April 2008 Newsletter
Issue No. 76
A Note from the Editor
This month sees the second and final part of the new secretary’s “Vision for the
Future” feature. This two part statement was important as I am a great believer in the
philosophy of “Saying what you do and then doing what you say”. This newsletter
will close the subject and normal service will be resumed with the space used for
more military related subject matter. Finally I will use this opportunity to give my
apologies as I will unfortunately be absent from parade at the monthly meeting. David
Gray will stand in as host (in addition to being the speaker) for the evening.
Next Monthly Meeting
The next meeting is on Wednesday, 9th April 2008 when David Gray will tell the
story of Peterborough during World War II.
Last Months Meeting
Was introduced by the Society Secretary and attended by 22 members who listened to
fellow member Peter Steels give his first talk to the Society on the subject of Royal
Naval Miscellaneous Weapons Development. This was a tale of strange and unusual
devices which the summery included in the newsletter further on only scratches the
surface of. Peter is to be congratulated on his fascinating collection of pictures (most
of which I had never seen before) that supported his detailed talk given without notes.
Peter has asked me to mention however that his statement during the evening when
discussing the Oke flamethrower which associated its use with the Normandy
landings was a slip. Their use was of course at Dieppe (as the spotters at the evening
would probably have realised). Peter knew that, but apologises for letting that slip get
away from him. I prefer to believe that he only put the error in, to ensure we were
paying attention. The evening ended with thanks to the speaker and society business
which included an introduction to the “Meet the Member” feature and an explanation
of the intention to increase the annual subscription to £6.00 for 2009 and a monthly
meeting fee for non members of £1.50 to ensure we cover Society costs.
Beat the Drum
All Society Members have hopefully renewed their annual subscriptions by now. The
Society operates on a none profit making basis and prompt payment of subscriptions
is needed to cover costs. Subscription for 2008 remains at £5.00 for current members
which can be paid to the club treasurer David Gray at the April meeting or sent by
post to him at 59 Francis Gardens, Peterborough, Cambs, PE1 3XT payable to The
Soke Military Society. Members that have not re-subscribed by the May meeting, to
confirm their details will unfortunately have postal newsletters discontinued.
Words of Wisdom
There is an American military saying that “There are three types of leaders. Those
who make things happen; those that watch things happen; and those that wonder what
happened. This month’s selection of military quotations to test your knowledge, are
on the theme of military leadership.
a) General Powell b) Field Marshal Slim c) Winston Churchill d) Sun Bin, 350 BC
1) There is no command without leadership.
2) Let us set up a standard around which the brave and loyal can rally.
3) In the British Army there are no good units and no bad units only good and
bad officers and NCO’s.
4) Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management
says is possible.
Answers: Can be found at the end of the Newsletter
Department of Miscellaneous Weapons and Development or D.M.W.D
The department was born in 1939, although originally it was part of the Inspectorate
of antiaircraft weapons devices. At one time the department consisted of 160 officers
and men, with additional seconded civilian’s working with them to devise new
weapons, such as projected wire devices, plastic armour, flamethrowers, sea fire
defence systems, rockets and many others. In 1940 two departments were joined to
become the D.M.W.D with Commander Charles Goodeve becoming its head of the
department in 1940 after devising a method of sweeping the magnetic mine with the
LL sweep that saved thousands of ships and had been a major problem.
After that the department went on to develop the anti submarine projector, later
known as Hedgehog that was 40% better than the depth charge. 47% of submarines
attacked with Hedgehog were sunk against only 7% for the depth charge. Another
idea that it developed was the hedgerow. This was somewhat similar to the hedgehog
but fired some 400 rocket mortars from an LCT against a enemy shore becoming
perhaps "the most formidable weapon in the history of shore bombardment" which
together with other ideas such as the Mulberry Harbour, the Bombardon, the floating
breakwater and Pluto (Pipe Line Under The Ocean) which was to provide over 1
million gallons of fuel an hour, with a total of 172 millions gallons delivered by the
end of hostilities, all played key parts in the Normandy landings.
There were hundred’s of weapons developed by the department over the war years,
such as the free balloon barrage, the Holman gun (the only steam powered gun ever
made used by coastal ships), the land gun which was fired by compressed air and fired
a mills grenade (also known as the potato gun), they also had a lot to do in the
production of the Oerlikon gun, and of course there were many others.
On a local note, older members may remember an anti aircraft gun site of rocket
weapons down Fulbridge Road during the war on the old recreation ground. Used
once? They broke all the windows out of the houses close by. They were more
successful against flying bombs however!
Thanks again to Peter Steels for his talk and for providing the summery above.
The Lonely ANZAC
During July 1916 the Battle of the Somme was under way and the casualties were
enormous. The only overseas troops engaged with the British and Irish forces were
the ANZACS. Amongst their number was Sgt G.T Hunter known as “Thomas
Hunter” of the 10th Australian Corps. Thomas was an orphan whom although born in
Newcastle was raised by an uncle at Kurri-Kurri, New South Wales. He therefore
volunteered for the Australian Army early in the war and had been wounded at
Gallipoli. Once he recovered he was posted to France.
Wounded again on the Somme he had received severe wounds to his spine and in due
course was transported back to the U.K. with the intention that he should receive
treatment at Halifax. On arrival at Peterborough Station it was decided that he was too
ill to continue and he was taken from the train. The next day he died in Peterborough
The tragedy of his death so far from home caught the imagination and sympathy of
the people of Peterborough and his coffin was carried on a gun carriage to Broadway
Cemetery where he was buried with full military honours. A tall granite cross stands
over his grave in Broadway Cemetery. He is remembered each year on ANZAC day.
Military Events from History which took place in the month of April
01 Apr 1918 Royal Air Force established making this year the 90th Anniversary
01 Apr 1945 Battle of Okinawa begins between US and Japanese forces
01 Apr 1954 US Air Force Academy was founded in Colorado
02 Apr 1801 Admiral Nelson after disregarding orders to withdraw wins the Battle
of Copenhagen against the Danish fleet
02 Apr 1982 Argentina invades the Falkland Islands
04 Apr 1949 NATO was established
06 Apr 1917 USA declared War on Germany and officially joins WWI
07 Apr 1862 Federal troops led by Ulysses S Grant win the Battle of Shiloh
09 Apr 1865 American Civil War ends then Lee surrenders to Ulysses S Grant
09 Apr 1940 Germany began its invasions of Norway and Denmark
11 Apr 1713 End of War of the Spanish Succession leaves Gibraltar and parts of
Canada ceded to Great Britain
12 Apr 1861 American Civil War begins with the bombardment of Fort Sumter
15 Apr 1942 George Cross conferred on Malta
16 Apr 1746 Battle of Culloden the last major battle on British soil
19 Apr 1587 Francis Drake sacked Cadiz and sank the Spanish fleet
19 Apr 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American
20 Apr 1657 English Navy under Admiral Robert Blake sank the Spanish fleet at
21 Apr 1918 Baron Manfred von Richthofen (Red Baron) shot down and killed
22 Apr 1915 During Battle of Ypres, Germany becomes first to use poison gas
24 Apr 1898 Spain declared war on the USA
25 Apr 1945 Battle of Berlin began
25 Apr 1982 British troops retook the island of South Georgia during Falklands War
27 Apr 1296 Scottish defeated by the English at Battle of Dunbar
28 Apr 1945 Mussolini captured by partisans and shot
30 Apr 1975 Vietnam War ended when North Vietnam capture Saigon
Up Coming Events
A series of entertaining talks on historical subjects by Don Chiswell is being held at
Peterborough Museum. The next event entitled “The 300 Spartans” is on Thursday
10th April at 7.30pm. For those that wish to discover the truth behind the story as a
small army tried to stop the Persians invading Greece, tickets are available on the
night at £4.00 for adults.
Mr Malcolm Johnson will be speaking to the Spalding & South Lincs Western front
Association at St Paul’s Church Hall, Fulney, Spalding at 7.30pm on 24th April. The
title of the talk is “Surely we must be winning? – a family coping with Army life”
Non Members are welcome.
25th April 2008
Memorial service for “The Lonely ANZAC” in Broadway Cemetery at 2.30pm. The
service will be followed by a short guided tour of the Cemetery, concentrating on the
military graves and memorials, if joining the tour please wear sensible shoes. It is
advised to take a folding chair if standing for about 30 minutes is a problem.
Mr Gary Jucha sent the following letter to the Society on the subject of Spanhoe 2008.
“I am involved with the admin/setting up of a 1940’s event to be held at Spanhoe
airfield (near Laxton) 13-14th September of this year. I would be grateful if you could
place a small article in the SMS newsletter concerning the event, and also a request if
any of the members would like to display some memorabilia in an aircraft hanger
which shall be used as a Museum during the weekend”
This could be an excellent opportunity for a group presence to raise our profile and
recruit new members. I would be interested in hearing from members whom have
either attended previous events or have suitable 1940’s memorabilia and are willing to
represent the society at this year’s event. There is a web site for the event, which can
be found at: www.operationmarketgarden2008.co.uk .
David Gray’s new book will be at the meeting for sale to members at £10 a copy.
It is an updated “No More Strangers” which is a record of Peterborough men killed
during World War One.
If you cannot attend the meeting and would like to obtain a copy then contact either
David Gray on 01733 769434 or Roger Negus on 07740 051717.
“The Story of RAF Peterborough” DVD
During WWII aircrew were recruited from countries as far apart as Poland and the
Caribbean to serve in the RAF. Much of their flying training took place at RAF
Peterborough. This is a DVD telling the story of the Airfield from its origins after
World War I through to the 1970’s. It is available price £11.75 from the Museum or is
available to rent from Peterborough libraries.
Meet the Member “Barrie Clive Sylvester” Known to all of us and many others as
Victor (a name acquired in the forces after the band leader Victor Sylvester)
Barrie was born on the 30th of December 1935 in Folkestone, Kent. Son of James
Sylvester (born 1907) and Rosamund Mary Sylvester nee Day (born 1914). He has an
elder brother Brian James Sylvester born in 1934. In 1940 Barrie and his brother were
evacuated to Llanfoist where they were billeted with Mr & Mrs Barber and their
daughter Bonita, whilst his mother was evacuated to Abergavenny where she found
work in a Munitions factory. His father who was a regular soldier before the war
started served his country, first in the Manchester Regt and then also 17/21st Lancers,
the Royal Artillery and finally with the Corp of Military Police. In order to be near
their mother Barrie and his brother were moved to a Mrs Williams in Abergavenny
who only agreed to take them if they attended the Salvation Army. It was here that
Barrie joined the band and was taught to play the Tenor Horn. He also had piano
lessons in his own time. Skills that would be useful to his musical future.
In January 1950 at age 14 Barrie left home, joined the Royal Marines Band Service
and was sent to Deal in Kent for four years training on the Euphonium and Cello. This
was just the start of a thirty-six year military career that took him from Boy Musician
to Warrant Officer Bandmaster. A career that allowed him to visit over one hundred
and ten countries during which service he was awarded the Coronation Medal (1953),
Naval General Service Medal during the Suez Crisis (1956), Long Service and Good
Conduct Medal (1968), Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), Meritorious Service Medal
(1980) and he was awarded a clasp to his Long Service Good Conduct Medal in 1983.
During this time other notable events in his life (to date) were:
The meeting of his future Wife Betty in Ipswich, followed by their subsequent
marriage in 1957 in Malta where they then lived in what amounted to a 2½ year
honeymoon. They were married forty-seven years until Betty sadly passed away three
years ago from cancer. During their marriage they had two children, Jim and Clare.
Speaking to the Pope in Rome in 1958.
Serving on the Royal Yacht Britannia (1962-67) and taking part in the Royal tours of
Australia and New Zealand (1962), Royal tour of Western Canada (1964). He played
for Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral (1965) and at Wembley for the Would Cup Final
Victor was also a keen runner who has completed a triathlon, the London Marathon,
the Maltese Challenge and well over 2000 miles in other races with many T shirts
medals and trophies to show for it before retiring (from running) only last December.
No small achievement considering he only took up running at age 45. He has also
received the Emerald Award for donating 75 pints of blood although he cannot donate
any longer as you are not allowed to donate after 70 years of age. But as he also gave
nine pints whilst stationed overseas this brings his total up to eighty-four. After
retiring from the Armed Forces aged 50 in 1985 he moved to Peterborough and
surpassed all previous achievements by joining Soke Military Society where he has
been a regular at meetings, given the occasional talk and provided the public face of
the society at the exhibition as our official meet and greeter of the Mayor. He also
spent fifteen years in charge of the wines and spirits department in Tesco until he
retired in 2000 aged sixty-five. He selects “The Longest Day” as his favourite war
The Society’s New Secretary’s opening address or My Vision for the Future (2)
In the last newsletter I out lined the first of my aims for the future of the society, as
the raising of the society’s profile and tackling the challenge of recruiting new
members. I also hinted at the second of my aims “to increase the interaction amongst
members”. I hope that the “Meet the Member” feature will be the start of that process.
The aim is to provide a snapshot of a member’s background and military
historical/hobby interests. This will hopefully allow people to identify the other
members with whom they have common ground or shared interests are at the very list
provide a topic for discussion. The article does not necessarily need to be as long as
Victors but as he has had such an interesting past it was hard to know what to leave
out (and I did leave out a considerable amount). For anyone who wishes to participate
as a future “Meet the Member” you can either write the item yourself (I have
guidance notes available to assist) or for those that prefer I will interview and write
the feature for you, although you will still have the final say before it appears in the
I would also like to run two events in addition to the Exhibition each year starting
from next year. This will fulfil the dual benefits of raising and maintaining the
Society’s profile throughout the year in addition to the increased membership
interaction associated with the event. The intention at this time is to hold a one day
event in the months of March and July. What form this will take is still open to
suggestions, but the suggestion so far is to use the same format as the monthly
meeting and either hold a themed lecture day with a series of talks and activities or a
mixed bag of subjects and periods to appeal to a wider audience. This will have the
advantage of allowing subjects to be tackled that the evening meet is just too short to
do justice to. Other suggestions that are being considered for the future are in brief:
1. Turning one of next years monthly meetings into a “Members Muster Evening”
replacing one of the formal speakers with a member’s night, where members can
show and tell items of interest, combined with a mini quiz competition.
2. Informal visits to museums or places of interest with other members rather than as
individuals. I am trying to arrange access to a museum which is not open to the public
(but more on that in the future).
3. Members Luncheon/Dinner Club (an informal gathering of the clan for chitchat)
Remember these are only ideas and I am open to others, also members are only
invited to participate not obliged to. I will look forward to feedback at the May meet.
Answers to this months quotes
1. d) Sun Bin, 350 BC 2. c) Winston Churchill 3. b) Field Marshal Slim
4. a) General Powell
Tea and coffees are on sale at the Meeting each month at a cost of 25p a cup
Monthly Meeting attendance fee is 50p for members. Non Members £1.50
Please send all articles/notices as soon as possible especially if they are for the next
month’s newsletter. Contributions always welcome. They can be sent to either email:
Address to 23 Holcroft, Orton Malborne, Peterborough, PE2 5SL
Secretary/Newsletter Nigel Marshall 07944 157695
Treasurer David Gray 01733 769434