Airborne Engineers Association

Robert Stevenson

 

 

Robert (Bert) (The Duke) Stevenson, 1928 - 2001

 

Robert Stevenson

After a long and courageous fight against cancer, extending for some 20 years, Bert finally gave up the struggle in May of this year. He underwent in this time, some 60 operating schedules and the photograph bears testament to the great strength and resilience he showed throughout the years.

Bert, a Devonian, hailed from Exmouth. He enlisted as a Chepstow boy in October 1942 to take up apprentice training as a blacksmith. He came on to man service in late 1945 and progressed to Sapper Training at Clitheroe but later moved with ITBRE to Malvern. Chatham followed for further trade training and upgrading by late summer 1946.

In 1948, he was at Gordon Barracks Hameln. Here, frustrated and disappointed at not being able to pursue a career with the Glider Pilot Regiment, he was prevailed upon, by old ex boy comrades, to apply to join 9 Independent Airborne Squadron which had just formed up in Hameln that year. He was soon dispatched to 'P' Company and Upper Heyford for parachute training and duly rejoined the Squadron, by now lodged at Malta Barracks Aldershot, as a Section Corporal with 1 Troop.

During the period 1949-51 he was selected, together with Lt Rickets and Cpl "Ginger" McLaren (Yes, he that could not swim), for training as a Frogman/Canoeist by the Royal Marines at Portsmouth. They all qualified and upon their return regaled the Corporals Mess on many occasions with tales of their Marine training. This, though obviously arduous, seemed in the telling to be a time of much hilarity. Bert was an accomplished raconteur.

By late 1951 the Squadron and Bert were now in the Canal Zone and he soon achieved promotion to Sergeant, moving over to 2 Troop. While in the "Zone" Bert met Maureen in Moascar and upon the Squadron returning to the UK in 1954, they were married sometime thereafter. Bert was to remain with the Squadron until late 1955.

Before departing he is remembered for initiating the first foray (well, "raid" really), on the Academy Sandhurst. One night he turned out some sleepy, pyjama clad soldiers from his troop. The reclining nude, RAE Ragweek statue, "borrowed" from the Farnborough Town Hall, was installed on the Sandhurst steps.

Talking to Bert some two weeks before his death, he still recalled the moment upon their returning from the College in the early hours. The 3 tonner ran out of petrol near the Officers Club Aldershot (now Potters International Hotel). It was subsequently seen by one of the boys in blue being pushed up the Farnborough Road towards the barracks. Those doing the pushing being somewhat conspicuous, with pyjamas peeping from beneath uniform trousers. Other escapades apparently followed with the College being the target. However, none could really match this first "operation" for innovation, excitement and audacity.

Late 1955 and Bert moved to 131 as a PSI with the Liverpool troop of 300 Para Sqn RE (TA). Little is known thereafter until his tour as SSM 9 Para Sqn understood to be 1962-1964 Following this he moved to Osnabruck BAOR to take up an RQMS appointment with the Engr Regt until retirement.

It is believed he left the services around 1968 and eventually immigrated to Australia, near Sydney with the family sometime later.
Cancer developed in the 70s. Over subsequent years, great energy and fortitude sustained him with very little complaint.
To those fortunate to know him, Bert was irrepressible, rarely without a smile or quip, and endowed with Great Spirit and zest for life, which was invariably infectious to the company he was in. He remembered with great affection his days with the Squadron, soldiering with comrades in this finest of elite units.

For us who knew him well, once met never forgotten, and remembered with very great affection.

He leaves Maureen and their offspring Carol, Mandy and Chris, who is following a successful career in the army of Oz.

 

 

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