Freddie died on 21 May 2007, aged 85.

Sgt FJ Toms
Sgt FJ Toms

On 15 September 1936, just after his 14th birthday, Freddie enlisted, his previous occupation being given as a scholar. He opted (or perhaps was coerced) for an engagement of nine years with the Colours and three on Reserve in the Cavalry of the Line.

Originally posted to the 3rd Hussars, he set sail during the next Trooping Season on 6 January 1937 to join the band of the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars who were at Abbassia, Egypt.

On 10 April 1937, he passed his Army Certificate of Education 3rd Class, followed by his 2nd Class in September of the same year.

In April 1939 he and his fellow 8H were absorbed into the Royal Armoured Corps, subsequently, when he reached the age of 17 and a half on 8 July he cast aside the rank of boy and mustered as a trooper.

On 8 January 1940, on attaining his 18th birthday, having accrued three years and 315 days of non-pensionable underage service, he entered into full pensionable man’s service.

In the meantime, he must have become a competent trumpeter. When the 8th Hussars mounted their last quarter guard dressed in true cavalry style of pants puttees, spurs etc., Freddie was the duty trumpeter.

He was also a useful and enthusiastic footballer and played up to well into the latter days of his service career.

With mechanisation having taken place and the war clouds gathered, he had to put aside the wood and wind instruments and take up those of a more war-like nature.

In March 1941 he passed his Trade Test as a Driver/Op Class 3 and after returning to the UK in August of that year, in May 1944 he was upgraded to Driver/Op Class 2.

From the time of landing in the UK in August 1943 and after taking leave, the Regiment was engaged in intensive training in various locations, until on 12 June 1944 it proceeded to Normandy and the hard fighting ahead on the road to Berlin.

On 19 November 1945, he achieved his first step on the promotion ladder, being appointed lance corporal in June 1946. Three months later he was made sergeant and so joined that most exclusive of clubs – the Sergeants’ Mess. He was made war substantive sergeant in January 1947.

In February 1948 he returned to the UK, and the following year, his engagement having run out, in June 1949 he was discharged and transferred to Class B reserve.

On 26 August 1950, he was recalled to the Colours and rejoined the 8th Hussars in his previous rank of war substantive Sergeant. With the Regiment, he sailed for Korea on 11 October 1950 and disembarked there on 14 November. The writer can verify that he was a most efficient Troop Sergeant in ‘A’ Squadron in Korea.

Although those of us who served with him never thought of him as anything other than being a true blue 8th Hussar, he was technically a reservist. As such he sailed home with the last group of reservists some weeks before the Regiment. On arrival in the UK and after taking leave he was discharged and once again placed on Z reserve.

He obviously did not savour civilian life as on 2 March 1952 he re-enlisted (with a new number) on a regular 12-year engagement. A few days later he rejoined his old Regiment at Luneburg in his previous rank of war substantive sergeant.

On 13 March 1952, he was posted to Mons Officer Cadet School as a member of the permanent staff. The following January he was posted to the Yorkshire Hussars as a PSI.

On 7 August 1954, at Mitcham, Surrey, he married Patricia. Their daughter, Linda, was born in 1957 and their son Peter in 1961. Simon, Diane, David and Stephen followed later. Stephen is a Royal Marine.

On 9 October 1955, he was re-classified as a Gun/Sig BI. In April 1956 he rejoined the 8H in Luneburg and shortly afterwards he was joined by his wife.

In September 1959 he attended and passed the course at the Army First Aid Training Centre at Epsom. Immediately afterwards he passed the rescue instructor’s course.

His Army career drew to a close with a posting to the Army School of Civil Defence at Millom, and he took voluntary discharge by purchase on 2 October 1961, having completed almost 24 years of service.

He had been awarded the 1939/45 Star, Africa Star with 8th Army Clasp, France and Germany Star, War Medal, Defence Medal, Korea Medal and UN Service Medal with Clasp Korea.

Although discharged with a character rating of exemplary and excellent reports from various OCs, he did not receive an LS and GC Medal. Just two transgressions (12 years apart) ruled that out. Yet another case of being long on service but short on the second requisite.

Freddie was always very much his own man, of a very independent nature, but still easygoing. He was a good and true comrade and helped many in his unobtrusive way.

He settled in Mitcham, South London and was employed by the Post Office and was a trade union representative.

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 8th Hussars
  2. Middle East (Egypt and Libya) timeline
  3. North-West Europe 1944-45 timeline
  4. Korea 1950-51