873 Movement Light Squadron, R.E.

Horn Lane, Acton, 1961 - 1993


News, Comments and Enquiries

By April 2015 I had a backlog of emails with news, photos and info going back 18 months which I'd not been able to give the attention deserved (despite a few promises). So I began a great "catch-up", working backwards, with hopes of completion within a couple of months. Most of these items were added at the top of the home page so returning visitors would see the changes.

By Oct 2018 I still hadn't finished and the Home page had become too long hence this new dedicated page.

September 2023 Updates are now very infrequent, and it's always a joy to receive an email with comments or photos which I can add, as I'm reminded again of so many wonderful experiences way back. Paul Elias has recalled a couple of unusual ones, see next section.

I'm now 81 and miss the adventures of my TA times. I've recently become single again and have taken the opportunity to take up a new hobby as a challenge and to bring back some excitement into my life. Learning to fly. Not sprouting wings, but training to pilot a microlight, an low-sided trike suspended below a flexible wing. Open to the weather and blown around by wind and turbulence at 2,500 ft, it certainly ticks both boxes!

I'd love to hear from other ex-members what you did out of uniform, and what hobbies you now have.

Once again my thanks to all contributors.

Peter (webmaster)

You may need to 'refresh' this page to see the latest version.

For current news of some ex 873-ers of the late 80s & 90s see their Facebook page

No pop-ups, no adverts.
No registration, no log-in.
No personal details taken.

peter cox with microlight in 2023
Peter Cox with microlight, 2023
(the instructor's, not mine!)
  22nd Sept 2023 email received:
"Hi, my name is Paul Elias and i was a member of 873 from 1979 til '83.
Was taken right back to those days reading Larry's memories (how he remembered all that i cant fathom)
However he was wrong on 1 count..
I was the prat that climbed out of a landrover at a service station ,having been fast asleep in the back and thinking it was a meal break ,not knowing it was just a piss stop, i went to the shop and came back to found an empty space where our vehicles had been , a friendly german drove me to the next exit as i had no idea where we meant to be going , about 20 mins later i flagged down another convoy which turned out to be the other troop and was given a roadside bollocking and climded in the back ,taken to the rv and suprised everyone there as nobody had realised i was missing.
I think this was also the year when, billeted at a german farm we blocked up the septic tank and some brightspark used the air hose from the bedford to clear it...the poor sod who was holding the hose staggered out of the bog completely covered in shit and the toilet was as well.
I was saddened to read of the deaths of Clive Wisbecki and Leo Walsh , both mainstays of the unit.
I still remember Capt. Coopers funeral with police waving us through traffic lights and junctions down to mortlake and the turnout for him .
Great times,shame my memories of names and dates isnt so good these days.
Look forward to hearing from you."
stephen wilson's xenon
as found in 2020
22nd Jan 2022. Enquiry for help re 30inch Xenon searchlight. Stephen Wilson emailed:
"Just found your wonderful website, I’m currently restoring a searchlight that is linked to the British army, was wanting to try and find out more history about it, have checked the merlin archive and can see it was listed as 873 squadron. The registration is 00TE10, got this from the markings I was able to uncover. Is this something you can help with?"
Unfortunatey I couldn't add to the info from Merlin Archive. Many photos of these lights have been provided by ex-ops, but the only two with reg plates visible are 00TE04 and 00TE05. Merlin did help me though because I found 10 of these lights (00TE03-12) were issued to 873, more than I thought.
Stephen later kindly sent these photos and further details:
"Ref powering it, the bulb and the parabolic dish were missing when I got mine unfortunately so I’m opting for some modern technology in the form of high power led lights"
Note: the photos show correcly on my PC, but when uploaded they are at 90˚ no matter what I've done to try to correct that
stephen wilson's xenon
restored in 2022
  12th Oct 2018. Enquiry about the Hall. Jane Fuller emailed:
"I have recently come across your website and I was wondering if you could help me with my research? I have been researching my family tree now for many years, and on finding your website I am wondering if Drill Hall you mention is the same Drill Hall I remember as a child.

My grandparents lived at Lynton Road and I remember (back in 70’s) walking down to the Drill Hall with my family. My Grandfather (Corporal in the Rifle Brigade in WW11 and in the Home Guard) played snooker with Tom Baker (Dr Who) there once or twice. The Hall I remember was on the corner of Horn Lane and Creswick Road. (I think it is a housing estate now?). From the pictures I have seen of Acton I do feel it’s the same Drill Hall.

Many thanks in advance"
The Hall now a housing estate? How Dreadful!
Yes its true. I didn't know this and have added the news together with a brief history of the hall and some 'before and after' photos and maps - see Drill Hall.
genny for francis xenon 1st April 2016. Enquiry for technical help re Generators. Bill Scriven emailed:
"A long shot perhaps, but do you know the make (and ideally model) of the generators used with the Bedford MK mounted Francis searchlights? I hope one of these days to make a model of an MK carrying both a searchlight and generator. The photo's on your website, and the specs for the searchlight that that are also there, will be my stating point, and I have a few pictures of the generator from elsewhere. But it would be helpful to know what the dimensions of the generator are rather than relying on guesswork. Any help that you could give would be most appreciated."
Photos supplied by Bill from website of ex-MoD auctioneers Witham Specialist Vehicles in 2007. See also Francis lights section below. If you can help, please let me know.
genny for francis xenon
John Ormston's LW L/R 14th February 2016. Another plea for help. John Ormston emailed
"Hello Peter. I was hoping that you or some of your members could help me. I own 23KB28, a Land Rover lightweight, which was in service with 873 Mov Lt. Sqn RE(V) from 7/11/84 to 20/08/92.
I am trying to find any pictures of her in service, or if anyone rememers her during these times. she was "Winterised" in her early days, and I would be interested to know if she was ever used in cold conditions In particular, there are 2 holes on the bonnet, which seem to have been for a plaque or perhaps sqn badge. does anyone remember what it was. Hope you can help Thanking you in advance."
I'm glad to report that Larry Hayward was able to supply a good deal of information about 873's Land-Rovers in general, but so far we have found nothing specifically about 23KB28.
John Ormston's LW L/R

26th Jan 2016 - Searchlights at  Premiere of new Dad's Army film.
Some readers may have seen reports of the film's Premiere at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London and may have noticed the searchights.

They were genuine 90cm carbon-arcs like the ones we used for many years in 873, but I believe modified to operate with a bulb at very much lower output than the carbo-arc gave.

I'm pleased to say this website played a tiny role in sourcing those lights:
"Hi Peter, Just thought I’d let you know I was successful in my searchlight hunt thanks to the information you provided! Your knowledge has immediately outdone hours of googling!. We used the guys from AckAck living history/The Garrison (who it turns out are very closely linked). We had two 90cm searchlights and they were just the job! Thanks again for your help. I’ve attached a couple pictures of the event for your interest
Steve Ashurst Business Development Manager
Limited Editions Event Design.
Technical details: Left: Zara Holland, Miss Great Britain 2015/16, saluting with wrong arm. All photos supplied by Steve Ashurst.

  Ed Woodroffe emailed 27th April 2015 with details of Jack Woodroffe's funeral:
"South West Middlesex Crematorium, Hanworth at 4pm this Thursday (30th April) at 4pm. Anybody who would like to come is welcome."
  Steve West emailed 23rd Apr 2015.
Memories and info of Camps, exercises and tatoos in 1967 and 1968; being called out to attend floods in the West Country; and 873's involvement in the film Battle of Britain.
(The relevant pages/sections will be updated lated - Peter)
  Colm Mulholland emailed 13th Apr 2015 re date of Reunion Dinner:

All booked now for 20 June 2015



Cost £35 for 3 courses (inc. Wines/Port cheese board)....
As the location can dine approximately 30/36 the Reunion will be restricted to ex serving members.

Payment to myself by Paypal using cmulholland2@hotmail.com (don't forget to use pay Friends & Family option or paypal take a charge). or Bank transfer to Mr COLM M MULHOLLAND - sort code - 602018 - a/c no. 36591386.  If paying by cheque send to 570A London Road, Isleworth TW7 4EP.
Payment by 08 MAY 2015 please.
Menu will be advised soon.
There is a Holiday Inn located about 1km away from 562 Army Reserve Centre should anyone need accommodation
Regards to all Colm Mulholland"
  Ed Woodroffe emailed with the sad news that his father, WO2 Jack Woodroffe, died on 11th April 2015. He was 88 and had been unwell for several years.

Jack was in the Sapper version of 873 from its formation in 1961 until 1978, having served previously in the Gunner version in the 50s.

He was SSM 1968-1976, and SQMS 76-78, and a lovely man.

Funeral arrangement will be posted later

Jack Woodroffe, Berlin, 1967
  Terry (Taff) Curtis emailed in March 2015:
"Just seen your photos on 873 web site of Gibraltar camp. Yes I was there and remember it well. The only hot camp we ever had since 1969 when I joined 873 Mvt Lt Sqn RE (v). Apart from the gib belly sickness it was great and the BFT down the rock to the sports stadium.
WO2(QMSI) Taff Curtis 1969-91 873, 1991-98 LDSTT, 1998 -01 ULOTC"
brett Peabody's xenon
Brett Peabody's xenon. I always wondered what was inside.
(photo from Brett's website)
Mark (Ossie) Osborne emailed in Jan 2015:
"Colm found an American who's hobby is the xenon searchlight! His name is Brent Peabody his site is www.brettpeabody.com Any way take a look. you may wish to put in a link to it.

PS Colm is arranging a 22 year disbandment dinner at the TA center at 562 RLC Sqn in Southall in April if you wish to attend.
We have John Holden as our man there ex 873 now the QMS.
(Thanks Colm and Mark - Brett Peabody's site is well worth a visit, some great photos (including several of Larry Hayward's taken from my 873 slideshow page !) and its a good story too. But trust a Yank to want to mount it on a huge truck (nice though it is) rather than something the size of a pick-up! - Peter)
brett Peabody's xenon
As you will have guessed, this is not Brett's real truck, to see that, go to his site.
(photo from Brett's website)
  Colm Mulholland emailed in Dec 2014:
"April 2015 will be the 22nd Anniversary since the disbandment of 873.... consequently, looking to have an Anniversary dinner in the West London area sometime between end of April and early June 2015. Anticipating cost to be no more than £30 per person, will obviously try to reduce this cost I'm trying to gauge the numbers interested so if they can contact Colm Mulholland by email cmulholland2@hotmail.com 873 has approximately 29 numbers who are now in contact again following a number of events such as Sapperfest, REA meetings etc."
sqn flag Colm Mulholland emailed in Sept 2014:
"attached photos of 873 flag that was commissioned for reunion at Sapperfest 2014"
(click photos for larger views)
sqn flag
sqn sign
Mark (Ossie) Osborne emailed in Aug 2014:
"I have just joined the REA and I am jollying up the rest of 873 Sqn on the facebook group to do so so also. Colm Mulholland seemed to have problems doing it on the phone! Hopefully you should be getting a few more West London branch members shortly.

Meanwhile the 873 Sqn T.A.C. sign has been found alive and well in Dave Owen's garage! See pic.

This will be coming to Sapperfest 2015 with us next year. Also a few of them have got together an bought a 24x 18 ex army tent for the event next year. Also you are all invited to come and join with 873 Sqn in the Sapperfest madness next 10/11/12 July 2015 in Shropshire.
(click photos for larger views)
(later note: Location has changed - its now to be at a larger site in Heywood, Lancs.)
  Lars de Vries emailed in July 2014:
"Hello and good evening. My name is Lars de Vries, I come from Germany and have a question. I have these wonderful images seen on their website 873 Squadron Light Movement, RE.

I have the greatest website with a friend. Our site covers the military history in Germany from 1945 to the present! . The name is military-database.de

I would love to use these images from Larry Hayward. These pictures are from my home ..... absolutely gorgeous. Can you help me reach Mr Hayward ..? I thank you very much for their efforts.
Greeting Lars de Vries"
old WW1 searchlight
Mark Osborne emailed several times in July 2014:
"This is from hounslow barracks facebook group a photographic history of the barracks. Are the men in centre R.E.? 2 each end are R.A."
(To me, it looks like 1 gunner each end, the other 7 are sappers. Also WW1 by the uniforms. Peter)

Mark also sent the photos below of Sapperfest 2014 which I understand was a great success.
old WW1 searchlight
old WW1 searchlight

(can someone please supply names - Peter)
old WW1 searchlight
  Ed Woodroffe emailed in July 2014 to say that his dad, ex-WO2 Jack Woodroffe, has been very ill.
Mark Osborne emailed in June 2014:

to ask for links here to Facebook pages for 873 (and 217).

(I'm not into Facebook and don't really understand it. Had to get a friend to log-in to his account and find the link, so here it it as long last - Peter)
Mark Osborne emailed in June 2014:
"Just to let you know that 12 maybe more of 873 Sqn RE are getting together to go to Sapperfest 2014 in Shropshire the first weekend of July. We have not seen some in 25 years plus, also elements of 217 Sqn RE Holloway are on the Sapperfest FTX. It is on facebook loads of pictures and information, please could let old comrades know 873 (ML) Sqn has resurrected itself after nearly 30 years. 3 ex PSIs and 20 SNCOs and ORs are on facebook page now."
(Thats good news Mark, but I can't find Facebook pages! Peter)
old WW1 searchlight Ossie & Colm Mullholland at the Army v RN game Twickenham in May 2014"
  David Samuels emailed again in May 2014:
"Hi Peter, Been snowed in for a couple of days here, so starting to mess around with 873 again. I've attached the 1972 camp photo with the names I remember over the faces.
old WW1 searchlight
I should be scanning more documents, mostly administration orders for annual camps and some ephemera. See David Samuel's 873 Flickr site

I'm currently trying to put together an 873 searchlight panorama in 1/76 scale. I'm not a model maker and it's tricky work. Strangely enough, I've only found one company in the world that makes a 90cm model, and that's a pretty poor detail 1/76 resin kit. Though I've a fantastic metal Lister and Bedford RL scale kit. 'B.W. Models', you should check them out. Be in touch soon. Regards David"
(If anyone can suggest a source of 1/76 scale models that David could use, please let me know and I'll put you in touch - Peter)

David Samuels emailed in Jan 2014:
"Hi, I've relocated in Canada, and can't find the original e-mail you sent me some time ago. Back online again and slowly adding a few updates to my Flicker act, David Samuel's 873 Flickr site
I'm only doing it sporadically, but you are welcome to pick up any content you might find interesting. Regards David Samuels
  Geraldine (Geri) Wierzbicki emailed several times in May 2014. The first time was to send sad news that her husband Clive Wierzbicki died in 2003.

Clive had taken many photos of 873 from 1979 to the early '90s, and Geri has kindly made about 50 available including Capt. Cooper's retirement party. These can be seen here.

old WW1 searchlight Clive at Annual Camp in 1984
back to top of page page created Oct 2018 last edited/amended 27 September 2023 please e-mail me