Brian (Boy) Brenchley RIP – Late 1st, 2nd & 3rd Battalions. (More Than Once)
As Pay Sergeant of The Queen’s Company stationed at Chelsea Barracks in mid 1958, I was ‘marched in’ to Commanding Officers Memoranda and promoted to CSM and at the same time, warned for ‘Draft’ to the 3rd Bn in Cyprus.
Things being as they were (and probably still are!) the Battalion managed to get their final ‘Pound of Flesh’ by detailing me for ‘Queen’s Guard’ a couple of days later.
I was not too fussed about this, as I expected it to be my last Public Duty for some considerable time.
Having carried out my very first ‘Queen’s Guard’ in about May of 1947 at the age of 15yrs as ‘Drummer’, also on numerous occasions during the intervening years.
I was therefore quite familiar with the contents and layout of the NCO’s Guardroom at St. James’s Palace.
Having said that, there was a particular item in this gardroom that had always puzzled me. This was the ‘Box’ mounted on the wall with moveable disc’s & a bell, which indicated if any of the Sentries required assistance.
Over the years I had noticed that there were four or five discs, but that from what I remember, only two of these were ‘Marked’; York House and Clock Tower.
Having over the years asked various senior ranks, I had never been able to ascertain what the other two/three discs were for. Nobody knew the answer?
Curiosity got the better of me on this ‘my Last Guard’ and I decided to get the Corporal of the Guard to ‘Test ALL the Sentry Box Bells’ on his round with the Midnight Relief.
It used to take about 3 minutes from marching off to actually changing the sentry at York House.
Then about another 3-4 minutes to get to the Clock Tower followed by a gap of about 7 minutes to get into the grounds of Clarence House, to the sentry there.
Then back to the Guardroom, the whole of this taking approximately 20 minutes.
Having seen the relief off, I returned into the guardroom to keep an eye on the ‘Alarm Board’.
Sure enough 3 mins and York House registered and the bell rang, then another few minutes and the Clock Tower disc moved and the bell rang – so far so good.
We were now entering ‘unknown territory’ – 7 mins passes – nothing! 10 mins – still nothing! Then 20 mins and I began to think, “Good, I’ve found a bell that doesn’t work”.
When it got to 30 mins I started to worry! Where is the relief? Then that awful silence of impending doom was broken by footsteps approaching.
From the noise I realised that it was more than the four members of the Relief!
So I went to the guardroom door and was immediately confronted by an extremely large and very unhappy Senior Police Officer, in the company of numerous other equally irate Police Officers.
They were a sight to be seen! Pyjamas sticking out from trouser legs, jackets etc, various forms of footwear and headdress and their leader demanding to see the ‘Comedian’ whose idea this was! I could do nothing but own up Guv!
It was swiftly pointed out to me, ‘That Bell in the Box in Clarence House Garden’ rings in Scotland Yard and not the guardroom! I had in fact managed to ‘Turn Out’ most of the ‘Flying Squad’.
The Corporal of the Guard later informed me “ he had been quaking in his boots as he tried to leave Clarence House Grounds as he and the relief were almost leapt on by dozens of Policemen who were surrounding the place.
Knowing how we all feared the wrath of the Sgt Major, the worst was yet to come!
When I submitted the Guard Report after Dismounting Guard, (having made an entry under ‘Any Unusual Occurrence’ I fully expected a good ‘Roasting’ from RSM Drouet.
As it turned out, for once I left his office with a pat on the back following my graphic description of the events and a ‘Credit’ for having tested the Bell’s and making sure the Flying Squad lived up to their name!