Arte et Marte

Gold Lightning barb and Silver Steed, the Crown and Globe enclosing
The opening Scroll, proclaiming REME - simple, yet imposing.
This is the badge so proudly worn by members of the Corps
Which keeps the army on the move, prepared to go to war.
Yet, battle honours there are none despite its long existence,
For it has been in every action, giving its assistance;
And if all of these engagements were actually listed,
It would be (probably) the longest standard that’s existed.

Now there are those who claim that REME personnel don’t fight,
And this misconception must, in all justice, be put right,
For, lacking military expertise, there’s no hope of promotion,
As ‘Soldier First and Tradesman Second’, is the REME notion.
For, when in action things look bad, the frontline combat soldier
Knows REME men will be fighting with them, shoulder to shoulder
Until the battle has been won, or till the danger fades,
And then assume their primary role, returning to their trades.

So REME soldiers of today continue this tradition,
Supporting, as has always been the case, without condition,
Prepared to do whatever is required to aid success,
Regardless of the toll that they may suffer, or distress
That might be part of helping out in whatsoever role
That they may be required to fill, to answer duty’s call;
One thing is sure, no matter what is asked of them to do,
Tradition’s always safe with REME lads, they’ll see it through.



Soldier First 

Soldier first before all else, that is the REME way,
And there’s a price – a tragic price – that some are called to pay.
It’s not enough to use those skills as artisans to work
In maintenance and technicalities, and hope to shirk
The overriding reason why our soldiers pledge their all,
To fight, defending country and obeying duty’s call. 

And where the British Army serves, at home, or distantly,
Then REME soldiers will be there, and by necessity
Will fight as equals, help, assist to bear their comrade’s load,
Share any deprivation or discomfort that affords.
And should they fall and ultimately be called on to pay
The highest price, then as always, that is the REME way. 



The Uniformed Engineer  

Seemingly, at casual glance, a typical British soldier stands

In readiness to carry out his duty, with the fears and doubts

Anticipated combat brings, when all the valued, precious things

By which his life is so defined are sharply focused in his mind.


But then, on further close inspection, there’s a varied odd collection

Of the tool-chests, kits of parts which he must carry; written charts,

To aid his task, to give support to others who, engaged in fraught

Combat conditions must rely on expertise that he supplies.


This is an army engineer, a REME soldier, always near

And close at hand when something fails, with instant help when war assails

The fighting troops in forward line. Split seconds passing can define

That help, on which they must rely, and means that men could live or die.


This is a REME Craftsman’s lot, and though he may be far from shot

And shell, his work can mark success or failure if, under duress

He falters in an urgent task, to give the help that others ask

For, in their time of urgent need, relying on the REME Creed.


The Creed that says it will provide, at all times, aid, and will abide

By that which when it first was formed, where all privations would be borne

To be at hand and share the plight, when needed, and prepare to fight

If urgent circumstances beckoned; “Soldier first, and Tradesman second”.


So those who wish to join and fight for glory, kudos; wear the bright

Medallions of the regiments whose bold, historic past events

Add glamour to their daily lives, forget the REME; it relies

On quietly working, meeting needs of those performing front-line deeds.


But it is worthwhile to record that in all regiment’s awards

Of battle honours so displayed as when in glittering parade,

The REME show no honours there, for since formation they have shared

A presence, fighting EVERY action, so they have the satisfaction

Of quietly knowing, if awarded, battle honours, so recorded

Might stretch so far as they unfurled to be the longest in the world!




 At the arrival of the Twenty-First Century it was decided that the Arborfield Garrison would be closed down and the land converted to urban development. A hundred year garrison history about to disappear.


 Goodbye Arborfield

There’s a little place in Berkshire County, down by Reading way,

It isn’t very big, quite undistinguished, some might say.
And yet, it’s known by thousands, maybe millions, mostly men
Who came and spent some time there, passing through or, then again,
Returning to it regularly over many years,
A place for some of memorable times, for others new careers.

It all began there well over one hundred years ago,
The army needed horses, hence a large remount depot
Was located at the village, being accommodation for
The horses which passed through on their way to the First Great War;
And when the war was ended, it then was left unused
For horses were redundant, as the war had clearly proved.

But then, as years elapsed and war clouds gathered yet once more,
This place became the birthplace of a fledgling military Corps
Forged from the fiery furnace of war’s technical demands,
From fields of Europe to the distant, far-off desert sands,
It gathered all the artisans from home and overseas
Who came together, founding a great Army dynasty.

So, from this first beginning in those troubled, war–torn years,
The Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Carved out a name, so well deserved, for skill and expertise,
In their demanding role in seeing that the Army’s wheels
Kept turning at those crucial times of triumph or disaster,
When first class training would decide who was the final master.

And this is where this place, this village with its leafy lanes
Has welcomed thousands of young men and boys to come and train
In technical achievement to maintain, repair, inspect
All manner of devices due to damage or neglect,
Some were volunteers who came to make a fine career,
While others served their National Service after training here.

But in these modern times, when change is often made by those
Who sit in judgement far away in remote, lofty pose,
Complacency is ill advised, and facts somehow contrive,
To change, and in collective wisdom, the time has now arrived
For all that once had gone before, that place of work and play
Is now gone while a new chapter is opened far away.

And what of Arborfield where all those memories reside?
A history distinguished, now fated to be filed
In musty books, a passing phase – hardly worth a glance
To those who in the future come to read it just by chance.
But to us who still remember it with reminiscent smile
It stands as proud as any place in this, our Sceptre’d Isle!



God’s LAD 

He’s gone to join God’s LAD, the best posting bar none,
No need for coveralls up there, all dirty jobs are done.
The OC and the ASM are there at his command
(The ranks up there are back-to-front, so all salutes are banned!)
No hard graft, and no jobs that may arrive at a late call
In fact it does resemble an earthly Tiffy’s role!


He’s served and done his duty for the country and the nation,
And now he’s harvesting fruits of his well-deserved salvation,
So, if you are relaxing quietly under evening skies,
And think you hear familiar rhythms, don’t be too surprised,
It probably is ‘Lilliburlero’s’ haunting melody,
Coming from the lads who’ve gone to join God’s LAD.




The trades we were taught were really quite fraught with the theory, not practice, I found,
The lads with the brains were the ones who most gained from these lessons on subjects profound.
So Telemechs, Radarmechs, Ecces and such, where the theory was all in the mind,
Meant hands didn’t get hurt or covered in dirt, as the Fitters or VM’s would find.

They’d sit in their chairs in the workshop from where air conditioners gently would blow,
While the Vehicle Mechs (A) would be toiling all day under great lumps of iron below.
Now the VM’s and Fitters, you’d think would be bitter at this blatant trade segregation,
But they never mind, for in grease always find, inexplicably, great satisfaction.

For they spend all their time slaving, covered in grime, faces slippery with sweat and exhaustion,
While the chosen elite, smelling sweet and effete, look at diagrams seeking solution.
But the main satisfaction derives from the action of swinging a hammer precisely,
To know where to hit it, how hard it’s permitted, a wallop or just to tap, lightly.

For Fitters, VM’s, either (A), (B) or (C), are such macho men, muscular, hairy,
They work, never flag, always deep in the clag where it’s only the levels that vary.
But when all’s said and done, they are all part of one indispensable military Corps,
Without whom machines and mechanical means of armed conflict could not
go to war.
So here’s to the tradesmen of all kinds, let’s aid them to stay in the lead, good and trusty,
And fervently hope they’ll continue to cope, with those tools that should never go rusty!




VM is trade where you get highly paid for getting all oily and greasy,
Of course, it’s well known that it’s not for the bone-idle skivers, who take it too easy,
They come in all sizes and it’s no surprise some are big, while there’s others quite titchy ,
And, what is more, there are letters that show what they do, and it makes them quite tetchy
If innocently, someone gets letters confused, and mixes up A, B and C,
Then they get temperamental, expecting attention that treats them preferentially!

For A is elite, while B is effete and C, (well, they say. “Others hate us!”)
And there is no doubt that they’ll holler and shout if someone belittles their status,
Though, when all’s said and done, there is only the one that our Tich Schofield will recognize,
And that is the “A” which he always will say is the one that will win the first prize,
But I have to confess that what I like, I guess, ‘cos it gets him all twisted and bitter,
Is that much as he tries, he will never arise to the status of General Fitter!



Reccy Mechs

They’re not what you’d call regimental – well, not in a military way,
And likely as not they’d be other than what you’d expect in the army today.
Shiny boots and smart turnout – forget it! Shaggy haircuts are likely the norm,
Perfect strangers to blanco and bullsh*t, no way will these soldiers conform.
There’s not much that can be done with them, it’s best to just leave well alone
And let them adjourn in the hope they’ll return when the urge has died for them to roam.
It’s also a quite good idea when on exercise out in the field
To lock up the stores, and bolt all the doors and keep all the good kit concealed.
For these masters of improvisation will liberate what’s not secured,
With innocent faces and all signs and traces of larcenous action obscured.

They can be a pain in the rear end – independent and barely controlled,
But when things get bad, then everyone’s glad that they’re easily worth their weight in gold.
‘Cos when bogged down right in the action and prospects are not looking bright,
They’ll be there when they’re needed – no call goes unheeded, and stay and continue to fight
Till they’ve got the result that they strove for, succeeded again with a grin,
And with cheerful wave to another they’ve saved, they’re off on their travels again.
So all Reccy Mechs of the REME, it’s time to stand up, take a bow,
For without you, the army ain’t moving until you’re there, giving a tow;
And, rightly, you think you’re the chosen, for when they’re all stuck in a truck,
They’ll all give a cheer as you reappear, before again, slinging your hook!



The lad, who as an Ece trains, is credited with superior brains,
Because his diagnostic skills, require him sometimes to fulfil
A knotty task, that’s sight unseen, where theory counts, a mind that’s keen,
And razor sharp, so he can tell where problems lie, and almost smell
A faulty loom, or diode, duff, armed with his wiring diagram rough,
He squints at multi coloured wires, stays on the job and never tires,
Until success has been secured, discomfort, tiredness, all endured
To keep the Ece’s, in their grace, on Gods right hand - their rightful place !

( But as an afterthought, be fair, VM’s also deserve their share
Of credit. And the allied trades, whose skills and muscle also made
The REME what it is today, the finest force, far and away,
So all you craftsmen, take a bow, you made the Corps what it is now ! )




Joe Soap was a bloke who, if anything broke, could repair it again in a trice,
But a bolt and a screw, or a nut to undo exposed his one terrible vice.
He couldn’t discern, or had never quite learned that these fasteners were all different sizes,
So his indifferent manner, regarding the spanner width, really then hardly surprises.

You knew where he’d been when he’d left the scene, no hexagons left to undo
The bolts that he’d handled, now rounded and mangled, all tight, right enough, but then who
Would follow this chap, this walking mishap, and release the stuff that he’d tightened,
With manner precocious and muscles ferocious, technically, hardly enlightened!

Of course, lack of training goes far to explaining why Joe never mastered this skill,
At a technical College he’d gather the knowledge there, showing him how to fulfill
His desire to succeed at repairs guaranteed to make everyone happy again,
But he’s one of those guys failing to realize that his actions are causing such pain.
Yet while he continues to think with his sinews and gathers so many detractors,
There are some who can tell that our Joe’s going to sell a thousand or two screw extractors!



Barrack Room Humour  

Barrack room humour is now dead and gone, 

That which we bandied about and which shone 

With a non - PC attitude, yet to invent, 

Employed by us all with amusing intent.


It brightened our lives and sharpened our wits; 

Frequently ribald, it kept us in fits 

Of perpetual laughter in formative years 

As we shared every day with our barrack room peers.


Occasionally subtle, but sometimes quite blunt 

Used by some to demonstrate, and maybe flaunt 

Their command of that jocular, odd repartee 

That we used every day, so familiarly.


To those not acquainted with this kind of fun, 

Which often seemed cruel and unkind to some, 

The barbs of verbosity thrown in the air, 

Appeared to them that we did not really care.


Yet nothing could be so far from what was meant, 

The seemingly savage and cutting comment 

Was in a strange way, but a form of reflection, 

Of our brotherhood’s way of showing affection.


And over the years as our lovers and wives 

Have joined and become the main parts of our lives, 

They realized in time, this was merely an act, 

Concealing the plain, undeniable fact


That insults, derision, or sarcastic quip 

Were merely disguising the close comradeship 

That we had engendered in our younger days, 

And then manifested itself in these ways.


 It was just a sign of the way we lived then, 

And never will be the case ever again, 

For the impetus now is to seek great offence, 

Ignoring the often underlying intent


At humour, misplaced now in this day and age 

Of so-sensitive egos, ready to rage 

At the merest suggestion of great provocation, 

And seeking repayment, or some compensation.


So value those old days of simplicity, 

When thoughts of contention or adversary, 

Were alien to most of us, and day-to-day, 

We merely desired to go our own way


Without fear of what others may just construe 

To be slanderous, libelous, even though true. 

Remember when we could just say what we mean, 

And Barrack Room Humour reigned so supreme




The Ghosts

 The leafy lanes of Berkshire will not be quite the same,
Those martial sounds – once, all around – will not be heard again,
Familiar beating drums and fleeting thoughts of what had been
Will fade and fall into recall, for some that shared that dream.

A Dream? Yes, it will seem so in the years that are to be,
A ghostly dream so far removed from the reality
Of rows of houses, shops, and all those common, mundane things,
In everyday existence that normality always brings.

And only in the minds of those who occupied this place,
Will this dream be reality from past times, though a trace
Of some remembrance should exist to mark that which had been
So meaningful to this locality in years between.

A school of thought exists that in the fabric of a place,
There is a latent memory that can never be erased
Of all that happened in the years now gone from long-ago,
Ghosts of the past who haunt those leafy lanes we used to know.

The echo of a thousand bugle calls ring down the ages,
Sounds of hoof-beats pounding throughout countless history’s pages,
Young men arriving from the farthest corners of the earth,
Serving, learning how to fight for things, they thought, of worth.

And boys, in the first flush of youth, starting down life’s road,
Embarking on life changing paths, secure in the accord
Bestowed by wise and learned men, skilled in the many arts
Of burgeoning technology, to help them play their part.

This place of knowledge, discipline, of skill and dedication
Has served this Nation constantly, and helped in it’s salvation
From threats, providing fighting men, skilled artisans that fought,
Some dying for the freedom, so clearly, dearly bought.

And maybe, in the coming years, when all who knew are gone,
The ones who occupy this place may hear a distant song,
Or maybe, on a summer’s evening walk, may stop and pause,
And hear the sound of martial music, wondering at the cause.

And there again, faintly, commands may fill the evening air,
Or distant bugles at sunset to tell all to prepare
For the long sleep in prospect for this very special land,
Which served, fulfilled its destiny from when it first was planned.