873 Movement Light Squadron, R.E.

Horn Lane, Acton, 1961 - 1993


Annual Camps and Movement Light Exercises

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Annual Camp, 1963?, Stirling, Scotland

Photo courtesy of Terry Brown in 2022
Terry says this was when 873 was based in Twickenham.
The searchlight unit at Twickenham was originally RA, rebadging in 1960 to RE. The squadron moved to Acton in 1967.
I guessed the year as 1963 simply because that year the sapper unit I was then in (222 Fd Sqn, TA) camped in Stirling

Many of the personel here are also on the 1967 one below which has names of many shown.  

Annual Camp, 1967, Fingeringhoe (nr Colchester)

Photo courtesy of Bob Richardson (ex-873, 1969-70 and 1973-75); Names provided by Bob Richardson, Ed Woodroffe, Peter Cox & others.
Numbers are above or left of heads (an improved numbered version will be posted shortly). Click photo for a good un-numbered version.
57 in all. 6 offs, 13 SNCOs (incl PSI), 38 ORs incl 4 cooks but no Janicki. Note: 3 WOs in front row. Also note 2 unmounted lights.
Steve West (no 6 above) says this was at Fingeringhoe; previously this was listed as being at Thetford.
1   2   3   4 Dave ? 5  
6 Steve West 7   8   9   10  
11   12   13 Brian Hewitt 14   15 Nobby Clark
16 Ted Allen 17   18   19   20  
21 Bob 22   23   24 S/Sgt 25 (cook)
26 (cook) 27 28 L/Cpl Peter Cox 29 Mick Byrne 30 Spr Dennis Barr
31   32 Arthur Hicks 33   34   35  
36   37   38   39 (cook) 40 (cook)
41 S/Sgt Norman Miles 42 Sgt Jim Hetherington 43 REME Sgt 44 S/Sgt 45 Sgt
46 S/Sgt Jack Woodroffe 47 WO2 48 Lt Proud 49 Lt Elkington 50 Capt RJ Cooper
51 OC, Maj R Anderson 52 Lt  Mitchell 53 Lt  Kennedy 54 WO2 55 SSM, WO2 Les Harris
56   57 Chief Clerk            

Bedford RL in Thetford town
with St. Peter's Church behind

group around rear of RL with SL
Group at rear of RL with light
on RL: Peter Cox & Nobby Clarke
on ground:WO2 ?; -?-; Jan Janicki?; & Arthur Hicks on right
Note sewer? pipes & crane-jib

S/Sgt Miles ? in No. 2s striding away from demounted 90cm.
Note Fordson & RL with full tilt

SL on scaffold tower at tattoo
Year and location unknown
Photos: Jack Woodroffe's coll'n
courtesy Ed Woodroffe.

The photos here were taken by S/Sgt Jack Woodroffe (later WO2/SSM) and kindly provided by Jack's son Ed. Both thought about 1967.

1967 was the first camp with 873 for the webmaster (Peter Cox) and for Steve West. Peter thought it was held at a hutted camp on Thetford PTA(West Tofts or East Wretham); Steve is certain it was at a tented camp at Fingeringhoe (Ranges). Steve recalls a weekend at Thetford in 1967 doing battlefield illumination.

The town centre photo on left has been verified as Thetford as the street-scene is almost identical today.

Does anyone else remember where the squadron was based or where these photos were taken?

Here the squadron is parked in what appears to be three troops, each with a Land-Rover and two Bedford RLs with mounted 90cms and towing a Lister generator on trailer. The heathland and dense pine forrest landscape is typical of parts of Stanford PTA. The walking figure appears to be number 44 in squadron photo above.

The tattoo is a mystery, don't know whether it was during this camp or not.
(Later note: Steve West thinks maybe Colchester, during Camp at Fingeringhoe.)

Land Rover 18 ER 93
Possibly used during a driving competition?

Note: "TLA" on rad grill.
Anyone know what that signifies?

Capt Cooper presenting cup to L/Cpl Cox
Capt. Cooper presenting cup to Peter Cox in 1967 -
but where and for what?
(possibly for being first in line at
the cookhouse for every meal? Or winning a driving competition?)

Photos courtesy Ed Woodroffe
from his father Jack's coll'n.

launching an improvised rft
It wasn't just Searchlights for 873  here launching an improvised raft
from left: 2nd, Ted Allen ?; 5th Mick Byrne ?; 6th Nobby Clarke ?;
 extreme right is SSM Les Harris

paddling improvised raft
and here paddlng it away
(from a concrete ramp)

Photos courtesy Ed Woodroffe
from his father Jack's coll'n.

Weekend ? watermanship training, 1967 ?

These photos were originally thought to have been taken during 1967 annual camp at Theford, but although they are certainly 1967 or 1968, the location is uncertain.
The photos show:
  • quite a wide river
  • paddling difficult in fast flowing rivers, rules out most RE bridge camps
  • far bank
    • raised - rules out Wissey at Stanford, could be Cam at Waterbeach
    • grass & trees - rules out Fleet at Wyke, but could be Cam
  • concrete launching ramp - probably rules out anywhere at Stanford
  • slipway inlet for bridge - as previous.
  • assault boats visible in paddling photo.
  • pontoon photo shows a hill in the far distance - could be Wandlebury near Cambridge, which could be seen from Waterbeach.
  • The Cam is frequently used by pleasure craft and rowing boats, so closing that river with a pontoon bridge (LAFB) would not be posible during daylight hours. A pontoon raft (LAR) may be OK.
  • two of the launch party look like Sprs Allen, Byrne & Clarke who were in 873 only in 1967 & 68.
  • SSM Les Harris retired in 1969

The webmaster remembers using assault boats on the Cam, possibly at a weekend, but not when or with which of the three RE units he was in. He remembers that two were joined at the stern to make a long pontoon, and later being on board a single one fitted with a large outboard motor that was taken through locks and into Cambridge, probably contrary to instructions, and creating quite a bow wave. Well, it's difficult to resist the temptation of a powerful motor!

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LAFB pontoon and bridge
Launching a pontoon, part of a 'LAR' (Light Assault Raft) or 'LAFB' (Light Assault Floating Bridge)
The pontoon would be
joined to the others in foreground

Photos: Jack Woodroffe's coll'n
courtesy Ed Woodroffe.

Annual Camp, 1968, RAF St.Athan, near Cardiff

Photo provided by Peter Cox (ex-873, 1967-69); Names provided by Bob Richardson, Ed Woodroffe, Peter Cox & others.
Numbers: L-R, Rear 1-15, Middle 16-31; Front 32-47; (Numbers will be added to photo soon, as 1967).
47 all ranks: 6 offs, 10 SNCOs (incl PSI), 31 ORs
1 Dennis Barr 2 Ted Allen 3 Mick Byrne 4   5  
6 "Jan" Janicki 7   8 Dave 9   10  
11   12   13   14 "Sailor" White 15 Brian Hewitt
16 REME Sgt 17 Nobby (Maurice) Clarke 18 Mick? Hetherington 19   20 Arthur Hicks
21 REME Cpl? 22 Stephen Kearney 23 Tony Dennis 24   25  
26   27 Stephen West 28 Peter Cox 29 Mick Hewitt 30  
31 Sgt Jim Hetherington 32 ACC Sgt 33   34   35 S/Sgt Jack Woodroffe
36 PSI, WO2 F.E.W. Lockerbie-Hayden 37 Lt Proud 38 Lt Mitchell 39 OC, Maj Anderson
("Black Bob")
40 Capt RJ Cooper
41 Lt Kennedy 42 2/Lt Elkington 43 SSM, WO2 Les Harris 44 Sgt 45 S/Sgt
46   47 Sgt Norman Miles            

Annual Camp 1968, RAF St.Athan, near Cardiff

47 in all. TA: 6 officers, 9 (?) Senior NCOs, 31 (?) other ranks; Plus PSI (WO)
From left:
Front: (32-47) 4th, S/Sgt Jack Woodroffe (later SSM); 5th, the PSI, WO2 F.E.W. Lockerbie-Hayden; 6th, Lt Proud; 7th, Lt Mitchell; 8th, the OC, Major "Black Bob" Anderson (in grey socks), 9th, Capt Cooper (the full-time 'supernumary' TA officer who administered the sqn); 10th, Lt Kennedy;11th 2/Lt Elkington; 12th WO2 (SSM) Les Harris; extreme right, Sgt Norman Miles;
Middle: (16-31) 1st, the REME Sgt; 2nd, Nobby (Maurice) Clarke; 3rd, Mick? Hetherington; 5th, Arthur Hicks; 7th, Stephen Kearney; 8th, Tony Dennis; 12th, Stephen West; 13th, Peter Cox; 14th Mick ?; extreme right Sgt Jim Hetherington.
Rear: (1-15) 1st, Dennis Barr; 2nd, Ted Allen; 3rd Mick Byrne; 6th, "Jan" Janicki; 14th,"Sailor" White; extreme right, Brian ?
Photo & some names provided by Peter Cox (ex-873, Apr 1967-69). Many additional names by Bob Richardson (ex-873, 69-70 & 73-75) and Ed Woodroffe (son of Jack Woodroffe).

During this camp, 873 provided lights for the Cardiff Tattoo

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Annual Camp, 1969, Otterburn

Photo courtesy of Bob Richardson; Names provided by Bob Richardson, Ed Woodroffe, Peter Cox & others.
Click photo for better quality and un-numbered version.
50 all ranks: 5 offs, 10 SNCOs (incl PSI), 35 ORs. Odd that many here are wearing Battledress, but in No.2 uniform the previous year.
1   2   3 "Sailor" White 4   5  
6   7 Tony Dennis 8 Ian 9 Mick? Hetherington 10 Mick Hewitt (now cook)
11   12 John 13   14 Bob Richardson 15  
16   17 L/Cpl Bill? Alderman 18 Dave ? 19 L/Cpl Don Hunt 20  
21 "Jan" Janicki 22 "Coop" 23 ACC Sgt 24 S/Sgt 25  
26 L/Cpl Bob 27 L/Cpl 28 29 30 Brian  Hewitt
31   32 L/Cpl "Pat" Patterson 33 REME Cpl 34   35 Dennis Barr
36 Arthur Hicks 37 S/Sgt Jim Hetherington 38 Sgt 39 Chief Clerk, S/Sgt 40 S/Sgt
41 SSM WO2 Jack Woodroffe 42 Lt Proud 43 Capt Kennedy 44 Maj Mitchell 45 Capt Cooper (Admin Off)
46 Lt Elkington ("The Elk") 47 PSI, WO2 F.E.W. Lockerbie-Hayden 48 Sgt 49 Sgt 50 REME Sgt
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Annual Camp, 1972

62 in all. TA: 4 officers, 8 SNCOs, 49 other-ranks incl 3 cooks.
From left:
Back row: 2nd, 'Jan' Janicki; 7th Mick? Hetherington; 9th Bob ?;
2nd row from back:2nd, John ..?..; 5th, David Samuels; 11th, Dennis Barr;
3rd row from back: 11th, Joe Malone (with moustache)
4th row from back:1st, Mick Hewitt; 2nd, 'Pat' Patterson; 3rd, Chief Clerk (in glasses); 9th Brian Hewitt; extreme right, another REME Sgt.
Front:1st, Sgt Tony Dennis (now without beard); 3rd, REME Sgt; 5th, Capt Kennedy; 6th, Capt Cooper; 7th, the OC, Maj Mitchell; 9th, Capt/Lt (?) Robshaw; 10th, WO2 (SSM) Jack Woodroffe.

Photo courtesy of David Samuels (ex-873, 1971-76?) from his Flickr collection. Names by Bob Richardson (ex-873, 1969-70 and 1973-75)

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Annual Camp, 1974, Penhale

During this camp, 873 provided lights for the Wessex Tattoo

No camp photo available at present

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Treguth Inn, Newquay
Treguth Inn, Newquay
Photo: courtesy Ed Woodroffe
from his father Jack's coll'n.

Annual Camp, 1976, Penhale

45 in all. TA: 5 officers, 10 SNCOs, 30 others, plus 1 dog
From left:
Back row: 1st, L/Cpl Joe Malone (?); 6th, 'Jan' Janicki;
2nd from back: 2nd, David Samuels ?; 5th, Terry Curtiss ?; 
3rd from back: 4th, a cook; 5th, Dennis Barr; 12th, 'Pat' Patterson (cook), 14th, REME Sgt;
front:3rd, WO2 Jack Woodroffe; 4th, Capt Cooper (with his dog, Captain); 6th Maj Kennedy (OC); 9th, WO2 (with stick -SSM?) -??-;

Photo provided by David Samuels (ex-873, 1971-76?). Names by Bob Richardson (ex-873, 1969-70 and 1973-75). Canine details from Ed Woodroffe.

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Movement Light trials
Porton Down
Salisbury Plain
Germany 1979

Battlefield Lighting ("Movement Light") excercises & trials

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Germany 1979
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

Annual Camp, Germany 1979

Larry Hayward recalls that the Squadron crossed on the ferry, then drove to Osnabrook RE Barracks to get ready [for the exercise].
Germany 1979
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Germany 1979
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Germany 1979
View from the Chinook
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Later, one troop of 873 was flown in to the field during the exercise by US Army Chinooks.
Germany 1979
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
The Land Rover tilt had to be removed and the kit strapped down.
Germany 1979
Capt. Proud directing in the Chinnook
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
  The other half of 873 with the two remaining RLs went in by road - sadly for Larry, including him.
Germany 1979
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

  Finally, the Squadron was deployed in the field. Or rather forrest. Germany 1979
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Here, Capt. Proud (wearing glasses) is holding an O-group.

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Crusader Badge
(Photo: Peter Cox)

Annual Camp, 1980 - Exercise Crusader, Germany

Exercise Crusader 1980 was at the time the largest exercise ever held in NATO. It took two years to plan and lasted a month (but 873 only did two weeks) with a series of minor exercises (Spearpoint, Jog Trot and Reforger) involving UK, US, Belgian, Dutch and German forces.

It was designed to test the UK forces capability to mobilise and reinforce BAOR over a compressed period. The main part of the exercise was the deployment of 20,000 Territorial Army and 10,000 regular troops to 1st British Corps. The aim was to have all units in position in Germany within 48 hours of leaving the UK by air or sea using both military and civilian resources.

The webmaster was then in 217 Fd Sqn (part of 73 Engr Regt, same as 873) and recalls the Regiment went by air (but without vehicles, and without 873), crammed together sitting on the floor of a Hercules, from Brize Norton to Gutersloh. Then by truck to a transport depot where they were issued with a mixture of left and right hand drive trucks, mostly elderly, which had been "mothballed" for years. Some were not in very good condition, and the webmaster remembers vividly the Bedford RL he was given had one rear brake virtually seized up. The steering wheels had to be turned at an angle to make it go straight, and the side-ways motion meant it needed an extra foot or so width of roadway. Full revs in third gear was needed to keep up with the convoy, and the driver behind had to suffer the smell of burning rubber. Then off somewhere else, and then another place, for other equipment. A lasting memory is that 'Chicken & Chips' was served en-route wherever we stopped, and very good it was too. That changed of course when the exercise proper started, during which normal field-cooking fare was served and the drivers were constantly having to change between left and right hand drives, an added difficulty on top of lack of sleep.

But back to 873. Larry Hayward remembers a very different journey. The Squadron drove from Acton on the evening of Friday, 12th September, first to Colchester Barracks, then to Harwich Docks, where they sailed with their vehicles aboard a landing ship to Zeebrugge, then drove to Germany, to the RE Tented Camp at Hameln (Hamelin). Much more from Larry on 873's journey, adventures and mis-adventures, to be posted later.

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British Army newspaper
a British Forces newspaper
24th Sept 1980, price 10pg
(Photo: Peter Cox)

Annual Camp  Germany 1981

Larry Hayward remembers this started at Hamelin RE Tented Camp (the same as the year before for Operation Crusader 80) before moving out in to the surrounding countryside on the River Wesser.

(more on this later)
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Annual Camp, Germany, 1982

Germany 1982
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Webmaster: note the "NBC suit", commonly referred to as "noddy-suit", for use in Nuclear, Biological or Chemical warfare, but here worn without rubber overboots and gas mask. Also "cam-net", camouflage netting behind the Land Rover.

Germany 1983
Assembled in the yard at Acton prior to departure
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

Germany 1983
At Hameln.
note unit badge on door of LR
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

Exercise in Germany 1983

Annual camp in 1983 was at Wyke Regis Bridging Camp near Weymouth, but later that year a troop with seven Land-Rovers, an RL 4-tonner and four "modified" Xenon lights went to Germany for a mini-exercise. (Modified meaning the original US chassis re-worked to comply with UK and British Army requirements and regulations, especially mudguards and lights)
Germany 1983
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Above, three of the Xenons are being checked and teted at the RE barracks in Hameln, the fourth is still covered in travel mode.
Germany 1983
At Hameln.
Checking Xenon control box
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

The troop was then deployed, first setting up camp in a farmyard.
Germany 1983
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Germany 1983
Back of Bedford RL and Cookhouse
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Germany 1983
German Jaguar tank-destroyer with HOT anti-tank guided wapons
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

Germany 1983
German M113 ambulance
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Then into the field
Germany 1983
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Later, some time was spent with the German 2nd Panzer Brigade near Oldendorf on the River Wesser. Here is Land-Rover 64 GF 26.
One light was despatched to illumnate an area where a Chieftan tank was bogged in above its tracks and needed to be recovered during the night.

Larry remembers seeing some of the German army lads on National Service wearing berets with long-hair, some with hair nets, which caused some amusement.
Germany 1983
873 Land-Rover following a German Leopard tank
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

And at last, into action, giving ground illumination for movement of stores some miles away,
Germany 1983
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward

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Germany 1983
Xenon 00 TE 05 in action in 1983
Photo courtesy of Larry Hayward
Gibraltar 1991

Gibraltar 1991

Tattoo in Gibraltar, 1991

Tony Storey e-mailed in Feb 2014 with this message and 4 photos.
"I wonder if any of the guys remember the deployment/camp to Gibraltar back in 1991? At the time, I was in the REME attached to RHQ and myself (CPL Storey) and Cpl Bob Dalziel joined 873 for a 2 week camp in Gib where the lights were being used to illuminate a military tattoo as the resident battalion (the Green Jackets) were leaving. The tattoo featured many acts as well as the Army Motorcycle display team and there were RM Commandos abseiling down the rock. We were stationed at the fortress so could look out over the Mediterranean as HM forces were building up for the 1st Gulf War (as I recall). Attached are a couple of scans of photos that I have. Hope it brings back memories to some."
This was 22 years after I left 873, so come on you younger guys, who else remembers this? It certainly sounds better than movement-light exercises  with WW2 carbon-arc lights on freezing cold nights on Salisbury Plain that us oldun's "enjoyed".
Gibraltar 1991

Gibraltar 1991
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back to top of page page created Jan 2011 last edited/amended 10 January 2023 please e-mail me