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England's Last Hope

The autobiography of
Gerry 'Cloggy' Compton


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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 to cease.

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 (Malayan Scouts).

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.

On leaving 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 helicopter rides.

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’.

Labor Omnia Vincit