Airborne Engineers Association

Alan (Taff) Brice

 

 

Alan (Taff) Brice - 2nd April 2006

By Tony (Geordie) Ridgeway

For the few years that I knew Taff in the Sqn I found him to have bags of ingenuity, initiative, a master at talking himself out of trouble, and a wicked practical joker.

Sometime in the early 60's Taff bought an old London taxi, which was the focal point of many an escapade, including getting tanked up one night in Weymouth. Trying to get back to bridging camp we got lost and decided to park up, sleep it off, and find our way back in the morning. Taff found a flat spot, parked and we all fell asleep. In the morning we were woken by the gentle rocking of the taxi and sea water sloshing round our ankles. Taff had only parked on the hard and the tide had come in. Much longer and we would have been floating out to sea!

We were in the Aldershot NAAFI club and Taff had parked the taxi about 100yds away in a narrow alley off the main street. Come closing time 3 or 4 of us made our way back to the taxi only to find that a mini had parked in front of the lane, blocking our exit. Taff ran back to the club and rounded up a few bodies, and then we bodily lifted the mini out of the way. Taff then drove the taxi out and you might think that would be the end of it. No way. At Taff's instigation we all got round the mini again, carried it into the alley and gently set it down sideways! There was about 3" clearance between the walls and the mini's front and rear bumpers.

Our section was travelling upriver to Kalibakan in Borneo accompanied by a dozen marines. The marines were all on the monkey island (the flat deck above the wheelhouse) and had set up their machine gun and us Sqn lads were on the lower deck. I think it was an old shallow water landing craft. The river was quite wide and we were travelling in mid-stream, and Taff and I decided to break the monotony by taking a few pot shots at the monkeys in the trees on the riverbank. We got off a few shots each then all hell broke loose. First there was rifle fire from up top and then the machine gun joined in spraying tracer bullets everywhere along the riverbank. This went on for a few minutes, during which time Taff and I started to frantically clean our weapons. When the machine gun stopped, a furious marine officer came hurtling down below screaming, "Who started firing? Who started firing?" As Taff and I were the only ones cleaning weapons, he rounded on us and shouted, "Did you start firing?" Taff immediately replied "No Sir, we heard the gunner open up, thought we were being attacked, so started firing in the direction of the tracers." After a few expletives, the officer went back up top and the section had a good old laugh about it (out of earshot of the officer)

While in Borneo we met some SAS lads and when we got back to Aldershot, Taff and I both applied for the selection course. (I couldn't even get past our Sqn gates, even tho' I applied twice) but Taff was accepted. Now at the time, Taff had almost as many entries on his Regimental and Company conduct sheet as I had. And that I can tell you was an awful lot. So prior to leaving for his SAS course Sid
Rooth (OC at the time) called Taff into his office to wish him good luck. (Actually his words were, "Well Brice, I hope you pass the SAS selection course, because I don't want you back in this Sqn".) Fortunately Taff did pass.

From here apart from an aborted attempt to get to Taff's wedding and a brief crossing of paths in Nairobi, 67/68 I did not hear from Taff again until he joined the AEA which I believe was the result of a chance meeting with Cliff Joy on an New Zealand rugby tour.
Taff's most recent visit back to the UK was during the AGM/Reunion at Coventry in 2004. Here he was able to renew acquaintances with several of his former 9 Sqn colleagues, these included Ken Turk, Ian McLellan, Tom Downey and Paddy Fulton.

Settling down in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, he set up and ran an extremely successful business. He could be summed up as one that worked hard, played hard and could drink for the Springboks!

There are few real characters left in today's modern army, but Taff Brice will long be remembered as one of the truly greats. I suspect that former SSMs and OCs may have differing view points!

Obituary from AEA Journal August 2006

Alan passed away in his adopted home town of Peitermaritzburg, South Africa barely 12 months after being diagnosed with the big 'C'.
Taff, as he was most commonly known, served in 9 Indep Para Sqn, 22 SAS and the Rhodesian armed forces spanning a full, varied and a very colourful career. Many who served in the 'Sqn' during the early to mid '60's will recall Taff as a charismatic individual with a 'Jack the Lad' attitude. The sad news of his death brought back many memories of him. Here are some that come to mind.

As was the custom before we went on tour, we would gather in the NAAFI Club, at the bottom of Middle Hill. There, we would have a few drinks and a sing-song until closing time. Alfie McLean, who live in the married quarters across the road, would invite us over to his place to carry on the party. During this time, if anyone fell asleep, Alfie, encouraged by Taff, would get the hair clippers out and give them an impromptu haricut - e.g. a Mohican or a Monk's! Before flying out to Borneo, we went for the usual few drinks, followed by the party at Alfie's. This time, it was Taff who fell asleep, and woke up on parade with a Yul Brynner!

One incident whilst in Borneo stands out from the rest -We were there to build helicopter landing-pads along the Indonesian border. A section having been dropped off or brought by boat to the last helipad, we would then tab through the jungle to where we would be building the next one. This involved blowing up trees to make a large clearing, then using the logs to build the platform for the helicopters. After stand-to, we would all go to our allotted tasks. One day, Taff returned early, cradling his arm, and calmly announced that he had a compound fracture. After inspection, his diagnosis was confirmed. He was casevaced out by stretcher, on the skids of a Scout helicopter. Although in severe pain, he made no fuss. Such was Taff!

We offer our sincere condolences to his widow Lin and sons Michael and Christopher.

 

 

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