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MAJOR LESLIE JACK NEWBERY CHANNING
(formerly 1868416) Corporal
Royal Engineers

by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2000.

Early Life and Enlistment (1911-1930)

Leslie Jack Newbery Channing was born on the 21st of September 1911 at Castle Hill in Axminster in the County of Devonshire. He was the son of John Samuel Channing a nail brush finisher, and Elizabeth Channing (nee Haydon).

Channing enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers sometime during the late 1920’s and was issued Army Number 1868416. Assuming that he was the minimum age of 18 years for enlistment, he probably enlisted in 1929.

Service at Longmoor (1930-1934)

Sapper Channing was posted to the Railway Training Centre at Longmoor Camp in Hampshire in October of 1930. The units stationed at the Railway Training Centre at that time were the 8th and 10th Railway Companies of the Royal Engineers. Upon reporting to Longmoor, Channing was assigned to the 10th Railway Company. He was further assigned to the Blockman, Shunters and Signalling Section within the company.

While at Longmoor, his duties involved participating in training exercises for the Railway Supplementary Reserve Operating Units of the Royal Engineers. One such exercise took place in June of 1931. The performance of Channing’s company on this exercise was so outstanding that it received special praise from Lieutenant Colonel Lionel Manton, D.S.O., O.B.E., R.E., Commandant of the Railway Training Centre [1]. In a Special Order dated 25 June 1931, Lieutenant Colonel Manton had this to say:

"I wish to express my warm appreciation of the work done by all ranks in arranging for and carrying out the Operating Exercise for the Supplementary Reserve Operating Units. The work was done well and in good spirit, long hours were worked and the result is a credit to the Railway Training Centre, R.E."

"Every man has, by willing co-operation, earned his share of the credit, and ‘done his bit’ towards upholding the high reputation of the Corps of Royal Engineers in general and of the Railway Training Centre in particular."

Training for the men of the 10th Company was undertaken on a continual basis in order for the men to maintain their proficiency in their railway duties and their skill as soldiers. Sapper Channing was awarded a 2nd Class Certificate of Education in January of 1932 [2]. In March of that same year his company fired the annual musketry courses and in July the units of the Railway Training Centre participated in an annual training exercise at Gatton Park in Reigate, Surrey. In March of 1933 the 10th Railway Company began the annual training cycle again with the men of the company involved with trade training. The annual training cycles for the individual companies and the men were usually completed by June of each year. Following the completion of the annual training, the 8th and 10th Railway Companies usually became involved with the training of the Supplementary Reserve units.

In November of 1933, a friend of the author’s, Sapper Jack Firth was assigned to the 10th Railway Company. Sapper Firth was assigned to No. 5 Section of the company that consisted of the Fitters, Turners, Welders, Blacksmiths, Iron and Brass Moulders. Jack Firth remembers Channing as "a well set bloke."

The annual training of the 10th Railway Company came to an end in June of 1934 and in September of that year, as Jack Firth was being re-mustered in his trade and the 10th Company was finishing its training exercise with the Supplementary Reserve units, Sapper Channing was being posted to Singapore.

Service in Singapore (1934-1935)

A troop ship arrived at Singapore on the 10th of November 1934 with replacements for the garrison including Sapper Channing. Upon his arrival, he was posted to the 41st (Fortress) Company, Royal Engineers at Pulau Brani. On the 1st of January 1935 Channing was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. As with his service in the 10th Railway Company, service in Singapore involved a routine annual training cycle for the men and the units. In August of 1935 the 41st Company was involved with fieldworks followed by musketry training. In September, following the completion of the training cycle, the company moved from Pulau Brani to Changi. Before the end of 1935, Lance Corporal Channing received orders to return to England, having completed about two years of service in Singapore [3].

Home Service (1935-1938)

Lance Corporal Channing returned to England and was again assigned to the 10th Railway Company at the Railway Training Center in Longmoor Camp. In January of 1936 he extended to complete 12 years of service with the Colours.

Channing remained with the 10th Railway Company until November of 1937 when he was posted at attend a Drill and Duties Course at the Royal School of Military Engineering at Chatham, Kent. Verification of Jack Firth’s description of Channing as a strongly built or "well set bloke" came in December of 1937 when the following was published in The Sapper upon the occasion of Channing’s departure from Longmoor:

"The weight of the Coy has been considerably reduced now that L.-Cpls Channing and Collins have left us for a Drill and Duties Course at Chatham."

One can assume from this little quip that Channing was a big man.

Channing was promoted to the rank of Corporal in December of 1937, probably upon his successful completion of the course at Chatham. He did not return to Longmoor after leaving Chatham. His next duty station would be Palestine.

Service in Palestine (1938-1939)

Channing arrived at Haifa in Palestine where detachments of both the 8th and 10th Railway Companies were operating railway installations for the British forces there. These detachments had been in Palestine since the 19th of April 1936 and would remain there until the 3rd of September 1939.

British involvement in Palestine began in 1936 as a result of efforts on the part of the Arabs to counter Jewish infiltration into the area. Arab leaders organized a general strike designed to paralyze the civil government, while militant Arab bands attacked Jewish settlements, disrupted all forms of communications and damaged the pipeline to the Haifa oil refinery. Roads became impassable except by escorted columns and the railways were liable to interruption by sabotage.

The engineer problems resulting from the action of the militant Arab bands fell into three categories, as follows:

The work of the railway companies was not only to repair and to keep open the railway lines, but for a time they were responsible, with the help of naval personnel, to man trains and the pilot trolleys that preceded them. Once the country had been partially pacified and the hostile Arabs driven into the hills, the railway units undertook the reopening of the meter-gauge railway from Haifa to Jenin, Massoudieh, Nablus and Tulkarm [4]. This then, was the work undertaken by Corporal Channing during his tour of duty in Palestine.

Channing earned his first medal at this time. He was awarded the General Service Medal 1918 with clasp [PALESTINE], as were all men who served in Palestine during the period of time mentioned above.

Service in World War 2 (1940-1945)

Probably because of his proximity to Egypt while serving in Palestine, Corporal Channing was assigned to serve in North Africa during the early years of the war. He served in the ranks during the war from 1940 through 1942. On the 13th of January 1943 he was made an Emergency Commissioned Officer with the rank of Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. On the 2nd of September 1945 he was promoted to the rank of Captain.

For his service during the Second World War, Captain Channing was awarded the 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Defence Medal and War Medal.

Post-War Service (1945-1949)

Captain Channing was granted a Regular Army Short Service Commission with the rank of Lieutenant in 1947. During this same year he completed 18 years of service with the Colours and was awarded the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (GVIR) with bar [REGULAR ARMY].

On the 13th of January 1949 Channing was promoted to the rank of Captain in the Royal Engineers (Regular Army). He was subsequently promoted to the rank of Major prior to retiring from the Army [5].

Post-Army Life (1949-1995)

After his retirement from the Army, Major Channing resided with his wife Barbara at Flat 2, 64 Bodenham Road in Hereford. He was employed for some time by Courtaulds Ltd., manufacturers of nylon products. He later took a position with Sun Valley Foods Ltd., a firm dealing with poultry farms and poultry dressing.

Major Leslie Jack Newbery Channing died on the 14th of July 1995 at St. Michael’s Hospice in Bartestree, Hereford. He was 83 years of age. His death was certified by J.A.F. Evans, MB as having been caused by cancer of the pancreas. His wife Barbara was the informant of his death.

EPILOGUE

From the time of his retirement from the Army, the Channings lived in the flat at 64 Bodenham Road in Hereford. Mrs. Channing was still living there in August of 2000. Mrs. Channing also was originally from Axminster, Devonshire as was Major Channing. In an interview in 2000 she described her husband as "a very nice man and a good companion." She also confirmed that he was a man of considerable physical stature as has been alluded to elsewhere in this narrative. Mrs. Channing had traveled all over the world with her husband during his time in service. According to Mrs. Channing, her husband had only one weakness – fast motor cars.

The Channings had one child, a daughter, who became a doctor. Sadly, their daughter died prematurely at the age of 29 years.

ENDNOTES:

[1] Later Brigadier L. Manton, D.S.O., O.B.E., R.E.

[2] See Certificates of Education in the Appendix.

[3] Channing was much more fortunate than Jack Firth with his transfer back to England. Jack Firth was subsequently transferred to Singapore where he was assigned to the 30th Fortress Company, R.E. Jack was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore and remained a prisoner for the remainder of the war.

[4] The majority of this work was undertaken by the 8th Railway Company.

[5] His name appears in the index of the September 1959 Army List (p. 604d), but his name does not appear on the indicated page. All officers listed on this page are Majors. One may assume that his name was erroneously omitted from the page, in which case he would have been a Major.

REFERENCES:

  1. Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth for Leslie Jack Newbery Channing. General Register Office, Certificate Number BXBY 756051, dated 9 November 1999.
  2. The Sapper, December 1930, p. 141.
  3. The Sapper, August 1931, p. 20.
  4. The Sapper, March 1932, p. 224.
  5. The Sapper, April 1932, p. 245.
  6. The Sapper, April 1933, p. 251.
  7. The Sapper, July 1934, p. 330.
  8. The Sapper, September 1934, p. 385.
  9. The Sapper, January 1935, p. 496
  10. The Sapper, June 1935, p. 637
  11. The Sapper, April 1935, p. 578.
  12. The Sapper, September 1935, p. 48.
  13. The Sapper, March 1936, p. 214.
  14. The Sapper, December 1937, p. 128.
  15. The Sapper, June 1947, p. 190.
  16. RONALD, D.W. and CARTER, R.J. The Longmoor Military Railway. David & Charles, Newton Abbot, 1974, p. 98.
  17. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume VII. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1952, pp. 237-239.
  18. The Recollections of Warrant Officer Class 1 Jack Firth as told to the author in a note dated 15 May 1999.
  19. JOSLIN, E.C. LITHERLAND, A.R. and SIMPKIN, B.T. British Battles and Medals. Spink, London, 1988, p. 234.
  20. Monthly Army List, August 1949, p. 604t.
  21. Annual Army List, 1953, p. 604n.
  22. Monthly Army List, August 1956, p. 604g.
  23. Monthly Army List, September 1959, p. 604d.
  24. Certified Copy of an Entry of Death for Leslie Jack Newbery Channing. General Register Office, Certificate Number QBDX 002637, dated 9 November 1999.
  25. The notes of Mr. Ralph Wilkins of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire from an interview with Mrs. Barbara Channing made in April 2000.
  26. Supplement to the Royal Engineer Journal, December 1995.
  27. A History of Courtaulds Textiles. Internet Website, 29 April 2000.