After five years in the Army serving with the King’s Dragoon Guards in Italy, Greece, Syria and Palestine. I was demobilised in 1946. On the way back to the U.K. I was allocated a cabin with Derek Powle M.C. we found that we had both enlisted for a student grant at London University; he to read Russian and I Architecture. We kept in close contact and later he moved into a flat adjacent us in Charterhouse Square.
On my way to the Bartlett School of Architecture I was passed in High Holborn by a Daimler armoured car. I swear that the man in the turret was wearing a bowler hat and in one hand a brolly and in the other a “mike”.
A few days later I went to Stone Buildings, met Robin Wordsworth the Adjutant, signed on the dotted line and was introduced to Col. Jacky Ward and became a member of the Regiment. I joined B Squadron under Derek Hatton and later Tom Copeland.
We kept our vehicles in Grey’s Inn which had been badly bombed. Some of my troop had served in the war, others were conscripted and others going to learn to drive as there was petrol rationing at the time. I was fortunate to have Gerald Moss M.C. as my Troop Sergeant. Later on he kindly fitted me out for my wedding in 1948 with a morning suit. Some fifty year later I wore it at my granddaughter’s wedding - but with a larger waistcoat.
After our weekly drill the Squadron officers would retire to the Officers’ Mess and the Sergeants to the Sergeants’ Bar next door. Sergeant Smith and later Sergeant Hartley would serve us with an evening meal. This was a good opportunity to meet other members of the Squadron and discuss everything under the sun. This all changed when in 1946 - 1949 we had to move the armoured cars from Grey’s Inn, where they had started rebuilding, down to Wimbledon.
From time to time we were given the opportunity to go on a weekend Gunnery Course to Lulworth. Not only did I receive £3 for the weekend which was a good supplement to my £350 p.a. Student Grant but also petrol coupons to get me there and back on my Triumph 500. My young wife would travel by train to Swanage and stay with friends. In the evening we would tour the Isle of Purbeck and came to love the area and people, years later setting up a family home on the coast.
Now that I had given up my Triumph after a slight accident, I invested £35 in a 1927 Singer 16 with gun carriage wheels, running boards with a two gallon petrol can embossed with Shell 1s.6d.per gallon, and also a Tickford hood. On occasions I would ferry fellow officers down to Wimbledon. We were stopped at traffic lights in the Strand, I turned the handle of the sprocket which activated the two bicycle chains which slowly opened the canvas hood to the amusement of the bus driver looking down and some of the passengers.
When our vehicles were in Grey’s Inn we would drive round the bombed and deserted city. We had at times weekends in the country and in particular to Bisley where we shared a pavilion with other regiments. Driving through the West End would be a particular hazard with a learner driver. It could be hair-raising trying to give commands to a driver by intercom. However I cannot remember any accident although I was involved in one in a simple lane near Midhurst when the driver tried to compensate when the front wheel hub caught in the bank and instead of halting he accelerated and we slowly turned over: it took the L.A.D. all the rest of the day and half the night to recover the Daimler.
The first camp I attended was at Crowborough on patrol. One Saturday I was told by one of my troop that a retired member of the Regiment was being married locally. As it was very close we decided to gatecrash and arrived just in time to cross aerials when the happy couple walked out of the church. They then sat on the toolbox of my armoured car and we drove to the nearby reception - we all enjoyed the occasion (no breathalysers in those days!).
The following drill night I was summoned by the Colonel as I gathered the Minister of War, Manny Shinwell, had been alerted by one of his advisers and wanted to know why the T.A. was wasting time and money at the Nation’s expense.
By pure chance an honorary Colonel, Lord Reading, had been invited to a Regimental Guest Night the following week and it was suggested that I sit on his left side and keep him entertained as the following morning I had to appear before him.
On another training exercise near Dorking the troop stopped for lunch at a local pub. We were in the private bar drinking beer - I looked across the counter and noticed the troops were in high spirits. I asked the barman what they were drinking and he replied local cider. When I suggested we would also have a pint he counselled against it and recommended a half pint. When we returned to the car park the atmosphere was electric. Eventually after a lot of horseplay, we managed to mount and proceeded up Box Hill. Halfway up the leading dinghy managed to reverse toward the Daimler which tried to do the same, which was then repeated. However, everyone appeared to be happy until we returned to camp. I should have bought a bottle of “scrumpy” to give to the Squadron Leader to explain the problem. Luckily we had good L.A.D.fitters who soon repaired the tool boxes.
Tom Copeland took over the Squadron and we had great ideas of making our exercises more exciting and devised “Folly” exercises. In the early days after the war there was relatively little traffic on the roads and we could stake patrol tactics safely and thereby managed to give the troops excellent training in the narrow roads and lanes. On one occasion Tom decided to enlist the help of a local flying club and persuaded one of the owners of a Tiger Moth to take part in an exercise. He was so enthusiastic that I saw him dive on an armoured car and take the aerial off with his undercarriage. I was informed that he even managed to bounce the wheel off the turret. It certainly gave training an additional dimension.
After one exciting exercise six of us decided to call in at the Pheasantry in the Kings Road. We sat at a large wooden table, one of us (to remain nameless) discovered a thunder flash in his battledress trousers, decided he could enliven the party, however too late to change his mind, tried to smother it. We were never welcomed again in the Club.
One year we spent our Summer Camp in Scotland- - I have little memory of our drive North except that we stopped in the Lake District for the night. Next morning due to the rain and mist I saw no lakes or mountains but all I could remember was watching a trooper trying to cook sausages on a tank cooker with rain dripping on to the fat. We moved on to Kircudbright for a fortnight’s training. Derek Edwards decided that it was a good idea to allow Sheila and my wife Felicity to follow us by car and enjoy a holiday with the local land haymaking.
One year we were sent to Chickerell near Weymouth and we were joined by the Z Reservists. For the first time we had a full complement although some were resentful of being called-up from Civvy Street, as a result it was a motley crew.
I did take one day’s compassionate leave to return to London to see my new baby son in the arms of my wife in Bart’s Hospital, surrounded by bumarees’ wives from Smithfield. She seemed to enjoy the experience!
The following year we were sent down to Cornwall and as I was now Second-in-Command to Basil Hall I had to find a suitable camp site near Newquay. One of my duties was to find extra rations for the Squadron and I was given £40 to fund the extra rations for the regiment. Unfortunately with strict rationing still in force in 1949 I found it impossible to buy anything as points were also required for the more luxury items. However I found a friendly farmer who was willing to sell me a pig. With difficulty we brought the squealing animal back to the camp in a 300 cwt lorry. There seems always to be some member of the Squadron who knows how to kill and dismember an animal; and also someone who knows how to construct a field oven.
On the Sunday we assembled in the Officers’ tent, the leg of pork was produced and I hoped to be congratulated by Basil. He turned to me and asked what I thought he did in “Civvy Street”. He then at great length told me that not only was he a solicitor but he was now Chief Prosecutor to the Government to ensure that the Rationing Law was obeyed. However the Squadron seemed to enjoy the unusual Sunday roast and was not sent to gaol.
I was promoted to temporary Squadron Leader for our Summer Camp near Thetford. I was assisted by Digby Thompson our Second Command. He found an excellent campsite in the woods as far as possible away from Headquarters. On a lovely Sunday morning the Squadron was having a lazy day when suddenly the Commanding Officer John Scott accompanied by the Honorary Colonel had decided to make an unscheduled visit. All I can remember is trying to put on my battledress and saluting at the same time. When they left I asked my Intelligence Officer about the visit and got a very unsatisfactory reply. Luckily I heard nothing more except that we were suddenly instructed to move overnight from Thetford across country to Shepton Mallet in the pouring rain - we performed well and arrived in the market town at five-o-clock in the morning, sopping wet but managed to dry out by huddling behind the armoured car with the engine running with a tarpaulin over the engine the warm air dried us out; sometimes we would trap a half-filled jerry can to the exhaust manifold to speed up the making of the important brew.
I moved my small practice within walking distance of the Mess which was run by Sergeant Smith and later Sergeant Hartly who produced a fine joint of roast beef and all the trimmings. It also included a pewter tankard of Real Ale all for 3s.6d. Luckily Studd and Millington were immediately opposite Stone Buildings in Chancery Lane and Mr. Gerrard was delighted to measure one up for a slightly larger suit.
Six of us were selected to represent the Regiment at Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation parade. Sergeant Mcclohochie a trooper and I were detailed to march. Hugh ? and two others were to line the route. As usual the organisation for the event was brilliant. We reported to Earl’s Court stadium the night before with about a thousand others, allotted a space and a camp bed in the middle of the Grand Hall. Reveille was at 5 a.m. ablutions, breakfast, etc. and we were on parade at eight-o-clock in our new uniforms and a sword. We were inspected a number of times and joined the T.A. contingent, marched off at 9 a.m. and did not halt until we arrived at Hyde Park Corner for a packed lunch, presumably while the Coronation Service was in progress. We formed up again and marched all the way back to Earls Court. All I saw was the vast crowd on either side and the back of the soldier in front - my tunic was shrinking in the rain and my sword slowly going rusty. I managed to return from the parade and saw part of the ceremony on our neighbour’s ten inch black and white television. The next morning I returned to the Grand Hall; it was virtually empty except for a few solitary camp beds and kit waiting for collection.
Cavalry boots are not designed for marching. By the time we reached Hyde Park Corner my feet were in agony. The only way to massage them was to remove my skin-tight uniform trousers before removing my boots and socks which was hardly becoming to an officer and architect in front of the spectators. Fifty years later I am crippled and I wonder if I could get compensation for injuries received on active service escorting our now queen Elizabeth the Second at her coronation.
I returned to the office in Eaton Square full of optimism for the future. I decided to see my senior partner to ascertain my future prospects. He explained that the “recession” in the building industry was still in force with permission required for all new buildings and restrictions on many materials. He was sympathetic but could not propose an increase of my £650 a year salary. I thanked him, walked back home along the Embankment wondering how I could break the news to Felicity with two small children in a small flat. By good fortune my father had been recalled to be Chairman of the Council of Welfare Services in Germany, to arrange the welfare of the troops. He was therefore able to pass on their two-bedroom flat to us and pay the £140 per annum rent-controlled. Not only did I not have to park my £25 Singer 16 in Charterhouse Square which I would use on chill nights to take three fellow officers from Lincoln’s Inn down to the Wimbledon depot but I was now in possession of a £75 Hillman Minx which I could safely place in the underground car park.
I had one house to design for Johnny Clarke a K.D.G. who had joined the Regiment and got engaged to Tom Copeland’s secretary. As a result of getting married they were given permission to build a small house. So I set up my drawing board on my writing desk in my sitting room-cum-dining room-cum-nursery and started drawing and I haven’t stopped after fifty years.
I met Dicky Powle one day looking for a flat and shortly afterwards he managed to join us in an adjoining flat in Charterhouse Square. One evening while drinking I suggested he join the Regiment and sometime later he became Commanding Officer at a difficult time when the Regiment amalgamated with the City of London Yeomanry(The Royal Riders).
Having set up my small practice, I had little time for the T.A. so I decided to join the Reserve. However I did parade when the Queen Mother presented the Gidion to Colonel Derek Powle M.C. at the regimental parade Temple Court Gardens.
John D. Morgan 2012