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Recollections

by Ex-Sergeant-Major Edward Young, 61st Regt.
(Back Badge 1951)

Colonel Lynden-Bell was the CO at Horfield Barracks when, at the age of 20 years, I left my native home at Bleadon in Somerset to enlist into the Gloucestershire Regiment in the year 1880. Two years later, with my lance-corporal chevron, I formed one of a draft of a hundred to join the 61st at Quetta, Afghanistan. The journey out in the old Crocodile took some seven weeks, and it may be mentioned that this vessel could never have been classed as a luxury liner. We eventually reached Bombay, where a brief respite of 2 days gave us back the use of "land legs", only to be soon lost again in a 3 day trip up the Arabian Sea to Karachi. After 2 days here we entrained, the followed a 5 day ride over the Sind Desert to Rinby, at the mouth of the Bolan Pass. No railway existed in those days to take us to Quetta, so we had a 6 day march with pack mules - no wheeled transport, a continual fording then refording of the "Snaky" river, and, to crown all, the last days through a blinding snowstorm. About 2 miles from the camp, we were met by the Regimental Band, which played us into camp.

The OC was Colonel Heywood. For 3 weeks, owing to deep snow and generally arctic conditions, we were confined to quarters (chiefly mud huts), our time being spent in lectures, etc. After 12 months in Quetta, the Regiment returned to Karachi, where I was summoned to the Orderly Room and asked if I would take a course of gymnastics and fencing as an instructor at Poona, to which I readily agreed. Three days later I left the Regiment for Bombay, then 1 days train journey to Poona. This was a wonderful journey through the jungle; wild animals, tigers, cheetahs, etc. were to be seen very much in their natural surroundings.

In 1884, after a 6 month course, I passed out as 1st Class Instructor in Gymnastics and Fencing, and was retained as such at the school. During the course, the Battalion moved from Karachi to Ahmednaggar, this in the year of Her Majesty's Jubilee, 1887. On my return to the Regiment I was made a full sergeant and appointed Assistant Gymnastic Instructor, moving to Bombay in 1888. Here I was appointed Regimental Instructor and made i/c Gymnasium at Colaba. I was fortunate also in Bombay, since it was here that I met my finacee.

In 1891 the Regiment moved once again to Nusserabad, where I was married, and my first little "barrack rat", a son, arrived. After 2 years the next move was to Aden, in 1893, where my wife was invalided back to England, preceding me by about 12 months, when the Regiment returned to Raglan Barracks, Devonport, where my second child, a daughter, was born. After a few months I was transferred from the Regiment to the Depot at Horfield, where I continued as gym instructor to the 3rd Battalion (the Militia), and received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1898. Here, at Horfield, my second daughter and second son were born.

Then came the Boer War, during which I was on Salisbury Plain, training and supplying darfts to the Regiment abroad. The 3rd Bn moved to Raglan Barracks, Devonport, but I was then i/c Garrison Gymnasium. I returned to the Depot in 1902, where I was discharged as a sergeant pensioner, settling in Horfield. I continued my gymnastic career in civilian life as an instructor to several schools, day and evening classes, fencing pupils, etc. This continued up to the First World War, during which period the only civilian member of my family was born, a daughter.

I again volunteered my services and, at 55 years of age, I was taken on the Army Gymnastic Staff as Company Sergeant-Major Instructor. During this period I was attached to the 12 Battalion, Bristol's Own.

After 3 years and some months service, I was appointed Physical Training Instructor at Downside School, near Bath, and thus completed an overall gymnastic career of over 40 years. I retired from the more active side of instructor to lighter work in the school, and during this period, before finally retiring from work, King Edward VIII granted me the Meritorious Service Medal, which was presented to me at Downside School by the then Major R.M. Grazebrook, OBE, MC.

During my latter years at Downside I lost my wife (1927). I can look back to the past very full life with many happy memories of old friend in the "Old Braggs." My 2 sons both served in the Gloucesters. The elder with the 6th Battalion (1835 Sergt., Signal Section), seeing service in France, Belgium, and Italy, winning the Military Medal and getting a mention in despatches. The second (5021, 2/6th) after a return to England, having seen active service in France under-age, being reposted to 1st Bn in France as full corporal, later being transferred to the Russian Relief Force at Archangel.