Henry McLaughlin, fondly known to us all as Paddy, died on 16 October 1997.
Born in Ireland in 1923, he spent his early years at home but in 1944 decided to join the British Army and initially enlisted into the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. In 1945 he transferred to the Parachute Regiment where he qualified as a paratrooper and gained promotion to the rank of Sergeant.
In 1948, as a Sergeant, Paddy made yet another move and joined the 3rd The King’s Own Hussars where his military career was to be established and he would gain the respect of both his superiors and subordinates alike.
Paddy quickly adapted to life in his new Regiment and his reputation as a hard taskmaster became well known during his time as Provost Sergeant of the 3rd Hussars. He had accepted this job with great reluctance and had hoped that by being hard to the soldiers the Colonel would sack him and return him to his beloved tank troop.
Sadly for Paddy, it had the opposite effect and he was commended by the Colonel for raising the standard and turnout of the Regiment in general.
In 1951 Paddy was posted to the North Somerset Yeomanry as the PSI Airborne Squadron where he also qualified as an assistant parachute jumping instructor. On completion of his tour with the Yeomanry, he returned to the Regiment in Iserlohn, where his career continued to blossom and his reputation grow.
In 1958 Paddy was appointed SSM of ‘C’ Squadron the Queen’s Own Hussars, following the amalgamation of 3H and 7H.
In 1960 Paddy’s military and leadership qualities were about to be tested to the full when ‘C’ 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 at times was unbearable.
However in true McLaughlin fashion, Paddy kept the morale of his squadron high and we heard only of the high standard achieved during the tour, much of which was down to Paddy and his will to succeed no matter what the conditions.
After Aden, Paddy volunteered for, and was selected to be, SSM of the RAC Special Recce Squadron, later to become the Para Squadron, RAC and Paddy its first SSM. Once again his man-management and leadership skills were called upon and much of the success attributed to these squadrons was down to him.
Paddy, by now was in his forties (an old man in Army terms) but his sheer determination and grit to always do a job to the best of his ability were highlighted in a march over the Brecon Beacons when with blood seeping through the eyeholes of his boots he kept the much younger, and by now dispirited, members of his squadron marching on until they reached the RV.
Very sadly Paddy was not destined to return to the Regiment but we were all very happy for him when he was appointed RSM of the JLR in Bovington on leaving the Para Squadron in 1967.
By now Paddy had realised that his time as a soldier was running out, and with the thought of civvy street too much to bear, he applied for the Long Service List and, as one would expect, was accepted. On completion of his tour with JLR in 1969, he was posted to the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst as the Administration RSM.
After Sandhurst Paddy spent a short time pampering Junior Leaders near Corsham in Wiltshire before making his final move which was back to Germany as GSM of Rhiendahlen Garrison.
During his time at Sandhurst, Paddy was presented with the Meritorious Service Medal by HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh for 27 years of exemplary service in the Army. Also while at Sandhurst he was awarded the MBE for his outstanding service as a soldier, an award he so richly deserved. He had the great honour of being summoned to Buckingham Palace where Her Majesty The Queen presented him with the medal.
During his Army career, Paddy was a great sportsman and represented his various Regiments on both the football and rugby fields and also the hockey pitch. He was often heard to say ‘we might not be the best turned-out team, but we are certainly the best looking’.
Paddy finally left the Army in 1978 and returned to Bath where he settled down with his family and found employment at the Military Establishment at Colerne looking after the quarters for service families in that area.
As a soldier, Paddy’s loyalty to the Regiment had been second to none and very much the same could be said of him as an Old Comrade. He was an ardent supporter of all Regimental and Western Counties (Wool) Troop activities. Even though his health was failing he managed the long trip to Catterick for the Guidon Parade and just six weeks before his death attended Wool Troop reunion weekend at Bovington. I understand that Paddy suffered great pain during the last days of his life but I am sure that this was borne with the dignity and courage he had shown throughout his Army career.
Paddy was a gentleman of great character who cared for his officers, SNCOs and even more for his young soldiers. He treated everyone with the respect they deserved. His modesty prevented him from talking about his great achievements in life and in particular his MBE and MSM.
We have all lost a great friend who will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him. We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Philomena and all their family.