Thursday, 22 February 2007

Brigadier John (‘Johnny’) Charles Clinch, CBE (S. 1935-40) died peacefully at home on 22nd February 2007. He had been ill with cancer for a comparatively short time.

Johnny Clinch was educated at Brighton College. He enlisted in the Corps shortly after the outbreak of the War and was commissioned in 1941. His first appointment was with 32 Guards Brigade, then in West Hampstead. He had a speedy introduction to operational communications, despatching a pigeon every Thursday destined for the Royal Signals pigeon loft in Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall.

In 1942, 32 Guards Brigade joined the Guards Armoured Division and he remained in the Regiment until VJ Day, 15th August 1945, his 24th birthday. The Division landed in Normandy in June 1944 and was the first to reach and liberate Brussels on 4th September 1944. As he entered Brussels, an amateur photographer climbed on his jeep and the victorious entry was recorded on film. A copy is held by the Royal Signals Museum at Blandford. The Division then took part in operation ‘Market Garden’ which was the attack on Arnhem and is fully covered in the film, ‘A Bridge Too Far’. He was also involved in opening up Belsen.

On VJ Day, Johnny was posted to the reformed 3rd Infantry Division tasked to invade Japan. Having been Adjutant of Guards Armoured Division Signal Regiment, he was made Adjutant of the newly formed 3 Division Signal Regiment. The Atomic Bomb had been dropped and the Division was now re-tasked with ‘keeping the peace’ in Palestine. Having served at regimental duty since commissioning, he was posted to HQ Palestine which was in the ill fated King David Hotel in Jerusalem. He then joined 4th Air Formation Signal Regiment commanding 1 Sqn at Ismalia in Egypt.

In February 1947, the TA was reformed and he was fortunate to the posted to 43 Wessex Infantry Division Signal Regiment TA in Taunton. From there he went to the Combined Operations Centre at Fremington as an Instructor in the Signals Wing. It was here that he took part in a deep water project in a static water tank helped by another officer who was later to become Master of Signals.

In 1955, after a posting to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, as Chief Instructor of the Signals Wing, he was seconded to the Federation of Malaya Armed Forces and became OC 1 Malayan Infantry Brigade Signal Squadron, which was fully involved in the Malayan Emergency. He was also responsible for the communications for an independence ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in 1957. It was only recently that he received his medal for services in Malaysia.

His next appointment was on the staff of CC Royal Signals, HQ 1 BR Corps in West Germany. After a short tour as second in command 1 Divisional Signal Regiment, he was selected to command Gurkha Signals in Malaya. He joined the widely deployed Regiment in October 1962 on the day the Borneo War started. In 1964 there was a requirement for SAS type patrols on the 1,000 mile mountainous frontier with Indonesia so a Gurkha Signals parachute squadron was formed and operated in Borneo.

In June 1965, he left the Brigade of Gurkhas and rejoined the Brigade of Guards as CSO London District. Here he met many of his friends from the wartime Guards Armoured Division. In June 1966 he was promoted Colonel and posted to RAF Germany as CAFSO. In 1969 he formed 4 Signal Group with 16 and 21 Signal Regiment under command.

In 1970 he was appointed Commandant, Army Apprentice College in Harrogate and in 1972 promoted to Brigadier to command 2 Signal Brigade in Aldershot. He was made CBE in January 1974. His last serving appointment was Vice President of the Regular Commissions Board, Westbury. He retired from the Army in August and joined ASVU (positive vetting). He retired for the second time in August 1986.

In 1952, whilst at Sandhurst, he learnt to sail and took part in the long cruises to France each summer. He was later Commodore of the Port Dickson Sailing Club in Malaya. Also whilst at Sandhurst, he was tasked with re-establishing the Sandhurst Radio Club which has been dormant since the War. A visit to the RSG Woolwich soon got the callsign ‘G5PM’ on the air again and he has been licensed (G3MJK) since that time. He operated radio stations in Malaya, West Germany and the UK, and until his death, was Chairman of the Radio, Invalid and Blind Club.

His other life long interests were game shooting and fly-fishing and he has been able to pursue these interests in all his overseas postings. His retirement house in Hampshire is 12 miles from the River Test and the same distance from the Bramley Shoot which he ran and in the last few years acted as ‘picker-up’ with his faithful Springer Spaniel, Susie. He was the President of the Southampton branch of the Royal Signals Association, President of the local Royal British Legion branch, a supporter of the Village Neighbourhood Watch and an active contributor to all aspects of village life.

In January 1947 he married his wife, Nan, who had been an ATS Officer serving with 3 GHQ Signal Regiment in Cairo. She sadly died in 1995. He is survived by his daughter, Angela, and son, David (S. 1964-69).

Johnny always believed that luck was the main ingredient to a happy life.

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