I stumbled across some photos of the band from the History of the Vernon, Army Cadet, website. The band stayed in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada, for approximately a week, in the summer of 1984. I’ve since discovered Camp Vernon, where we were barracked, has been one of the most important Canadian, Army Cadet Summer Training Centres (ACSTC) since 1949.
I don’t remember too much about our official engagements but vividly remember off duty time because it was predominantly spent lounging around the shore of Lake Okanagan. Some 50 kilometers separate Vernon from the town of Kelowna, both situated on the lake and the area is probably the most spectacular I have ever experienced. The sky was big and blue, the rolling foothills of the Rockies surrounded us, the air was fresh and clean and the lake, enormous, was edged with yellow sand. It was truly idyllic! At some point we took part in a parade in Camp Vernon and we also played in the Kelowna Regatta. I remember mornings spent lazing under shady trees in a nearby park and a radio interview I took part in with Mick Henderson, for Okanagan Radio. I distinctly remember the interview, in the back of a mobile radio van on the edge of Lake Okanagan, because I made some reference to the crappy piccolo I was having to play. It really did have an elastic band on it to force a key to work and the plating had all worn off. It was a total relic, badly out of tune, leaky and a couple of keys, certainly the f sharp key, didn’t work. Shortly after our return to Osnabruck, Mick decided to buy me a new one.
I remember our barracks, large, wooden billets and I think we shared rooms with some of the cadets but I think NCO’s had their own rooms. The SNCO’s were probably in the mess. It was a busy camp and the mess hall had to operate shifts to feed the hundreds of cadets but the food was good. The ‘parade’ square was enormous and both on it and around the edges were cadres of students practicing drill, often with a chant, being shouted across an adjacent assault course or learning various other field skills.
On parade, we wore ‘whites’ with flat caps rather than helmets and I remember they couldn’t get me a jacket my size so I had to wear a chef’s jacket that wasn’t quite long enough and had a slightly strange collar. Martin Doughy dubbed me the ‘Barbecue Major’ ( I was a corporal at the time).
I think we went to Vernon because of some connection with Fort Garry Horse though they are based in Winnipeg. However, I am not sure!
I discovered the photos: here.
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Service – 1950’s-1973?
Instrument – bass
Final Rank – Sergeant or Staff Sergeant?
Family – Unknown
Current Location – deceased (FTW)
A ‘Pen Portrait’ is hardly the right title. I don’t remember Eddie very well because he left the band shortly after I joined in 1973. At the time we were stationed in York Barracks, Munster. Eddie was a bass player, possibly a sergeant or staff sergeant at the time, and along with various other older members of the band, was one of those individuals whose service stretched into the past and to places that always sounded exotic, Benghazi was one I remember.
Although I find it difficult to picture him, when I think back to days when I first joined the band, I can almost hear his voice. Eddie must have left the band before we departed for Cyprus in the Autumn of 1973, which means I must only have known him for a month or so. On this point, a number of older band members seem to have left shortly before our posting to Cyprus and UN service.
Eddie died in 2011 or perhaps 2010. (FTW)
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I recently found these photos lurking in the bottom of an old BFPO box. They were taken in Osnabrück, Imphal Barracks, either in 1979, in the winter before Dave Smith and I went to Kneller Hall, or in 1981/82, after we returned. I’m making this guess as Andy Coombes is in a similar winter photo (Westphalian Winters) and had left the band by the time we returned from KH.
©努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Service – 1973-1982???? Went to KH around 1979 or possibly 1980. Became Bandmaster of 17/21st Lancers around 1982.
Instrument – trumpet, trombone, bass guitar
Final Rank – Warrant Officer First Class.
Family – Unknown
Current Location – apparently, Ken was a music teacher for 20 years at the Royal Military School in Dover. He retired in 2009.
As a naive 17 year old, I quite feared Ken Kane. Up until moving to Catterick in the 1970’s, I had little to do with him but in Cambrai Barracks he was a ‘living-in’ NCO and responsible for the singlies accommodation and his rule was firm. I suppose Ken, who was around ten years my senior, was a little old school and he didn’t suffer fools lightly. He was the type to look under your bed or run his finger over a ledge you hadn’t considered cleaning and his reproach quite stung.
As strict as he was I had immense respect for him which lasted throughout my service. He was an brilliant sportsmen talented at numerous games and a BFT never phased him. Musically, he was very gifted, playing the trumpet, trombone, bass guitar and I have a suspicion he played more.
He became Trumpet Major at some stage, and was certainly so in the early days of Osnabrück when all bandsmen were required to blow that ghastly instrument. Even as a trumpet player, at which I was crap, any skill or potential ability on the cavalry trumpet eluded me. Ken was equally as strict as a TM and I can remember he would run us through a series of exercises and then listen to our calls, individually. In the four years I was required to practice the cavalry trumpet, I was only ever a supernumerary.
Sometime after our arrival in Osnabrück (c 1977), Mick Henderson released woodwind players from trumpeting but by then he had negotiated a restriction in duties and the only calls regularly made were Guard Mount, Last Post and the occasional calls required by RHQ. At Kneller Hall, I remember trumpet calls dominated everything from Last-Post to ‘smoke break.’
In 1979, Ken, Dave Smith and I were at KH, Ken as a Student Bandmaster and Dave and I as pupils. I can’t remember too much about him as he was sectioned with another company and after my leaving KH. in January 1981, only saw him on a few occasions. Every now and then I’ll do a Google search but like AJ, he seems to have disappeared and I’ve not spoken to anyone who has heard from him. Perhaps Bones has some knowledge as their wives were close friends.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
‘AJ’ Scott probably deserves a punch on the nose but I have fond memories of him. He was the mastermind of numerous pranks played on younger, and more gullible band members and I was particularly susceptible. Even though his humour was quite cruel, I idolized him.
He was close friends with Dave Seeley, Bones, Ken Kane and Steve Eccles all of whom were probably around 8-10 years my senior and either lance corporals or corporals. I remember being invited to AJ’s house in Munster, accompanied by his ‘gang’ where they plied me me with alcohol and then told me some German women were shortly about to visit and that they didn’t like men in Y-fronts. They suggested I go into the bathroom and put them on back to front. Naturally, I did as they suggested. Later, they played some marching music and had me practice around the living room. I believe Taff Shipp may have been with us, he joined the band on the same day I did, 17th of September 1973, I believe, but after a couple of years at Junior Leaders, all gullibility had been removed.
I can’t even remember when ‘AJ’ left the band but I certainly missed him. I think I inherited some of his sense of humour. He was one of those ex-comrades who simply seemed to vanish off the face of the Earth. There were rumours he moved to the USA and I vaguely recall it may have been Seattle as I seemed to remember trawling phone directories for his name when I once visited there.
During Christmas 1974/75, Alan MacDonald, Robert Fox and Paul Kinley arrived in Cyprus and I was told ‘AJ’ had them ‘sign’ for cracks in the floor, creaking doors, and any cracks or chinks in windows.
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
Sometime in the mid 1980’s we went to Calgary and stayed at a barracks in Calgary itself, as opposed Medicine Hat. We may have stayed in both locations, I’m not sure but we certainly stayed in a large barracks from which it was easy to get to town. A 15 minute or so walk from the barracks and there was an ice cream shop which sold the most amazing homemade ice-cream.
This photo was passed to Facebook via ‘Smithy’ though I’m not sure if he took it. Those shorts certainly look severe and in the photo, far left, is Eddy. I’m sure Eddy wouldn’t mind me saying, but he was a man of contrasts; not the best looking of guys, in my opinion but seemingly gifted with a golden tongue that could enamor him to the most beautiful of women – often in droves. And could he waffle!!!
Eddy could never control his spending and had blown all his money within a few days of arriving in Canada. Mick gave me a loan on his behalf and I had to accompany him to meals and pay from his ‘allowance’ and each day I had to give him pocket money. This forced Eddy into the role of a sort of prostitute and for the duration of the tour he would clean your boots, iron your tights and do almost any other job to earn your loose change. Poor Eddy! We quite took advantage of his poverty and I can vaguely recall we made him do some shit jobs, not out of necessity but for entertainment. I can’t exactly recall , but I have a feeling Phil Watson was behind one or two. I remember Eddy would go to the PX, which was probably a 20 minute excursion in the heat of a prairie summer, to buy us coke or snacks and we would let him keep the change . So, one of our nasty entertainments was to compile a shopping list which left the most meager amount of change, and I mean like 10 cents, and see if he would go and get it – and poor Eddy would. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, I remember Phil making him clean his boots as he lay on the bed wearing them.
This then reminds me of the night club I went into, when he was broke, and where he had meet a woman and temporarily moved in with her. She was an older woman and completely in love with ugly, no money Eddy. I recall we went back to her apartment where Eddy had made friends with her rather nasty cat – but that’s another story.
Can you add any more information or clarify anything which I can assimilate?
What was Eddy’s name?
Any details on him?
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I’m selecting photographs with Taff in them and linking them to his epitaph. If you have other photographs please forward them. I’d appreciate any information on this photo.
When this photo was taken, I remained in barracks getting ready for a taekwondo competition. I remember Martin (Hitler) was with me. Not too long after you all departed, we decided we should have gone and so set off to some forested place with a cavalry trumpet. The idea was to sound the regimental Call from somewhere in the forest and hope for a response. What a freaking dumb idea! The forest was enormous, as far as the eye could see. Naturally, the idea failed and we returned to camp. I think we missed out on a fantastic booze up. So, some questions.
Who took the photo?
I estimate this trip to have been around 1978?
What memories do you have?
What was happening in the photograph
Do you have any other photographs from this trip?
What does a Baron look like? I always wanted to meet one.
What was the Baron’s name and where did he reside?
What was Twiggie’s first name? His real one?
© 林東哲 2011 Creative Commons Licence.
Phillip (‘Taff’) Coleman, who would have been 53 on the 15th of December (2010). He was killed, instantly, early in the morning of December 1st, on his way to Gatwick Airport, where he worked. I was unable to leave these comments on the Facebook site for the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards Band Members Past and Present, they don’t allow for a post of longer than a 1000 characters. ‘Taff’ deserves more! I decided to host them here.
I have special memories of ‘Taff’ and he has a very close place in my heart which a few band members serving from that period, will understand. On the day I left the band, during which we’d been friends for 12 years, he gave me a final hug as I stood waiting to board the bus back to the UK. As he kissed my cheek he whispered, that if ever one of his children were gay, he’d simply remember me and it would never be a problem. They were his exact words and he was crying as he spoke them. I had some excellent army friends and ‘Taff’ was one of the best!
I left the band in 1988 and in the period since then, 22 years, we only met the once. It was a fleeting reunion, probably only of minutes, in 1989, during a break in the Colchester Tattoo rehearsals. Despite our close friendship, we never talked on the phone, never once e-mailed each other and never once connected via Facebook. I always thought I’d see him again – sometime…somewhere… I think we both did!
‘Taff’ left the band not too long after I did and for a long time he seemed to disappear but every now and then, as if coming up for air, I’d hear rumours about him: one time I heard he was working in Wigan, then I heard he worked for Twinnings tea company. Another time I heard he was appearing on the TV show Gladiators. I’ve no idea how true any of them were.
In 1976, when stationed in Cambrai Barracks, Catterick, Pete Middleton, Adrian Dawson, Taff, John Adye and myself were all part of a little group and every Friday we held a meeting to ‘front-stab’ each other (because band life was incredibly bitchy). One of us recorded and wrote the minutes and we each paid a weekly subscription, kept in a jar, which we used to pay for curry evenings in Darlington. After the meeting we’d often make mashed potatoes and cook a fray Bentos steak and kidney pie and then watch the Friday night horror movie. The group probably didn’t survive very long, but I remember it well.
Catterick is where I have my deepest memories of him. On Wednesdays, sports afternoon, the ‘club,’ along with Chris Woolnough, who was sort of an associate member, would go into Richmond and have pate and toast, or buttered scones, at the King’s Head, or we’d have lunch at the Belle Nook. Later, we’d go to the auction house and maybe buy some stuff. The old lady who used to work in those dusty, ancient rooms would refer to us as ‘my boys.’ I can still hear her cracked old voice with its comforting broad northern accent. She would have died years and years ago but she used to mother us, dearly! I once bought a second hand piano at the Richmond Auction house as well as the Baby Belling cooker in which we cooked our tinned pies.
Our friendship could easily have survived a long and longer chasm because we knew each other so well and unwittingly, knew this. We ‘grew-up’ together and he was the third person I came out to. First was Adrian Dawson, then Pete Middleton, and then ‘Taff ‘- basically, the Front Stabbing Club. I ‘came out’ to him as we sat taking a ‘breather’ on a small bridge on the moor, out on the tank tracks, during a run. He didn’t talk to me for a few days. He wasn’t happy about my sexuality and even less into the idea I had a crush on him. But ‘Taff’ was always his own man, confident and strong, characteristics that came out when he played the euphonium, and after a few days pondering the issue, he apologized for being ‘stand offish’ and for the next thirteen years, never once let me down.
I do not doubt that our personalities changed in the years since we left the band, I do not doubt there developed some big differences, that’s natural, but we had enough history and experience between us to temper significant changes. But it is a shame that the envisioned reunion, I, we, thought might one day occur, will never take place and it is a greater travesty he has gone at such an important point in his life and those closest to him.
Only a few days ago, I was looking at photos from his recent marriage and saw the display photo of of a motorbike. I had this fleeting image of ”Taff’ on a high-powered bike and could imagine him enjoying the thrill of biking – that was part of his character. ‘Taff’ was a proper ‘man’ and into ‘man’ things: cars, bikes, the tattoo on his arm, tinted sun-glasses, often pushed up on his head, a sweat band around his forehead, chewing chewing gum – I can see him ‘sporting’ them all at different times of the life during which I knew him and always with a big smile, the same smile seen in his wedding photographs and the same smile that had enamored me as an adolescent coming to terms with my sexuality. And I can just as easily see him on a monster of a bike with leathers and a snazzy helmet. ‘Taff’ wasn’t reckless or a ‘tearaway,’ far from it, but on this occasion was tragically unlucky.
And I now realise, as a chasm begins to stretch between us and from which I can no longer rescue or resolve anything, that I know nothing about him. Did he have brothers or sisters? Does he still have a mother or father? What happened to his children and did he have more? Where did he spend his childhood and what was it like? Today, I searched his Facebook, searching all its nooks and crannies with more gusto than I ever do on such sites, looking for answers, looking for his embodiment in text, for a fading reminder of his being; but the only comment, other than his e-mail address which either I’d never noticed or always planned write to, sometime, was promising to provide the website link for his wedding photos. His final words, ‘but don’t hold your breath!’ Unfortunately, ‘Taff,‘ time’s hooded harbinger, beat us to it. I neither considered such questions nor sought such answers before but as usual, it is when we no longer have something that its value becomes all the more apparent; all the more desired.
What farewells does one mutter to a friend on the precipice of that cataclysmic departure? What words finalise the epitaph with enough respect, and grandeur and at the same time encapsulate the intensity of emotion generated? Three words, virginal, emerge renewed and are forever mutated. Three words suddenly imbued with meaning beyond meaning, and which stir an accompanying melody, a lament. Three words detailed to encompass so much and sentinel the point beyond which a new chasm separates us and in which the tangibility of ‘sometime’, and ‘somewhere’ evaporate. Three words to emblazon the entrance to departure: ‘Fare Thee Well…’
Nick ‘Lofty’ Elwood
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♦Taff’s funeral was held at 10.30, on Monday 13th of December at Kingswood Chapel, Worthing Crematorium. He would have been 53 two days later. He died on the anniversary of my father’s funeral. For many, many years, my uncle (Ron Elwood), was organist at the chapel where he is to be cremated.