‘We need more troops on the ground’ – Sheffield veterans’ association chair appeals for new blood

A Sheffield pensioner who served in Germany during the Cold War has spoken of his sorrow that the Royal Artillery Association’s Sheffield branch - which he chaired - has had to close.

Tuesday, 30th July 2019, 7:41 pm
David Frimley the former chairman of the Sheffield branch of the Royal Artillery Association. Picture Scott Merrylees

David Frimley, aged 75, of Sheffield Lane Top, was stationed near Dortmund from 1962 to 1974, protecting the then West Germany from the threat of Eastern Bloc aggression.

After he left the army, David says he was sustained by a network of former comrades whose shared experiences and camaraderie continued long after they had left the armed forces.

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But the inexorable passage of time left them with a dwindling number of older soldiers and too few younger ones to take their place.

The association struggled after its former secretary Frank Yates - who fought in the second wave on the Normandy beaches on D-Day - died aged 94.

They were then left with just six members and finally decided to call it a day in January 2018.

“There wasn’t enough for us to continue,” he said.

Sheffield Armed Forces and Veterans Day 2017. The Veterans parade from Norflok Row to the Peace Gardens. Picture: Chris Etchells

“There were too many people doing jobs and not enough troops on the ground!

“Two people left and another two died - you can’t run an association with no members.”

Born in Attercliffe as the Second World War was drawing to a close in 1944, David began working in the steel mills at the age of 15 before joining the army three years later.

After starting in the Territorial Army in 1961, David joined up full time a year later, serving six years on active service and then another six on reserve.

Sheffield Armed Forces and Veterans Day 2017. The Veterans parade from Norflok Row to the Peace Gardens. Picture: Chris Etchells

Throughout his years of service on mainland Europe, David grew to love Westphalia - the region of the FGR he was based in - even becoming a supporter of Gelsenkirchen football team Shalke 04.

And serving in the Royal Artillery - working with big guns and rockets as well as the vehicles which carried them - meant that he found work easily as a motor mechanic in civilian life afterwards.

Married to his wife Jill for almost 53 years, their house at Sheffield Lane Top is only the second they have ever lived in. The couple had two girls together who each have two children of their own.

David is cautious when it comes to the idea of restarting the branch, but one recent encounter has given him cause for some optimism.

A bumper sticker he has which bears the name of his former regiment was seen by a man from the same neighbourhood who it turned out was a former member himself.

If they could find just one or two more it might make all the difference to having a branch or not having one.

He said: “It would be good if we could get people interested again. Some of the lads are the life and soul of the party.”

“Today’s soldiers that leave the Forces I don’t think they give them enough information about what they can get. They come out not knowing where they can get help.”

If you are interested in getting the Sheffield branch of the RAA going again, contact Retired Captain Alan Solly on 01980 845233.