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David George Hester – Eulogy
It is a great honour and privilege for me to have been invited to talk to you today about George’s military career – I’ve been given about five minutes although most of you realise that even five hours would not be enough to cover the detail of such a marvellous comrade and friend.
George entered the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion at Oswestry in January 1961, where he joined Colin Rhodes and many others from the Regiment, and met his future commander, Captain Dick Cunningham, who was serving at Oswestry on the Permanent Staff. George - or Dave as he was then known as - left Oswestry in April 1963 and joined the 1st Battalion at Shorncliffe, in time to take part in Public Duties. Initially serving in B Company, he then joined the Signals Platoon where, under the tutelage of people like Tom Creighton and Mick Tees, he served alongside Ross Pritchard, Doug Jones, Ray Nye, Brian McAvilley, Vic Murche, Dave Allaway and Harry Marjoram, amongst others; a group which melded together and stayed together for the next fifty years, and most of whom are here today to wish him bon voyage. Before the Battalion went to Aden in 1965, George was transferred to the Reconnaissance Platoon, where he once again came under command of Captain Dick Cunningham.
I think it is now appropriate to mention George’s name! When he was at Oswestry he was always known as ‘Dave’ but when he joined the Regiment at Shorncliffe he thought that there were too many ‘Dave’s’ in the Battalion, and he said at the time that ‘Dave’ was not original enough for him, and he felt that it was probably a bit common, making him sound more like a stand-up comedian! So he adopted the name ‘George’, which, of course, was not only his middle name but also the name of his father. This became a bit confusing, particularly amongst the officers, as Dick Cunningham continued to refer to him as ‘Dave’, the name he had known him as at Oswestry, and for many years most of the officers followed suit. It was many years later before I started calling him ‘George’, although I don’t think George ever noticed!
For some time George acted as Dick Cunningham’s batman although he rather relished being described more as a personal assistant, confidant or muse, rather than as a mere batman. It was not a particularly onerous task as Dick was probably the worst turned out Captain in the Battalion and George liked to keep him that way. He would wake Dick at Reveille with a cup of tea, persuade him to take the pre-breakfast Muster Parade while George ‘tidied’ his room, having a quick kip, before sauntering into the Officers’ Mess kitchen where he had a full breakfast – he always said that he preferred the food and atmosphere in the Officers’ Mess to that of the main cookhouse, although he was eventually lumbered when Dick Cunningham realised that George’s breakfasts were being charged to his mess bill! It was always interesting to note the rapport between George and Dick, particularly their backchat. I always remember a classic comment from Dick when he said “D’yer know, I’ve just seen Dave in the town, and guess what, he was wearing that new tweed suit of mine, which even I haven’t worn yet!” Yet, they always got on well together and George would later go out of his way to help support Jill Cunningham when Dick was dying of cancer.
George remained in the signalling and driving worlds for most of his army career and loved it, even cleaning his vehicle with Mr Sheen to wind up the erstwhile Captain Newman, the Mechanised Transport Officer! George could always be trusted, and when he gave his word one knew it would happen, even sometimes when it happened in reverse. There was the occasion at the Depôt when George said he was going home for the weekend but was told by Sergeant-Major Jimmy Lennox that he was now required for duty. Undeterred, George just went home as he had already promised his family that he would be home that weekend, and a promise was a promise, so home he went, and readily accepted the 7 days punishment for absence, which he received when he returned to duty on the Monday morning.
Sadly, George had no interest in promotion despite being extremely well qualified and easily able to handle it; selection for the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion was, after all, based on a young man’s potential to lead others. And George had plenty of that and could easily lead others, although not always necessarily in the accepted direction! He was a man of strong beliefs and ideas, and could be relied upon to suggest alternative and more inspiring ways of accomplishing a particular task or directive, despite the potential impracticality or inconvenience of some of his proposals. One was always very wary when he approached – a situation that the Foot Guards always best describe as, “Improperly approaching an officer” – and his requests were legion, and regrettably I received my last one on St George’s Day this year – inevitably, he wanted once again to persuade me to change the date of the Lewes Dinner, despite the fact that he knew it wasn’t in my gift anyway. It was generally fairly obvious that most of his suggestions were made ‘tongue-in-cheek’, and one could always sense that bubbling humour that was trying to break out of the somewhat earnest expression that he was attempting to project – but we always played the game according to George’s rules.
George had an enormous enjoyment of life – he had a most fabulous sense of humour - and a great deal of fun and wit - all of which were delivered for the betterment and enjoyment of all his comrades and other friends.
George Hester had a profound sense of comradeship and will be deeply missed, leaving a gaping hole in the hearts of his many friends. He was a regular participant at the annual Lewes Dinner and the St George’s Day Service at Chichester, and would always parade with his other comrades-in-arms, the ‘Faversham Five’ on the Remembrance Sunday Service and Parade at Whitehall in November. He had an undaunted pride and love for his Regiment and now, most regrettably, one has to witness the departure from this mortal coil of a great – genuine - larger than life - and immensely lovable Royal Sussex character – our own cheeky chappy and most revered and lifetime friend.


 

 

 

©Bob Jones 2009