Armed forces charity recruiting tour

Ben Fox
Ben Fox

Just over two hundred years ago, if an army regiment was short of volunteers, recruiting parties were sent to towns and villages where they would bang on a drum to gain attention, then liberally distribute gin and the “King’s shilling” to eager, arguably gullible young men who were prepared to join the colours.

Fast forward to the present day and this tactic is being resurrected by SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity, because there is a desperate need for volunteers.

Two old comrades, well into their sixties, will spend from Tuesday, 3rd December to Saturday, 7th touring the county of Devon in a 42 year old soft-top Landrover with the aim of recruiting men and women to join up to help our county’s veterans in need.

Retired Royal Marine Commando Clive Richards (pictured right), said: “We have a drum, a war chest of shillings, (5p in today’s money) and miniature bottles of gin which have been generously provided by Findlay Wines of Budleigh Salterton to hand out to people who are willing to give up some of their time to this very worthy cause.”

He is joined by Keith Christopher. “Clive and I first served together when this Landrover was made back in the Jubilee year of 1977. It’s great to be back working together again. We are confident that our Land Rover will stand up to the task, it’s our bodies I’m worried about!”

Clive and Keith, reunited after 42 years through their work for SSAFA, are pictured below with Clive’s trusty Landrover in front of Carriages Hotel Exeter. Carriages have kindly agreed to sponsor the intrepid duo by
providing a hearty ‘all you can eat’ breakfast before they start their journey.

“The trip was originally planned for May, but we can’t wait till the Spring to do this,” says Clive, “we need the volunteers now, – there is no time to lose.”  The pair will be completely self-sufficient during the tour, living on rations and sleeping in bivouacs they’ll erect each night whatever the weather.

Luckily, they have been provided with equipment by Andrew Pollard, the manager of Go Outdoors in Exeter.

“I can’t believe the quality of this kit,” says Clive. “It certainly beats what we were issued with all those years ago – it’s even water-proof!” Both their wives are a little dubious given the state the old comrades’ bodies are in after their service lives. However, Babs Christopher and Mary-Anne Richards are happy to let them go for this worthy cause.

“They are both passionate about helping those who have served their country and we couldn’t stop him if we tried,” said Babs.

Mary-Anne added: “Although Clive was a Royal Marine, his father was a para sergeant in WW2 and our son Mike is an RAF pilot. So he’s keen to make a difference for all three of our country’s armed services. I’ll just make sure there is an ample supply of pain killers and that the gin is only used to give to the volunteers!”

The route and timings of their tour is shown below and on their Just Giving site. Visit and search for Clive Richards.

They are happy to talk to anyone about the work SSAFA does and what support roles are available in Devon. If anyone would like to support SSAFA even before the tour they are welcome to call 01392 254611 and talk to Claire. They’ll have to meet Clive and Keith in order to claim their gin and shilling though!

Tour locations

Note. Morning locations are all from 1000 hrs till 1100 Hrs. Afternoon locations are 1400 Hrs till 1500 Hrs.

December 3rd
Breakfast at Carriages Exeter then depart at 0920 for;
am     Teignmouth Station car park
pm     Dartmouth visitor centre car park

December 4th
am     Kingsbridge Tesco superstore car park
pm     Yelverton car park by Co-op

December 5th
am     Tavistock museum car park
pm     Okehampton Co-op supermarket car park

December 6th
am     Barnstaple Tesco supermarket car park
pm     Tiverton Market Place car park opposite Halifax bank.

December 7th
am     Honiton Aldi supermarket car park
pm     Budleigh Salterton Marine Parade.

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