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The London Regiment in Iraq

We have received a set of very evocative photographs from 2014 during the deployment of members of the London Regiment to Iraq. They show Messines Company carrying out their duties in the southern sector of Iraq near Basra and Kuwait and have been kindly passed over to us by Geraint “Taff” Hughes, who has been a stalwart member of the London Irish Rifles for many years.

We would like to pay tribute to all the men and women who served in Iraq over many years and would particularly like to thank Taff Hughes for sharing some of the memories from his time in the country.

Quis Separabit.

‘One-Three Delta’, 4 Platoon, Messines Company; Telic 4 – May to November 2004).

Messines Company Homecoming Parade at the London Scottish – 4th December 2004.

Monty inspects the 1st Battalion at Ashford, June 1941

1st Battalion in Ashdown Forest, 1939/40

1st Battalion in Kent, December 1940

New Recruits at the Duke of York’s

Some more photographs of men of the London Irish Rifles – this set from the IWM collection are new recruits being shown what’s what at the Duke of York’s HQ in November 1939.

Training in London in 1939

Some interesting photos of the London Irish Rifles, probably members the 1st Battalion, training in London during November 1939.

The London Irish Rifles training in Wales in 1940

Some excellent photographs have been discovered at the Imperial War Museum (IWM) showing the intensive training manoeuvres undertaken by the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles on the cliffs near Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire during October 1940.

(H 5139) Men of the 2nd London Irish Rifles advancing with fixed bayonets after climbing up the cliffs during training at Little Haven near Haverfordwest. Copyright: © IWM.

As the ‘London Irish at War’ noted:

“Following Dunkirk, invasion became even more likely and work on the defences of Britain was intensified. The 2nd Battalion spent several weeks on local-defence duties in Knutsford, Cheshire, and subsequently underwent hard training at Haverfordwest. At the same time they had to be prepared to join in coast defence.

CQMS Edmund O’Sullivan recalled that period in Wales:

“Company training followed. We were bussed to Newgale Sands for a fortnight’s intensive battle preparation. This involved forced marches and long runs that culminated in nude bathing in the cold sea, watched appreciatively from a distance by local ladies. Route marches with full packs, stalking and crawling and field-firing using live ammunition were among the pleasures we endured under Captain Geoffrey Phillips, our temporary Company Commander. On the final Friday evening, he treated the whole company in the local hostelry as a mark of his appreciation for our efforts.”

There were occasional moments of ill-discipline. Rifleman Waddy Weir, worse for drink, attempted on three occasions to swim home to his wife in Ireland. After pulling him out of the shallow sea twice, I said on his third attempt: ‘Drown then.’ He did not, as the next day he was once more asking to borrow ‘fippence’ for a drink. We returned to Haverfordwest feeling more like soldiers, tough and prepared for anything.”

Rifleman Donald Zec, 2 LIR

We have learnt of the recent death of former Rifleman Donald Zec, who served alongside his brother Philip with the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles. Although we do not have full details (nor any pictures) of Rifleman Zec’s service period with the LIR, we do know that he created an illustrious post-war career with the Daily Mirror.

You can read an obituary from the Guardian here:

Donald David Zec, journalist, born 12 March 1919; died 6 September 2021

Quis Separabit

Lt Terry Flynn, 2 LIR in Italy

On Loos Sunday, we were delighted to meet with Sean Flynn, the son of Lieutenant Terry Flynn, who served with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles during the Second World War. Although the details of Lt Flynn’s service period is not exactly clear, it is certain that he was serving with 2 LIR during its final advance through the Argenta Gap to the Po river in April 1945. He then went onto undertake peacekeeping duties with the battalion in Austria for the rest of 1945 and it seems that he may then have transferred to the 1st Battalion in 1946 when they were based in the Trieste area and completed his war time service with them in Italy.

During his visit to Connaught House, Sean Flynn shared some photos of his father as well as providing additional details about his background with previous strong family connections with the armed forces. We were also delighted that the Flynn family wishes to donate a number of interesting artefacts and some boxing trophies that Terry had won during the period of military training in the UK.

Sean went onto tell us that his father was born in 1923 and, after the outbreak of war, initially served with the Royal Armoured Corps as a “tankie” in North Africa and Italy before transferring to the LIR. It is probable that he was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles after serving with distinction with a tank regiment.

As often was the case, Terry Flynn didn’t share too much detail with his family after the war but he certainly was deeply affected by some of the events that he witnessed during the final advances in Italy. He died on 17th March 2002 – perhaps fittingly for an Irish soldier – and left a legacy of heroic memory. We hope to perhaps learn more about his army career over the coming months.

Many thanks to Sean Flynn for visiting us and sharing his father’s story.

Quis Separabit

Rifleman Henry Norton Stephens

We are extremely delighted to have been sent a set of photographs and other interesting paper artefacts belonging to Rifleman Henry Stephens, who served with the London Irish Rifles during the First World War.

These fantastic documents have been donated to us by Henry’s granddaughter, Katy de Rooy, and she said in a note to us:

“I wonder if you would be interested in some memorabilia that I have come across whilst going through my late mother’s possessions. Her father, Henry Norton Stephens (my grandfather, born in 1897), was a Rifleman in 2/18th (Reserve) Battalion London Regiment and had obviously kept some artefacts from his time. These include several photos, a postcard, a pass-card, a discharge certificate, a newspaper article and what looks like notebooks from training camps (Scouting Notes?)  and diary entries. He has also listed the camps/barracks where he was based between 1914 and 1916, although the print is sadly somewhat faded in much of these.

I would love for them to go to someone/somewhere that could archive them for future reference and wonder if your Association may like them?”

From an initial review of Rifleman Stephens’ papers, it is clear that he was living in Stamford Hill when he joined up in September 1914. Henry was immediately posted to the 2/18th Battalion (2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles) and trained with them for nearly two years in the UK before the battalion travelled to the Western Front at the end of June 1916, along with the rest of 60th (London) Division. At that time, the Division would be positioned in front line trenches near Vimy Ridge and, thankfully,. they missed the massive assaults at the Somme at the start of July.

From studying the LIR’s own records, it then appears that Henry was hospitalised at the end of September 1916 while in France, before being discharged from hospital in early 1917. Those dates make it clear that he did not travel with 2/18th Battalion to Greece in November 1916 but we are not able to trace other elements of Henry Stephens’ army service at this time.

We certainly know that Henry made it through the war to return to his family in north London, as Katy went onto tell us:

“After the war, he worked for a printmakers near Fleet Street and we have several leaflets documenting the workers (men only) annual coach trips to such hot spots as Clacton, Margate and Brighton.

Good to know he survived France to enjoy such pursuits ! I will let you know if I find anything else of interest in the family vaults.”

We have included a selection of Henry’s photos below and shall continue to study the other associated paperwork in the hope that we might be able to uncover further details about his time with the London Irish Rifles.

We would like to thank Katy de Rooy and her family for passing this fascinating set of photographs over to us.

Quis Separabit.