"The Last Minden Parade
of 1/5LF (108 Regiment RAC)
Note: - Lt. Westmore was the Ensign of the Colour Guard
and was the author of these original notes"
MINDEN DAY 1943
By Capt. Michael Westmore
Before beginning to describe the happenings on this eventful
day I must describe to you, who may have never seen the
place, the appearance of Rufford Abbey grounds where we
had then been stationed for over a year, and it's surroundings.
This is a part of Nottinghamshire where old and New England
have mingled and as yet the issue as to which will leave
its stamp on the countryside the longest is not decided.
To the traveller who keeps to the great roads leading North
is presented a long succession of plough land and pasture
with every now and then a great house in the distance surrounded
by it's parks and lawns, it's hedges and bridges, and it's
wide approaches of meadow and ornamental lakes. A green,
damp, peaceful countryside, where man has only interfered
in his most stately and munificent moods.
It is only when he turns off these great roads and travels
some few miles to the East of West that the traveller begins
to discover the true nature of the country. In the distance
he will se the great dominating grimness of the slagheap
and the spidery headstocks of the pits. Below on either
side stretch the new mushroom village-towns that supply
the miners with shelter and rest. A very different picture
to that of the stately houses that lie beside the great
From the summer of 1942 to the autumn of 1943 he would have
found, billeted in the village, and the Nissen huts in the
grounds of the Abbey, the Regiment of the Royal Armoured
Corps which concerns us, together with it's tanks, vehicles,
and equipment. Many of those he
Questioned would have told him, a little ruefully, that
those he saw about him were the remnants of what must have
been the happiest, most friendly Battalion of infantry in
the British Army - the 1st/5th Battalion, The Lancashire
Such was the setting were, at the end of June, 1943, Lt.-Col.
J.K. Smith, who had commanded for more than three years,
left the Battalion for service overseas. The command passed
to Major T.B.J. Eveleigh, who later was promoted to Lt.Colonel.
I think I must try and describe the state of the Battalion
at that time. Please understand that these are my impressions.
I do not attribute them to anyone else, and it may be that
many will disagree with them. But unless my account is coloured
with my own partiality and affection it may become too stereotyped,
too much like a newspaper report or even regimental orders.
Two years before we had been selected for conversion from
infantry to armour. That is, we who had formed for so long
part of the 42nd Division were thenceforth to wear black
berets and travel about in tanks instead of on our march
hardened feet. At that time many felt it was a bad things
to become grease monkeys and garage hands, and there was
much talk of being hard infantry, footsloggers and what
you will. I may be putting it too strongly when I say that
this conversion made us, for a time more infantry-minded
that we had ever been before. But his stage passed, and
it must be placed, on record that the whole Battalion applied
itself with energy and not a little skill to becoming a
tank regiment. Results on courses, not that they are infallible
but they are at least concrete evidence rather than hearsay,
were excellent. Many were not concerned how they fought,
whether they fought in tanks or on their own feet, but they
would have preferred, if with the Brigade, with the Division,
that they had known and served so long as infantries. However,
"We don't want to march like
Ride like the Cavalry,
Shoot like Artillery;
We don't want to fly over
We are the R.A.C. (L.F.)."
never forgetting the "brackets L.F." which
was always the part of the song that was bellowed with the
To cut a long story short, for you will certainly hear it
from many an old member of the Battalion told in much greater
and more accurate detail (and possibly in more brightly
descriptive terms) than I can hope to do on paper in the
short time at my disposal - to cut a long story short we
ceased to belong to the old 42nd (East Lancashire) Territorial
Division of Infantry, and eventually it became apparent
that soon the Battalion would disappear, or die a lingering
death, according to the will of those above us.
This then was roughly the position in July 1943. To the
senior officers and warrant officers and N.C.O.'s, and to
a great number of the men who had served so long together,
the position was deplorable and horrible. To those of us
who had not been in the Battalion long it was not quite
so hard, but I can say that the succession of events was
extremely irritating and the sympathy we felt for the older
members of the Battalion was very sincere. Also during our
short stay with the Battalion we had been made so much at
home and so much a part of it that the impending events
held the promise of very personal loss. Somehow everybody
felt that we had had rather a raw deal.
It was in these circumstances that Major T.B.J. Eveleigh
He proceeded to prepare for the most remarkable Minden Day
I ever hope to see. He decided, I think that if this was
to be the last fling it should be a damned good one. Major
J. H. Fielden was despatched to Bury with a colour party
of veterans (including S.S.M. Bentley, S.Q.M.S. Wallis and
S.Q.M.S. Lomax) to bear back the Regimental and King's colour
from Bury Parish Church. The party returned and the colours
were placed in the Officers' Mess.
Meanwhile the rehearsals for the great day had begun. The
soft air of early morning was made horrible with the shouting
and drilling, and the whole Battalion was on parade shortly
after reveille every morning to perfect the ceremony. For
Major Eveleigh had decided to Troop the Colour and, despite
the murmurings of the old soldiers about "it taking
all of three months in peace-time with proper soldiers and
struck off al duties," and the murmuring of young soldiers
about blanco-ing and associated evils, the preparations
went forward. It was significant that many who had seldom
been seen in the open air before could now be watched at
all hours of day or night pacing up and down paths and lawns,
oblivious of their surroundings, immersed in deciphering
the mysteries of the "Manual of Ceremonial." Even
members of the convert party slowly became aware that there
were other things to rehearse, and their representations
of the original Minden Day paled into insignificance beside
the task now confronting them. Officers could be seen slowly
marching over the cricket field (shortly to be the field
of Minden) under the sometimes-exasperated eyes of the R.S.M.
He (R.S.M. Ramsden) worked and scolded, pleaded and thundered
until the whole affair began to take shape.
The Depot Band had come to us and joined in the rehearsals.
It put a new complexion on the whole business. You and I
do not march naturally
Perhaps like ducks taking to the water. But put us behind
a band of this sort and nothing can stop us. And so it was.
Thus Minden Day approached. It fell this year on a Sunday,
and the preliminaries included a performance by the Regimental
Concert Party and an All Ranks Dance on the Saturday night.
As sleep closed those weary eyes on the last night of July,
belts and gaiters, Sam Brownes and chinstraps, boots and
butt plates glowed in anticipation of the morrow.
But only for a short while, for with the first light of
August 1st round the buildings marched the band and drums
playing the rousing sequences of the Minden March. The dead
could not fail to be stirred by this most exhilarating of
all marches. Minden Greetings! Minden was here. Perhaps
the last, but certainly, if we know anything about it, the
best, Minden Day, 1943.
The Trooping of the Colour will be most difficult to describe,
and before I begin I must give you a list of the most prominent
people among those present.
The General, Major-General Hunter
(Commanding North Midland District).
The C.O., Major T.B.J. Eveleigh, The Adjutant, Capt. K.S.
The Second in Command. Major G. Allen, T.D.
The Regimental Sergeant Major, R.S.M. Ramsden.
The Colour Sentry, Sjt. Crew. Sjt. Wilson.
The Colour Guard.
The Captain, Major H. J. Webb.
The Subaltern. Capt. W. A. L. Coulburn.
The Ensign, Lt. M. N. Westmore.
The Sergeant Major, S.S.M. Courtier
The Guard, "C" Squadron.
No. 1 Guard
The Captain, Major J. H. Fielden.
The Subaltern, Capt. A. H. H. Christmas.
The Sergeant Major, S.S.M. Wood.
The Guard. "A" Squadron.
No. 2 Guard.
The Captain. Major D. B. Stewart.
The Subaltern, Lt. T. M. R. Knowles.
The Sergeant Major, S.S.M. Bentley.
No. 3 Guard.
The Captain, Capt. A. E. Bellhouse
The Subaltern, Capt. W. A. Webb.
The Guard, "H.Q." Squadron.
The Bandmaster, B. M. Wright.
The day was very hot and bright and the field had been
prepared by Sergeant Kelly, the Provost Sergeant, and the
unfortunates under his supervision, to give a gay though
dignified appearance to the parade. In the centre of the
north side was the platform where shortly the General would
take the salute, and to each side of him a great crowd of
relations and friends and many of the inhabitants of the
neighbouring villages. For, to the neighbourhood, during
the time that we were at the Abbey, we had to a high degree
become "their" Regiment. There seemed to be some
quality the men possessed for making themselves part and
parcel of these villages. And here the villagers all were
to see the parade. The field, usually rather a dull place
behind the M. T. lines, had taken on a new splendour for
this one great day.
You may read in the "Manual of Ceremonial" what
happens when the Colour is Trooped. I cannot begin to describe
it without entangling myself in details of who should be
at one flank of the other at a given time. But the band,
the roses, the precision, and somehow the friendliness -
the understanding that seemed to flow from the font part
of the procession to the rear, and the Colours themselves
- all these things are deeply impressed on my memory. And
the flies! The field adjoined a far and when standing at
attention, great bunches of horse flies attached themselves
to all parts of you and particularly to the lobes of your
ears. Captain Bellhouse, with usual forethought, had purchased
small bottles of a special liquid which when daubed freely
over the face and body, gave some immunity. This helped
a bit, but the flies, combined with the heat of the day,
demanded Herculean efforts of control and poise from those
When the Colours had been marched off there was a drumhead
service. I did not attend this, and while it was taking
place, I have to confess that I was replacing some of the
liquid I had lost involuntarily on the parade.
There was a sense of relief and not a little pride at the
successful conclusion of the tricky part of the day. The
C.O., after showing the General the colours, brought him
to the Officers' Mess, which had been established for the
day in two large marquees on one of the lawns.
Then the round of visiting began. From the mess to C.O.
was borne along to the Sergeants' Mess and round the Squadrons
to give and receive Minden Greetings. He was accompanied
by Lt. Col. J. K. Hopkinson and Lt.-Col. E. A. North, two
former members of the Battalion.
You have seen dining halls on Minden Day. You know how a
hut is transformed from it's usual prosaic self, with the
smell of grease and green vegetables in the background,
into a rosy arbour, a military fairyland. So it was this
day. I cannot say which Squadron excelled the other in the
decoration it had achieved; I can only recall my surprise
at the ingenuity that had been displayed and the wealth
Officers and Sergeants lined up to serve the men with their
dinners and beer. Noise and greetings, hand claspings, the
clatter of cutlery and pots, and then silence for the Commanding
Officer, for Minden, for the Loyal Toast. Then cheering
and speeches that were not speeches at all, but mostly musings
and reminiscences of past Minden Days. A collection of all
the small memories that form the basis of Battalion tradition.
Then rather sleepily to lie for a moment or two in the sun
and allow the effects of a large dinner and some pints of
beer to wear off.
I have known very riotous afternoons on previous Minden
Days. I regret that I took this one easily and connate tell
you much about it. All I can readily say is that it was
reputed to be well up to usual standard.
Then the band seemed to be playing, somewhere again and
the Officers' Dinner was about to start. At the head of
the Marquee behind the C.O. were the two Colours with the
rose wreath in the centre, and in the artificial light the
tablecloths and silver shone with a particular brilliance.
The meal too its course while the band played outside -
marches, waltzes, selections from musical comedies and after
toasting His Majesty, "Those who fell at Minden"
were remembered in silence, as is the custom of long tradition.
Finally came the ancient ceremony of eating the Roses, and
ordeal that must be passed through by all officers attending
their first Minden dinner. Thirty-four Officers sat down
to this, the last Battalion Minden dinner for some time
to come, and each felt the solemness of the occasion.
But victories must be celebrated, and this was Minden Day!
The mood quickly changed, and the before long the Officers
were joining in the gaiety of the Sergeants' Mess dance
in the Long Gallery of the Abbey, decorated so effectively
for the occasion. Seldom could the ghosts of the old monks
have looked down on a happier, gayer crowd of maidens and
men. If they raised a frown it could only have been due
to the reaction of their old-fashioned conceptions to the
"Hokey Pokey," and surely they must have laughed
with us as we laughed, and approved of us as they heard
the silent vows made by many a Lancashire Fusilier that
day. It was a day worthily spent.