St Georges Barracks Minden B. F. P. O. 29
Midsummer 1961 after 18 months in Junior Leaders Borden Hants and 3 months driver training in Yeovil Somerset behind me and I was ready to join a “Working Unit”. Scanning part one orders I found I had been posted to Germany 54 Coy RASC Minden BFPO 29, a quick run down to the NAAFI to ask some of the “old sweats” if they knew of it or had been there, it was either “never heard of it” or an intake of breath through the teeth (something like a plumber when you ask how much to fix a leaky tap.)
However the next week I was on my way to Harwich to catch the troop ship to the Hook Of Holland and then the long train journey to Minden, No aeroplanes for the squaddies in those days, can’t just remember how long the crossing was on the ship but the smell down there was horrific, the train journey was not as bad but it seemed to take days Anyway I got to Minden and was met by a three ton Bedford RL which transported me up to St Georges Barracks and was shown to the bedding store. As the accommodation blocks were quite a way from the QMs I was supplied with a large platform barrow which looked disturbing like the ones they used to take the bodies from the gas chambers on. I was assigned to B platoon which I later found out was a 3 tonner platoon. As I remember A & B platoons were 3 tonners Bedford RLs and C platoon was 10 tonner Magirus Deutsch which I believe were supplied by the Germans as a war debt. There was also a section of RLs that were in “mothballs” only to be used in case the Bolshevic Red Army decided to attack from the east, what we were going to do with them I don’t know because we didn’t have any drivers for them, (probably set fire to them and roll them into the advancing hordes)
Our other vehicles were, 4 Austin Champs for platoon commanders and 2 very basic VW Beetles which were laughingly used as staff cars, one for the OC and one for 2IC. Life in 54 Coy was idyllic really there was absolutely nothing to do, we were not attached to any other unit or arm of the service, there were the 10 mile snipers ( Royal Artillery) in the next camp but apart from that we were pretty much isolated. The only regular work the vehicles used to was Duty Driver that used to go down to town on a regular run to pick up men coming back off leave or to take them down when they were going on leave, there was the rubbish detail which used to round the blocks every day and take the rubbish to the dumps and there was the sick lame and lazy run which used to take the poorly to the MO room down town. Every now and then we would have a “crash out” that entailed every one jumping into their wagons and careering round the German countryside for an hour then coming back parking up and getting back to what they were doing.
The boredom took it’s toll I’m afraid and heavy drinking was the order of the day among all ranks, the booze was so cheap and available, there were blokes who were actually drunk all the time they were there.
There were characters, CSM David Kelly a legend in his time, you walk across his square without swinging your arms shoulder high you were in trouble, a great man, firm but fair. Ginger Deller, George Emery, Taffy Maher, Dick Walmsley, Bronco Lane, Roly Gilder, Jimmy Danton, Geordie Robinson, Taff Williams, Mal Page, Harry Rigsby,John Holloway, to name but a few.
The National Servicemen were still in while I was in 54, most of them were OK but there were a few with enormous chips on their shoulders who did not like regular soldiers especially ex boy soldiers like me. I can remember when there were only a few NS men left all waiting for discharge when the government added an extra 6 months on to the service, I forget what for now but there were riots, the best thing to do was give them a wide berth.
It was a long time ago I know but I can still remember quite a bit of my 3 years at Minden, when I went there we still had the old 303 Lee Enfield rifle our best uniform was battledress, the old khaki type with gaitors, the only body armour we had was to fold up some of that horrible hard IZAL bog paper on stuff it in your shirt pocket.
There are numerous particular stories I could relate of the goings on in BFPO 29 but I will not bore you with them, but this much I know they were the best three years of my life and I actually shed a tear when left Germany and “The Galloping 54”.
Many thanks to John “Weegie” Roper for submitting the above article.