Friday, 19 October 2012

Op Drum - Drum Ceremony

In 2010 the President of the of the Royal Artillery Association Tyneside Scottish Branch, Colonel Tony Glenton, was contacted by  Yves Holbecq, Pipe Major of the Somme Battle Field Pipe Band about a drum he had purchased from a French lady. The drum had been found by her father in law in May 1940 near Fervant in Northern France during the British retreat to Dunkirk. He hid it away in his attic fearing the Germans would not look too kindly on the holding of British Army equipment, and there it remained, forgotten, until 2010.

On the drum, a small plaque was dedicated to 2/Lt William Basil Catto, 4th Battalion Tyneside Scottish. Yves recognised the historical importance of the drum and began a quest to repatriate the drum back to the Tyneside Scottish.

Memorial Plaque on the Drum

The Tyneside Scottish were formed as part of Kitchener’s’ call to arms in 1914. The response for volunteers was so overwhelming that four service battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers formed the Tyneside Scottish Brigade.

Decimated on the opening day of the Somme, they were withdrawn to regenerate in the area of Armentieres. It was during this period that 2/Lt William Basil Catto was killed on the 11th September 1916 whilst commanding a working party. He was buried in the church yard at Erquninghem-Lys the following day. 

2/ Lt William Basil Catto
Tyneside Scottish

The Tyneside Scottish went on to fight at Arras and Paschendaele, going into suspended animation in 1919.

As the war clouds gathered over Europe in 1939, the Territorial Army was doubled in size and units were required to form duplicates. The 9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry based at Alexander Road, Gateshead, formed the 12th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and adopted the honour title Tyneside Scottish. Their intelligence officer, Lt. Archie Catto would be a second generation of Catto’s to serve in the TS. The battalion sought to strengthen its Scottish links, and in February 1940 became 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch).
Officers of the Tyneside Scottish 1940
Lt Archie Catto in glengarry - 2nd row left
They deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, complete with pipe band. The battalion were tasked with the construction of airfields, their pipe band entertaining the local population. As the panzers rolled across France, the battalion formed a blocking position at Fichieux, near Arras. They held the advancing German armour for vital hours, sustaining heavy casualties, before withdrawing to Dunkirk. Amongst the equipment left behind was the drum dedicated to 2/Lt Catto. The battalion would return to France in 1944, before going into suspended animation.
On the reforming of the Territorial Army in 1947, the honour title was resurrected in the Royal Artillery. Today the title is held by 204 (Tyneside Scottish) Battery RA (V), former serving members having formed their own branch of the Royal Artillery Association.

In 2010, the Tyneside Scottish Association began their planning for the repatriation of the Catto drum back to Tyneside under the leadership of Major Ian Jones.

An initial meeting was held with Yves Holbecq in Albert during the Northumberland Volunteer Artillery Association’s Somme Battlefield tour in 2011.
Meeting with Yves Holbecq Albert 2011
 At this point the history of the drum took an interesting turn of fate. Amongst those on the tour was an officer from 204 (Tyneside Scottish) Battery RA (V) who had served with Major (now Lt. Col) John Catto in Afghanistan. It transpired that a third generation of Cattos had commanded Tyneside Scottish soldiers. 204 Battery RA (V) provide reinforcements to  5th Regiment Royal Artillery on Op Herrick.
The initial part of the drum’s journey back to Tyneside was a ceremonial handover at the grave of 2/Lt Catto at Erquinghem-Lys in France.
2 /Lt Catto's Grave
Equinghem-Lys Churchyard Extension Cemetery
On parade were the members of Royal Artillery Association Tyneside Scottish Branch and Heaton Manor (Tyneside Scottish) Detachment Northumbria ACF, a fine representation of veterans and youth.
Royal Artillery Association Tyneside Scottish Branch on parade
Heaton Manor (Tyneside Scottish) Detachment Northumbria ACF on parade
 The Somme Battlefield Pipe Band provided the skirl of the pipes, and a Belgian re-enactment group, the Flanders Jocks, formed an honour guard. 
Flanders Jocks and Somme Battlefield Pipe Band on parade
 Amongst the guests were Catto family members, Lt Col Ian Vere Nichol and Allan Solly of the Royal Artillery Association, as well as representatives from the Royal British Legion. 
On the 6th October 2012, Yves Holbecq and Madame Peitie, daughter in law of the gentleman who found the drum, handed it to Lt Col. John Catto who accepted it on behalf of the Tyneside Scottish.

Yves Holbecq & Madame Petite handover the drum to
Lt Col. John Catto RA

Lt Col. John Catto hands over the drum to
Tyneside Scottish Cadets
for it's onward journey to Tyneside

Catto Drum at the grave of 2/Lt William Basil Catto
 The final part of its journey will be a handover to the Regimental Museum of 101 (Northumbrian) Regiment RA (V).  The location of the museum…..Alexander Road, Gateshead, from where the Tyneside Scottish was resurrected in World War 2 and where the drum probably commenced its journey over 70 years ago.

Flanders Jocks / Lt Col. John Catto and Yves Holbecq

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