Malcolm Lobban in the TA (Territorial Army)
Malky was a member of the local units of the Territorial Army in its various forms from 1952 until about 1970. Life in the Terriers provided a wide range of experiences of part-time Army life from twice weekly Drill Nights to weekend exercises, Annual Camps by way of various parades and inspections. He has many happy memories of the time he spent serving in the “Terriers” and he has very kindly agreed to share many of them with us on the Vale of Leven web-site. The material which Malky has collected includes:
• A short chronology of his time in the Army Reserve (below)
• Descriptions of the activities and organisation of some of the units in which Malky served
• An image of a letter from the Queen to every soldier on parade when she presented New Colours to 7th and 8th Battalions Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders in July 1961. View Image >
• An image of the programme for the Presentation of New Colours to the 7th and 8th Battalions of Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders by Her Majesty the Queen, a ceremony at which was Malky was on parade. This took place on 3rd July 1961 at Stirling Castle, which was about half way through Malky’s time in the TA, but he still regards it as one of the highlights of service in the TA. The programme shows not only the old and new colours but also the detail and precision of the arrangements around this event and the number of roles involved.
Program images - click each one to view larger version in new window.
• Reports of Annual Camp from the Argyll & Sutherland Highlander regimental magazine which was called appropriately enough “The Thin Red Line”. The Camp was held in the northern Highlands and you don’t have to know the area to feel the wet, the midges, the mud and mire of 2,500 high Corrieyairick Pass (in all its glorious variety of spellings) or the pain of the 3,500 slog up to the Hidden Plateau and on to the summit of Beinn Dearg. They may have been part-time soldiers but in these two weeks their training was equal to that of regular infantry units. And since they had a sprinkling of old soldiers amongst them, they also knew how to look after themselves. Were they the only unit in the British Army who went to Annual Camp with their own mobile bar? Download Word Doc >
• Much nearer home, the Dumbarton TA unit volunteered to restore “Wee Peter” – the statue in the Loch at the Bandry – to his plinth after being knocked off it not once but twice. This tale, which has echoes of Para Handy, originally also appeared in The Thin Red Line magazine. View Page >
• A photographic record of some of the colleagues and happy times in the TA in which many familiar names and faces appear. View PDF >
Malky’s TA Recollections
From 1952 until around 1970 I was actively involved in the Reserve Army one way or another. I really enjoyed the training which, apart from keeping me fit, also brought me into contact with some great characters. Drill Nights were usually held on Mondays and Wednesdays (or was it Thursday?); anyhow the “Drill” money was only a few shillings per night, paid monthly. But week-end exercises were paid at army rates of pay according to rank. There was also the Annual Bounty which began at £9 later rising to £25, then £50 and I think eventually £150. It all came in handy to supplement the working-class wages of the period and was also a considerable incentive towards regular attendance.
Annual Camps generally took us away out of the Vale. Barry Buddon Camp at Carnoustie was a regular venue since it had firing ranges capable of accommodating 3-inch Mortars and Anti-tank guns – these being the two specialities of “S” Company, Renton. English training area included Salisbury Plain, Warcop in Cumbria, Otterburn in Northumbria, and Millom in Cumbria for Civil Defence training. Bounty money was usually paid at Camp – another ploy to ensure full attendance!
Every Drill Hall had a Sgts Mess and a “Jocks” Mess, each with a bar and drinks at reduced prices. We held regular dances and other social nights – and great Christmas Parties for the weans where every man donated a day’s pay irrespective of rank.
My special mate was Andy Henderson of Dumbain Crescent in the Haldane who did his National Service time with the 1st Argylls in Hong Kong. We both served in the 3-inch Mortar Platoon at Renton and later became Company Sergeant Majors (CSMs), Warrant Officer Class II at Latta Street, Dumbarton.
“S” Company Renton
When I first enlisted in the TA, I joined the TA “S” (Support) Company, 8th (Argyllshire) Battalion, Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, which was based at Renton Drill Hall. As the name shows the unit was part of an Argyllshire infantry battalion, the HQ of which was at Dunoon, with the other rifle companies located throughout Argyllshire: in Campbeltown, Lochgilphead, Ballachulish, Oban, and a section on Islay. In fact S Coy Renton was the only unit in Dunbartonshire. The traditional A&SH battalion in Dumbarton was the old 9th Bn.
At the start of WW2 the Ninth ceased to be infantry and became an Anti-Aircraft Battalion – which still wore the Argyll’s cap badge. I don’t know much about that mob, or the later Royal Artillery battery which came to occupy Latta Street (Willie Somerville was a member).
My main experience was infantry, beginning with National Service (1950-52) during which I served first with the Seaforth Highlanders in Malaya, and later with the Gordon Highlanders in the same area. During my day, the full NS commitment required two years with the colours, followed by four and a half years compulsory TA service – the latter required four training weekends plus a 15-day Camp annually. However, built into the system, one could opt to become a Volunteer TA soldier, which offered an extra £9 Bounty, for the same basic commitment, plus an opportunity to do extra weekend training stints and evening drill periods. All a source of extra revenue.
Thus, at the completion of my two-year stint, I was posted to “S” Coy Renton to complete my NS service. In any event, I signed on early as a Volunteer and remained with the 8th Argylls until it was disbanded in early 1967. However, I remained with the Territorial Army & Army Volunteer Reserve (short title TA&VR) until around 1970, ending up as Warrant Officer Class II (Coy Sgt Major) at Latta Street, Drill Hall, with the 3rd Battalion A&SH.
The Demise of the 8th (Argyllshire) Battalion A & SH
After a prolonged period of uncertainty while re-organisation of the Reserve Army was considered at the highest level, the 8th Battalion of the A & SH to which S Company belonged was stood down in early 1967. The Battalions Colours were laid up at Inverary Castle, the ancestral seat of the Duke’s of Argyll in a ceremony in which I paraded along with the rest of the Battalion (there is a photo of that parade in the collection of photographs). It was not clear to the public at large what was about to happen next in the TA and the County Reporter newspaper asked me to comment on it. Under my pen name ”Cruachan” I contributed to an article in the Reporter on 8th February 1967 which can be summarised as follows:
“The Drill Hall at Latta Street is to be used for the proposed 3rd Battalion The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. They will operate under part of the new Army Volunteer Reserve system (the A.V.R.) which briefly will comprise three separate roles. One of the three new sections will be AVR 1 which with the similarly constructed AVR 2 will train under commitments roughly on a par with Ever–Readies. However both of these will operate with a limited manpower and they will be restricted to certain fixed training centres.
It is the third section, AVR 3 whose personnel will occupy Latta Street in Dumbarton. They will train as the present Territorials do but will have even less commitments than hitherto. Their training will be limited to something like 4 weekend sessions a year plus an 8-day annual camp to replace the present fortnight-long camp. And their equipment will be of an older style than at present. So the new 3rd Battalion will reign at Latta Street after 1st April 1967 with the death of the Territorial Army.”
I also expressed concern about a decline in the country’s overall state of preparedness to respond to unforeseen incidents after these changes came into operation. The nation had consistently shown that it would readily volunteer to meet a military - or civilian crisis in the shape of Civil Defence - but without pre-training, the best of intentions would be futile. Some of us were so concerned about the changes that we considered re-organising the local unit on the lines of a social club which would have the double advantage of maintaining morale in difficult times and also of raising funds to augment the Company’s meagre finances – that’s how bad things seemed at that time. However, there was no way we were going to let the unit die of our own apathy, and we did survive to do good things at Latta Street.
All of the other drill halls in the Vale were no longer in use by this time, although some of them had been during post-war days. I seem to recall Jamestown being used and possibly the one in the Vale at the south-west corner of Middleton Street and Overton Road, but this was probably during the aforementioned NS commitment. Most NS men were directed to one unit or another all over Britain. I do not recall which TA units occupied the various local drill halls.
Latta Street Dumbarton – 9 Company 3rd Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (T)
I’m not sure exactly when we vacated Renton Drill Hall and moved to Latta Street, Dumbarton. This must have been shortly after 7 April 1966 (on which date we were definitely still in Renton). It was around this time that we amalgamated with “R” Battery, RA, in Latta Street. The Dumbarton lads became infantry once more and were issued with Kilts, etc. and for a wee while became “R” Coy, 8th Argylls – I do know that many of the ex-gunners paraded at Inverary when the 8th Bn. Colours were finally laid up.
The first thing which the newly-constituted 9 Company of 3rd Battalion Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (T) did was to draw up a set of Rules and Constitution for the Company. This was done under the auspices of the Company’s CO, Major Martin Wedgwood, and while this may seem an unexpectedly democratic way of setting up a military unit, it had the obvious advantage that it let everyone know the rules under which they were operating. Also, as in any military unit, the CO’s word was final, on everything. This approach was a great help in getting the new unit off to a good start, setting a high professional standard and establishing excellent morale.
There were 3 Committees which ran the Company – a General Committee, a Training Committee and of course a Social Committee. Their roles were pretty well self-explanatory with the Training Committee being of particular importance from a military point of view. The Social Committee oversaw the running of the Sergeants Mess and the Other Ranks canteen as well as organising various social functions. Associate membership of the Mess and canteen was extended to members of related organisations such as the British Legion,
Civil Defence and Officers and Training Sergeants (over 18) of the Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps.
Sporting activity was important to the unit and the following sports were catered for under the auspices of the Social Committee:
• .22 Shooting
• Unarmed Combat
All of the sports helped with physical fitness and / or military skills.
Club 3 News
One of the other things that we did right at the formation of 9 Company in Dumbarton was to publish a monthly unit Newsletter – Club 3 News. The first edition appeared in April 1967 (9 Company was formed on 1st April 1967) and it was very useful for telling members of the new Company the dates of training nights, week-end exercises and other Company activities. Early editions also carried over news from the now disbanded Companies in Renton and Dumbarton such as the retirement dinner on 29th March 1967 for the former CO of “R” Company in Dumbarton Major Frank Smith and L/Cpl Peter Denniston of Dumbarton whose connection with the Argylls went back to 1933.
It is noticeable from these early Newsletters just how quickly the new Company gained momentum. In the early months, there was one Drill night per month and one weekend exercise per month. By October 1967, however, Drill nights were weekly on a Monday and there were weekend exercises in places such as Lochgoilhead or at Bridgend Camp Stirling most weekends. Summer camp that year was in Benbecula in June.
Other Company Activities
As well as the military skills which we learned such as shooting, camouflage, reconnaissance, map reading etc there were a number of others which had wider uses back into the civilian world. The most obvious of these included first aid, skiing, mountaineering, driving and vehicle maintenance but there were others such as watermanship, particularly in Assault Boats, which turned out to have some surprising applications in the community at large. Putting Wee Peter back onto his plinth falls into that category and the story of “Wee Peter” took place during our TA&VR days (3rd Bn. A&SH). It has to be said that at that time the military side of training had been somewhat ‘down sized’ and we acted more like an adventure club than a strict military force. But it was all great fun as well as actually helping the local community, even if they were a bit lacking in faith in our abilities.
I really enjoyed the Terries, and I think I can successfully boast to have missed only one annual camp from 1952 until 1970 (possibly 1967 camp). I rose from L/Cpl to WOII and have only recently been awarded with the TA&VR ‘Efficiency Medal’. I served with many great Vale and Dumbarton lads, including the late Tam Dennett (ex-POW with Japanese) and his late brother Alex, and other WWII veterans. Among my particular mates, I name Andy Henderson (Dumbain Cr.); Willie Somerville, Robert ‘Bunny’ Richardson (Dumbarton); Peter Conroy (Haldane). There are many stories to be told (frequently exaggerated!) about TA camps and week-end jaunts into the hills of Dunbarton and Argyll.