Catching up on the Bugle Boy prize draw, congratulations to the winner, Becky. Anyone else who may have read the Tinker's book will know about Harold 'Podge' Overbury who joined the Royal Marines at the same time back in 1939. I think Podge is easy to spot in this picture and he and the Tinker remain friends to this day. It has to be said, they are mischief when they get together so as you can see I had a firm grip on them both as they lined up, medals-galore for Sunday's Remembrance Day parade.Then I couldn't stop myself welling up as they led off the Royal Marine contingent with another veteran, Tom in the middle. My mum would have loved moments like this.
For today and to end this year's Remembrance Read, an extract from Bugle Boy by Len Chester (aka The Tinker and father of dgr in case you have missed that bit ) Essential background to this story is that Hodge eventually became known throughout the corps as Podge and I won't be the one to say it was because his mum, Mrs Overbury was in charge of the barrack's cookhouse. Podge features in the film of The Cockleshell Heroes, he's the one barking out the orders on the parade ground, something for which he became legendary as a Regimental Sergeant Major and drill instructor at Lympstone Commando training centre.
To illustrate the remark I made that Wren Overbury was
not to be trifled with, I will relate the tale of the complaint.
It must have been sometime in 1942 when it happened
as I had just returned to barracks after two years
on my first ship and the new mess hall had been built.
We had liver and onions for breakfast, ‘baby’s head
and guardrails’ as it was known in the vernacular. The
liver was like the soles of our boots and the onions looked
like bootlaces, most unappetizing. In comes the Officer of
the day, as was his duty at every meal, being concerned
about our wellbeing.
‘Any complaints?’ he asks, holding his nose twixt finger
‘Yes’, says Hodge.
Well you may have seen a cartoon where the Officer is
aghast and the Corporal swells with indignation; this is
where it originated.
‘Taste this liver and onions sir, we can’t eat it and we
are told we must have a good breakfast before going on parade.
‘Don’t talk to the Officer like that, son’, says the
Mind you, the Officer had to agree that it was pretty
gruesome and he was due for his own breakfast shortly.
‘Fetch this man another breakfast.’
Up comes a plate with egg, bacon and fried bread.
‘Do you withdraw your complaint?’
‘Yes sir’, says Hodge.
On the way to the washing-up space, in a corridor, he
is suddenly grabbed by a huge Sergeant in cook’s whites
and literally lifted off the floor by his neck.
‘Are you the little …… who just made the complaint?’
‘Yes Sergeant’, squeaks Hodge.
‘Do you realize that it was my breakfast that you have
‘No,’ says Hodge, ‘and if you don’t put me down I
shall report you.’
‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ says Sergeant.
‘I’m Po/x3834 Boy Bugler Harold Overbury.’
At this the Sergeant turns a paler shade of pale.
‘Is Mrs Overbury your mum?’ he asks in a squeaky
‘Yes’, says Hodge.
‘God, you won’t tell her will you?’ he says, and gently
lowers Hodge to the ground, straightening his tunic and
dusting him down.
As far as I can remember, Hodge never had reason
to complain henceforth – that was the kind of fear
Hodge’s mum could instil. Bombs, bullets, even a draft to
a ship were not equal to the wrath of Mrs Overbury protecting