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The Somerset & Cornwall Light Infantry

6 October 1959 - 10 July 1968


Osnabruck 1959/61

Plymouth Sept/61


Gibraltar/Tobruk 1961/63


Berlin 1963/65


Gravesend 1965/68


Aden 1966

SCLI Obituaries

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Rest in Peace

The Commanding Officers of 1 SCLI

Lieut Col. Colin Derek Cokayne Frith OBE- died 30th April 2008 – (5th CO of 1 SCLI.)

Colin Frith was born in Plymouth on 18th July 1926. He spent much of his early life in the care of his grandparents at Uphill Manor, near Weston-super-mare, while his father (accompanied by his mother) was serving with the Regiment in India. He was sent to Marlborough and, on leaving school, chose to follow a military career in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He carried out his Officer Training in Bangalore, India, and was commissioned into the Somerset Light Infantry. He joined the 1st Battalion in Shargahr. On returning to England, Colin went on a number of Young Officer Courses, he did well on them all. In fact, he was reputed never to have been given less than an ‘A’ grading! 

In 1950 he was posted as an instructor at the School of Infantry Small Arms Division at Hythe in Kent. He was a sniper instructor.In January 1954, Colin was posted overseas to Malaya where the Regiment was deployed on counter-insurgency operations in the jungle. Initially, he was the Signals Officer and then, later, the Adjutant. 
He was mentioned in Despatches in 1955.In 1956, it was back to Shrewsbury as GSO3 (Trg) with HQ 53 Infantry 
Brigade, followed a year later by attendance at the Staff College in Camberley. Following this staff training, he was promoted to Temporary Major and appointed to one of the top jobs for his rank – Brigade Major with HQ 39 Infantry Brigade in Northern Ireland.

Colin was, undoubtedly, a very professional soldier, but he was also a keen sportsman. He was competent wicket-keeper and batsman and was a life-long member of the Somerset Stragglers. He represented the Regiment in the Barrett Match which was played every year on the County Cricket Ground in Taunton. He was also a useful rugby player. Whilst he was stationed in Kent, he played for Ashford Rugby Football Club. He was also proficient in both the squash and badminton courts, as well as being a keen and competent equestrian.

In 1961, he was posted as a Company Commander to the newly amalgamated Regiment – the 1st Battalion, the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry in Osnabruck, Germany. After serving a few months in Plymouth, he served with the battalion in both Gibraltar and took his company to Tobruk, Libya for a few months. In May 1962, Colin was posted as a student to the Joint Service Staff College at Latimer. This was followed by his appointment to the important post of GSO2 in the Military Operations Branch of the Ministry of Defence. After nearly two years, he was posted to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst where he was a College Chief Instructor.

In January 1967, he assumed command of the 1st Battalion, the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry. The Battalion was the British infantry element of the Allied Mobile Forces (Land) which had the particular responsibility for guarding and operating on the flanks of NATO. The Battalion was based in Gravesend, but spent much of its time carrying out winter warfare training in Canada and in Norway often north of the Artic Circle, either in Company Groups or as a Battalion group. As CO at this time, he became closely involved in the arrangements for the amalgamation of the Light Infantry regiments across the country to create new large regiment – the Light Infantry in July 1968. The Battalion held the Vesting Day Parade at Gravesend, when all the ranks formally changed their cap badges and marched past the inspecting officer, Field Marshal Lord Harding. Colin’s father (Brigadier Sir Eric Frith) led the march-past of the Regimental Association.

A month later, the Battalion moved to Ballykinler in Northern Ireland where it was at the forefront of the build-up to the Troubles which broke out the following year, and which finally saw the Battalion deployed on the streets of Belfast. It was a difficult time and Colin led the Battalion with courage and skill.

He handed over command in December 1969 and was then posted to the Ministry of Defence as GSO1 in the Operational Requirements Branch. Although he was an extremely capable staff officer, the MOD was not really the sort of military employment that he wanted. He soldiered on for a couple of years and, in spite of being made Officer of the Order of the British Empire, the possibility of yet another tour of duty in the MOD was not something he wanted. He therefore decided that the time had come to leave the Army. He retired in 1972, bringing to an 
end a period of 97 continuous years in which a member of the Frith family had served in the Regiment.

So, at the comparatively young age of 46, Colin left the Army. He was almost immediately appointed to Bursar of Magdalen College School, near Oxford. In typical fashion, he threw himself into this new role and environment. He played a full and active part in the school, refereeing rugby matches, singing tenor in the choir and carrying out numerous other activities. Maybe some of the staff were a little surprised by his military briskness but they were all soon to realise the tremendous loyalty and devotion that Colin was bringing to the school. A senior member of staff says, “In my mind’s eye I still see Colin crossing the playground at a brisk Light Infantry pace en route to Choral Society or Communion Service or to inspect the latest building work. A wonderful colleague”.

These qualities which delighted the senior staff at Magdalen College School were those same qualities which he had shown during his military career. Colin retired as Bursar in 1986 after a period of 14 years. He now involved himself even more in his home village of Sibford in Oxfordshire where he and Tina had moved after he left the army. He was involved with the Parish Church Council, the Village Hall, the Bible Study Groups. He mowed the grass in the Churchyard. He sand in the village church choir. He became a licensed Server of Holy Communion to house-bound residents in the village. His Christian faith was, as it had always been, very strong. In addition, Colin found time to do the Daily Telegraph crossword virtually every day and to record audio books for the blind. He loved listening to ‘Test Match Special’ on the radio.

In 2000, the family moved to Rewe Farm at Thorne St Margaret, near Wellington, Somerset. He spent 8 very happy years at Rewe Farm, closer to some of his family. For some years, he had been suffering with increasing mobility problems. Towards the end of 2007, he moved to a Nursing Home in Wellington. He died on 30th April 2008. When the Uphill Castle Cricket Club at Weston super-Mare, of which Colin had been president for many years, played its matches on the weekend after his death, all the players wore black armbands.

Colin was devoted to his family and we would like to offer our sincere sympathy to Tina, to whom he had been married for 56 years, and to his daughters Sue and Anne, and to his son, Mark.

Lt.Col Ian Guy Mathews – died 25th May 2006 – (4th CO of 1 SCLI.)

After a long period of failing health at the age of eighty two. Born in Cologne on 19th March 1924, Guy was the son of Lieut.Col. Stanley Mathews MC. (Sam) who was serving with 2 DCLI in the British Army of Occupation of the Rhine. Educated at Wellington College, it was always his ambition to follow his father into the Regiment. He applied for a commission in 1942 but was turned down for being too young so enlisted as a private soldier in The Royal Scots, he was drafted out to India and obtained his commission with The 9th Gurkha Rifles. He saw action with Force 136 fighting the Japanese in Malaya. He transferred to the British Army in 1947 and was commissioned in the DCLI, going on to serve in Ceylon and West Indies with DCLI. Osnabruck as OC C Coy 1 SCLI and then USA. He rejoined the regiment of SCLI as second-in-command in Berlin and took over Command on 1st March 1965, from John Howard. Tours and exercises followed in Norway and Aden, it is to great credit of the Battalion’s high standard of leadership that 1 SCLI acquitted itself with such honour. Guy retired in 1967 to Herefordshire to run an antique business, he was twice married – first to Daphne Byass who died in 2005 and latterly to Sarah Chetwynd Stapylton. Sarah survives him as do the two daughters from each marriage. 

Lt.Col. William Roland Lawson MBE – died 7th September 2003 aged 89yrs. (1st CO 1 SCLI)

Educated at Repton and Cambridge commissioned in 1936 into the 2nd. Bn.Som LI in Colchester and on Public Duties in London. From 1937 – 1944 he was with the 1st. Bn. in India. He went with the Bn. to Burma as 2ic. and was acting CO.on two occasions, one was a period of three months. He attended Staff College in 1945 and between 1946 – 1948 he was Brigade Major to Brig.Cecil Firbank in 71st. Infantry Brigade in Germany and then as GSO2 in 53rd. Infantry Div. He returned to the 1st. Bn. as a Company Commander at Borden before being posted to Singapore as MA to the Chief of Staff HQ. FARELF in 1949. This was followed by 6 months as a student at the Joint Services College, Latimer and a 2-year tour as an Instructor and Company Commander at RMA Sandhurst from 1953 – 1955. A tour as a GSO1 in Military Intelligence at the War Office followed and in 1958 he took over command of the 1st. Bn. Som LI. in Warminster and on amalgamation with the 1st. Bn. DCLI in Osnabruck he became the 1st. CO. of the SCLI. 

Lt.Col. John Thurstan Collins Howard MC. – died 28th December 1998 aged 79yrs. (3rd CO SCLI)

Born in Cornwall in 1919 and educated at Eton & Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the DCLI. two months before the outbreak of WW2 and posted to the 2nd.Bn. He was however too young to join the Bn. and did not see active service until 1941 when he joined the Bn. in North Africa. After the battle for Tunis 2 DCLI received an order to send 9 Officers and 227 Ors. to 1 KSLI who were in 1st Br.Div. and preparing for the assault on Italy. He won an immediate Military Cross on the beach at Anzio. After fighting in Italy with 1 KSLI, where he was ‘mentioned in despatches’ he went to Staff College in Haifa and after a staff job and a posting to the Nigerian Regt. he re-joined 2 DCLI in Greece in 1945. In 1955 he was commanding the Depot in Bodmin and just prior to the amalgamation he was made 2ic.1st Bn Som LI. He helped to cement the good relations between the two regiments. In 1962 he was appointed Commanding Officer of 1 SCLI. in Gibraltar and later in Berlin. He left the army in 1967.

NB. It was Col Howard in company with John Barry-Tait who brought about the SCLI Reunion at its original location at the Apple Tree P H. West Pennard.

Brig. William Hine-Haycock FRPSL. DL. – died 14th September 1989 aged 71yrs. (2nd. CO SCLI)

Born at Kittery Court, Kingswear, educated at Canford and RMA Sandhurst, commissioned into DCLI. 13th Jan. 1939. Posted to 2nd.Bn. at Blackdown.

At the outbreak of WW2 appointed Intelligence Officer at Brigade HQ and went to France with 4th.Div. Saw action in the Saar before the retreat through Belgium and France and the evacuation of the BEF. from Dunkirk. Mentioned in Dispatches. After a few months in UK. in March 1941 sailed for Middle East with 70th.Div. Saw action in Palestine, Syria and the Western Desert. Early 1942 the Div.embarked for Singapore which was then under serious threat, whilst at sea Singapore fell, so the Div. was diverted to Bombay then to Arakan and Burma, during ensuing retreat again mentioned in Dispatches. At the end of 1942 seconded to Australian Army in New Guinea. After training served with 2/48th AIF and 24 CMF throughout 1943 on the coast of Papua.

On return to India attended Staff College at Quetta, after Parachute training appointed Brigade Major to 14 Air Landing Brigade, saw further action in Burma. Invalided home in 1945, later posted to Schlesweig Holstein as Military Secretary to Sir Evelyn Barker followed by various Staff and Regimental appointments in England, Germany, Greece and the Middle East. In 1959 promoted to Lt.Col and took command of 1 SCLI in Osnabruck and later Gibraltar. Promoted Col. in 1964, appointed Brigade Col.LI. 1967 Promoted to Brigadier and assumed last posting as Defence Attache, Madrid. Retired from the army in 1971.