Recce Battle School, Reeth - photo

Discussion in 'Recce' started by MyOldDad, Dec 15, 2009.

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  1. MyOldDad

    MyOldDad Senior Member

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    Above is a photo of the staff of the recce Battle School at Reeth, Swaledale, Yorkshire (c1943/4) outside their HQ. The photo was loaned to me by Capt Alan Blacker (front row, seventh from right). Major Sharp the C.O. sits to his left and Lt Jack Castle to his right - he doesn't recall any other names at the moment. He tells me the HQ was in a hotel/pub at the 'top of The Square' in the village of Reeth. (I have had a look on-line for photos of local hostelries but could not find an exact match - anyone with local knowledge??)

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    After basic training at the Recce Training Centre at nearby Catterick, recruits were sent to the Battle School for 3 weeks of further intensive tactical training including night maneuvers, river crossings, mine clearance, survival and foraging skills, weapons training etc.
    During his time there Capt Blacker applied to join the Airborne Recce and underwent parachute training, gaining his para wings, but he was denied an active service posting at the last moment on medical grounds. He said to me 'I must have been one of the fittest men in the British Army after 18 months of living rough on Swaledale but they would have none of it!' However despite his anger at the time he now acknowledges that decision probably saved his life as few of his contemporaries survived.

    Tom.
     
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  2. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Another great photo thanks for sharing

    Cheers
    Paul
     
  3. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    Another great photo thanks for sharing

    Cheers
    Paul

    I will second that comment.

    Regards
    Tom
     
  4. At Home Dad (Returning)

    At Home Dad (Returning) Well-Known Member

    and a third from me! Thanks indeed for this and the other photo
     
  5. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Thanks for sharing the photo, Reeth has a village square and pubs, the Buck is on the road to Keld upper Swaledale, I think that the actual photo is not infront of a pub but
    a house at the top of the village green.
    As for the headquarters in a pub you would have to visit the area and try and match the photo or ask the locals they would tell you what was there and not.
    Also try the dalesman magazine they often have articles or letters by ex servicemen and even a page where you can ask the question does anyone remember.

    Oldman
     
  6. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    and a third from me! Thanks indeed for this and the other photo


    I'll fourth it...I wonder what happened to the railings with the badge :unsure:
     
  7. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Drew
    One thinks that the badge was moveable and was taken with headquarters team, it is that long since I was in Reeth, that it could even be what was the Youth
    Hostel at Grinton just down the road to Bellerby Moors where I am sure you spent a few happy hours!
    Oldman
     
  8. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    I've been near the one close to Leeds...As for the one further North, I stayed away from Catterick as much as possible....It perminately rains there !
     
  9. MyOldDad

    MyOldDad Senior Member

    After a bit of googling I have found the location of the Battle School HQ - The Burgoyne Hotel, Reeth. It looks much the same - the railings and lamp are still there (Recce badge long gone!). It is quite a large and impressive building.

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    Tom.
     
    dbf likes this.
  10. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Well found.

    Cheers
    Paul
     
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Bloody 'ell....Good effort !

    I suspect a anniversary weekend break may be on the cards with your missus :D

    Just keep the real reason a secret ;)
     
  12. MyOldDad

    MyOldDad Senior Member

    I suspect a anniversary weekend break may be on the cards with your missus :D

    Just keep the real reason a secret ;)

    They certainly let you 'lay it on thick':

    Why not make your stay special?
    We can arrange for Champagne or wine to be in your room on arrival. Bouquets, arrangements or aqua packs of flowers can be ordered together with a select range of wrapped chocolates. Please ask about the selection and prices when you book your room.
    Seriouly though, it does look like a nice place:

    The Burgoyne Hotel, Reeth, Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales

    Tom.
     
  13. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    It is God's country after all ;)
     
  14. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    Myolddad
    Congratulations at least you can visit in style!

    Oldman

    PS Drew how did you manage to escape catterick?
     
  15. MyOldDad

    MyOldDad Senior Member

    From the Northern Echo:

    The home fires burn still in Reeth, a wartime headquarters for soldiers whose motto was ‘Only the enemy in front’.
    REETH’S tranquil in the seductive summer sunshine, a chimney or two gently smoking skywards, the dray wagon assuaging the Buck Inn’s thirst all that disturbs the early afternoon peace. It hasn’t always been so quiet in that glorious Swaledale village.
    During the Second World War it was home, first, to evacuees from Gateshead and Sunderland, later to hundreds of soldiers from the RASC, RAMC, Royal Engineers and, most memorably of all, the men they called the Reccies.
    They were the Reconnaissance Corps – motto “Only the enemy in front” – formed into the Reeth Battle School and commanded for much of the time by Major John Parry, who brought his beagle pack with him.
    Now those extraordinary days are to be remembered by the commissioning of a plaque outside what is now the upmarket Burgoyne Hotel but then was the commandeered Hill House, Battle School headquarters.
    For all concerned it was quite an education.
    “I’ve got to 72 and still they’re not recognised in any way up here,” says parish councillor James Kendall.
    “Most people in Reeth probably know more about the Hartlepool monkey than they do about what happened here during the war.”
    The council, keen to back him, hopes to unveil the plaque on Armistice Day. “They were the Commandos of their day, all of them gave something, some gave everything,”
    says James. “It’s right that Reeth should acknowledge them before all our generation is gone.
    “People today tell their kids to be careful on the roads but back then we were growing up with Chieftain tanks and Bren gun carriers all over this little village.
    “We knew there was a war because all our young men had left, but we didn’t know that a village full of Reccies wasn’t normal until they’d gone.
    “If it hadn’t been for those boys, we might have had an army in jackboots and grey uniforms instead.”
    KEITH JACKSON, a retired Methodist minister, was around 12 when the Reccies arrived, also recalls how – after the Dunkirk evacuation – the RASC had to march the 25 miles from Darlington railway station to Reeth and collapsed, exhausted, on the sunlit green.
    “We weren’t scared of the soldiers, rather we emulated them. We’d make uniforms out of brown paper, rifles out of wood. If we needed barbed wire, we’d pull up a few thorn bushes and crawl through those.”
    Some still recall the route marches up to Arkengarthdale Moor, the Reccies lined up four or five abreast for 100 yards along the top road, Major Parry as ever cracking the whip.
    They talk of the assault course by the side of Arkle Beck – the Reccies named locations like Burma Road, Smoky Joe’s Cabin and Bridge of Sighs – the exercises with live ammunition and Very lights, the nightly mock battles that illuminated the sky like fireworks.
    Keith remembers that they’d pile out of Sunday School, still in sabbath suits, and head for the handover- hand assault course across the Swale. The result, and the occasional immersion, was inevitable.
    Major Parry once ended up in hospital, it’s recalled, after a similar fall from grace. “They’d do all sorts, often overturning their dinghies into the Swale, the fastest flowing river in England,” says Keith.
    “I don’t know how they survived.
    They reckoned that Major Parry was a bit mad. Probably it helped to be.”
    Barbara Buckingham recalls that her family adopted the Reccies’ cat, called Minniehaha, when the Battle School finally closed. Family cats have carried the name ever since.
    “They just never seemed to be still,” says Keith Jackson, “always jumping about, always doing things at the double. They really were the front line. They had to learn how to bash through anything.”
    The officers were billeted at Cambridge House, up on the Arkengarthdale Road – “a bit exotic,” says James Kendall – the NCOs at Hill House. The local kids did pretty well out of it.
    “We’d always be stopping by the sergeants’ mess, getting a bottle of pop or a lump of slab cake,” says James. “No one in Reeth went hungry when the Reccies were there, but I wonder the poor troops got any food at all.”
    They’d have film shows under canvas at Woodyard Farm, concerts in the Conservative Club which had become Home Guard headquarters and is now the Memorial Hall.
    Keith’s father was in the Home Guard – “I still remember his rifle in the corner of the house”. He himself became a corporal in the school cadet unit. “It wasn’t that I was military, just in the spirit of the thing.
    I’d go marching with the Reccies in Richmond, sometimes be a bit cheeky and wear my uniform to get into their shows.”
    Barbara Buckingham remembers the shows, too, recalls Reeth’s “indignation”
    when some became a bit too risque for the family audience they’d invited.
    She also remembers the minor damage inevitably caused to civilian property during military operations – “informal, amicable compensation arrangements were made, usually involving a bottle of whisky.”
    The Battle School disbanded soon after the war finished. Sixty-five years later, some still keep in touch.
    Some married local girls. “Top of my head I can think of at least three,”
    says James Kendall.
    Reeth, lovely Reeth, returned to blessed normality. The home fires burn still, the serenity disturbed only by the dray lorry, assuaging thirst at the Buck.

    Reccies’ crew (From The Northern Echo)

    Tom.
     
  16. MyOldDad

    MyOldDad Senior Member

    Also from The Northern Echo:

    RECCIES’ commander John Parry, born in Ireland in March 1921, died while fishing for salmon on the River Spey 81 years later. He appears to have been quite a lad.
    “A character? Oh most definitely,” says James Kendall.
    Called up in 1939 with the rank of second lieutenant, he’d become a major when posted to Reeth Battle School in 1943.
    Parry also knew of a pack of foot beagles in Sheerness, Kent, that urgently needed a new home. He approached his commanding officer at Catterick – Col Billy Whitbread, he of the brewing family – and gained permission to bring the hounds.
    His Daily Telegraph obituary, May 12, 2002, records that the only way he could move them was by public transport. Parry packed the pack into a London taxi to Kings Cross and bought 16 “dog”
    singles to Darlington. The hounds lived behind Cambridge House, in Reeth.“I expect he went out for a few foxes with them. You certainly knew they were there,” says Keith Jackson.
    Parry’s Reeth duties, says the Telegraph, were performed with great vigour. “His organisational skills and flair for using a combination of high explosive and live ammunition, provided vital training for young soldiers preparing to face the dangers of battle ahead.”
    War over, Parry got a job with Whitbread’s, achieved senior status before taking a post with Conservative Central Office. He was awarded the CBE.
    He remained a country sports enthusiast. On one occasion – it’s said – he was in an apparently empty farmyard when he heard a noise from behind an unusually high stable door and, on further exploration, came face to face with a large and not especially friendly lion.
    The man who lived by the maxim that none was in front but the enemy beat a hasty and doubtless prudent retreat.


    Reccies’ crew (From The Northern Echo)

    Tom.
     
  17. MyOldDad

    MyOldDad Senior Member

    From The Daily Telegraph (17. 05. 2002):

    Major John Parry, who has died while fishing in Scotland aged 81, combined a successful career in the brewing industry with a lifelong passion for field sports and the countryside.

    John Matthew Croose Parry, the eldest of three sons, was born on March 20 1921 near Queenstown, Co Cork, where his father, a chemist, was working for the Irish brewers Beamish. Parry developed a passion for salmon fishing at an early age, accompanying his father to fish the River Lee.
    His first school was Castle Park, outside Dublin, but his mother moved her three sons back to England on the death of her husband when John was 10. He was sent to Marlborough, where his education was punctuated by frequent illicit excursions to fish the nearby River Kennet.
    In 1939, aged 18, he went to work at the Stock Exchange; but, with war looming, he also joined the 1st/5th Queen's Royal Regiment in the Territorial Army. His brief career in the City ended on September 3 1939 when he was called up with the rank of second lieutenant. After training, his regiment was sent to France in May 1940; but Parry, to his disgust, was left behind. He was considered too young, and he was also asthmatic - an affliction from which he suffered throughout his life, and which ruled him out of active service overseas.
    Undeterred, Parry joined the Reconnaissance Corps, at that time based near Lockerbie, and threw himself into teaching battle skills and providing realistic combat experience. He became Adjutant of the Training Centre in 1942. Meanwhile, field sports were never far from his mind. In early 1941 he caught his largest salmon, 30 lbs, fishing the Annan with a trout rod; and in the winter of 1942-43 he hunted Captain Dudley Smith's private pack of beagles, which were kennelled nearby. In 1943 the Training Centre moved to Catterick in Yorkshire. Parry, by now a major, approached his commanding officer, Colonel W H Whitbread, for permission to take on the Trinity Foot Beagle pack, which was hundreds of miles away at Sheerness, Kent, and badly in need of a home.
    Billy Whitbread agreed, and Parry travelled south to collect the hounds. His only means of moving them was by public transport; so he loaded the entire pack into a taxi to get them to St Pancras station, where he bought 16 "dog tickets" for the train to Yorkshire.
    The serious business of war was not forgotten, and Parry was next sent to command the Reith Battle School, near Durham, a duty he performed with great vigour. His organisational skills and flair for using a combination of high explosive and live ammunition provided vital training for young soldiers preparing to face the dangers of battles ahead.
    After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Parry was invited by Billy Whitbread to join his company, Whitbread & Co, in East Anglia. On completing his training as a maltster, Parry was appointed manager of the company's maltings in Norfolk and Kent.
    In 1955 he moved to Suffolk to join Ipswich Malting Company as sales director. This company was eventually taken over by Associated British Maltsters, and in 1964 Parry moved to Lincolnshire, working from the headquarters at Newark as Group Sales Director.
    Within two years he was appointed managing director and chief executive of Associated British Maltsters, which was by then the largest company of its kind in Europe, with maltings throughout the United Kingdom as well as in Ireland, Germany and Australia. In 1973 the company was taken over by Dalgety; Parry joined Dalgety's main board, remaining a director until his retirement in December 1990.
    On his move to Lincolnshire, Parry began a long association with the Belvoir Hunt. He was tall and lean and was considered a particularly fine and fearless horseman across country. His horsemanship was sometimes tested in unorthodox ways. On one occasion, when he was riding out on a young horse, Parry took the opportunity to call at his butcher to collect the Sunday joint. His mount took fright at the sight of raw meat and horse, joint, butcher and Parry flew off in four separate directions.
    He was Treasurer of the Hunt for 16 years, Field Master for two years in the mid-1970s, and Master from 1987 to 1989. Once he went to visit a smallholder to enquire about the Hunt crossing the man's land. There appeared to be no one about in the farmyard, and Parry, hearing a noise coming from a stable with an unusually high door, went to investigate. His curiosity was matched by the stable's occupant for, when Parry reached up to peer over the door, his hands closed on a pair of large paws; he found himself staring into the yellow eyes of a full-grown, black-maned lion. Parry beat a hasty retreat.
    In 1976 he joined Conservative Central Office, and for 18 years was fund raiser for the Eastern Counties and later the East Midlands. For this work he was appointed CBE in 1994.
    From 1984 to 1990 he managed the fishings on the River Lochy near Fort William, and served on the Committee of the Association of Scottish District Salmon Fishery Boards. He himself fished salmon and trout with great skill.
    Meanwhile, on his small estate near Grantham in Lincolnshire he ran a successful flock of sheep and kept several hives of bees.
    He was an excellent shot. During the summer months he lovingly nurtured a small number of pheasants; during the winter, with equal affection, he plotted their demise. He trained his own Labradors and ran them at game fairs.
    In his youth Parry painted exquisite watercolours of wildlife, and all his life he remained a keen botanist and naturalist. The exact date of his death is uncertain, but it is believed that he was actually playing a salmon on the River Spey when he suffered a fatal heart attack; his body was not found for some time.
    He is survived by his wife Jean, whom he married in 1947, and by his daughter. A son predeceased him in 1991.


    Major John Parry - Telegraph

    I suspect he is the major seated 6th from the right, front row, in the original photo in the first post.

    Tom.
     
  18. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    MyOldDad
    Many thanks for the follow up!
    I went through in May with the wife we stopped and had look round very plesant in the afternoon sun and enlivened by a Chinhook over Bellerby Moors training area.
    Major Parry what a charcter they don't come like that anymore.
     
  19. jawan

    jawan Old Hand

    Brilliant, many thanks. And what a shame not all these photos were named!!!
     
  20. Recce_Mitch

    Recce_Mitch Very Senior Member

    Great follow up, many thanks

    Cheers
    Paul
     

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