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Sandbag Reminiscences of Lawson Kent Sandbag
Nice For A Moment!
Right. Tonfanau.
I set off from Newquay, Cornwall, on I believe, October 12th 1960, at 2125hrs, and eventually arrived at Tonfanau about lunchtime the following day. A guy called Larry Grose accompanied me most of the way. I think he bought himself out.
We were greeted at the main gate by one Sgt. Kurle, Royal Artillery, a Jimmy Edwards lookalike. What a nice chap he seemed! OK boys this way, we'll get you some grub. The niceties ended soon after.
We were billeted in a seemingly huge "spider" block, and were called 'R' Company. I suppose there must have been 20 of us to a room. I recall Junior soldiers Wackrow, Went, Lewis, Watson (later RSM), Stewart, Howarth (who always said "us" instead of "we"), Reid, Ruth, Durnford, Ramsey, Heaton and more besides I am sure, with a bit of thought.
On one of our early nights some of the hut were chattering after lights out and the lovely Sgt. Kurle told us all to fall in on the square in pyjamas, greatcoats and plimsolls. He kept us there for ages it seemed and Pte. Stewart enquired "where is the bastard?". You will probably guess the rest! He was only a few feet away, and heard all our mutterings.
After 'R' Company we became Somme Platoon, with Lt. Firth in charge, or was he 'R' Company? A Sgt. in the Lancashire Fusiliers took over from Sgt. Kurle, and I recall he was OK, even if he did shriek a bit on the drill square. Later there was a Sgt. Laming with us. Life in Somme was an improvement on 'R' Company, at least you weren't complete sprogs for a start, and you could go to Barmouth and catch the Bedford QL three tonner back from the camp side of the Briidge over the estuary. You could also fall foul of the notorious RP Cpl. "Mustapha" Fagg, of the Green Jackets, (I think).
Cader Idris. What a delightful place! Miles and miles of sodden, (sodding??) mountain. Equipped as we were with all the best gear, it was always a nightmare, and the transport back was always most welcome, when you actually found it. On a 'D of E' Award Outward Bound test we hitched a lift on a trailer, got spotted, and had to do it again. It was all Ramsay's fault.
I recall Pte. Heaton shattering the bricks at the top of the firing range wall with a Sterling SMG, which was a laugh, even if the instuctor didn't think so. You had to hang on tight to the thing!
Personally I was part of the team which won the Western Command weapon championship at Altcar Range, but I can't remember any names. I do remember some names of the AAJLR Cross Country team, which won the Army Championships in 1961. Byrne, who was first, Shaw, Herbert, Cochrane, Tebay and myself. I have a photo, and medal, somewhere. The AAJLR Cross Country course was a real pig, I remember it well!
We were a real mixed bag at Tonfanau. I am not sure if it helped or not when we joined our regiments. Junior Leaders, particularly those with a rank up the ladder a bit, were generally not thought much of I seem to remember. (...and that's putting it mildly!)
In April 1962 I left the AAJLR and joined my regiment, the Cherrypickers, at Tidworth, and then went off to BAOR to drive a tank! My interest in tanks has remained, and my Cherrypicker interest has also remained. We have an excellent reunion every year, and I have heard it said that our gathering must be one of the largest there is.
So there we are, a few Tonfanau Tales. Yacky - da! (With apologies to the Welsh Nation)
Lawson Kent (Kenny) ex 1Troop C Squadron 11th Hussars (PAO)

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