Sporting Record and Military Achievements
The East Surrey Regiment
1946 saw the re-appearance of the Journal of The East Surrey Regiment, welcomed on its first page by a letter from Maj Gen Sir Arthur Dowler, Colonel of the Regiment. Some succeeding pages dealt naturally with matters connected with the war but sport soon "raised its head" in the form of a brief announcement that Mr Belton, holder of many pre-war athletic honours, had recently won the Southern Counties six miles track running championship.
Later reports in the Journal showed that sport was rapidly getting into its post-war stride. In Greece, the 1st Battalion were agreeably surprised to find a full sized football pitch awaiting them when they arrived at Kingston Camp, Yeroia in February 1946. That they soon put it to good use is shown by the fact that HQ Company won the Plastiras Cup which was presented by General Plastiras the Greek Prime Minister.
At the 28th Infantry Brigade Athletics Meeting on 21st and 22nd June 1946, the Battalion were winners with 531 points, the-runners-up being the 2nd King's with 33 Y2 points. In the 5,000 metres the four Surrey competitors easily led the field to breast the tape together to tie for 1st place. The tug-of-war team, pulling in perfect unison, defeated the King's in the final by two straight pulls.
The tug-of-war team repeated their success at the 4th Division Athletic Meeting at Salonika when they defeated the 23 Field Regiment RA in the finals in a hard fought deciding pull. Triumphant to the last the team eventually won in the final event in the Land Forces Greece Athletic Championships held at Nea Smyrna on 27th July when they defeated a team from 212th Area who were much heavier than themselves.
The re-constituted 2nd Battalion, after some re-organisations and Home Service duties, departed for overseas duties on 4th December 1945, arriving at Port Said in the SS Samaria on the 16th . From there they went on to Haifa to take over from The Royal Sussex Regiment on security duties. Sport, of necessity, had been something of a "back number" but after having arrived in Palestine and settled down by January 1946, advantages were taken of the sports facilities available. Football and rugby matches were played with mixed results but it was the Battalion Boxing Team who were outstanding. They won the 15th Area Championship after beating the Black Watch by 7 bouts to 4 and the South Wales Borderers by 6 bouts to 5.
Reaching the semi-finals of the Palestine Command Championships they were beaten by the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles 8 -7.
Not forgetting the more serious side of a soldier's business, the Battalion were training hard on shooting with the result that at the Middle East Rifle Meeting held from 27th April to 5th May 1946, they won 2 cups, 21 National Rifle Association Medals and £54 in cash prizes together with the satisfaction of beating the 3rd Infantry Brigade Champions, 2nd Bn the Sherwood Foresters, in a challenge match.
1947 saw the 1st Battalion, still in Greece, again competing in the exciting football final for the Plastiras Cup which B Company won by defeating 28 Brigade Workshops 5-4.
As distinct from target shooting, a successful 1946-47 sporting shooting season was pursued, with much feathered game falling to the guns, plus 1 hare. The Officers' Mess larder was suitably enriched. The 2nd Battalion were able to report a good 1946 season at Athletics while in the Middle East, although training was limited by security duties they came second in the Brigade Championship and third at the Divisional team meeting. First class sprinters were 2/Lt Gale, Sgt Fennell, L/Cpl Palmer and Pte Gregory while high jumpers were L/Cpl Wilkins and Pte Tumber.
The medley relay team was only beaten once so it was felt that the Battalion had left its mark on the running tracks of Palestine. Some good cricket matches were played although defeat came in the 1st Division Knock-Out Competition at the hands of the 3rd Bn Coldstream Guards who won by 20 runs.
At the end of the 1946-47 season it was felt that the Battalion had done reasonably well, having regard to their heavy guard and security commitments which often meant men turning out for training when they could justifiably have been sleeping. Whatever the results of their contests there could be no doubt that the competitive spirit of pre-war days had been re-born and was steadily developing.
So that the sands of the desert should never grow cold for them, the 2nd Battalion moved to El Ballah in the Suez Canal Zone in April, but not before seeing Palestinian terrorists blow up and set fire to the Haifa oil installations. In their new territory they were able to settle down to some normal military training and sport began to feature in the programme once again.
Success at cricket was enjoyed, by the end of the 1947 season of 23 matches played, 19 were won, 3 drawn and 1 lost by a narrow margin of 2 runs.
The 1st Battalion changed locations in Greece on 2nd October 1947, moving into barracks at Salonika which had been vacated by the 2nd Bn Highland Light Infantry. The new accommodation was an improvement on that previously occupied and was immediately named "Sobraon Barracks". The area included a good football pitch and a very fair hockey pitch, both of which soon echoed to the sounds of practice and training.
At football the Battalion played 14 games, winning 8, drawing 4 and losing 2. They were unlucky not to win either the Brigade "A"League or the Plastiras Cup, being defeated by the Durham Light Infantry in the former and 12 Infantry Brigade Workshops in the latter.
Benefitting from their new facilities, the hockey team won the Brigade Knock-Out Competition, beating both the Salonika Area and the 1st Durham Light Infantry.
1948 saw the 2nd Battalion, still at El Ballah, suffering at the hands of the elements. In January a three-day sandstorm of particular vehemence downed most of the tents while in February a cloud burst flooded the camp out. To add to troubles a cholera scare caused rather trying precautions and restrictions to be imposed. Back in England the short-lived Primary Training Centre made some good attempts at sport. At football the team, bolstered by the presence of former Fulham player Pte Highelwood, reached the final of the Home Counties Small Units Knock-Out where they lost to No 989 Coy RASC 5-4 after extra time. Highelwood later played for the British Army v Belgian Army at Brussels where he scored the winning goal.
At cross-country running Sgt Clemens, a former prisoner of war in Japanese hands, and completely self trained, entered various championships and finished as follows:- Home Counties 3rd , Eastern Command 2nd , Army 24th . He later went on to further successes in other major competitions. Considering his age of 33 and his war-time privations his achievements were most creditable and praiseworthy.
The 12th July 1948, was a momentous day in Regimental history as the 1st Battalion (XXXI) was then amalgamated with the 2nd (LXX). This naturally raised some organisation difficulties as the battalion, still in Greece, now found itself over-posted by about 300 men. Tents had to be hastily erected to provide necessary accommodation.
A sports meeting was held on Ypres Day, 23rd April 1948, in which HQ Company won the Inter-Company Athletic Cup with 36Y2 points as against "s" Company's 26'h points. The Old Soldiers' Handicap Race, in which Maj Dickins ran, was a hard fight between L/Cpl Manning of the Band who defeated CSMHeath.
Serious training for the Brigade Cross-Country Championship started in March for the event which took place on 15th April. Over a hard five-and-half-mile course victory eventually went to the 1st Bn Durham Light Infantry with the Surreys Battalion team coming a close second, the Battalion's Lt Ashley was the first man in. At the Brigade Athletics Meeting on 16th and 17th June the Surreys won by 12'h points against stiff opposition by the 1st Durham Light Infantry. Lt Ashley won both the I-Mile and 3-Mile races, CISgt Heath made the longest jump in the Hop, Step and Jump (38ft 7ins)and L/Cpl Lee made the second highest jump of the meeting (5ft 1 Y2ins).
Before amalgamation the 2nd Battalion had kept up their sporting prowess to the end. Their boxing team won the Egypt Command Inter-Unit Boxing Cup while the hockey team reached the final of the All Egypt-Inter-Unit Cup before losing after a good game. Of 11 matches played in the season, they won 9, drew 1 and lost 1, 45 goals being scored for and only 9 against.
Athletics suffered due to other commitments but in the Canal North District Sports Pte Chapman won both the 1 mile and 880 yards Individual Events. He was later selected to run for the Army in events against the RAP.
Amid some cold weather in Greece in early 1949 the 1st Battalion carried out some hard training in Defence and Attack exercises but nevertheless managed to find some time for sport. At the 2nd Infantry Brigade Boxing Championships on 11th and 14th January won every fight except the last one thus gaining the shield which was presented by the Brigade Commander.
The hockey team played six matches, winning them all and emerging victors from the Inter-Unit Knockout Competition. An outstanding player was L/Cpl Fordyce-Harvey who, in a match against the 1st Suffolks, scored 6 out of 7 goals.
At home in England the 6th Bn (TA) were having a busy time, mainly concerned with the National Recruiting Campaign. Sports training suffered in consequence, but some football was played, the Inter-Company Football Cup being won by D Company Kingston Detachment. The 3rd Cadet Battalion showed some promises of boxers for the future. At the finals of the Surrey County ACF Boxing Championships held at Kingston on 8th January the Battalion was represented by twelve cadets. Of these, 8 won their fights, 2 lost and 2 were prevented from fighting by being overweight.
At Athens the 1st Battalion were able to playa number of cricket matches. Successes were limited due to other heavy military commitments, but outstanding players were Capt Andrews and Cpl Pope. The latter had been asked to represent the Army in Athens on two occasions before leaving for England. L/Cpl Pott had also represented the Army on two occasions. Bdsn Morris made the highest score in the season in a forcing innings of 124 not out against REME. The arrival of the battleship HMS Vanguard and other Naval units in Faleron Bay resulted in some good cricket matches in which the sailors emerged triumphant.
Still in competition in sporting matters, Lt Deed and Ptes Robinson and Lewer were selected from the Battalion players for the Southern Greece Army football team to play against HMS Vanguard and contributed to the Army win of 2-0. Two games were played against naval units by the Battalion but both were lost.
At the Brigade Athletics Meeting in June 1949, results were disappointing, the team suffering from the loss of three sprinters, Lts McBride and Smith and Sgt Crumplin who had all returned to the UK. Victory was, however, obtained in Tugof-War by the defeat of the Beds and Herts in the final. Boxers were obviously on form. In a contest between HMS Vanguard and British Forces, Southern Greece on 30th June 1949, nine members of the Forces team of eleven were from the Battalion. Victory finally went to the Forces 17-16 after an evening of hard fought bouts.
After only arriving at Salonika on 12th June, the Battalion nevertheless competed in the Brigade Small Arms Meeting there on 14th and 15th of the month and did well to gain third place with 770 points against the winning 815 points of the Infantry Brigade Workshops. Some "shots of the future" were obviously in the making as the Surrey Army Cadet Force won the County Cup in the "News of the World" Army Cadet Force Shooting Competition.