Airborne Engineers Association

Roll of Honour



Syd Davies BEM by Ronnie Hadden


On Tuesday 27th March 2012 I made the journey to Kingston-Upon-Hull to attend the cremation service of Syd Davies, one of 9 Squadron's longest serving members. A group of 9 Squadron's finest from the far off distant past: Syd Hoyle, Barney Barnwell, Sid Grounsell, Dave Ruddock, Tony Manley, Dave Davies, Barney Rooney, Baz Henderson, John Parker, Joe Timberlake, John Hughes, Dave Mellors, and Roy Whittaker, joined myself, Syd's family and friends, for the ceremony and after funeral drinks.

John in fine military fashion paraded the association's standard throughout the service alongside those of several other associations that Syd had connections with. Roy provided a superb biographical account of Syd's extensive period as an airborne engineer with 9 Squadron.

Syd Davies served continuously with 9 Independent Parachute Sqn RE over the '50s,
'60s and into the '70s. A large part of that time was spent in the QM's department.
Syd's service therefore spanned three decades with one RE unit, which is a highly
unusual and notable circumstance. It was particularly pleasing to see 85 (and a half)
year old Roy in fine fettle. Roy gave an excellent anecdotal account of Syd's life in the
squadron. Some of us remember Roy as QM of 9 Independent in the early part of the
'70s, and of course Syd's immediate boss during that period of time.

In addition to the customary hymns the funeral service included some of Syd's favourite musical tunes from the '60s period. Songs such as 'Deck of Cards', 'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash, and 'You'll Never Walk Alone' by Gerry and the Pacemakers, were all played in tribute to Syd's memory. We were all encouraged to sing along with the latter. Yes, Syd was originally from Liverpool

Syd is basically one of 9 squadron's unsung heroes. I remember him as a quiet, private person who dedicated his army career to 9 Squadron and the QM's department, eventually ending up as the unit's tech sergeant. He was a tough, stocky, no-nonsense character, with a serious nature. This often provoked the endearment of 'grumpy Syd' from the lads. Nonetheless, he was highly respected and airborne to the core. Syd was not a total unsung hero, of course, as he received the BEM for his dedication and service. Without doubt this was a greatly deserved award.

There are, inevitably, the usual tales and yarns relating to Syd. Most of these will be associated with his time spent in the QM's stores. For me, however, there are two distinct memories. The first of these occurred in early 1967 when the squadron (less 3 troop) was exercising in the central highlands region of Kenya. On this occasion three Troop were swanning about in Australia. One and two troops were tasked with the construction of several wooden bridges at 10,500 ft in the Aberdare Mountains. The bridge sites were within the Aberdare National Park one of Kenya's largest game reserves. The reserve contained most of Africa's animal wildlife.

We were camped in bivvies on site for approximately five weeks while HQ, and most of support troop, were living at our base camp lower down, at about 6,000 ft, near the town of Nyeri. Base camp was a tented camp on a relatively pleasant site (cushy life for some). Near the end of the exercise we all gathered at base camp and a barbecue/party was arranged in celebration of the hard work undertaken by the lads. The quest list not only included ourselves but also some local, and not so local, dignitaries from Kenyan society. The barbecue was held at Bill Woodley's house not far from our base camp. Bill Wood ley at that point was the chief ranger in charge of the Aberdare National Park.

I remember our troop (after constructing yet another bridge not far from the base camp) being sent down to Bill Woodley's place to erect marquees and construct several strategically placed 'desert roses', and a latrine, in and around the garden area of the house. We were walking along the driveway to the house when we came across Syd with a dead male Kudu hanging by its rear legs from a tree branch. A Kudu is a large African antelope, the male of which has long distinctive horns. Apparently, Syd had some butchering experience previous to joining the army, and been tasked to gut and skin the animal in order to produce Kudu steaks for the barbecue. Syd was in his glory as he gleefully disembowelled the innards of the creature in front of us. To date the death of the animal remains unclear. Several stories were circulated at the time as to its precise demise, but none had anything to do with Syd. The steaks eventually produced were superb wherever they came from?

My second memory of Syd is based around the squadron's time spent at bridge camp, both at Halton and Weymouth. Every year Syd was employed as the mark 7 tug operator. He had completed a tug course many years before. The tug was primarily used as the safety boat, and to assist in the construction of the heavy ferry and floating bridges. Any time Syd approached 2 troop's work site he used to get a rendition of 'Popeye' the Sailor Man'. This of course was in reference to his physical stature, facial appearance, and to the fact he was swanning around all day in a boat. Syd would retaliate to this taunting by quickly spinning the tug through 180 degrees at full power in order to create a wave effect with the intention of catching someone unawares on the shoreline. The ploy rarely worked, as we were wise to the outcome. Besides, getting wet is all part of bridge camp. Syd would simply glower at us, or grimace, it was always difficult to tell, then sail off safe in the knowledge that he would soon get his own back on the next G1098 inspection, or even more crucially, if we needed some favour like dealing with a lost sleeping bag for instance. Who'll be singing then?

Syd Davies will go down in the memory of those who served alongside him as a dedicated 9 Squadron man and airborne brother. He will be remembered for his diligence to the QM's department and service to the unit. He solved problems, particularly as a SNCO, in a quiet non-dramatic manner as I once observed when I was guard commander and he was orderly officer. Barney Rooney also has a story that verifies this side of Syd's character. I am sure if Louis (Gallagher) were alive today he would likewise sing Syd's praises as he later inherited the keys, and the secret password, to Syd's Aladdin's Cave. Both Syd and Louis will be long remembered for their contribution to the QM's department and the Squadron in general. Nice one Syd.



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