Kenneth Geoffrey Rayner, fondly known to all his Army friends as Sam, was born in Fornham All Saints on 20 April 1927.
After his schooling, he secured an apprenticeship with Pudneys training as an electrical engineer. He enlisted in Ipswich on 29 January 1945 into the General Service Corps and was posted to the 67th Trg Regt RAC at Catterick.
After approximately one year in training, Sam moved to Italy to join the 7th Hussars.
Now a qualified vehicle electrician he became a ‘Slave driver’, (but not in the way you may be thinking). The Slave was a vehicle for assisting tank drivers to get their tanks up and running.
With the war now over the 7th Hussars moved out of Italy through Austria and up through West Germany to their new barracks in Soltau.
The 7th Hussars came home to Barnard Castle at the end of 1947 which was probably a great relief following the devastation caused during the war and the Regiment’s efforts to bring some stability to the people of Germany.
In November 1949 the 7th Hussars were back in Germany stationed in Lubeke. By this time Sam was well established in the Regiment as the fitter corporal earning praise for keeping ‘B ‘Squadron Comet tanks on the road during an intensive training programme. His hard work paid off and he was promoted to sergeant in 1951.
It is recorded that Sam was the happiest man in the Regiment when the old Comet tanks were replaced with new M10 Shermans.
1952 saw the establishment within the Regiment of REME light aid detachments which gave Sam the opportunity of transferring to the REME. To the shock of everyone, he decided not to take up this transfer and left the Army in November 1952.
However, during his nine months as an Army Reservist, he must have, thought long and hard about his error of judgment and by October 1953 he was back with the 7th Hussars now stationed in Falingbostel. He retained his rank of sergeant and was posted to ‘C’ Squadron as a troop sergeant where he would remain for some years to come.
In May 1954 the Regiment returned home to Tidworth in preparation for a move to Hong Kong in August of 1954. Sam excelled during his time in Hong Kong and became a great Regimental character in his own right. His troop were the inter-troop champions of 1955 being first in all the categories set for them.
The Regiment left Hong Kong in July 1957 returning to Tidworth where in 1958 3H and 7H amalgamated to become the Queen’s Own Hussars.
Sam remained in ‘C’ Squadron of the new Regiment and in February 1960 this squadron became the first contingent of an armoured regiment ever to go to Aden, which was venturing into the unknown.
As the buildings in their new camp had not been completed, the squadron spent some time living in tents, in the desert, in a heat that was at times unbearable. Sam and his boys survived all and we only heard of the high standards they achieved during their tour.
The squadron left Aden in November 1960 and rejoined the Regiment now stationed in Germany. For Sam, this was the end of his days as a troop sergeant and he was posted to Bovington as an instructor at the D and M School. He was very experienced in all aspects of both tracked and wheeled vehicles, being an Army-qualified instructor and holder of an examination certificate for driver testing.
In 1965 Sam returned to the Regiment, now in Catterick, where he was promoted to staff sergeant and appointed A Vehicle Park Sgt Major responsible for keeping tanks on the road for training, demonstration and other military needs. This was Sam’s last job in the Regiment and the Army.
After spending a few days with the Regiment when they moved down to Maresfield, he went on terminal leave until 15 February 1968, his last day in the Army.
Throughout his military career, Sam’s contribution was always of a very high standard. He was highly respected by his superiors and subordinates alike. He had a marked ability to get the best out of those working for him whatever the task.
As mentioned earlier, Sam was a Great Regimental character. He worked hard but loved to play hard. There are many stories to be told of his holiday in Japan, his ‘loner’ weekends in Kowloon, his antics at the Chatham road Naafi Club in Kowloon where he would creep in on tombola nights, hide under a table and then shout ‘House’ until those running the evening realised what was going on and threw him out. His near wedding to a doctor in Bangkok!
On leaving the Army he returned to his home, but he soon got the urge to be off again. He found employment in the oil fields of the Middle East and where eventually he became the chief engineering manager on the oil rigs, caring for all their vehicles and mechanical machinery. He never did reveal whether or not he became an oil baron!
Sam’s loyalty as an Old Comrade was second to none. He was an ardent supporter of all Regimental Association functions.
Being in the Middle East did not deter him from making annual trips home to attend events. On occasions he would bring an oil field worker with him, a move Sam felt was educational for his guest.
Sam was held in great affection by all those privileged to have known him and he will be very sadly missed by us all.