More from Tom Stokes

The Backbone of the British Army is how Tommy Stokes describes the NCO's. Their Officers who speak of them with great affection when they see a photo of one of their old No1's treasured them. Not always loved by the men, but they were glad to have them around when they were in a tight spot.

It's not easy being a Sgt said one of them. Trying to keep both the men and the Officers happy. Many of the junior NCO's in the 6th Bn KSLI were ex-regular who were called up at the outbreak of the war. Such was the case of Sgt Dick Fletcher always called 'Fletch' by his mates. A larger than life character, who was loved by the men and the Officers alike. A loveable rogue is how Major Meredith described him, having busted him to Bombadier and made him back up again several times. His experience was invaluable, and they trusted him and valued his experience.

He was originally posted to 177 Bty where he served with Tommy Stokes in B Troop and features in their group photograph. He was requested to transfer to 178 Bty by Major Meredith after Sgt Gunn was killed. He stayed with C Troop until he was demobbed.

His personal diary, which is transcribed in my book, gives a valuable insight into the day-to-day life of the men. He visited my Dad with Percy Lewis after the war. Sadly Dick Fletcher died in 1992. I was privileged to meet his daughter Val who was kind enough to show me her Dad's papers. Dick was an ex-regular Soldier and served with the 2nd Bn KSLI before the war, where he formed a friendship with Sgt Edmund 'Ted' Linard always called 'Lin'. They were both called up to serve with 6 KSLI where there friendship continued.

One day in a fit of temper he complained to an Officer that he was an infantryman and shouldn't be in the Artillery at all. He was quickly posted to an Infantry Battalion, only to be killed a few weeks later by his own guns. The men were devastated when they found out, Lin was a great favourite.

I was very interested in this tragic tale, and it took me some time and research to discover that he was transferred to the 6th Bn Scots Fusiliers. He was killed during the Rhine crossing, were ironically there were few casualties amongst the Division. The official history of the Division records that half a platoon from D Coy Scots Fusiliers were unfortunately killed by short shells.

Bdr Packer went on to join the Brighton Police Force and finished his working life with HM prison service. He's pictured (see Photo Gallery 4 for the pictures mentioned here) wearing the cap of the Northampton Regt, which is the Regt he joined after 181 Field Regt was disbanded! Bdr 'Ginger' Faulkner visited my mom during his leave with a few goodies that my dad had liberated from a garden in France Sgt Fred Darby was my dad No1, he wrote to me several times and told me that dad was a fine soldier and a fine friend. After the war Fred brought a couple of Greengrocery shops in his hometown of Chesterton Staffs. I was preparing to go and visit Fred when he was taken ill and died in 1998.