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Article brought back Black Country army cook Ben memories

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 15, 2014

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READING the article on Ben Whitehouse in The Bugle (June 12 edition) brought back many memories.

I first met Ben when I was 'catapulted' into the job of CQMS [C/Sgt}! for D Company, 1st Battalion The Worcestershire Regiment when we were based in Iserlohn, BAOR 24.

The Company was to travel to Putlos, near the Germany border with Denmark, to fire their Annual Range Course.

I was to be responsible for the feeding and arranging accommodation for the Company and the Battalion Shooting Team on the way! Ben and 'inky' Hill [ACC] were to be my two cooks! If I remember correctly it was the first time they had cooked in the 'field' and it was certainly mine.

We left by road. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to leave the convoy so that we could arrive at the staging post before the main body to provide a meal on their arrival.

So it was panic stations on arrival. We eventually produced a meal and it was then the task to produce 'haversack' rations for everyone for the next day. I doubt if any of us got much sleep, opening tins and making sandwiches in the dark!

After breakfast was over, the Company commander then decided that he wanted tomato soup for the company to supplement the haversack rations.

But all we had was flour, tomato purée, salt and pepper.

Ben and Inky proved that the art of magic was not dead. Soup was produced and carried all the way to Putlos, only to be poured down the drain on arrival!

We joined together again in July 1956 when the Battalion held a battalion camp on Luneburg Heath. Their experience and skills as cooks by now exceeded my experience as a CQMS by a long way.

Ben and his fellow cooks in action, Smudge, Sam Lowe and Nicklin Robinson produced a variety of meals based on 'Compo' rations supplemented by fresh rations when possible. This included venison, goose and chicken that happened to fall into the cookhouse area.

Fortunately when the venison arrived we had a butcher in the Company. Improvisation was the order of the day, nothing was wasted. Stale bread became bread and butter pudding. Jam fritters, spare oranges and apples became fresh fruit salad.

Thank heavens for Carnation milk. Visits to the ration store were always an adventure to see what extra we could 'acquire'.

We were able to get hold of a field oven which was a great help because we could roast and bake.We even made a fridge out of a dustbin.

Fortunately we had a marquee for the stores and there was room for us all to sleep in comfort.

I have many happy memories of the time spent at Weztsen on Luneburg Heath. Many of those from our area included Jim Basterfield, Harry Collins, Billy Lilley, Reg Hughes and Jackie Parker.

Best wishes.

Keith Jeavons.


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