Page 261 - The Rifles Bugle Autumn 2019
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KEAY Major Robert Jones (Bob) Keay died at the Trefula Nursing Home, Redruth on 2nd September 2018 at the age of eighty. Commissioned as a National Service Second Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers. Bob transferred, first to a short service and later to a regular commission in the Parachute Regiment, with which he served for sixteen years. On retirement he worked as a property developer in the Falmouth area, but missing the military comraderie he joined the Territorial Army.
MINORS We were all saddened to hear of the death of our late regimental padre, the Reverend Canon Graham Minors, on 17th January at the age of 72. He had become such a familiar sight to us here in Bodmin, over the course of many years, that we had come to regard him as an inseperable part of our lives. We will especially miss him and Elizabeth who, inspite of both suffering from failing health never once missed a Bodmin Branch dinner. Not only did they attend, but Graham delighted the company with his unending fund of highly dubious stories with which he embellished his after dinner speeches.
Graham showed, by his irrespressable wit, humour and kindness, how a devout and dedicated Christian need not wear a constant air of solemnity. We in the DCLI are exceptionally lucky to have had him as a friend.
NEILL John Desmond Howard Neill, MBE died on 27th May 2017 at the age of ninety three after a remarkable career in the Far East, much of it carrying out high level intelligence work in Malaya during the Emergency.
Born in Fiji on 12th June 1923, his father was a colonial adminis- trator who, in a subsequent posting accompanied HM The Queen of |Tonga to her memorable visit to London for the Coronation. Educated at Cheltenham College, he enlisted in 1941 and was commissioned into the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, almost immediately being transferred to the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. At that time the British Army was in serious need of Chinese speakers, and, on the strength of his upbringing in the Far East he was picked for language training inspite of his insistence that he had no musical ear for tone (an essential in speaking the Chinese dialects).
He was despatched to Amoy (now Xiamen) to learn Hokkien. An idyllic two years in a still rural China was followed by a posting to Malaya – a splendid Colonial Office fiasco worthy of Evelyn Waugh, for the Malay Chinese speak Cantonese, a language totally different to Hokkien. However, with the help of his Chinese driver he picked up Cantonese, and for the next few years was involved in high level negotiations with senior members of the Chinese led Communist terrorist organisation, the self styled Malay Races Liberation Army. These activities made him a prime target and he narrowly escaped death in two ambushes. In 1956 he was awarded the MBE – a seemingly inadequate award for years of important and dangerous work.
On retirement in 1957 he was offered a job with Fraser & Neave, rapidly rising to the top as Chief Executive of the company’s Asian business, expanding it from food and drink into the property market. He also served as President of the Singapore National Employers’ Federation, for which he was honoured with the Pingat Bakti Masyarakat Award.
Neill retained an old-world colonial charm. His faithful Chinese servants were traditionally dressed in black and white, some with long pigtails down their backs. He never married but was the most generous of men, opening his house to a destitute Russian émigré who was living on the street and paying the hospital bills and funeral expenses of his former Chinese housekeeper. Truly courteous, he invariably addressed people of every class in their native language; he would arrive at Raffles Hotel for lunch, dismiss his driver in Malay, greet the doorman in Hindi, flirt with the girl in reception in Japanese, and converse with the maître in Hokkien.
Neill must have been one of the last survivors of a British colonial class the like of which we will never see again.
PETRIE Major Nigel Roy Mitton Petrie, MBE, died on 12th January 2019 at the age of eighty five. Awarded a National Service commission in the DCLI in August 1952, he later converted this to a regular commission, passing out of the RMA Sandhurst in July 1954. Initially posted to the 1st Battalion DCLI in the West Indies, he commanded 6 Platoon based at Up Park Camp, Jamaica.
On the Battalion’s return to the Rhine Army in 1957, Petrie was posted to the Regimental Depôt in Bodmin as a Training Subaltern, one of the last to see National Service recruits pass through the barrack gate. Following this he was appointed to lead the newly formed Light Infantry Recruiting team – an important post, respon- sible for ensuirng that sufficient men enlisted as regular soldiers to maintain the various battalions at a viable strength in the post 1960 army. He somehow acquired a double decker bus which was fitted out as a recruiting office and exhibition. This deplorable vehicle was far from being in the first flush of youth when some local council had gladly sold it off to the MoD, and thereafter spent most of its time in REME workshops. Petrie’s ‘battle bus’ became somewhat of a regimental joke.
Saying farewell to his beloved bus in 1961, he was posted to the 1st Battalion KOYLI, then part of 28 (Commonwealth) Brigade stationed at Terendak Camp, a few miles north of Malacca on the west coast of Malaysia. At the end of this tour he returned to the UK by car with Kit Chambers (KSLI) – a fascinating journey through northern India, the Kyber Pass, Kabul and Ankarar – something that could never be done in today’s political climate.
Before his retirement in October 1983, Petrie carried out two staff appointments: the first with the RAF as the GSO (2) OF 263 Ground Liason Section in Rhine Army, for which he received the MBE; and finally, DAAG (Coord) HQ 2 British Corps.
We extend our sincere condolences to his widow, Jetta.
RICHARDS Gordon Gerald (Jerry)
Richards died on 13th September
2018 at the age of eighty two. Born
at Tregerras near Penzance on 26th
December 1935 to Gordon and Ellie
Richards, he experienced a strict
Methodist upbringing, attending
Chapel on Wednesday evenings and
three times every Sunday. He was
called up for his National Service
with the DCLI in 1954, sigining up for
three years. The 1st Battalion was at
that time carrying out garrison duties
at various company stations in the
West Indies; Jerry was posted to the
Regimental Police at Battalion Headquarters at Up Park Camp, Jamaica, where he was to spend a very happy two and a half years, rising to the rank of Corporal.
Returning to Bodmin for demob in late 1957 he met Zoe Vine, marrying her on a freezing cold day the following March, with snow lying on the ground. Jerry had planned to start work on a farm near Penzance, but, after his marriage, the two of them moved to Bodmin to be closer to Zoe’s family, setting up house on Beacon Hill where on the 10th April 1959 their daughter, Helen was born. Over the years he became involved in many community activities: a Freemason, and an active member of the Royal British Legion, the Lions Club and the Loveny Male Voice Choir. He also joined the Cornwall Army Cadet Force as an instructor, giving loyal service for many years.
Meanwhile he had been working for SPD Frozen Foods in Bodmin as a delivery driver. When he was made redundant by the firm, he found further employment with the MoD as the Army Cadet Admin- istrator at Liskeard. On final retirement from military activities, he joined the Bodmin Funeral Service, just a hundred yards from the Keep where he had started his career, there his natural ability to put peple at ease was of the greatest value.
They bought Tremance, the old Manse in Bodmin, which he and Zoe ran as a B & B for many years. Few men can have had the

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