He is a man who has led a very uncommon life, packed with
more experiences than most people would dare to imagine for
themselves. His story starts in a poor coal mining community
in Pontefract in the late twenties and takes us up to 69 when
he left the army for the last time.
The story spans the world, from the coalfields of Yorkshire
to Europe and North Africa and on to the jungles and swamps
of the Far East, Society’s expectations for lads like Gerry
should have led to a life, possibility a short one, down the
pit. Instead, he rebelled and joined the Army as its youngest
boy soldier in 1942. During his training and because of his
size in comparison to the kit he had to carry, he was laughingly
referred to as ‘England’s Last Hope’. Throughout his military
career, the characters and events he encountered were, at
times, terrifying, infuriating, hilarious, exciting and deeply
saddening, as were the duties that he was called upon to perform
as a British soldier.
Whilst he was both physically and mentally very tough, his
story is laced with moments of moving compassion, as when
a good friend was killed at his side and high farce - one
episode resulted in him having to exit the Stone Dog brothel
in Khartoum via an upstairs window and having his fall broken
by a pile of camel dung.
The book is an accumulation of the fascinating and true
anecdotes and tales of derring-do and comeuppance that he
has entertained his family and friends with over the years.
An accomplished musician, he played in the regimental band
and found that the ladies were attracted to musical performers.
He lost his virginity under the supervision, and with the
connivance, of his comrades while supposedly convalescing
after a serious illness.
He saw his first military action in Burma in 1945 with the
York and Lancaster Regiment. Shortly afterwards in Singapore
and Malaya, he was involved in the mopping up operations after
the liberation from the Japanese.
He witnessed the aftermath
of Japanese occupation and acts of revenge against former
captors. In the post war police actions in India, prior to
independence and partition, he saw the horrors of the inter-community conflict and the accompanying massacres that the authorities sought to hush up by denying that they ever took
place. The photographs that he took at the time capture the
truth of what happened.
He was a sergeant by the age of 19 and a private again shortly
thereafter because of his part in a violent disagreement arising
from rivalry and resentment between British and American troops.
Subsequently, he transferred to the Green Howards Regiment
and spent some time as a medical orderly in a military hospital
in India. He recounts some hair-raising tales of the treatment methods of the day.
Owing to a high venereal disease infection rate whilst in
India,his regiment received a punishment posting to Khartoum
in the Sudan instead of repatriation.
Mischief followed them
there and amongst their many experiences was learning how
to avoid the spectators’ swords during a football match. A
posting to Egypt followed, where the locals were quite hostile. In fact, British
troops found themselves constantly being harassed and injured
until a well-orchestrated act of retaliation caused the harassment
He returned to England in 1949 to attend the Royal Military
School of Music at Kneller Hall. Following this, he rejoined
his unit in Malaya in 1951 to fight the communist bandits
in the jungle and to bring musical entertainment to the troops
in the field. In one skirmish, after a close friend had been
killed, he was threatened with being put on a charge for the
way he dealt with one particular bandit.
When Colonel Mike
Calvert set about looking for suitable candidates for the
establishment of a regiment of jungle
fighters, for deep penetration
missions against the bandits, Gerry volunteered. After a rigorous selection process he joined the original A Sqn of the regiment
who were to be called the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment
In 1953, he rejoined his regiment for a posting to Austria
and Germany for garrison duties, facing the Red threat from
the East. In 1955, he was due for discharge from the Army
and returned to England for his demobilisation.
the army, he worked as a prison officer and saw a very different
mode of existence for 13 months. He encountered several famous prisoners,
including the ‘Babes in the wood’ murderer. Again, this episode
is full of fascinating events, stories, people and observations
of life in prisons at that time.
In 1956 he was called back from the Reserves to the Colours
for the ill-fated Suez campaign. As a result of this experience,
he decided to re-enlist and was posted to the Army Basic Training
Unit (ABTU) as a Sergeant. The colourful characters that he
encountered and their antics, are amazing, appalling and amusing.
Conscription was still in force and the ABTU had to deal with
a lot of very awkward characters who didn’t want to be there
and made that fact very clear.
1959 saw a two year posting to Hanover with the Pioneer Civilian
Labour Unit. There, the German sense of humour was sorely
tested and some great friendships both army and local, were
forged in the midst of beer festivals and military exercises.
In 1964, it was back to the jungle again, this time on the
island of Borneo. The Brunei Rebellion was under way and a
conflict ensued with Indonesia. Here, he recounts incredible
tales of bags of gold, whores, head-hunters and heart stopping
1966-69 saw Gerry complete his army career back in the UK
and ceremonially returned to civilian life after a mock court
martial. This is where the book ends. He worked in a bank
for a while but the restrictions of the job didn’t suit Gerry.
After a brief spell with the MOD Police, he decided that it
was time to start anew somewhere else.
In 1971 he and his
family emigrated to Australia, where he joined the Australian
Army and SAS and the adventure continues. Sadly his beloved
wife Beryl passed away in 1996 and Cloggy has now decided
to return to UK to be reunited with the part of
his family that he left behind who want to care for the ‘Old
Codger before he loses his marbles’.