas spirit, I rashly agreed to go over to Worcester, sometime in the New Year to ‘have a look’ at Nick’s unit. I thought nothing more until one Thursday evening in January 1985 there was a knock at the door and there stood Major Bury in his uniform asking if I was ready!

 

F Coy HSF and A Coy 2 Mercian were, at that time, in the old TA centre in Norton Road and I soon found myself greeted by a selection of ex Army, Navy and Air Force men, some of whom had even done National Service.  The one common factor was that they all seemed pleased to be back in uniform and ready to serve their country again, or was it the prospect of cheap beer and a chance to tell war stories?   I must admit that I quickly felt at home and had soon taken the Queens Shilling.   After an interview with the 2 Mercian CO, Lt Col Hugh Wilmore followed by a District Board in Shrewsbury, I received a letter on 10 June 1985 from the Ministry of Defence, approving my Appointment, at the age of 45, as Lieutenant in the TA!

 

The role of the HSF had yet to be clarified and we were very much left to our own devices.  In June 1987 this had led to 6 members of an HSF unit attached to 5th Queens in Canterbury being arrested by the police after conducting an unauthorized escape and evasion exercise across the Kent countryside.  To their credit, the police took most of the day to apprehend them and then only got names ranks and numbers!  They were charged under the Unlawful Drilling Act of 1819 which prohibits illegal gatherings of a ‘quasi military nature’!

 

Our kit was pretty basic comprising one set of combats and a SLR.  In the stores we had a few sets of black plastic waterproofs and some civilian walkie-talkies Training was very much at the discretion of the OC and much time was given to weapon training and guard duties, including VCPs, vehicle and personal search techniques.   Luckily we had a number of ex-servicemen who had served in Northern Ireland who were able to instruct in these subjects.

On Friday, 6th September 1985, the whole company paraded at the TA centre, and mobilized for Exercise Brave Defender.  This was the largest conventional exercise held in Great Britain since the Second World War and involved 65,000 service men and women including the newly formed Home Service Force! Shortly before the exercise, I was issued with a draft copy of the HOME DEFENCE AIDE MEMOIRE 1985.  This included chapters on the role of the Civil Police, Rules of Engagement, KP Planning, KP Guard Planning, Voice Procedure and BATCO (I was brought up on Slidex so this was a completely new procedure), EOD procedures and vehicle searches, Helicopters?, First Aid and Admin, and best of all a list of abbreviations in common use.  I had been out of the Army long enough to forget ‘Armyspeak’, so this was most useful.    I was also issued with a Mould radio but no instructions on its use. Saturday morning found 25 members and myself of 2 platoon digging in around the butts on Ross ranges.   Knowing no better, I sited my weapon pits for all round close defence of the KP, posted sentries and settled down for a long weekend. There then followed a succession of unannounced visitors from Western District Headquarters, including a padre, an Australian liaison officer, and several staff officers of varying ranks.  Needless to say, all were denied entry and sent away with fleas in their ears by my zealous sentries. During the night, however, things hotted up and we sustained regular attacks from the enemy, until relieved late on Sunday afternoon by a (unannounced) company from a Welsh Regiment.  By this time we were all tired and gratefully allowed them to relieve us, called up our transport and made our weary way back to Worcester.

I came back from the exercise realizing how little I knew about KP defence and how little information was available.  However help was at hand and in 1988 Western District issued their own version of the Home Defence Aide Memoire and shortly afterwards by The Home Service Force Handbook was issued to us.

In July 1986, Nick Bury retired and was replaced by Peter Jackson, who had been a TA RCT Company commander. I was appointed training officer and, with the help of the new handbook, started grappling with the problems of balancing our needs with our limitations to produce a balanced training programme.   We practiced constructing concertina wire fences, knife rests, and sangars, we carried out foot and vehicle patrols and ambushes.  Everyone had a spell in the gas chamber at Long Marston and our NBC skills improved beyond measure. The Junior NCO’s brushed up their giving of orders and we had regular PT periods.   The officers and SNCO’s were called in to our TAOR HQ at Long Marston, and introduced to our wartime KP’s and to the other units involved, including representatives from the police and fire brigade. In short, the HSF was coming of age.

November 1987 saw a further expansion of the HSF, Peter Jackson went off to Coventry to form a new G Company HSF with 5RRF.  And in April 1988, G Coy, 1Mercian at Kidderminster, was merged with F Coy, 2 Mercian to form F Coy HSF, 4WFR.    Alastair Graham was appointed OC and I was appointed 2 i/c and promoted to acting captain.    We now had two platoons at each location with HQ at Worcester. At this point, of course, F Company was no longer part of the Mercian Volunteers but the following may be of interest:-

In August 1988 we received a priority signal from Western District authorising the recruitment of former WRAC personnel into the HSF. W Pte Jane Atkinson was almost certainly the first female member of the Home Service Force. October 1988 saw the company deployed to Long Marston on Exercise Western Encounter where we successfully defended our KP’s against the SAS, a fact which was reported in the Daily Express!   Alastair Graham retired at the end of the month and I was appointed OC. In June 1989 Lt H R Evans and in June 1993, Cpl D A Sands were awarded the Lord Lieutenants Certificates for their services to the TA. In 1989 F coy won gold medals in the TA Non-Central Match 1A Rifle (HSF) competition, a success to be repeated in 1990, 1991 and 1992

On 24 May 92 Western District held a Final HSF Gathering (Ex Blue Macaw) and disbandment Parade and Service at POW Depot Lichfield.   Most of the HSF soldiers volunteered to complete their service with the local units currently based at the local TA Centres.   Many joined the TA proper to continue serving.

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

On the 5th April 1988 F & G Companies amalgamated and transferred to the 4th Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters TA.

 

 

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