Airborne Engineers Association

Dennis Thomas

 

 

Dennis Thomas by William Rogers

 

Although Dennis lived in Australia, we stayed in touch by phone and enjoyed each other's company on his regular annual visits back to the UK.

For me it is a pleasure to recount some of the episodes that occurred during his lifetime. We were born next door to each other in the small town of Pontygwaith in the Rhondda Valley. The old terrace houses of Madeline Street, which were built over a hundred years ago, are still standing — he lived in number 107 and I in 108. We'd spent most of our childhood roaming the steep sided mountains that were situated on both sides of the town. Perhaps that why we found the Pre Para selection relatively easy! We became coalminers for a couple of years but then enlisted into the Royal Engineers. I became Spr 23214784 and Dennis was 23214785, from then on I referred to him as a 'sprog' having joined up 5 minutes  ahead of him — that was back in 1954.

While on a 'trade' course at Brompton barracks we met up with Rees Price who was already a member of 9 Para Sqn. He gave us an insight of the Sqn and what really convinced us to volunteer was that he received an extra 28 shillings (£1 -40p) a week Para pay. That meant something like 28 pints of beer! Having lived yards from the 'Fernvale Brewery' back in Wales, the aroma of malt and hops was in our nostrils from an early age. Once accepted into the Sqn we enjoyed every moment.

Recounting an incident from our time in Cyprus, Dennis and I plus other members of 2 Troop were on a night ambush stake out with orders to shoot at anything moving outside of the perimeter. Movement was heard and we opened fire — we had shot two goats!

Dennis and I had some great friends in 2 Troop and we enjoyed our time in Cyprus and the short skirmish in Suez. I don't think we had any casualties. Our friends were Ernie Standbridge, Geordie Guy, Tom Tuddenham, Rick Mogg and many others. We had some great times together in Aldershot drinking in the Rat Pit' and the Havelock and probably many of the others.

Dennis was very well thought of in the Sqn and he was very proud to have been part of a 'Very Special Unit'.

He will be fondly remembered

 

 

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