Monday

 


11 INDEPENDENT FIELD SQUADRON RE – UNVEILING OF SQUADRON PLAQUE AT THE NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM 29 APRIL 2017

GOOD MORNING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN (FELLOW SAPPERS) AND GUESTS.


I WAS ASKED BY GEOFF AND HANK TO SAY A FEW WORDS TODAY. MY NAME IS (23673777) SPR ANTHONY CATHERALL AND I AM YOUR NARRATOR FOR TODAY’S CEREMONY. 
A HEARTY AND WARM WELCOME TO YOU ALL. WE HAVE COME TOGETHER HERE TODAY AT THE NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARBORETUM FOR A SHORT BUT VERY MEANINGFUL OCCASION FOR ALL OF US.
CAN I ASK YOU FIRST - FOR THOSE WITH MOBILE PHONES TO PLACE THEM IN SILENT MODE OR KINDLY SWITCH THEM OFF THANK YOU FOR THAT?
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHILST VISITING HERE, FRANK, KEITH BILLY ALLAN DAVE AND MYSELF CAME UP WITH AN IDEA OF GETTING A PLAQUE OF THE SQUADRON PLACED HERE
TODAY THEN WE ARE HERE TO DEDICATE AND UNVEIL A SMALL PLAQUE TO HONOUR ALL THE MEN THAT SERVED IN 11 INDEPENDENT FIELD SQUADRON ROYAL ENGINEERS OVER ITS MANY YEARS OF EXISTENCE. WE DO SO, WITH DIGNITY HUMILITY AND RESPECT. HOWEVER WE WEREN’T ALONE IN MALAYA, AS FINE AND CLOSE SERVICE WAS GIVEN TO THE SQUADRON IN THEIR MANY ENDEAVOURS BY DIFFERENT TROOPS OF THE ROYAL AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERS AND 410 INDEPENDENT PLANT TROOP RE.
I’M SURE THAT SOME OF YOU HERE TODAY ARE NOT FULLY FAMILIAR OR AWARE OF SOME THE WORK THE SQUADRON PERFORMED IN THE PERIOD DURING THE MIDDLE 1950’s THROUGH TO THE 70’s.
IN THIS PERIOD IN MALAYA THERE WERE TWO DISTINCT ERA’S OF THE SQUADRON BUTTERWORTH CAMP IN PROVINCE WELLESLEY AND CAMP TERENDAK MALACCA.
I BELIEVE OUR MOST SENIOR FORMER MEMBER PRESENT AT OUR CEREMONY TODAY  IS NORMAN DONALDSON WHO SERVED THE SQUADRON BETWEEN 1951– 52. I’M NOT SURE IF HE EVER WENT TO MALAYA BUT HE’S HERE TODAY WITH HIS WIFE.
WHILST THE YOUNGEST OR INDEED THE LAST NAMED ON THE 11 SQN WEBSITE IN THE LATER ERA IN MALAYA BRIAN PACKMAN, AS ONE OF HIS GROUP HERE WHO WAS BASED AT CAMP TERENDAK FROM 1968-70. A SPECIAL WELCOME TO YOU BOTH AND YOUR GROUPS. THERE ARE ALSO ARE MANY SOME WHO ARE IN DISTANT LANDS THAT WOULD HAVE LIKED TO BE HERE TODAY AND I’M TOLD BY MANY THAT THEY ARE WITH US IN SPIRIT.
NEARLY ALL OF YOU HERE THOUGH SERVED THE SQUADRON IN MALAYA. SO WHAT DID THE SQUADRON ACHIEVE WHILST IT WAS THERE BETWEEN THE YEARS 1954 – 1970?
A SHORT HISTORY
1954
In Dec 1954, the Squadron was moved to Sungei Besi, Malaya, and from Feb to Aug 1955 was part of 50 Field Engineer Regiment, where they established a reputation with the RAF for being insatiable beer drinkers.
1955
The Squadron in the summer of 1955 moved to Butterworth Malaya and later became the Field Squadron of 28 Commonwealth Brigade
1956
Major tasks undertaken in 1956 included completion of an airstrip programme at Fort Chabai, relieving 410 Plant Troop to enable them to move up and support the Gurkha squadrons.
11 Squadron & 16 Field Ambulance RAMC with their families& the families of the Ordnance Field Park were due to arrive at the end of July. The Field Squadron would occupy the field battery’s lines when 105 Battery was deployed.
*SE p. 170.
11 Field Squadron then joined 28 Commonwealth Brigade in early June and occupied part of the field battery’s lines at Butterworth.
*SE p. 177
1957
A permanent home for the 28 Commonwealth Brigade had been planned and construction of a ‘made to measure’ cantonment began in June at Bukit Terendak. The Royal Engineers started work on the site and the construction was taken over by the War Office in 1959. General Sir Richard Hull, Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Land Forces, named the new base ‘Fort George’ to commemorate the HQ of the Commonwealth Division in the Korean War. After some criticism by the Government of Malaya it was later agreed that the cantonment should be known as ‘Camp Terendak. The final cost was £7.77 million.
*SE p. 234
In May, Sgt Richard Woods BEM with 1 Troop, 11 Squadron was repairing and clearing the rain damaged runway at Fort Chabai airstrip in Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Whilst there, the 3 millionth air drop was made by 55 Air Dispatch Royal Army Service Corps. The drop included a ten-dollar note found by Sapper Rowlands.
Following Independence in 1957, the status and organization of the British and Commonwealth forces in Malaya changed. 11 Sqn originally made up one third of the divisional engineers for 17 Gurkha Division but was latterly, with 410 Plant Troop, assigned to 28 Commonwealth Brigade. The Sqn was involved in a long-running mine clearance task; specifically, the disposal of a Japanese bomb and mine storage dump in Penang. Two men of 11 Sqn were killed on this task in 1957 and it was not until a specialist Bomb Disposal team was sent out from the UK in 1967 that the job was completed.
The first ten miles of the Kedah Roads Project was begun by 11 Indep Fld Sqn and 410 Plant Troop in Jul 1957. The Project was carried out under Emergency conditions in Malayan jungles, and involved the upgrade to Class 24 of more than fifty miles of road. The whole network was not completed until Sep 1959, when the roads were ceremonially opened by the Sultan of Kedah.
Sometime close to the 10 October 11 Squadron included one troop of Australian Engineers.
*SE p. 187
1958
**Corporal J. Woodrow of Army Public Relations published and article in the Soldier Magazine in April entitled ‘The Sappers Build a Jungle Road’ – relating to the work ion Kedah.
1959
New Year Honours
The Officer Commanding 11 Independent Field Squadron 217497 Major Bernard (Bruno) Cyril Elgood was awarded an MBE  
***The Squadron constructed the Kemayan Road (South Pahang) Naka Road (Thai Border) which was finished at Sik in 1959 at a final length of 64 miles. They also repaired Fort Chabai airstrip.
The Squadron also converted an Asian Camp to a European Camp for the Loyal Regiment at Sipputeh (Batu Gadger). They also completed part disposal of Japanese Torpedoes’ & Bombs in tunnels on Penang Island from WW2.
October 1st saw I Field Troop RAE. Leave Malaya, being replaced by 2 Troop RAE
*SE p. 212
At the end of the year 4 Field Troop RAE joined the Squadron.
*SE p. 232
 
1960
18 February- The squadron football team beat 410 Independent Plant Troop 2-1 in the first division league competition at the Butterworth recreation ground.
****Team. 11 Ind. Fld. Sqn. Godley – Scoular – Humphries – Festorazzi – Germany – Morgan – Phelps – Pitt – Saunders – McFarlane – Barry.
*****27 March, the Squadron’s 1 Troop  and a RAE Troop was building an 500 yard airstrip one-mile down the River Perak from the year old riverside police post of Fort Tapong, 16 miles from the Thai border. Lt Don Barton RE (from Bedford UK) & Capt. L.A. Wright RAE (from Sydney Australia) were leading their teams.
******April – May - Some of the Squadron particularly I Troop, Plant Troop and some of HQ Troop were detached to Kota Belud, North Borneo, to operate a light assault floating bridge close to the temporary Mountbatten Causeway over the River Tempasuk. Other work included improving roads particularly widening of the Kota Belud to Jesselton Road, and the continuing building and improving of the camp and training area, including a 3 km. long airstrip at Camp Paradise.
31 July the State of Emergency in the Federation was declared to be over.
At Butterworth, the Squadron carried out ‘Air Portability Exercises’ on the parade ground.
1962
The order of battle of the 28 Commonwealth Infantry Brigade Group in August 1962 included, 11 Squadron, Royal Engineers, including 4 Field Troop RAE
*SE p. 238
In October Brigadier Hassett relinquished his command of 28 Brigade. Brigadier R.B. Dawson (NZ) was now in command of 28 Brigade. *SE p. 245
Also during October, Major Campbell, took the Squadron to North Borneo for its second tour including 4 Troop RAE. There they launched four 130 foot Double-Bailey spans over three high level piers to form a forty-ton, Class 40 Bridge 524 feet long over concrete abutments across the River Tempasuk at Kota Belud in response to a request from local authorities.
*SE 245  
*******Also during July to November further up river at Kota Belud they constructed another 360 foot long Bailey bridge at Jalan Sayap that could also carry 40 tons (including Frank Sowerby). It was opened on 7 November 1962 by the Governor of North Borneo Sir William Goode.  
1963

March.
Exercise 'Dhanarajata'  a SEATO exercise in Thailand. Representatives of Brigade units were flown to Ubon in East Thailand and assumed the role of 'Task Force Blue.



On 3 April 1963, 3 Troop came under the command of 3 Commando Brigade at Kutching for Operation ‘Parrot’
*SE p. 247
December the Squadron moved to Thailand to participate in Operation ‘Crown’ a construction project with some other sapper units in Malaya.
The three field troops of the Squadron began to lay out the camp and an airfield at Loeng Nok Tha, together with roads connecting the site to Korat and Ubon.
*SE p. 249
15 SEPARATE UNITS WERE INVOLVED
********* Note: Below the list and the number of units was not read out during the speech, due to time constraints, but is included for information only
11 Independent Field Squadron RE
34 Field Squadron RE
59 Field Squadron RE
54 Corps Field Park Squadron RE - Detachment
84 Survey Squadron RE - Detachment
302 Postal Unit RE - Detachment
2 Plant Troop, 2 Construction Sqn Royal New Zealand Engineers
2 Troop of 7 Field Sqn, Royal Australian Engineers
5001 RAF Airfield Construction Unit
ACC
16th Commonwealth Field Ambulance RAMC
RAOC
RASC (RCT) + 6 RA Drivers
REME
1965
In May as well as a troop in Borneo the squadron was fully employed on construction tasks in Field Thailand. Loeng Nok Tha airfield was completed on 17 June and presented to the Thai government.
Following this, 1 Troop remained in Thailand to continue the construction of Crown, to the north of Ubon.
*SE p. 259-275
August 11 saw the Squadron leave Terendak to relieve 59 Squadron of the Royal Engineers in Thailand. The construction of the Post Crown project was continuing and the Squadron also laid a new road from Loeng Nok Tha to Bang Nona Pock.
*SE p. 290
 
1967
Early in the year following a response to an appeal from the British Embassy and the Laotian Government, the squadron with a detachment of 16th Commonwealth Field Ambulance were rushed to Vientiane, capital of Laos, to undertake Operation ‘Blowpipe’. Severs storms had caused the Mekong River to flood, resulting in considerable damage and disruption of public utilities. The Commonwealth sappers and medics were called upon to provide fresh water supplies and initiate a programme of measures to avert the spread of disease.
1968
15 March the Squadron arrived back at Terendak after their labours in Thailand. The new Post Crown road was officially opened on 18 April bringing to a close the construction project in that country
*SE p. 294
1969
In 1969,11 Independent Field Squadron was reduced to a Cadre before, after 15 years' service in the Far East, it reverted to the Home Establishment 11 Field Squadron was formed at Ripon in 38 Engineer Regiment in Feb 1970 by re-titling 73 Field Squadron.
The Squadron held a farewell parade leaving for duties elsewhere, under the command of Major R. F. H. Cole at Terendak on 24 September taken by Brigadier Gurr, leaving 2 Troop RAE as the only remaining engineer support. *(SE p. 296)
2 Field Troop RAE later moved to Nee Soon.
*SE p. 297
1970
********Following 15 years continuous service in the far-east the Squadron left Malaya on 14 January 1970. The colours were carried to Ripon by a small Cadre led by Cpl. Dave Kelly. The rest of the Squadron’s property passed on a caretaker basis to 73 Field Squadron who were in Sharjah at the time.
March 22 after eight years in residence, the Commonwealth Brigade had vacated Terendak and handed it over to the Malaysian Army.
*SE p. 297
Bibliography.
*SE - ‘Something Extra’ 28 Commonwealth Brigade 1951- 1974 by H.B. Eaton 1993 ISBN 1-85821-049-6.
** Soldier Magazine April 1958
*** Alan Leech & Richard Clarke
**** Gazette Correspondent
***** Straits Times
****** (Vol. 16, No. 8 Soldier Magazine October 1960)
******* (SE. p. 245) & the Royal Engineers Journal Book 10. Ch. 4, p 149) (Straits Times)
******** (www.sappers.co.uk – The late Chris Smith)
********* (Roger Andrews 11 Independent Field Sqn RE.)
IN CONCLUSION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN JUST BEFORE WE UNVEIL THE PLAQUE IT IS RIGHT AND PROPER THAT WE MENTION SOME SAPPERS THAT PAID THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE WHILST SERVING FOR OR WITH THE SQUADRON IN MALAYA.
NAMELY:
23308689 SPR JOHN THOMAS RYAN RE 5 AUGUST 1957 IN PENANG.
2332OO28 SPR JAMES RAINFORD BULLOCK RE 5 AUGUST 1957 IN PENANG.
23620673 PTE JOHN WESLEY NEVILLE HALL RAMC MAY 1960 IN NORTH BORNEO.
23593261 DVR  DAVID COLIN COOPER RASC MAY 1960 IN NORTH BORNEO.
23791299 SAPPER DANIEL TURNER RE 21 SEPTEMBER 1962 IN MALACCA.
23859528 SAPPER WILLIAM IDWAL JONES RE 21 SEPTEMBER 1962 IN MALACCA.
IN ALL 31 ROYAL ENGINEERS DIED DURING THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY - AND SINCE THESE REUNIONS HAVE STARTED SEVERAL MORE OF OUR COLLEAGUES HAVE PASSED
I WOULD LIKE YOU TO JOIN ME AND LET US REMEMBER THEM ALL WITH ONE MINUTES SILENCE.
THANK YOU LADIES AND GENTLEMAN.
LASTLY I WOULD LIKE YOU ALL TO TAKE AWAY THIS MEMORY OF BEING HERE TODAY TO WITNESS THIS OCCASION REMEMBERING THAT THIS PLAQUE WILL REMAIN HERE IN PERPETUITY FOR MANY OTHER ROYAL ENGINEERS T O VIEW AND REFLECT ON THEIR TIME IN THE CORPS.
I NOW WOULD LIKE TO CALL ON NORMAN DONALDSON TO JOIN ME. BUT I’D JUST LIKE US TO MENTION HANK AND GEOFF OUR CURRENT REUNION ORGANISING MEMBERS WHO HAVE DONE SO MUCH BOTH IN ARRANGING  THESE EVENTS THAT ARE ENJOYED BY ALL THAT ATTEND AND SUPPLYING AND DELIVERING THIS UNIQUE  PLAQUE.
UNVEIL THE PLAQUE AND SAY
SOLDIERS – COLLEAGUES – LADIES – GUESTS – VISITORS – FRIENDS WE SALUTE.
11 INDEPENDENT FIELD SQUADRON ROYAL ENGINEERS.
 
Speech written and spoken by Anthony Catherall 29 April 2017
 
 
 

 

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