An article by George Rilon who served in The 4th Queen’s Own Hussars and The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars as a National Serviceman during the period of the 1958 amalgamation.

I was twenty-two years old, just qualified as a draughtsman from a five-year apprenticeship, a very cushy life at home, my car was an old 1939 Hillman 10 Minx and no serious girlfriends.

Then, the buff envelope with OHMS dropped through the letterbox. I had to report to Catterick Camp for basic training on September 12th 1957 with the 16/5th Lancers.

Back in the drawing office, the ex-servicemen all gave me advice, some good, some not so good, but what I remember was “don’t be too good an don’t be too bad and keep your head down”. The other was to make friends with a cook and a storeman.

Soon it was the 12th and off to Catterick. On arrival at Richmond, I was met and transported to a camp in the back of a three tonner all alone. The transition from the carefree lifestyle and the job in the drawing office to the strict regime and discipline of Army life was difficult at first, but I adapted with the help of my strange sense of humour. Not only did it get me out of trouble, but it also got me into trouble as well. Once on the square having rifle drill, I asked the Sergeant during a smoke break “Do you get the jokes from the comedians, or do the comedians get the jokes from Drill Instructors?’. I can’t give you his reply, but you only joke to a Dl once. The next thing I knew I was running around the square with a 303 above my head.

During the latter part of basic training, I caught Asian flu which put me in Catterick Military Hospital for a week or so. I was dreading being back-squaded, for this time our intake 57/17 were all firm buddies from all walks of life. There was a professional cricketer (who was posted or transferred to the RAF), a musician, a miner from Doncaster, a couple of teddy boys from London and an A.B.A. junior Boxing Champion who was also a barrow boy in London, who was known as “Nosher”.

During a CO’s inspection, the Colonel stopped at Nosher and asked “What did you do before enlisting?” “I was a barrow boy Sir” he replied, “A barrow boy?” said the Colonel, “How much did you earn in a week?” Nosher answered “About £20 Sir’, the Colonel proceeded to the next bed, stopped and turned and said “Good Lord, that’s a thousand a year”, “Yes Sir ” smiled Nosher.

Anyway, I carried on with the same intake. When we started our trade training I was posted to the radio wing, this was not as energetic as the basic training but very interesting, all new things to learn. The operation of the 19 set, the phonetic alphabet and radio procedure. We had practical instruction off camp in Austin K9 tricks acting as tanks. There would be two trainees acting as Commander and Operator alternating our roles (the driver was a great help at times).

During my time in the radio wing, I was friendly with a Welsh guy, Taff Trayler. We were posted to different regiments. I learned twelve months later that in Germany he died in a tank incident crossing a small river and the tank overturned, trapping him in the turret.

Just before Christmas, we were all detailed to various Cavalry Regiments, five of us were to be posted to The 4th Queens Own Hussars, stationed at Hohne, West Germany. With our regimental insignia cap badges, collar dogs and the brass 4H on our epaulettes all nice and shiny, we now looked like proper soldiers (but watch your language when you go home).

When on embarkation leave it was the done thing to visit your workplace wearing your uniform, I must admit feeling proud, wanting to chat up the office girls, then remembering you haven’t any money (sometimes life is a bitch). Before you can say, Jack Robinson, you are back in the transit wing. at Catterick.

In our group of five, an ex Potential Officer called Neddy Wheatley was promoted to temporary Lance Corporal for the journey to Hohne. The journey from Richmond to Darlington was on the new diesel rail cars, then by steam train to I think Liverpool Street in London, then by a three tonner to another station, god knows where, and then to Harwich. After a meal in a sort of large Nissen hut, we were called to board the ship, we were stacked on shelves (sorry, bunks), like tins of beans in a shop.

Arriving at the Hook of Holland we boarded the train for Germany, our little party was detailed as baggage guard. Between stags, We had a compartment to ourselves and priority going for meals, not bad.

When we eventually arrived at Hohne we were herded into the regimental orderly room. After the admin had been taken care of we were given a talk by the Adjutant and allocated to various squadrons. Neddy Wheatley and I were to go to HQ Squadron to Reece Troop. Great!

We were taken to our billet, on the MBI ground floor, and we were welcomed by the existing Reece troopers, we passed the initial pranks and were accepted. The following day Lt Anson and Sgt Nicholls welcomed us to the troop. It was so civilised, no one shouted (they did at Catterick). I can’t remember why, but the first three weeks we were all detailed for various fatigues, I was detailed to Major Hanison as his Batman. I hated it, but not Major Hanison, he was a first-class gentleman and treated me well.

After my two weeks spell as Batman, it was back to the regiment and to our surprise, we were off to Bad Harzburg for a week to learn to ski. The regiment had taken over the running of a “Gast Haus”. Fifteen of us were billeted in one room; the beds around the edge and a table in the middle with the skis propped against it It was siding all day (keep the knees bent) and in the evening having a drink Bad Harzburg.

One night two of us got lost on the way back to the Gast Haus, we slept under a haystack or something. Covered in straw and frost we found our way back in the morning light and managed to convince the Sergeant that we had been out for an early walk, but I think he was wiser than we thought.

The first training course I attended was for B4 driving. I already had a driving licence and used to do all my own maintenance, so I was transferred to a B3 course. I passed and with my B3 radio, I was graded as a B2 Sig. Driver. Routine work in the hangars was fun, I really enjoyed it (it was a world apart from the drawing office).

Reece Troop was like a family, everyone pulled together. When one of us was detailed for guard duty we all helped to get his fit in first-class order, the aim was “Stickman” and you all know what that meant.

Soon it was March 1958. Rumours were confirmed that we were going to amalgamate with The 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars. Early morning drill parades before breakfast, soon we were perfect, like a well-oiled machine.

When we were issued with no. l dress uniform, white webbing belts ammo pouch and holster finished off with white gloves, we were the cat’s whiskers.

The 8th Hussars and The 4th Hussars Reece Troops had exchange visits to get to know one another.

When on exercises on Luneberg heath and at various Gast Haus stops we really got on well. October was very near, we had orders to “Bull Up”, two Dingos to act as escort to HRH Prince Philip. I was chosen to drive IO ZS 55 and Paddy Adair drove the other. On the day of our escort duties trying to keep pace with the Royal car, poor Paddy lost it on a corner and it flipped, throwing the Commander out and trapping Paddy inside the cockpit. Fortunately, he managed to open the side hatch and emerged relatively unharmed as was the Commander, but a very bent Dingo.

The amalgamation parade proceeded without a hitch. I felt very proud of being a founder member of The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars.

When all the excitement of the amalgamation had settled down, it was back to business with the regiment. I was detailed to attend the training wing for a B2 radio course, to my astonishment, on completion I was top of the class (the one and only time). Not long after I was promoted to Lance Corporal.

Sergeant Nicholls said “Come on Rilon, you can march them up to the hangars”, now this was the first time for me to take the troop, in the excitement or nervousness I completely forgot the mirror effect I brought them to attention, I wanted them to turn to my left, so “Troop left turn” they all turned to my right, much to the annoyance of Sergeant Nicholls and the barracking of the troop, you only do it once.

Most of the combat training was on or around Luneberg Heath, RECCE Troop were generally acting as the enemy for either of the Sabre Squadrons. On one occasion a certain squadron, which shall remain nameless, leaguered in a bad position; we attacked and in theory, they were wiped out, much to the disgust of the CO. After one related incident, Reece Troop had to keep in pairs, until the heat cooled down.

One of our other duties was border patrols on the east/west border from the Harz to the Baltic. At the end of the day, we either camped in Bivouacs or in village halls. It was ok in the summer months but in the winter it was cold. In open-fronted Dingos, your breath froze on your coat collar, but it was an experience being there, a part of history.

On my spring leave in 1959, I wore my “Blues” uniform home (it was more comfortable than the itchy Serge). At that time it was regimental policy that the belt was not worn, but while waiting in the queue to change my money at Harwich a military policeman bore down on me wanting to know why I was not wearing a belt. I told him that we didn’t wear a belt in the regiment Then a Provo Sergeant called me forward to charge me for not wearing a belt.

On return to the regiment, I immediately called into the SHQ office to tell SSM Bowden of my brush with the MP’s and to sweeten him by volunteering for the Nijmegen Marches. I had to get back in his good books, previously I declined to box in the squadron team., then I experienced some extra guard duty, it was such a coincidence. Later I was on squadron order for the belt incident and the case was dismissed.

The only other time I was on squadron orders was after dropping Lt Phayre Mudge off at the officer mess one very wet night, we were returning to Barracks after testing radios on Conqueror tanks. I was approaching the main gate at Hohne, I was driving an Austin Champ, I flashed my lights, the guard opened one half of the gate, (all painted black), and I thought he opened both so I drove through the closed gate, knocking it off its hinges. The duty officer was Lt. Shippam (now this is where my sense of humour is suspect) inspecting the gate lying prone in the road he said “Have an accident Corporal Rilon?” I replied, “No thank: you Sir, I’ve just bad one”. “Do you want those stripes?” he retorted. Because of the atrocious weather at the time of the incident, I was let off.

The rest of my service continued without any further incidents, well I wasn’t caught. I played hockey for the regiment on a few occasions, cross country running and very foolishly I played a couple of games of hurling, that’s hockey with no rules.

The last three weeks before Demob, I was HQ Squadron Orderly Sergeant. Recce Troop had gone on exercises away from Hohne and wouldn’t return until after my release.

Related topics

  1. The Amalgamation with the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars