In response to a suggestion that an article on the various phases of the Battalion's history might be published each month, Captain Pearson MC has volunteered to undertake this task.

He has decided to write seven articles under the following headings:

1. The first six months: Scotland.
2. Training and life in a Division in Norfolk and Kent.
3. Overseas: North Africa.
4. Fighting and life in Italy.
5. Rest period: Middle East.
6. Further adventures in Italy and Greece.
7. Austria.

The first of these articles appears below.

The First Six Months: Scotland

For a short period early on in the life of this Battalion I was not with them and so the first of this series of articles has been compiled from a number of sources. Therefore, although every effort has been made to ascertain the correct details, I offer my apologies for any errors which may occur.

It was during that eventful month of June 1940 when, without any fuss or fanfare, a Regimental Sergeant Major from the ITC at Brancepeth, the historical home of the Durhams, arrived at the Depot of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment to train NCOs who were to form the nucleus of this Battalion. It may seem strange that a North Country Regiment should go to the Midlands for their 'backbone' especially when the trainees were to come from the counties of Durham and Northumberland. But we must answer that with the old Army standby: that it was 'due to the exigencies of the service.' Nevertheless, this mixture was responsible later on for many an argument which at times resulted in a fight and I have no doubt that what I have just said will rekindle some of these old discussions once more.

Passing on from this opening phase, let us go to a camp somewhere in Scotland. Here the cadre of NCOs had set up shop in preparation for the influx of civilians who were to be the first men to form this now famous Battalion.

The great day dawned and the forces of nature combined to make it a memorable one for the unfortunate men who were to make their debut in the Army. The rain simply poured down and these embryo soldiers who had, no doubt, been picturing all the comforts of Army peace time billets and accommodation were dumbfounded when they saw what confronted them. I ask the Reader to cast his mind back and try to imagine the scene. Here was a crowd of men fresh from 'Civvy' Street and many of them clad in their best attire. They gazed woefully on the sight before them: canvas tents, pitched in a sea of mud. This was to be their new home. They gingerly picked their way through the mud, hitching their trousers up in an endeavour to keep them clean. Occasionally one would drop his parcel or case into the pools of water that surrounded the camp and one heard for the first time the expression, 'Just like the -------Army!'

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From Beds and Herts to DLI 190 envelope
Charles Bray and Mrs Bray 1940

Unlike most of the other Beds and Herts NCOs, Charles Bray was transferred to the 16th DLI from the 6th Battalion Beds and Herts rather than from Kempston Barracks. The envelope above (click on it for an enlargement) is graphic evidence that the move came as a surprise to his family! Charles Bray later became a platoon sergeant in D Company. He is pictured below with his mother while on leave back home in Buckingham in 1941, where his father ran the Woolpack public house. Courtesy Charles Bray.
Arthur Pearson MC 1944

Captain Arthur Pearson MC. A pre-war regular, Arthur Pearson came to the 16th DLI as the CSM (Company Sergeant Major) of C Company. The only rifle company CSM to survive the Battle of Sedjenane, he was commissioned in late 1943 and was awarded the MC for his actions as Carrier Platoon commander on 3/9/44. This image is enlarged from the 1944 Officers’ photograph. Click on the image for the full photo.