Les Braby – SAMA (82) Scotland Branch – Chairman
I was waiting to be called up,” says Les Braby, 75, originally from Edinburgh but now living in Gavinton, near Duns. “My two brothers had been called up before me,
so it was always at the back of my mind.” When National Service was drawing to an end in the late 1950s, however, it became clear to Les that he wouldn’t be called up after all. He decided to follow in the footsteps of his brothers – and his WWI veteran father – and enlist.
Les joined the Territorial Army in 1959, and progressed from there, ultimately to the Army and the Scots Guards in 1962. On completion of training, he joined the 1st Battalion. In September 1964 they became part of the 28th Commonwealth Brigade in Malacca, Malaysia. “After that I was posted to 2nd Battalion Chelsea in 1966, doing public duties and also took part in a six-week training tour of Canada,” explains Les. “In 1967 I was posted as an Outward Bound instructor (No 7 Army Youth Team) at the Army Apprentices College in Carlisle before rejoining the 2nd Battalion in Germany for 12 months.” Les was then posted to the Scottish Infantry Depot, Bridge of Don, Aberdeen (No 84 Army Youth Team) as an Outward Bound instructor before joining the 2nd Battalion at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh. In 1972 the battalion took part in Operation Motorman and a tour in Londonderry. After that, the battalion nt from Redford Barracks to Elizabeth Barracks in Pirbright. While there, the battalion were sent on another tour of Northern Ireland, this time in Belfast.
“In 1974 I became a Recruiting Sergeant in Edinburgh and Bathgate for two years, before posting to the Guards Depot at Pirbright as a Colour Sergeant,” explains Les. “From there I went to the 1st Battalion, in Chelsea Barracks, London, as a Company Sergeant Major; again doing public duties, a tour of the County of Armagh, and a six-week exercise in Kenya.
“In 1980 I was posted to the Army Apprentices College in Harrogate as a Squadron Sergeant Major where, for two years, I helped to train young men before they were deployed for service.”
In January 1982 Les returned to the 2nd Battalion, Chelsea Barracks as company sergeant major, Headquarter company, but shortly afterwards the Falklands War broke out.
Subsequently, 5 Infantry Brigade was formed, comprised of the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards, the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards and a battalion of Gurkhas. Les’s battalion travelled to South Georgia on the QE2 before transferring to the SS Canberra for the final trip to San Carlos Bay.
“After we landed at San Carlos Bay and dug in, it was decided that instead of crossing by land we would go by sea to Bluff Cove. On arrival, we dug trenches for protection as there were air raids to contend with,” says Les. “Eventually, the Scots Guards were tasked with taking Mount Tumbledown and the Welsh Guards and Gurkhas were to follow on and take Mount William.”
Les was responsible for ensuring the smooth running of the resupply of ammunition and food from the Quartermaster’s Supply Stores to the Rifle Companies’ positions. Prior to the attack on Tumbledown it was decided that there would be a diversionary attack to fool the Argentine forces of the direction they were coming from, by elements of HQ Company (storemen, drivers and clerks) and the Recce platoon. They were split into four assault groups, and a fire support group with gunners, commanded by Les.
“The assault groups did their job magnificently but they took casualties and the fire group went forward to assist, taking a casualty in the process, but helped take the enemy position. On our w
ay back we walked into a minefield and suffered more casualties and had to leave our fallen comrades behind so we could carry out the wounded,” says Les. “We were
shelled and mortared on the way, but by this time the main battle had started on Mount Tumbledown, so we’d achieved our aim.”
After the Falklands War ended, the battalion returned to London and resumed their public-duty role. In 1983 Les was appointed Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant at Regimental Headquarters, Birdcage Walk, London, where he worked until 1985. “My time in the military gave me a better and more positive outlook on life, and all in all it has made me a better person,” says Les. “But after 23 years’ service I knew I was ready for new challenges.” His experience led him to a role in looking after regimental and military silver, ultimately for G Collins & Sons Ltd, the Queen’s jeweller in Royal Tunbridge Wells, where he was also head of security. Now semi-retired, Les still cares for the military silver on a part-time basis, a task he enjoys and says it keeps his brain working.
A few years ago, Les became chairman of the Scotland branch of the South Atlantic Medal Association 1982. Through this, Les began attending many more commemorative and comradeship events, which helped to strengthen his connection to Legion Scotland too. “When it comes to parades, being an ex-guardsman, having done all the royal parades and what have you, it made sense for me to help,” Less explains. “Legion Scotland offers great support to the veterans community 365 days of the year and they’re always on hand to provide assistance,” says Les. “I think they’re second to none.”
Founded by 6 Veterans in Aberdeen, this Branch came into being in January 2008 with the purpose of providing in the North, a quality re-union Dinner for Veterans of the Falklands Conflict and all those who, for whatever reason, were affected by the outcome of that conflict. By definition, the Branch membership comprises of all those members of SAMA 82 who are registered as living in Scotland.
It was decided at the outset that there is to be no added membership fee as the re-union dinner is self funding on the ticket price of each function. the Dinners of 2008 and 2009 were held in the Douglas Hotel, Aberdeen and in 2010 and 2011 the Dinner moved to the King Malcolm Hotel, Dunfermline.
In November 2009 the Branch instigated an additional annual commitment to the memory of our Friends who did not come home, by undertaking an Act of Remembrance in the laying of a SAMA 82 poppy wreath at the War Memorial in each city of Scotland.
The Year 2010 saw the first Branch AGM taking place. This to conform with the new Rules for SAMA 82 Branches. Due to Branch membership being so widespread throughout Scotland, it was decided that the Branch AGM should be held on the same day of and prior to, the annual re-union dinner.
The ethos of the Branch is for Veterans to meet in harmony and kindred spirit, having due respect for the contribution made by all those who wear the South Atlantic Medal in their contribution to the success of the Task Force on Op Corporate.