The Sergeant-Major; a biography of R.S.M. Ronald Brittain, M.B.E., Coldstream Guards

This a biography of Ronald Brittain, who became a household name in the United Kingdom in the 1950s.  Known as the loudest voice in the British Army this book covers his life as a young lad in Liverpool at the turn of the last century, and then follows his service all the way to his retirement from the British Army after 37 years service as a Warrant Officer 1.

He served in 2 world wars and over 40,000 officer cadets passed their training under his beady eyes. He went on to appear in a number of films.

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6 Thoughts.

  1. I met the Sgt Major a number of times when i served in the RAMC National Service 1954 a true gentleman and a professional soldier.

  2. Commissioned January 1950.I was not on parade that morning as i had to see the dentist. When that was finished I went to the parde ground where my unit was being inspected by a mounted guards officer and RSM B.. I marched up to them, saluted, hand on rifle but, and said .Permision to join the parade sir.. RSM Brittain ordered me to fall in in the back row and fix my bayonet. Off I marched to my position thrust my rifle forward and with my right hand slapped my right buttock to get my bayonet but it was’nt there. I had forgotten it So I went into the attention position as the rest of my unit. The mounted officer and RSM Brittain came by and RSM B growled at me “I told you to fix your bayonet Sir”. So once more i went through the motions. Rifle thrust forward, buttock slapped then back to the attention position. The inspection was finished and nothing was said. What had happened? I don’t know but I like to think that RSM B overlooked my inability to fix my bayonet ? Why was I not marched off to the guard house and charged with something. Either RSM Brittain had not seen that I had no bayonet or that he overlooked my failure to perform becuase i went through the motions in a very disciplined and military like manner.. What do you think?

  3. You have my sympathy and admiration. In a similar situation, it was not until I was on parade at Mons O.C.T.U. that I realized that I had omitted to replace the bolt in my rifle. When the order was given for me to present my rifle for inspection I similarly went through all the correct motion. Fortunately my rifle’s barrel was spotlessly clean, as was my thumb nail that reflected the light up the barrel, and RSM Brittain failed to notice there was no bolt in the rifle. Be assured I never made that mistake again.

  4. In 1949 I was marching a squad from St Omer barracks to Ramilies barracks Ash Vale,
    When a bellow came from behind . It was RSM Britain riding a old ladies bicycle. Who proceeded to give me a good lecture as to a few misdemeaners he had spotted .Needless to say we found another way back after that.

  5. I served as a regular soldier in the Royal Signals 1942-1952, a school chum of mine was in the Coldstream Guards. He invited me to join him in their mess one evening ( we were both sgts).A s we approached the bar the stentorian voice of Mr B roared from a distant couch…. “Sergeant Signals, What’s your name ? “Gillman , Sir” “Your father in the Guards ?” E rr no Sir, his younger brother was.” “Alf Gillman ?” “Yes Sir ” “Fine soldier ! We enlisted together. H ow is he ?” “I’m afraid he died last year.” “Chest ? ” “Yes Sir” “Very heavy smoker ! ” End of conversation. On our next meeting my Guards friend told me that as we entered the mess, Mr B stated to his drinking circle, “I’ve served with that boy’s father.” It seems that my father and Alf were only a year apart and were often taken for twins. I obviously looked like my father ands hence Alf. What a remarkable memory for an old soldier.

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