The Argyll and Sutherland
Elgin 1954 - 1955
All photographs are the property of RHQ Argylls and may not be reproduced or copied without permission from RHQ Argylls.
On Tuesday, 2nd November, the Battalion arrived home again at Southampton; having successfully completed their South American Mission. One of the national newspapers aptly summed up the arrival by: " We always seem to be welcoming The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders home or wishing them farewell." Of course the battalion was glad to get home, and it was very nice to see Major General and Mrs. Robertson on the quay side to greet us. It will be remembered that they had been at Devonport thirteen months previously to wish the Battalion farewell. We were also very glad to see the Commanding Officer come all the way from Elgin to greet us, bearing a message of welcome from our Colonel in Chief.
Reporters from every paper were there also, but were not interested in our arrival, but only in that of the Guianese wives whom we had brought home with us. Their behaviour and the inaccuracies of their reports soon antagonised the members of the Regiment, so much so that one reporter who was in the station when the first train left only escaped with his life by saying he was a photographer and not a newshound. The battalion moved overnight by 2 trains to Scotland, the tedium of the twenty-hour rail journey was broken at Edinburgh, where a twenty minutes halt was enlivened by many mothers, wives and sweethearts meeting us. This was a very welcome episode. We felt sorry for all those who had been waiting for so long only to find their husbands, sons and friends in the second train, which was following some two hours behind the first.
The Provost of Elgin was there to welcome the battalion at the station on our arrival, and as we marched off to Pinefield Camp behind the Pipe Band we caught a welcome glimpse of Lt.-Colonel Boss MacKay, of whom we were fortunately to see more in the months to follow. The hard work put in by Major Scheurmier and the Advance Party was much appreciated by the Battalion and those wives who were fortunate enough to have quarters allotted to them, and it appeared to be no time before we were all settled in and making hasty preparations to let the whole Battalion away on leave. After a couple days admin the battalion went on a well deserved leave, regulars enjoyed two months and the N.S. men three weeks.
Pinefield Camp was practically impossible to guard with a Cadre of 60 men. By some miracle our three men-power guards appeared to keep the burglars away except for a brief incursion into the ration store—but that was an inside job, to judge from the eggshells in the barrack room. The Commanding Officer remained to keep an eye on things and to tackle the vast pile of paper that seems to descend on all Units on their return to the United Kingdom. The War Office love to have someone new to write to.
On 7th November, Capt. MacKellar commanded the Detachment which represented the battalion at the Elgin Remembrance Day Parade. The Commanding Officer laid a wreath, and the Duty Drummer froze to the end of his bugle, so that the Last Post had a more than usually dying fall.
On 9th November we welcomed Major-General Scott-Elliot, and were delighted to see Lieut. Somerville was organising " his" General satisfactory, although there seems to have been a slight shortage of rugs on the plane flight from Perth. Or, rather, the A.D.C. had a rug. Maybe Lieut. Somerville was handing over to Lieut. Darroch anyway.
Altogether, the N.C.O. strength was alarming. We had three Platoons with 1 Officer and 1 N.C.O. each. At the end of November another draft arrived from the Depot of 63, making the shortage of N.C.O.s even more acute. However, three days later all the National Service men returned from leave and we had a pretty impressive force probably the biggest Rifle Company we've ever seen. We had five Platoons and a vast Company H.Q., but still only one N.C.O. per Platoon. It does great credit to the soldiers in the Camp that during this whole period there was so very little need to use the heavy hammer from a disciplinary point of view.
In fact, the heaviest hammer on record was administered to our football eleven by R.A.F., Kinloss, who socked us 15-nil in spite of most stubborn resistance. However, when the National Service men returned we managed to hold them to a 4-all draw, which was fair, considering they had 2,000 men to pick from.
Proper revenge was planned for a later date, when we were asked to test the Kinloss Airfield defences, and it was for this that the Company went in'to training. Training was abruptly interrupted on 11th December by an almost total exodus of Officers. The reason was Capt. Edington's wedding, at which the Rear Party was well represented. Sgt. Yule found it a welcome break from permanent Orderly Sergeant to put on his No. 1 Dress and play his pipes at the church. The Battle of Kinloss took place on the night of Tuesday, 21st December. As a prologue, the Officers visited the Kinloss Mess on Sunday evening and presented the R.A.F. with a splendid scroll and a ghoulishly challenging gauntlet. Dr. Shields displayed a talent for writing pseudo-Gothic print, 'whilst denying the rumour that instantly-sprung up that he practised on human skin. We had, by this time, got more or less used to the weather, which had occasionally warmed up to freezing point, but on the night of the battle a 105 m.p.h. gale was blowing over the airfield. However, this wasn't as windy as the R.A.F. defence, which we took a long time to find. In fact, 2nd Lieut. Prosser's Platoon captured their objective and didn't find any opposition at all until their gallant commander deliberately set off a trip flare. After the effort we had put into practising night patrols and " reccing" the airfield, it was disappointing that we didn't have a more satisfactory war. But all of our new soldiers did very well under the worst possible conditions, and, of course, we had the cheerful support of our " old soldiers " of the National Service men from B.G., particularly Pte. Richardson, who always seemed to be the centre of some kind of conspiratorial mayhem.
And so to Christmas and the New Year. As many men as possible went on leave, and the few who had to remain managed to make things as cheerful as possible. The children's party we had planned had to be cancelled owing to influenza, chicken pox and general horror, but 2nd Lieut. Wolrige Gordon became Father Christmas for the day and delivered presents round the Married Quarters in a white draped P.U. Christmas and New Year dinners were served as usual by the Officers, W.O.s and Sergeants, and the Commanding Officer proposed the Queen's health. The health of the C.O. was proposed by Digger Hall, who had found two months' leave too long and had somehow appeared amongst us. It was a quiet night in the Sergeants' Mess on New Year's Eve—or do we now call it Old Year's Night—but the Atholl Brose was duly produced by the Officers, C./Sgt. Woods kept us going on the piano, and C./Sgt. Oliver danced a spirited Highland Fling. The C.O. dropped in for half an hour and stayed two, so the evening, although small in scale, was deemed a success.
Altogether, we had a quiet but cheerful two months, but it was a relief indeed to see the Battalion rolling in on 6th January.
Click on pictures to enlarge
On, the 6th of January the battalion began to re-assemble, and found out just how cold Elgin could be. Every possible pipe that could freeze froze. Fires seemed to give out no heat, and the usual coal allowance disappeared very quickly. The Battalion went through a very difficult period at the beginning of their stay in Elgin, as many Officers and N.C.O.s were away on courses, some were yet to join us, and an enormous Advance Party for Berlin left on 20th January to begin taking over Montgomery Barracks from 1 Grenadier Guards.
5th February the battalion provided a Colour Party and guard for laying up of old colours at Stirling Castle.
The coldest parade ever was our " Raising of the Regiment" at Elgin, —but, oh, what a parade this was! Just like the 1953 one at Redford—and that mean’t snow!
Very little sport was possible at Elgin owing to bad weather. However, the McEwan Cross- country Cup was run for—and won by B Coy. D Coy ceased being a Rifle Company and got down to its new job as a Cadre Training Company and started a four-week Cadre for the latest Regular draft from the Depot. This ended just in time for the men to take part in the Battalion baggage party, which D Company provided for the move to Berlin. And so at 2300 hours on Saturday, 19th February, the battalion " hit the trail" once more. British Railways did their best, taking the battalion through snow-covered Britain to Harwich, where Movement Control most effectively fed and then embarked everyone aboard the Empire Wansbeck, which carried the battalion in cramped but warm style on the trip across to, the Hook of Holland. The crossing of the English Channel was by night and after breakfasting at the Hook, continued our railway travels on a very well-equipped troop train bound for Hanover. There were no complaints about the heating or the grub on that bit of the journey! At Hanover the battalion changed trains to complete the journey to Spandau, which the battalion reached on the 22nd February.
Berlin 1955 - 1956
Return to Home Page
Updated: 16 March 2015