Airborne Engineers Association

Peter Smith

 

 

Peter Smith - Eulogy by Ron Day

Ex 3rd Airborne Sqn RE & 9 Indep Airborne Sqn RE
Peter Smith aged 89 years - his funeral was held on 4th August 2017 at Dorchester, Dorset

I first met up with Peter sometime in October 1943. We were both enlisted boy soldier apprentices at Beachley Camp, Chepstow, Monmouthshire. Peter had arrived there sometime earlier in that year (43a Group), I in the October some 6 months later (43B Group).
Peter was apprenticed in one of the Fitter trades to be located in C Company, I was a Carpenter & Joiner apprentice located in D Company. Although not actually together, we did meet up, initially, one "bath night" in the shower block between the company locations.
We served our apprenticeships of 3 years and graduated as tradesmen by the end of 1946 commencing our man service of 8 years colour Service and 4 years Reserve effectively from the age of 171/2 years. As we were earmarked to join the Royal Engineers we both were then moved on to Worcester for infantry training, prior to Engineer Sapper training at 1TRE, Malvern. Peter of course was 6 months ahead of me at this stage, so I did not see him for the next months of my service.

I assume that he, like myself, volunteered in either 1946/47 for airborne services. Probably this would have been while undergoing further Trade Training in Chatham, as happened with myself and members of my 43B Group.

However, by October 1947, having now qualified as a parachutist I was sent to join 3rd AB Sqn RE, then located at Carter barracks, Bulford Camp, Wiltshire, (Note. I had lived and was schooled in Bulford. My father having brought our family to Bulford from Portsmouth in 1938. Through my school years I had seen at first hand the development of Airborne Forces in the Garrison there).

However, now arriving at 3rd AB Sqn sporting my newly won red beret, the first person I bumped into was Peter Smith. He had reached the unit earlier and was on that day, trudging back to Carter barracks having just competed one of his para drops from a Halifax aircraft. The DZ was located on the Bulford Fields, just behind the barracks.

Here I was posted into 3 Troop where the late Gordon Ramsey was serving as a Lance Sergeant. I'm unsure of what troop Peter was in at this time.

It seemed no time at all before 3rd Sqn RE, part of the then formed 16 Para Bde Gp, were made aware that we were destined to move to BAOR. This journey by sea from Harwich to Holland was followed by many hours on a train, wooden seats all the way. Eventually we arrived at Neumunster in Schleswig Holstein, to be our home for the next year.

Both Peter and I were, very shortly to be warned for being part of the burial party assembled for the funeral of 'Paddy' Galloway. He was a member of 43A Group at Chepstow, Well known for his boxing ability he had also been a Duke of Yorks boy soldier. He had died en route to BAOR from UK as part of the squadron Sea Tail' of transport vehicles.

The burial party was to collect Paddy's coffin from Hanover hospital. It was a cheerless burial, no firing party as I recall, but with Cpl Phil Butler performing the Last Post calls. He was an Ex Fort Darland Boy at Chatham. The burial party really did not know each other well, so it was a pretty sombre detail to be part of.

By mid-1948, 3rd Sqn was to move south in BAOR, this time to Hameln on the Weser River. Although I had transferred to 2 Troop while in Neumunster, Peter and myself among others were for a short time relocated to 1 Troop, of what now was 9 Indep AB Sqn. An all regular unit at this time.

It was the following year that 9 Sqn was to move back to UK in Aldershot. Here we settled into our new barrack location at Malta barracks, the envy of other units in 16 Para Bde.

While I for a while was with 2 Troop still, in early 1951 I moved on promotion to 1 Troop, again meeting up with Peter. In 1951 of course, the Bde moved to Cyprus. The next months after landing in Cyprus were spent building our new camp location at Aghirda, a mountain location near Kyrenia. The best camp location that could ever be experienced. 1 Troop's duties here were to lay a water main into our camp. This was very arduous work but very rewarding to have experienced.

Our time in Cyprus was however curtailed. The Bde units were pulled in off of an exercise to immediately prepare to be flown to the Canal Zone. Trouble had flared up in Ismailia Egypt and the Bde was to reinforce the British Garrison at Fayid and Moascar. Thus, at Xmas 1956 we in the Squadron deplaned in Fayid and set up camp down the road alongside 35 Engr Regt. I recall spending Christmas Day at the local SKC cinema, viewing Mario Lanza in the Great Caruso. Eventually, in 1954 the Bde moved back to the UK. I think at this time that Peter's army service ended along with many others.

Some 4 or 5 years ago now I met up again with Peter at the funeral of 'Ned' Parker, our Tp Sgt while in Moascar, Canal Zone. Ned a Weymouth lad pad passed away and members of 9 Sqn assembled to "see him on his way".

Over the years I have kept in touch with Peter and his late wife Beryl, mainly by regular Christmas cards and attending various reunion events. Blackpool I recall was a venue where so many gather. Another occasion was an Ex Boy Service reunion at Leamington for 1943 Chepstow lads.

Recently having spoken with Peter's son Guy he has told me of the traumatic time the family endured when Beryl developed dementia. Peter's health worsened at this time some 3 to 4 years ago.

Only now do I realise how little I know him. To me he was ever the most pleasant of people. His civilian career was in dealing in commodities which I regret not finding out more about. He and Beryl had originally settled in Bridport, Dorset. Later moved until his demise in Dorchester, where he died in August 2017.

 

 

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