Recently, the effects of the later Brigadier H.P. Gardham were sold at auction in Kent. Amongst his possessions was a snare drum of the 1st Battalion from the period 1933-1954. An identical drum can be seen at the Suffolk Regiment Museum, which is affectionately known as the 'Roubaix' Drum. The story of the Roubaix drums of the 1st Battalion is well known, but there whereabouts today are a little less well known. Of eight drums reluctantly abandoned in France in 1940, three were subsequently recovered in 1944 and brought back into use with the Battalion. One of the three recovered Drums, was lost when the truck it was stored in suffered a direct hit before the Battalion crossed the Rhine in March 1944, leaving just two survivors. When the Corps of Drums was reformed in 1948 in Greece, it was made up from four Drums that came out from the UK of a similar style. These had remained at the Depot in 1939 when the Battalion went to France. These Drums were later, it is believed, repainted in Trieste in 1953. Records show that two older 'Roubaix' Drums were we believe, sold off in 1947 to 'raise funds for new drums' and we believe that the Roubaix Drum at the Regimental Museum and the Brigadier's Drum, were these two older examples that were sold off . Of twelve Drums originally painted in 1933, the Museum's Drum is No. 12 and Brigadier Gardham's Drum is No. 11. Both have their numbers carved into the hoops and stamped into the body of the Drum. The new owner of the Brigadier's Drum recently brought his Drum to the Regimental Museum, where for the first time since 1945 (when they all three Drums were last played together in the Belgian town of Haacht) it was reunited with its identical brother. Identical in every detail, even the year of manufacture, it was an historic reunion. It is known that there is another Drum of this style in existence in private hands, an escapee of the criminal repaint that occurred in the 1950s, and maybe one day, all three will come together again.
We heard today that Wing Commander Donald Perrens, DFC, celebrated his 100th Birthday on 9th January. We had the honour to meet Wing Commander Perrens at Minden Day in 2010 where he became a Friends member. Since then we have researched his somewhat amazing career with both the Suffolk Regiment, and later the Royal Air Force. Wing Commander Perrens went to France with the B.E.F. in 1939 and was one of the last men to leave. His escape route was through Cherbourg with a handful of men of 'B' Company who had been separated from the Battalion up in Belgium. Later after brief service as Adjutant to the newly reformed 8th Battalion, he transferred to the R.A.F. winning a DSO and a DFC for air operations in the Middle East. To our most decorated living Suffolk soldier, we send our very best wishes and congratulations upon reaching his tenth decade!
(With most grateful thanks to Eastbourne College for the photograph above, which shows Donald and his daughter blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.)
It was with sadness that we heard today of the passing of Suffolk Regiment stalwart Colin Smith, who passed away just before Christmas. Colin’s military career began just after the Second World War when he joined the 5th (Cadet) Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. He was a Cadet Bandsman who played with the Battalion Band in the 1947 Royal Tournament at Olympia. Colin signed on as a regular soldier in 1951 and was soon serving with the 1st Battalion in Malaya. Here he joined Support Company, serving with the Anti-Tank Platoon with its impracticable 6 pdr. guns, then later with the Mortar Platoon. He returned to the UK with the Battalion in 1953 and became a Sergeant Instructor at the Depot. He served briefly with the 1st Battalion in Germany in 1955. In later years, Colin carried the Bury St. Edmunds Branch Standard on many occasions and on one particular parade in London at the 60th anniversary of VJ Day, Colin had taken the trouble to ensure that the Standard was decked with Roses as is the custom when the Monarch is present. Colin lived in later years at Whepstead and was instrumental in the refurbishment of the village War Memorial which contained one of the first three fatalities of the Great War, William Flack. He was also involved later in the creation of a Memorial Close of residential sheltered accommodation that was named in Flack's honour. For the Regimental Historian, Colin was a wealth of knowledge on the minutiae of the dress and regulations. From trouser creases to blanco shades, and how low the trousers were worn above the webbing anklets, he knew most of it. From how to make a Drum Trace, to how to tension drum skins with potatoes, he remembered all of the tricks. He also knew the trick for folding the beret to keep the cap badge prominent and how to flatten the brass keepers on a webbing belt to make them easier to polish. Colin was a loyal member of the Friends since it earliest days and was a dedicated Volunteer at the Regimental Museum. Colin helped tremendously with the revamp of the Regimental Museum and was always willing to show people around it many treasures, with a story and a memory of most of the exhibits. He was Chairman of the Bury St. Edmunds Branch of the Old Comrades Association and a member of the Sergeant Mess Dinner Club. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his daughter and his family at this time.
Left: The Bury Free Press record Colin and his Brother-in-Law's return from service in Malaya in 1953.
Happy New Year
A very Happy New Year to all Friends.
2019 looks set to be another good year for the Friends. We are well on the way to organising another trip to Holland, planned for September, and they'll be lots of other great Suffolk Regiment-related news we're sure.
Keep checking back to see what we're up to and what happening and don't forget to follow us on both Facebook and Twitter, or better still if you're not a member, pop along to the Membership page to download a membership form and join us!
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