The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Plymouth 1966 - 1969
All photographs are the property of RHQ Argylls and may not be reproduced or copied without permission from RHQ Argylls.
On the 21st November 1966, the Battalion reformed at Seaton Barracks, Plymouth after the move back from Singapore. Plymouth was, understandably, a very "service minded" city, with the navy in the majority. Hot on the heels of the battalion’s arrival in Plymouth came the news that the Battalion was to go to Aden in June, 1967, for an unaccompanied Emergency Tour. There was inevitably mixed feelings, among the married men, about yet another separation, but this promised to be a very interesting and exciting period, and as different from Borneo as chalk is to cheese. Much responsibility would again fall on the junior commander, and it would prove to be an ideal training ground.
Click picture to enlarge
The Battalion had a very busy month, with the accent on reorganisation, fitness training, and minor tactics, before going on block leave over the Christmas and New Year period. Many of the Battalion having missed the last two Hogmanay's this was as welcome to the Battalion as it was to a slightly apprehensive Chief Constable of Plymouth!
On the 12th of January Lieutenant Colonel M. B. Wallace handed over command to Lieutenant Colonel C. C. Mitchell, Colonel Wallace moved to RHQ The Black Watch. Also on the 12th January, the Colonel of the Regiment and Lieutenant Colonel T. G. B. Slessor visited the Battalion. They toured all the Departments, and were present in the evening at a cocktail party in the Officers' Mess.
During this period there were two major’s departures, Major Tom Jagger to be Quartermaster at the Staff College, Camberley, and Major Sandy Ward, who went as a very high powered soldier/policeman to Mauritius.
In the period up to 31st March, the accent was entirely focussed on Conventional Warfare training. The highlights of this period were a fortnight at Stanford PTA in Norfolk, followed by a coin exercise on Dartmoor set by 2nd Infantry Brigade in which the Battalion successfully rounded up some "dissident tribesmen" in the shape if the Guards Independent Parachute Company.
The Battalion was lucky not to get involved in the Mop Up operations after the "Torrey Canyon" Oil Disaster. Seaton Barracks became a detergent and transit centre but in view of the battalion’s impending move to Aden, it was spared the job of actually spraying the detergent onto the beaches.
On the 18th April, the G-OC-in-C Southern -Command, Lieutenant General Sir Geoffrey Baker, KCB. CMC, CBE, MC, visited the Battalion, and
having seen a wide variety of Internal Security Drills, remarked that he had never seen a Battalion depart for an Internal Security Operation better trained and " with such a glint in the soldier’s eyes."
After the return from Easter leave, the battalion began its Internal Security training in earnest. The first week started with some excellent lectures and demonstrations, which managed to achieve quite considerable TV and Press coverage. Some very realistic "Arab" dress was produced, and the demonstrators were remarkably life-like. Seaton Barracks was made to resemble the Crater District of Aden, with foot patrols and road blocks around every comer, accompanied by the crash of "grenades" and the rattle of musketry.
A lot of officers and senior ranks rejoined the Battalion during this time, many from the disbanding 7th and 8th Battalions. The Battalion Officer strength was higher than it has been for many years, and the other rank strength crept up slowly. However, new recruits were still very badly needed, to keep the battalion up to strength.
The Arabic Language party, totalling 8 all ranks, flew to Aden in early May. The Advance Party, of 127 all ranks, flew from Gatwick on 5th June, followed by the Main Body between the 20th and 30th June.
Late November, early December the battalion returned from Aden, after period of admin, etc the battalion went on block leave till 4th of January 1968.
After returning from block leave, the battalion had a very full programme. It ran two six week NCOs Cadres, trained mortar and anti-tank gunners from scratch, ran three drivers cadres, a Regimental Signals Cadre as well as several education courses and innumerable individual specialist courses. In addition completed the Annual Classification and Battle Efficiency Tests. Once the individual training period was over and the specialist appointments refilled, the battalion had two weeks leave before moving to Garelochhead. Between 30th April and 20th May the Battalion was in the Regimental Area on a Kape Tour to get recruits of character for the Battalion. Stirling Parade. 18th May the battalion received the Freedom of Campbelltown.1st to 5th July – Ex Shake this was a short notice exercise to reinforce the Middle East, the destination was kept secret to the last moment and the battalion ended up in Cyprus for a couple of days, then moved straight to Stanford training area for company training till 12th July.
Colonel Colin Mitchell left the battalion in September and Colonel Sandy Boswell took over. It was sad moment when Colonel Colin left, not only for the battalion but for the Army's sake as well. He was an individual who throughout his brief but exciting tenure of command acted as he saw best in the circumstances. In doing so he had the whole battalion a 100 per cent behind him.
The battalion had a most valuable overseas training exercise in Cyprus, in September and October, and many renewed acquaintances with old haunts. The weather was perfect and the battalion made the best of it both on and off duty. Towards the end of the stay in Cyprus Christopher Railing from the BBC TV Documentary Department arrived to start making a film about the Regiment. He was just in time to get some ‘shots’ of training in Cyprus and then spent a month with the battalion, either in Plymouth or in Scotland.
On 4th November Command Coy formed.
During this time it was comforting for all ranks to hear that the "Save the Argylls" Campaign had achieved over one million signatures. The 1st Battalion couldn’t take part in the Campaign for obvious reasons but were nevertheless extremely grateful for those that did. How many other Petitions to Parliament have reached such proportions?
A highly successful Dinner for Lt Col C. C Mitchell was held, a presentation (suitably inscribed) was made to the Colonel on the eve of his departure from the Army. It was hoped that the mess could have provided a Mess photograph, unfortunately, the photographer, apart from possessing a fund of the worst jokes that; we have ever heard, turned out to be incapable of aiming his camera in the right direction the result being a photograph of the Pipe Major's elbow.
Whilst the battalion were lapping up the sunshine of Cyprus, it was decided to hold a Balaclava Ball on return to Plymouth. C.SM Mutch was detailed as President of the Ball Committee and astounded everyone by organising a Ball held by some, to be the finest ever. These may have been just kind words, but whatever the truth, this Ball was tremendous. The BBC TV Team obviously enjoyed the atmosphere because they stayed right to the very end. The guests of honour at the Ball were the New Commanding Officer Lt Col A. C. S. Boswell, MBE and his delightful lady. Others who attended the Ball were, RSM McKerron, Tony Harris, CSM Gow, C/Sgt Biggerstaff and last but not least Pipe Major Andrew Pitkeathly.
Thin Red Line TV Programme shot in Plymouth, Dartmoor and Cyprus in 1968.
I have split it into 9 parts to make it easier to watch and download, sorry about the quality it is the best I can manage at the moment.
TRL Video Part 1 TRL Video Part 2 TRL Video Part 3 TRL Video Part 4 TRL Video Part 5
TRL Video Part 6 TRL Video Part 7 TRL Video Part 8 TRL Video Part 9
An unusual but nevertheless gratifying event happened early in November 1968. The ORQMS, WO1 Lloyd, walked up the corridor from the Clerk's Office towards the Adjutant's Office, called in on the Regular Commissions Board on the way, was sent back and ordered to lose 15lbs in weight, did so went-back again and emerged as a Lieutenant We've discovered that he calls himself Bill. Welcome Bill Lloyd and congratulations.
(Footnote: What does the Adjutant do now with such high priced help?)
December saw the battalion spending the month as Spearhead of the Strategic Reserve, waiting hopefully for trouble in some such spot as Bermuda, Anguilla or even our old haunts in Guyana to provide a worthwhile reason for leaving the English winter behind. On 28th December another battalion took up the task and a well earned fortnight's leave over Hogmanay followed.
From the start of the new year the preparations for Berlin and the move itself were the battalion’s main preoccupation, cadres to train the specialists who were needed on a different scale from Strategic Command, followed by packing, flight lists, march-outs and all the palaver of a unit move. In addition there was a pleasant interlude in Scotland when over 200 men took part in a recruiting drive which included a civic ceremony in Falkirk and a march through the town of Clydebank in early March.
By this time the advance party was already in Berlin where the winter lingered on until the last week in March. Briefings, border patrols, visits to East Berlin, tours of training areas, and all the administrative functions that are involved in a handover kept the advance party fully occupied, but by the time the main body began to arrive on 9th April a welcome spell of hot weather had got rid of the last of the snow and brought some colour to the grass, so that the barracks and quarters looked a little more welcoming. By the 15th of April the Battalion was complete in Berlin.
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Source - Thin Red Line Magazines
Berlin 1969 - 1970
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Updated: 23 February 2015