6011180 WO1(Cdr) Benjamin William Johnson: An eventful timeline

This is an account of the Career history of WO1(Cdr) Ben Johnson RAOC, with information supplied by his son, Geoff. Ben was Mentioned in Despatches twice. His service career spanned a wide range of operational theatres of War. He was commissioned in 1960.

  • Enlisted 1 ESSEX Oct 34
  • Nov 35: Embarked for Overseas
  • Dec 35-Mar 36: Egypt
  • Mar 36-Feb 37: Sudan
  • Feb 37-Jan 38: Palestine
  • Jan 38-Jul 38: Egypt
  • Jul 38-Sep 38: Palestine
  • Oct 38-Jan 40: Egypt (Ismailia [Suez])
  • Jul 39: L/Cpl
  • Jan-Dec 40: Sudan (Operational Service)
  • Dec 40-Feb 41: Palestine
  • Feb 41: Abyssinia
  • Mar-Apr 41: W Force  (Operational Service Mar-Apr 41)
  • Feb 41: Sgt (whilst with W Force in Greece)
  • Apr 41-Oct 42: Egypt
  • Mar 42: attached IAOC
  • May 42: BOWO 5 Div
  • Jun-Oct 42: HQ 5 Div Western Desert (Operational Service: Alamein Jul-Oct 42)
  • Oct 42-May 43: Iraq
  • Feb 43: Posted 161 Bde (5 Div) as P/A/S/Cdr;
  • May 43-Oct 43: India still ESSEX but attached I/RAOC
  • Oct 43-Oct 44: Burma still ESSEX but attached I/RAOC
  • Feb 44: W/S/Cdr WO1;
  • Oct 44: Transferred to RAOC then attached IAOC;
  • Oct 44-Sep 45: Burma – HQ 5 Div/161 Bde: Arakan/Kohima/Tiddim/Pegu Yoma (India & Burma)
  • Aug-Nov 44: 2x Mentioned In Dispatches: (Tiddim Road) (London Gazette Sep 45 and Sep 46). Tiddim Road was where the the Japanese 33rd Div cut the road behind the 17th Indian Division in March 1944, during the Battle for Imphal, and where they subsequently established a supply dump which was heavily bombed by the RAF. (IWM)
  • Jun 45: posted to HQ 5 Div
  • Sep 45-Nov 45: Singapore (for Japanese surrender)
  • Nov 45-May 46: Java  – disarming & repatriating the Japanese, along with quelling Indonesian insurrection against the Dutch in their battle for Independence, until Dutch forces were available in theatre.
  • May 46-Apr 48: India
  • Jan 47: P/A Cdr WO1
  • Aug 47: reverted RAOC W/P/A Cdr WO1
  • Apr 48-Sep 50: 26 Coy RAOC W/S/WO1 (S/Cdr)
  • Sep 50-Aug 54: 7 FOD (KL)
  • Feb 52: Appointed Conductor
  • Apr 52 Substantive WO1 (Cdr)
  • Aug 54-Jun 58: HQ RAOC NWD (Fulwood)
  • Jun 58-Sep 60: 30 Bn RAOC Singapore
  • Sep 60 443 BOD Aldershot (on commissioning)
  • Mar 63 Deceased: buried at St Barbara’s Garrison Church, Deepcut.

Jun 2020


22771474 WO1(Cdr) RT Watson RAOC

My Father was in the RAOC for 22 years, his name was Reginald Thomas Watson.

He was ‘Called Up’ to the Army on 20th Aug 1942 and after an initial spell in the Royal Armoured Corps, joining the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in April 1943. He was part of the 50th Northumbrian Infantry Division during the D-Day campaign and spent the remainder of the war in various Ordnance Depots in France, Holland and Germany including the 79th Armoured Division with their special tanks for crossing small rivers and large ditches.

He left the army in early 1947 as a Staff-Sergeant. The economy was struggling in those days so work in his hometown of Plymouth was hard to come by, with little security for his young family. He re-enlisted in the Army (RAOC) in 1951 on the understanding he would have his previous rank restored, but sadly this was not the case and he commenced service as a Private soldier. He quickly moved through the ranks again and had postings in Egypt, Malta, Aldershot (Blackdown), Singapore (RAOC School FARELF); 1960-63, Donnington (Shropshire), Cyprus (Dhekalia) 1966-69 and finally Berlin in 1969 before the “Wall” came down.

He retired from the Army in 1970 and sadly passed away in 1989 in Southampton (Hampshire). I accompanied him as a child to Singapore, Cyprus and Berlin and attended British Army Schools in those locations.

The most memorable recollection was the time when Her Majesty The Queen, as Colonel in Chief of the Corps, met him and my mother at his Army house in Ceylon Terrace, Aldershot in April 1958.

Cdr Watson in 1968, with Inspector of Ordnance Brigadier Muggeridge. I also have a photo of him when the Director of Ordnance (Major General Young) visited Cyprus in 1968.

Keith Watson, Reginald’s Son
June 2020

10596411 BOY E. J. SEARLE. Royal Army Ordnance Corps.

© Jim Searle

Having enlisted as a Boy Soldier in the Recruiting Office and Medical Centre situated above Burtons Gents Outfitters shop at Chatham in Kent, on the29 March 1943 I left the family home with a few personal bits of luggage and was accompanied to the railway station in Dartford by my step mother, I’d probably said my farewells to my Father and Marianna my step sister at breakfast. My three elder sisters Molly, Kitty and Sheila had all left home before me to become Nurses in Wartime Hospitals. Having been sent a Railway Warrant with my joining instructions I had to report to the R.T.O. at the station prior to my departure. The train arrived I got into a Third class compartment and stood looking out of the open window at its lowest point with only a minimum of the leather strap used to raise and lower it showing. A blast on the Guards whistle a wave of his green flag a great snort of steam from the locomotive and we gently eased our way out of one environment and into the unknown next phase of my life, waving to the lady who’d cared for me over the last nine years of my life who slowly faded from my view. I can’t remember too much about the journey but the devastation in south-east London due to the Blitz will always be with me. We pulled into Waterloo station where I left the ‘loop-line’ train from Dartford and navigated my way to the main Waterloo Terminus of Southern Railway with its ‘umpteen’ platforms on which most of the people were wearing uniforms of British, Commonwealth and Allied Servicemen and women.

Once again I sought the R.T.O.’s office and followed the instructions given regarding the Platform and departure time of the train to Aldershot. (They also advised as to where I could find the Church Army Mobile Canteen for a welcome cup of tea to help the sandwiches that mother had made for me down) When I found it I joined the end of the Queue (you queued for everything in those days). Eventually the carriages were shunted into the vacant platform the sliding gates were eased open and the passengers picked up their baggage in all there various forms from kitbags for soldiers and airmen to rolled hammocks for the sailors, everyone of course carried their gas-mask and some like me carried their bits it a brown-paper carrier bag with string handles. Slowly the queue eased its way to the barrier each of us offering our ticket/warrant to the uniformed official who duly cut a V shaped notch into one edge to prevent it from being reused. Eventually the queue I presume came to an end all the doors slammed to and the only ones remaining on the platform were the staff and the wives, sweethearts and relatives who’d come to see their loved ones off. It must have been an unwritten rule that those being seen off had the door position so that they could enjoy that final hug and kiss and get the last message “Don’t forget to write!”.

As the train slowly wended its way out of the station into the open air, I couldn’t get over the vast area taken by the numerous pairs of lines as we negotiated a path across them at Clapham Junction and the train gathered speed to leave the metropolis and into the open country, the only stations I can remember after that were Surbiton and Woking. One other sight is firmly embedded into my memory is that of the advertisement for a brand of paint which took the form of two men at either end of a ladder appearing to be walking across a field in the countryside as we passed through.

Eventually we arrived at Aldershot, I think the Porter must have been a retired Drill Instructor as no-one was in doubt that we’d arrived ( this was necessary as all Stations and Road signpost’s had their names removed at the outbreak of the war so that any invader would have to find his way about with no help from the defenders ) and where I and other lads were picked up from the RTO’s Office where we’d been told to report on arrival and transported to Parsons Barracks in a 15 cwt. Truck with a canvas canopy. We’d arrived on RAOC ‘ground’ and were the Second Wartime intake of Boy Soldiers.

We soon found out that the Company Sergeant Major’s name was Searle (no relation) and we nicknamed him ‘Panda’ as he wore a black and white printed panda’s head badge on his upper sleeve denoting Aldershot District or Southern Command area.
By coincidence another boy of the Third intake also bore the same surname of Searle, he was George and came from Little Bookham in Surrey, as our service proceeded we became very close friends. Other boy’s names that I recall from No 1 Squad who had arrived a few weeks prior to us were

Des Halsey, Les Quick, Hugh Webley, D. Griffiths, Sam Sly, W. Potter.

I think the first few days will always be remembered as being a bit ‘hazy’ because we were all having to readjust ourselves to a new way of life, from the privacy of our own cosy homes one day to the communal life of a barrack-room the next. One thing that fascinated me was listening to all the different dialects, until then I’d never heard a Scouse, Geordie or a West-country accent.

Parsons Barracks was quite close to the town and was a collection of two storey brick built accommodation blocks. These had front and rear central access doors with stairway to upper floor and Barrack Rooms on either side. The barrack rooms were centrally heated had sash type windows and hard wood floors, the beds were twin bunks and were quite high with metal mesh to support the three ‘ biscuits’ in lieu of mattress. There were the usual administration buildings, Company Office, Guard-room with Flag-pole, Armoury and Quarter-masters Stores. The NAAFI was a wooden building at the Town end of the Barrack site and contained all the usual restaurant and games facilities. As our weekly income was nine shillings per week (45p) we were very restricted compared to a Private whose basic pay was twenty seven shillings (£1.35). Later we had a pay rise of one and sixpence (7½p).

We were all issued with SD uniforms with GS badges on the buttons, these were soon changed to Corps. Buttons giving us an opportunity to use our new Housewives.( an issued sewing kit in a linen roll secured by tapes, containing needles, cotton and a ball of wool….grey, socks for the use of!!)

We marched daily to the Education Centre about half a mile away in the direction of the Field-Stores, I think we were all quite good at square bashing as most of us had been in the Army Cadets after leaving school. ( I know it was in my case as my father had been a CSM in the RASC and at this time was serving in the same capacity in the local Home Guard (ex LDV), being a good tutor I was soon promoted to Sergeant in the Royal West Kent’s Cadets in Sutton at Hone where we used to meet weekly at St. Johns.)

The Officer responsible for our schooling was Captain Hackett assisted by WO1 Salabank and Sergeant Julian Duguid all of the RAEC. The latter we understood to be an author with several books to his credit. Their combined efforts saw us all achieve our Second Class Education Certificate. I for one was very grateful to be able to improve my education as having lived in North Kent from the outbreak of the war our school-time was reduced as some schools were converted into Hospitals etc., the children from these were then spread over the remaining schools resulting in ‘part-time’ education for most of us i.e. Boys in the mornings and girls afternoons. Further disruption was caused by Air-raid’s, every time the siren’s sounded we would evacuate the classroom’s and proceed to the allotted shelter, shepherded by Teacher’s and Prefect’s.

Behind Parsons Barracks was a small hill with a flat top that had been hard surfaced with Tarmac (The Redan?) It was climbed by a long flight of steps and from the summit had a good view of Aldershot Town Football stadium. Here we were taught the art of square-bashing by a Corporal from the Rifle Brigade and his standards were the highest, we were eager to learn and responded well.

Opposite our barracks was an older barrack complex that was occupied by Canadian troops rumour had it that there were 37,000 Canadians in and around Aldershot at that time, (the raid on Dieppe had occurred earlier in the year). This barracks had an enormous ‘square’ and when we were proficient our squad went on parade here with the whole area to ourselves, and as we went through our comprehensive routine, each squad member taking it in turn to bark the orders from a great distance. This spectacle attracted a big audience of North Americans and as our session concluded we marched back across the road to great applause.

In those day’s we were so proud, so keen, when we cleaned the barrack room windows we polished the glass with newspapers and the wooden floor with a ‘bumper’. The last boy out of the room erased all foot-prints so that the inspecting Officer would find it in absolutely pristine condition. All kit lay-outs were identical, each one a mirror image of the other, stiffened and packed to give the best presentation.

The Gymnasium was within the Barracks and apart from all the usual exercise routines of press-ups, running on the spot etc. we were involved in ‘different’ activities. One of these was for each of the class to collect and wear ‘one’ boxing glove then proceed to hit anyone you wished, quite an ordeal for the less robust and one quickly learned to keep your back to the wall if you did’nt you’d become the victim of a rabbit-punch whilst in the act of lunging at your own target, incidentally our PTI’s surname was Danahar – brother of the famous National Champion.

Forays into Aldershot town were seldom we were always too busy with ‘bull’ or swatting homework but I do remember walking along the streets passing tattooist’s and military outfitters who sold every Regimental Badge, most boy’s wore a belt sporting his County or other favourite. I remember on one occasion a few of us found ourselves within the Town Football Ground where we came into conversation with a young woman who admitted to us that she was a ‘Prostitute’ and the only other person within the arena. I remember she sat with us and gave us the best talking-to in respect of casual sex and drug effects that anyone could have, because we knew she was talking from experience and believed her. The advice she uttered certainly stuck with me and the encounter is so vivid in my memory.

I remember at one time suffering from pains in my legs resulting in a few days in ‘Sick-Bay’ within the barracks, it appears these were ‘growing pains’ as I shot up in height from 4ft. 10½” to 5ft. 10” eventually. But going sick was quite a performance as you had to pack your small-kit in your haversack, report to the Company Office where the necessary paperwork ie. Sick Report was prepared for you to proceed on quite a long walk to the Cambridge Hospital via the Field Stores up Gun Hill past Buller Barracks and the RC Church built of corrugated iron to the hospital entrance….There had to be something wrong with you to inflict that routine on yourself!!!!

After just four months service our Squad was split up and a few of us found ourselves on our first posting, we were now members of 28 Bn.RAOC at COD Elstree which occupied the Film Studio’s at Borehamwood. On arrival we were taken to a house located off Allum Lane in a quite up-market estate, I believe our neighbours included Anna Neagle and Richard Tauber we did not remain in this locality for very long and were moved to another house which was just a short walk from the railway station this was to be our billet/school. It was a detached property between the Post Office and the Dufay-Colour premises. It comprised four large rooms on each of the two floors, on the ground floor the two front rooms were classrooms divided by the hall and stairs, one of the rear rooms was our RAEC Instructors room the other was a kitchen/scullery where we used to do all our blanco and laundry work. The bedrooms each contained four folding beds the tops of which were plywood onto which we laid a ‘Palliasse’ ( a linen bag stuffed with straw) to act as a mattress, the more straw you could cram in the greater the comfort! I don’t recall us having lockers we had kit boxes instead and coat-hooks on which to hang our uniforms.

Some of the boy’s from No.1 Squad were already in residence Les Quick and Hughie Webley are two I remember so we were soon ‘shown the ropes’.
The main Camp of the Unit was located in a field which was situated behind the row of shops offices and industrial units that included the house we occupied, the main access for vehicles was via Theobald Street which ran alongside the railway line but there was a short cut using an unmade road which accommodated the Clarendon Club that was run like a NAAFI and a Public house whose name escapes me. We used this route to enter the camp area for our meals, QM Stores etc. The camp buildings were all standard Nissen huts linked by concrete footpaths and lined three sides of the square field, each hut was heated by a slow-combustion stove fuelled by coke or whatever you could find that was combustible.

Our lives were controlled by a weekly schedule dividing our days into periods of Education and Practical experience of Ordnance Procedures and Work. The former was carried out in the house in which we lived and our instructor was George? who watched over us like a Mother Hen and taught us subjects that comprise the Army Certificate of Education !st .Class plus Art and Handicrafts.

Learning skills for our future in the RAOC was much more interesting and in our situation did not involve instruction in the classroom but was ‘hands on’ in the makeshift ‘Depot’ crammed into the Aircraft Hanger sized buildings that comprised the film studio, in fact one of them had a full size head –on picture of a single engine fighter plane painted along an internal wall. I think the biggest studio was ex MGM located near the junction of Shenley Road and Elstree Way. Where ever we went as a group we would march and the senior soldier would be in charge, this was easily determined as he would be the boy with the lowest regimental number and we all knew each other by our ‘last three’. Marching on roads was quite safe in those days as traffic was at a minimum due to petrol rationing, most people travelling by Bus Train or Shank’s Pony.

Our march to work was about a mile, conveniently situated about half-way was a bakers shop called the ‘Dutch Oven’ , our squad would halt outside the premises and we would fall-out to make our purchases. Usually the assistants who served us were young ladies who were about our own age, the drill was that as we entered the shop with its mouth-watering aroma we would pick up a new white paper bag each walk along past the shelves of fresh fancies in a queue placing your selection into your bag and when you arrived at the till you told the assistant what you’d picked up showing the cheapest at the top of your bag hiding the more expensive beneath, paid then rejoined the squad forming on the road outside having paid about half the price of the produce you’d selected. Then complete our march to ‘work’.

We were allocated jobs from the Control Office where sometimes we would help with paper work or our services would be used in other departments doing stocktaking, inspecting returned stores or equipment from units moving to operational areas, I remember one occasion when lots of leather personal items such as belts, cross straps with cartridge pouches, bayonet frogs etc came back from a regiment that had been issued with webbing equivalents. As the leather items were destined for disposal I think we all went back to our billet wearing well polished belts under our tunics at the end of that work session!

Our billet was in the main street through the village and a short distance along the road was a row of shops selling clothes, shoes and a hairdressers at the farthest end was a small car/motor cycle shop that had a petrol pump at the roadside, to the rear of this building was a room converted into a café, this establishment was one of our favourites as they sold thick sliced toast with a liberal coating of dripping which included some of the rich tasty jelly from the bottom of the basin…. my mouth still ‘waters’ at the thought of it!

At intervals the conscript soldiers attended Cadre courses that gave them practice in the art of field craft, we accompanied them when they went on week long exercises to practice their skills. On leaving the Camp wearing battle order and carrying weapons ie. Rifle, Sten, LMG(Bren) or Boy’s Anti tank Rifle we would march in sections along the route, each section being on opposite sides of the road and a sensible distance apart to minimise casualties in the event of ambush, on one occasion we had a fighter plane simulate a strafing attack along an exposed section of road causing us to dive into the undergrowth, we presumed the plane had come from the DeHavilland airstrip at Radlett all we knew was that he was too close for comfort and one hoped that your Tin-Hat was covering your whole body when you almost felt you sensed the planes exhaust. Another situation catered for was a Gas attack, when we had to don our gas-masks unroll and cover ourselves with flimsy gas capes which were carried rolled with quick-release knots on our haversacks.

Some parts of our route took us across country but we always ended up at the same place on each exercise, in a meadow opposite the ‘Leather Bottle’ Pub in the village of Leverstock Green near Hemel Hempstead.
An ‘Advance Party’ had come ahead of us and had set up the field kitchen, store tent and latrines so that soon after our arrival a piping hot meal was ready for us we used our mess-tins for all meals, one for food the other for drink and washing up facilities consisted of a Dixie half full of hot water. Toilet facilities consisted of a trench dug in the corner of the field surrounded by a hessian screen.

Food was cooked along one side of the field near a hedgerow with overhanging branches to protect the ‘Field Kitchen’ from inclement weather, the cooker was constructed on a pair of low-level walls about two feet apart and one foot high that supported a metal grid and a 45gallon gallon drum with one end removed, placed across the grid serving as an oven.

Food was stored in a Bell-tent, I remember one night a pair of us were on prowler patrol and feeling the pangs of hunger we raided the tent hollowed a loaf and filled each half with pineapple chunks from a tin (catering size) opened with a bayonet (18 inch variety). The weapon issued to foot patrol’s.
Patrolling the site was a tricky affair as all ranks slept where ever they wanted each wrapped in their ground-sheet after creating a hollow for the hip bone to fit into and all praying it didn’t rain.

Daily fieldcraft and tactical exercises were carried out in the neighbouring countryside using blank ammunition and thunder-flashes, including a thunder flash mortar where one was used to propel another from a tube. Certain senior NCO instructors were permitted to throw No. 69 Grenades – these were made from Bakelite and had Always Fuzes. We had one fatality using these who happened to be one of the Instructors.
Marching back to our Camp in Borehamwood on one occasion another Boy and myself were told ‘as you are boys you can carry the Boy’s Anti-tank Rifle(a ½” calibre beast). The gun was heavy, the day was hot and we were lagging someway behind the main body when suddenly an open touring car with an old farmer type at the wheel came trundling along, he stopped and said that he was passing our camp and ‘Would we like a lift?’ Would we! We couldn’t get into that old Jalopy quick enough. Trouble was as sped past our marching comrades we made the mistake of waving to them, resulting in a spell of Jankers for not keeping our heads down in the car.

After spending eight months at Elstree another Boy soldier Bill Allen Muncey and myself were posted to 6 Battalion RAOC a Vehicle Depot situated south of Nottingham. We were the only Boy’s on the site and looked out of place in our Service Dress and were promptly told to replace it with ‘Battle Dress’. The next question we were asked was ‘did we have a Driving Licence?’ our negative answer resulted in us being sent immediately to the Driving School in Nottingham which was located in a large school that had been taken over for Wartime Activities, the instructors were all London Passenger Transport drivers conscripted for their skills. Bill and I were billeted in a private house 55 Gedling Grove…I think it’s still standing! The carpets had been removed so our hobnail boots played havoc with the softwood floors and we slept on low level bunk beds. I can’t remember what the messing arrangements were but the regimental office was in Arboretum Street (that’s where we were paid).

We started our course riding motor cycles in what was the School playground doing all the essentials, starting (by kickstart) then moving, stopping and as we gained confidence turning left and right leaning our bodies in the appropriate direction and it wasn’t long before we were out of the gates and riding ‘follow the leader’ on the public highway. The leader being the instructor who communicated to us by hand signals indicating which gear we should be in by the number of fingers raised on his right glove. As it was wartime traffic was at a minimum and we enjoyed ourselves on our Matchless 350cc (or were they Ariel ‘Red Hunters?) machines and conquered the art of riding with no mishaps.

Our introduction to four wheels was quite a pantomime, commencing with the Ford 15cwt.with canvas cab and tilt. Our problem was mastering the fierce clutch but like all the other students we blamed the ‘Kangaroo’ petrol until we mastered the necessary clutch and throttle control technique for smooth gear changes. We graduated to the Three Ton Bedford and found that this was quite docile and had a luxurious ‘Cab’, our training area was quite large extending to Buxton in Derbyshire and the routes chosen had some very challenging gradients for going up and down. Driving in the City was just as hazardous as many of the streets had wood-block surfaces, when damp weather prevailed brakes were useless so one used the gearbox to slow down especially when approaching traffic lights or you’d slide right through them!

The final vehicle to challenge our skills was the Guy Quad, this was designed to tow a 25 Pdr. Gun/Howitzer with its ammunition tender and Gun Crew, we were only concerned with the towing part! This was like starting all over again as the gear box was of the ‘crash’ type no luxury of synchromesh, these gears could play the most awful tunes until we mastered the knack of double- declutching, I can remember going up steep hills changing down a gear and counting up to six before engaging the lower gear, as the cab was large enough to accommodate a gun-crew we could all share the success of good driving and learned from each others mistakes. As the instructor was seated next to you any glaring mistakes resulted in a straight right punch on the shoulder muscle, an effective deterrent! Our course lasted only a few weeks and was quite intensive but we enjoyed it and passed on all vehicles on 26 May 1944.

Our social life wasn’t very exciting we did see hordes of American Service men on the occasions we did venture downtown, Pubs especially ‘The Trip to Jerusalem’ were well patronised and when walking after dusk across parkland horizontal bodies were a tripping hazard especially in ‘The Forest’. I remembered the unofficial lecture we had in Aldershot Football ground!

Back in Chilwell Depot we were issued with our Driving Licences, which were endorsed to allow us to drive on MT holidays (days when vehicle movements were kept to a minimum to conserve fuel) authorised by Brigadier McGillop’s signature and Driver IC badges which we wore with pride. We enjoyed life in the Camp the food was good and sometimes our tea meal was augmented with delicacies cooked by ATS Girls being taught how to cook by the Head Chef in their spare time.

We joined a Pool of drivers and our duties were what ever job came along, from collection of broken down vehicles using the Scammell Recovery (not an easy job for boys as it had a ‘Gate’ change gear box and a very heavy clutch) to internal movements……and this was where the art of reversing an articulated lorry was learned, the term ‘reverse-lock’ became apparent and I’m glad there were no spectators around when I was confronted with this challenge. One interesting little job was fixing small brass plates to the front of AFV’s inscribed with the words ‘This tank was purchased by the kind donations of the people of ……….Town/City during their War Weapons Week’.

As the Forces were preparing for D Day so the activity at Chilwell escalated and we were given a crash course within the Depot to drive Tracked vehicles….Valentines, Matilda’s to start with then the big boy’s Churchill’s and Sherman’s the latter we saw being fitted with inflatable skirts for launching from LCT’s these had been designed for such use and sported a propeller at the rear but I don’t recall seeing a rudder!!
Loading tanks on trains was an experience never to be forgotten. The train could consist of twenty plus wagons of the ‘well’ variety ie. The load sat in a lowered section between the bogies at each end of the truck presumably to lower the centre of gravity. With the Guards Van removed the train would be shunted up to a dead end where the truck top and the loading bay were the same level thus allowing the vehicles to be driven straight on and along the entire length of the train, sounds easy but for each wagon there were two points of balance… one going down and the other going up! The latter was the ‘scary’ bit because as the tank ascended the limited vision through the rectangular visor moved from the grounds surface skywards, concentration on keeping the track levers in the straight ahead position was vital and what a relief when one crossed the point of balance and the nose of the tank sank earthwards and the ‘engine end’ was in view again.

Things moved at quite a pace in those days and one could be posted almost at the drop of a hat and we found ourselves out on detachment to the village of Breedon on the Hill where we were billeted in a Church all I can remember was that it was very damp, as one dragged a steel boot heel along the wooden floor there would be a small puddle at the end! From here we would be taken as a group to Mulliner’s factory where Radio Transmitting vehicles were being made and drive them to a reception area in a temporary Depot in the country, I can’t remember where. One period when we were off duty we found ourselves in Ashby de la Zouch a very quiet town I recall going to the cinema the shape of which once inside was similar to a slice of cake wide at the back and narrow at the screen end.

Our next camp was a Nissen Hutted variety within the grounds of Donnington Park where vehicles were stored on the open grassland. One job I remember doing here was driving a 15cwt. Morris Commercial water bowser round the site filling Fire Buckets. One day Bill and I found ourselves detailed to report to Company Office with others plus full kit, rumour was we would join a pool of drivers somewhere in the South of England who once the bridgehead had been established in Normandy would ferry new vehicles to a forward Field Park then return for another consignment. Imagine our excitement at being on ‘Active’ service that thought was short lived as an ATS clerk checking our camp documents ‘in’ i.e. cigarette and sweet ration cards noticed the rank shown as ‘Boy’, after consulting an officer seated behind her, we were quickly removed from the list and returned to our billet our hopes of getting into action dashed!!! Shortly after this on 2nd August 1944 we found ourselves posted again but this time it was back to the Boys Training Unit at Leicester where we were reunited with old friends and met the rookies that had followed us in later intakes. By now I was an ‘old sweat’ of seventeen months service!!

We were billeted in a large house on London Road (I think it was 275) which had many floors, needless to say as we were the last to arrive we went to the highest level about the fourth floor not quite the attic! I remember we had a Dormer window in our room and the room was shared by at least four of us using bunk beds. The ground floor reception rooms were used as Class-rooms for Education and Trade Training and utility room for Laundry (hand washing of clothes, ironing etc.) A large garden contained fruit trees, needless to say the produce was eaten long before it ever got a chance to ripen.

The dining hall was a few streets away and we always marched to and from taking about ten minutes each way and I think we shared this facility with other military personnel as I remember there was an exhibition case containing a array of hand combat weapons of the type issued to Commando’s which was fascinating to us young soldiers. Another longer march was the weekly visit to the Public Bath-house when we all formed up in three ranks and marched through the streets again with our washing kit and clean clothes rolled up and carried under the arm. The number of baths was limited so depending where you were in the squad when you initially formed up determined how hot the bathwater was as the boiler struggled to keep up with demand.
Our curriculum included Physical Training, one event that I’ll never forget was a ten mile walking race, which none of us was familiar with, most of us were very competitive and put every thing we had into these activities and walking at speed required a special technique with vigorous arm action as well as legs after crossing the finishing line near our Billet I didn’t know how to stop my legs, they just wanted to keep going and I had great difficulty standing still, I haven’t walked competitively since.

A part of our military training which we thoroughly enjoyed was attending the RAOC Battle School situated North of Leicester in Bradgate Park and was about a week in duration. Here we were taught the art of camouflage and shown how to deal with situations encountered on the battlefield including the effectiveness of items such as Trapwire a very cheap and effective way of bringing cross country movements to a standstill. It had been carefully laid across bracken and was almost impossible to see, we simply ran into it all falling over and could have been mown down whilst struggling to disentangle ourselves if it had been for real, especially when things were happening to make you panic They also had a taut wire spanning a lake, by climbing a tall tree on one side of the water feature one could access the hand grips of a wheeled trolley supported by the wire, after grabbing the handles each of us was launched into space knowing full well that the wire was just slack enough to leave the passenger dangling over the water fortunately the weather was kind and we quickly dried off.

One Saturday during the course we were given some time off and a group of us walked to the village of Anstey and decided that we’d go to the cinema which was showing a film of interest, we had a quick check on our collective finances only to find that we didn’t have enough money for all the tickets, but Sam Sly one of our more senior members took what money we had and went to discuss the situation with the youth in the ticket office and returned wearing a huge grin bearing tickets for all….he’d made up the deficiency with packets of Durex!!! (Free issue from the PAC)

As our Boy Service days came to an end we must have been interviewed with regard to our future career’s as on 7th.October 1944 I now a mature 17½ year old with others found ourselves at The School of Ammunition within CAD Bramley (No.1 Battalion RAOC) joining the 89th Course for Ammunition Examiners. But that’s another story……

Jim Searle Passed away in 2018

Conductors in the Crusades: An earlier Conductor reference!

We are often informed that ‘The Ancient and Honourable’ title of Conductor was first used in 1327 according to the Statute of Westminster of that date.

May I add something to this interesting debate?

The most popular of contemporary accounts of the First Crusade was the anonymous work known as the Gesta Francorum et Aliorum Hierosolimitorum. This account describes, inter alia, that the armies of the First Crusade under the Command of Bohemond I, of Taranto laid siege to Antioch in June 1098. Amongst the senior officers was Stephen Count of Blois. Stephen of Blois was married to Adela the daughter of William the Conqueror and was the father of Stephen 1st of England.

The Gesta Francorum (IX,27) , described Stephen of Blois as having been elected ‘ductor’ of the Army.

This certainly cannot mean that he was appointed Commander in Chief or political leader of the Crusade as he never took the lead in military operations, while Adhemar, Bishop of Le Puy was the only person recognised as having any political authority over the princes.

Sir Steven Runciman in his authorative work A History of the Crusades (Cambridge 1951) writes:

‘It is probable that Stephen was put in charge of the administrative side of the Army and was responsible for the organisation of supplies’
So it seems that the Father of a former King of England may have been the first ‘ductor’, with a job description to go with the appointment. This rather derides Mr L Brady’s disdain at the previous status of Conductors

‘Until the use at Sergeants as Conductors is the Crimean War and later (in New Zealand) in 1860, Conductors through the ages had bees (sic) civilians. They did not enjoy a very high status, for example during the Peninsular Campaign of 1912, although Conductors were employed in large numbers (154) they were ranked fourth in the pecking order of Commissariat personnel, below clerks, interpreters, storekeepers receivers and issuers, only ahead at artisans such as bakers and carpenters’

W.L. Cunningham, BA(Hons) History, M.Phil.
Former Conductor RAOC

This Trying Occasion: An account of the Indian Mutiny and the ‘Buckley VC’.


Text reprinted with the kind permission of the RAOC Gazette, Feb 1988, pages 386 – 388 (Author unknown). The text Copyright remains with the RAOC Association

The causes of the Indian Mutiny of 1857 were complex and deep rooted. The British East India Company maintained armed forces of some 230,000 of which only one tenth were Queen’s Regiments of the British Army. They were divided into three: the armies of the Bombay Presidency, the Madras Presidency and the Bengal, and it was the latter that mutinied. Morale in the Bengal Army was low. The rapid expansion of British Rule in Northern India had required a corresponding expansion of the Army. Battalions were split in half and then raised to full strength without correspondingly doubting the complement of British officers; the quality of the Officer Corps had been reduced by seconding the most able in the Political Service to administer newly acquired territories (the kingdom of Oudh, an area the size of Scotland. had been annexed in 1856) and the developments in communications that led to wives and families joining their husbands meant that the close relationship that had existed between officers and their men in the early years of the century had been eroded.

The grievances of the Sepoys centred on pay. As today, there was a complicated system of deductions for food and accommodation and allowances for service in areas distant from a Regiment’s recruiting base. The latter had been steadily reduced or, in some cases, not paid. The concept of mutiny was not understood by the native Sepoy since the idea of patriotism was a European development. He struck a bargain with the East India Company in that he would give loyal service in return for specified terms and conditions, lithe company failed to keep their word then the bargain could be considered void. There was thus widespread discontent and this subsequently centred on the issue of the greased cartridges. New ammunition cartridges, which were topped with calico patches waterproofed with linseed oil and beeswax, were issued for troop trials. These patches had to be bitten off before they could be used. The rumour spread that they were coated with cow and pig fat and that biting them would therefore defile both Hindu and Muslims. A company of Sepoy at Meenat refused to do drills with the cartridges. The situation was badly handled, and eighty-five men were court martialed on 9th May for mutiny and harshly sentenced. On the night of 10th May 1857 they were released from gaol by the 3rd light Cavalry and the Indian Mutiny, which was to take eighteen months to suppress, had begun. After murdering their British officers the 3rd Cavalry, joined by the 11th and 20th Native Infantry, set off to march to Delhi thirty-eight miles away. The Garrison commander at Meerut failed to take decisive action and the British Regiments in station were kept in barracks.

Delhi was the old capital of the Mogul Empire and provided the mutineers with a natural rallying point. It was garrisoned by three native regiments and contained the math arsenals In Northern India. The events that happened in the Delhi magazine on the 11th May are described below in the official report submitted by Lieutenant Forest, second in command of the detachment of nine British soldiers who manned the magazine.

Meerut, May 27th, 1857.

From Lieutenant G Forest. Assistant Commissary of Ordnance, to Colonel A. Abbott, CS., Inspector-General of Ordnance and Magazines Fort William.

 Sir, l have the honour to report for the information of Government, and in the absence of my commanding officer, Lieutenant Willoughby, Artillery, supposed to be killed on his retreat from Delhi to this station, the following facts as regards the capture of the Delhi Magazine by the mutineers and insurgents on the 11th inst. On the morning of that date, between seven and eight p.m.. Sir Theophilus Metcalf came to my house and requested that I would accompany him to the magazine, for the purpose of having two guns placed on the bridge, sons to prevent the mutineers from passing over. On our arrival at the magazine, we found present Lieutenants Willoughby and Raynor with Conductors Buckley, Shaw, Scully and Acting/Sub-Conductor Crow and Sergeants Edwards and Stewart with the native establishment. On Sir Theophilus Metcalf alighting from his buggy, Lieutenant Willoughby and I accompanied him to the small bastion on the river face, which commanded a full view of the bridge, from which we could distinctly see the mutineers marching in open column, headed by the cavalry, and the Delhi side of the bridge was already in the possession of a body of cavalry. On Sir Theophilus Metcalf observing this, he proceeded with Lieutenant Willoughby to see if the city gate was closed against the mutineers. However, this step was needless, as the mutineers were admitted directly to the palace, through which they passed cheering. On Lieutenant Willoughby’s return to the magazine, the gate of the magazine were closed and barricaded, and every possible arrangement that could be made was at once commenced on. Inside the gate leading to the park were placed two six pounders, double charged with grape, one under Acting/Sub Conductor Crow and Sergeant Stewart, with the lighted matches in their hands and with orders that if any attempt was made to force that gate both guns were to be fired at once, and they were to fall back on that part of the magazine in which Lieutenant Willoughby and I were posted. The principal gate of the magazine was similarly defended by two guns, with the chevaux de frieze laid down on the inside, For the further defence of this gate and the magazine in its vicinity there were two six pounders so placed that either commanded the gate and a small bastion in its vicinity. Within sixty yards of the gate and in front of the office, and commanding two cross roads, were three six pounders and one twenty-four pounder howitzer, which could be so managed as to act on any part of the magazine in that neighbourhood.

After all these guns and howitzers had been placed in the several positions above named, they were loaded with double charges of grape. The next step taken was to place arms in the hands of the native establishment, which they most reluctantly received and appeared, particularly the Mussulman portion of the establishment to be in a state not only of excitement but also if insubordination, as they refused to obey any orders issued by the Europeans. After the above arrangements had been made, a train was laid by Conductors Buckley, Scully and Sergeant Stewart, ready to be fired by a preconcerted signal, which was that of Conductor Buckley raising his hat from his head, on the order being given by lieutenant Willoughby. The train was to be fired by Conductor Scully, but not until such time as the last round from the howitzers had been fired. So soon as the above arrangements had been made, guards from the palace came and demanded the possession of the magazine in the name of the king of Delhi, to which no reply was given.

Immediately after this, the Subadar of the guard on duty at the magazine informed Lieutenant Willoughby and myself that the king of Delhi had sent down word to the mutineers that he would without delay send scaling ladders fro the palace for the purpose of scaling the walls, and these shortly after arrived. On the ladders being erected against the wall the whole of our native establishment deserted us by climbing up the sloped roofs on the inside of the magazine and descending the ladders on the outside, after which the enemy appeared in great numbers on the top of the walls. We kept up an incessant fire of grape on them, every round of which told well, as long as a single round remained. Previous to the natives deserting us they hid the priming pouches, and one man in particular, Kureem-buksh, a Durwan, appeared to keep up a constant communication with the enemy on the outside and keep them informed of our situation. Lieutenant Willoughby was so annoyed at this man’s conduct that he gave me an order to shoot him should he again approach the gate.

Lieutenant Raynor, with the other Europeans, did everything that possibly could be done for the defence of the magazine, and where all have behaved so bravely it is almost impossible for me to point out any particular individual.

However. I am duly bound to bring to the notice of the Government the gallantry of Conductors Buckley and Scully on this trying occasion. The former, assisted only by myself, loaded and fired in rapid succession the several guns above detailed, firing at least four rounds from each gun, and with the same steadiness as if standing on parade, although the enemy were then some hundreds in number and kept up a continual fire of musketry on us within forty or fifty yards. After firing the last round, Conductor Buckley received a musket ball in his arm above the elbow, which has since been extracted here; I, at the same time, was struck in the left hand by two musket balls which disabled me (or the time. It was at this critical moment that Lieutenant Willoughby gave the order for firing the magazine, which was at once responded to by Conductor Scully firing the several trains. Indeed, from the very commencement, he evinced his gallantry by volunteering his services for blowing up the magazine, and remained true to his trust to the last moment. As soon as the explosion took place, such as escaped from beneath the ruins, and none escaped unhurt, retreated through the sally port on the river (ace. Lieutenant Willoughby and I succeeded in reaching the Cashmere gate. What became of the other parties it is impossible (or me to say. Lieutenant Raynor and Conductor Buckley have escaped to this station. Severe indisposition prevented my sending in this report sooner.

I have, etc.,

(Signed) G. Forrest, Lieutenant, Assistant Commissary of Ordnance.

N B-After crossing the river on the night of the 11th, I observed the whole of the magazine to be on fire, so that I am in hopes that little of the property fell into the hands of the enemy. Park Sergeant Hoyle was shot about eleven a.m. by the mutineers in attempting to reach the magazine to aid in its defence.


This report is a remarkable piece of military writing by Lieutenant Forrest. It records the problems that faced Lieutenant Willoughby at the Delhi Magazine, the plans that he formulated to overcome them and their subsequent execution. It is devoid of any emotion or information that does not relate directly to the military situation. It is also the only account of the action as neither Lieutenant Raynor nor Conductor Buckley made depositions and Lieutenant Willoughby was murdered by villagers the next day. In a subsequent statement Lieutenant Forrest was to add seeing the moment had arrived to do so, he ordered the preconcerted signal to be made, which was done by Conductor Buckley turning to where Conductor Scully was standing, and lifting his hat. Conductor Scully seeing this, at once fired the train and the magazine was blown up that same second with a fearful explosion killing hundreds of natives about. Fragments of the building were said to have been thrown half mile and upwards, and several European women and children who had fled to the magazine were killed or severely injured.

It is known that the wife and four children of Conductor Buckley died that day; the fate of the families of the other defenders is not known. Only Forrest, Raynor and Buckley were awarded the Victoria Cross as the medal was not at that time awarded posthumously.

It is ironic that the magazine within the arsenal that the small group defended so gallantly was only the expense magazine of fifty barrels of powder from which practice ammunition was prepared. A few years before the Mutiny, Sir Charles Napier, the Commander-in-Chief, had been horrified to find that the principal arsenal of Northern India was within the walls of a recently conquered city. The Government would not allow him to have it moved but did agree to the main magazine being placed in the catonment three miles away from the city and this held some three thousand barrels of powder. When Brigadier Groves, the commander of the catonment, saw the explosion as the expense magazine was fired by its Ordnance defenders, he sent two officers to blow the main one. They were driven off by the native guard and the munitions fell into the hands of the mutineers who were thus subsequently able to pound their besiegers with shot and shell throughout the four months of the Siege of Delhi that commenced on 9 June. However, it is recorded that the arsenal contained nine hundred thousand cartridges, two complete siege trains and some eight to ten thousand muskets, much of which must have been destroyed when the expense magazine was demolished and which would otherwise have been invaluable to the mutineers.

Whatever the degree of materiel damage inflicted, nothing can detract from the cold blooded heroism that ensured the denial of warlike stores to an enemy. It was an act that was to send a thrill across the Empire and inspired determination throughout the British in India.

A note about my Father: 15000524 Conductor Charles Henry Train R.A.O.C

As far back as I can remember my father was the conductor at the large RAOC Depot at Harbanspura which is now in Pakistan close to Lahore. Harbanspura is on the main railway line between Lahore in Pakistan and Amritsar in India. I believe that some of the old British Army warehousing though now disused, still exists there today. Photo of me age of four at dawn and still in my pyjamas and dressing gown, outside our married quarter at Harbanspura is on our web site in the “pictures/ my mother Lydia’s album”.

We came to England on the then troopship ex White Star ship “Georgic” after she had been refitted from being heavily bombed by the Germans in Egypt. During the late 1950’s my father was medically discharged from the army but after a successful operation at Hull Royal Infirmary, he was able to rejoin the RAOC and completed his service with them as an RQMS at Selby in the early 1960’s. I sometimes used to visit him there whilst servicing as an Army Apprentice at Harrogate. These visits often turned out to be more like a visit to a Boot Camp, for father would more often then not turn them into extra military training for his boy soldier son. The Army was purely and simply my father’s life, upon retiring from the forces he really never ever adapted to civilian life nor to life as a family man.

Re the material on Army Conductors: I just cleared out my loft and found my father’s MFO roll with his rank and army number stamped on it. I knew my father was a W.O.1 for all of my childhood so I wanted to find out why he was then ranked as a Conductor. Hence my research on the internet was largely taken from Canada’s RAOC web site. That is how I came across your web site.

Charles Train

An Uncouth Conductor?

The following extract is taken from the book “REDCOAT” and appears on page 286 in a chapter which includes details of duelling. The author, Professor Richard Holmes, has very kindly given permission for it to be reprinted on the Conductors Web Page.

In February 1760 there were two fights in Bombay, the first when Commissary Chandler fell out with Conductor Vaus (a senior storekeeper, not strictly speaking a gentleman) over the usual ‘disagreeable words’. Chandler hustled things on by waylaying Vaus when he emerged from a sale:

‘He demanded satisfaction and desired Vaus immediately to draw, on which they both drew, made some pushes at each other (but before anybody came up to part them, though in the middle of the day and on open green) Chandler gave Vaus a wound in his right breast which was so deep that it pierced his lungs’.

Chandler fled to join the Mahrattas, and James Wood who tells us the story, left Vaus ‘in hopes of his recovery’.

(Note: The second fight does not concern this web page).

This extract was submitted by Dennis Bradley, who obtained permission for publication from the author.

My Army: WO1 (Conductor) Mike Hobbins

First Published in Soldier Magazine, March 2002.
Interview: Ray Routledge, Pictures: Steve Dock


Scroll of approval: WO1(Conductor) Mike Hobbins RLC with his traditional Parchment

WHEN it comes to experience of life in the British Army, few can match the almost 40 years that WOl (Conductor) Mike Hobbins has devoted to the Service. His love of the Army and his wish to be of service are apparent in everything he says and does.

By virtue of the fact that he is the senior conductor in the Royal Logistic Corps, he is also the Army’s most senior non commissioned officer. Soldier called at his Andover home to ask his views on his career and life in general.

Did you always want to be in the Army?

Pretty much. I joined the Junior Leaders at 15 in Deepcut after three years with the Army cadets.

What have you done in your long career?

After the Junior Leaders I went to 142 Workshops RAOC in Bielefeld, as a young 18-year-old who had never been out of the country before. I spent nine months in Sharjah in the Gulf before going to Ashchurch Vehicle Depot where I met my wife. That was followed by tours to Northern Ireland, Germany and Cyprus before finally arriving at the Logistics Executive at Andover, where I have served for the past 17 years. I am now working out of Deepcut, where it all began. My posting as a Conductor has given me the opportunity to extend my service.

Is the ethos of the service important to you?

When I joined in the 1960s it was to serve. When I met my wife I told her from the start that she came third Queen, country and family in that order and I still believe that. We’ve been married for 32 years.

Do conductors enjoy any special duties or privileges?

The only ceremonial duty is for a Royal visit, when the conductor makes a speech. People also seek my views; for example Maj Gen Peter Chambers at HQ Land Command will seek my advice.

Were you ever tempted to apply for a commission?

No, I never wanted a commission. The officer was a different beast in the old days compared with today. I was happy, I did not want to join somebody elseOs club. My club was a good one.

Do you think Warrant Officers careers should be extended beyond the 22 year point?

Their retirement opens career paths for those coming up. Nevertheless, why throw WOs on the rubbish dump at 22 years? All that skill and all that knowledge. . . just gone. Conditions of service throughout the Armed Forces are different and I feel they should be the same. Pay, at least, has been sorted at long last.

Do you have a view on ‘Pay 2000’?

I have done an extra 14 years and I am on the same level as a guy who has done just six. But that’s life and people should stop moaning.

What advice do you have for a 16 year old contemplating a career in the Army?

I would recommend anyone to join the Army so long as their reasons are the right ones. They should join to serve, with the knowledge that they might be asked to put their life on the line. In the 1960s we understood that because we were born just after the war. Every individual should look at why they want to join. After that it might become a career.

Have you enjoyed your career?

The Army is about comradeship and it is a great life a life that can’t be matched anywhere in the world. It is brilliant. Liz, my wife, and I remember the last 39 years as being one glorious, great time, with men and women all doing the same thing for basically the same reason. You can’t do that anywhere else.

And the same question to his wife

We have been very well looked after, and when he comes out later this year I am going to miss being part of the family.


WHAT gives the senior conductor the right to call himself the most senior NCO in the British Army? The rank dates back to 1327, when the conductor was a civilian and part of the commissariat the quartermasters. In terms of hierarchy, it slotted in between junior ranks and officers. Conductors were eventually regularised into the British Army and a royal charter of 1869 made them warrant officer class one. That charter also spelled out that conductors were to be considered senior to all NCOs but inferior to commissioned officers.

The RLC last year reintroduced the tradition of awarding conductors their warrant on a parchment scroll, a custom dating back to the rank’s earliest incarnations.

23919343 Michael Robert Hobbins MSM MBE. 1947 – 2020.
RAOC Junior Leader of Mulcahy Platoon, 1963 Jan Intake to 1965 Aug POP.
Passed away 5 January 2020, age 72 at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital Winchester. RIP

The Day The Queen was Conducted

By Dennis Bradley, former Senior Conductor RAOC until 1978

On the 16th May 1978, our Colonel-in-Chief, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, made a memorable visit to the Corps at Bicester.  The visit commemorated both Her Majestys’ Silver Jubilee as Colonel-in-Chief and the Diamond Jubilee of the award to the Army Ordnance Corps of its ‘Royal’ title.

One of the many noteworthy events on that day was the naming, by Her Majesty, of an engine of the Bicester Military Railway ‘CONDUCTOR’. As the Corps senior Conductor at that time I was asked to escort Her Majesty to the naming ceremony and to explain to her the historical significance of the appointment. This duty was duly carried out and the Colonel-in-Chief showed great interest in our antecedents particularly that the earliest record of the office of Conductor is contained in the Statute of Westminster 1327, and thought the history ‘fascinating’.

The route to the platform at Queen’s Halt (formerly Craven Hill and re-named to commemorate the occasion) was lined by seven other Conductors and Her Majesty stopped to speak to some of them.

My escort duty complete, the Queen named the train to much applause and enthusiasm of the watching crowd.

With the many derivatives of ‘escort’, including ‘lead’, ‘accompany’ and ‘conduct’, I think it can be said with confidence that on this auspicious occasion� our Colonel-in-Chief was well and truly ‘conducted’!

Afternote: For railway buffs the CONDUCTOR plates are original Bicester plates and as such will always remain there. The train named above was a 4-wheel DM ‘Vanguard’ number 253. The nameplates were removed in August 1988 and allocated to 4-wheel DM ‘Steelman’ number 276 on 19th August 1988. The CONDUCTOR nameplates were removed from this engine on its move to Kosovo and are now held in the stores of the Bicester Military Railway.

The Queens Visit to RAOC Bicester, 1978

WO1(Cdr) D Bradley RAOC is on the right of the picture

The naming of Conductor. Dennis is facing the Queen

Dennis Bradley in 1998 with Conductor

Dennis Bradley

Nelsons Funeral Cortège featured Conductors

Transcribed extract from  The Times of 10th January 1806, reporting Nelsons Funeral

Submitted by Bob White, Dec 07.  British Library Image of the Times

The article was the first to use illustrations, two of which were the coffin details and the funeral carriage.

In St. James’s Park were drawn up all the regiments of Cavalry and Infantry, quartered within one hundred miles of London, who had served in the glorious campaigns in Egypt, after the ever-memorable Victory at the Nile; and a detachment of flying artillery, with twelve field pieces, and their ammunition tumbrils. At half past ten, the Procession commenced from the Admiralty, with the march of the several regiments, led by his Royal Highness the Duke of York, attended by his Aides-de-Camp and Staff, in the following order:

A detachment of the 10th Light Dragoons. Four Companies of the 42d Highlanders.

The band of the Old Buffs playing Rule Britannia, drums Muffled.

The 92d Regiment, in sections, their colours honourably shuttered in the campaign of Egypt, which word was inscribed upon them, borne in the centre, and hung with crape.

The remaining Companies of the 42nd, preceded by their national pipes, playing the dead march in Saul.

The 21st and 31lst Regiments, with their bands playing as before. Remainder of the 10th Light Dragoons: trumpets sounding at intervals, a solemn dirge.

Eleventh Dragoons. Scots Greys, preceded by six Trumpeters sounding the Dead March.

Detachment of Flying Artillery, with twelve field pieces and tumbrils.

Six Marshalmen, on foot, to clear the way, Messenger of the College of Arms, in a mourning coach, with a badge of the College on his left shoulder, his staff tipped with silver, and furled with sarsnet.

Six Conductors, in mourning cloaks, with black staves headed with Viscounts coronets.

Forty-eight Pensioners from Greenwich Hospital, two and two, in mourning cloaks, with badges of the crests of the deceased on their shoulders, and black staves in their hands.

Twelve Marines and Forty-eight Seamen of his Majesty’s ship the Victory two and two, in their ordinary dress, with black neck handkerchiefs and stockings, and crape in their hats. Watermen of the deceased, in black coats, with their badges. Drums and Fifes, Drum Major*

Trumpets. Serjeant Trumpeter.

Rouge Croix Pursuivant of Arms (alone in a mourning coach) in close mourning, with his tabard over his cloak black silk scarf, hatband and gloves.

The Standard borne in front of a mourning coach, in which was a Captain of the Royal Navy, supported by two lieutenants, in their full uniform coats, with black cloth waistcoats, breeches, and black stockings, and crape round their arms and hats.


Blue Mantle Pursuivant of Arms (alone in a mourning coach), habited as Rouge Croix.

The Guidon borne in front of a mourning coach, in which was a Captain of the Royal Navy, supported by two Lieutenants, dressed as those who bore and supported the Standard. Servants of the deceased, in mourning, in a mourning coach. Officers of his Majesty’s Wardrobe, in mourning coaches.



Deputation from the Great Commercial Companies of London. Physicians of the deceased, in a mourning coach.

Divines, in clerical habits.

Chaplains of the deceased, in clerical habits, and Secretary of the deceased, in a mourning coach.


Rouge Dragon, Pursuivant of Arms (alone, in mourning black), habited as Blue Mantle.

The Banner of the deceased as a Knight of the BATH, borne in front of a mourning coach, in which were a Captain of the Royal Navy, supported by two lieutenants, dressed as those who bore and supported the Guidon.

Officers who attended the Body while it lay in state at Greenwich, in mourning coaches.

Knights Bachelors.

Masters in Chancery and Serjeants at Law.

Solicitor General and Attorney-General.

Prime Serjeant.

Some Definitions: Cortege

Tumbrils A 2 Wheeled cart, in this context the ammunition cart associated with the field gun.
Sarsnet A fabric net or gauze
Serjeant Original or Replacement for ‘Sergeant’ still used in the Guards
Pursuivant A functionary of lower rank than a herald, but discharging similar duties; — called also pursuivant at arms; an attendant of the heralds.
Guidon A small flag or streamer, as that carried by cavalry, which is broad at one end and nearly pointed at the other, or that used to direct the movements of a body of infantry, or to make signals at sea; also, the flag of a guild or fraternity