The Church Lads Brigade
- St Mark’s Company of the Church Lads’ Brigade was enrolled on 21 Dec 1897 and met each Tuesday in the Church Walk School.
- In 1911 the CLB affiliated itself wholly to the Government Cadet Scheme and for 25 years the CLB was the largest Cadet Force in the UK.
- At the outset of World War 1 over 1300 members formed the 16th and 19thBattalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and their service is recalled by a number of embroidered prayer kneelers still used in St. George’s Church in Ypres.
- The Brigade in St Marks’ was subdivided into three groups, The Young Boys’ Corps (YBC) aged 6 – 10, Junior Training Corps (JTC) aged 10 – 14 and The Church Lads’ Brigade aged over 14. In 1914 the Leaders included Canon F Tichbourne, Rev N. St George Sides, W J Mercer, W A Griffiths, R de P Chamberlain, W J Murray, J McKinney, R J Downey and T Steenson.
- The links with the military were severed in the thirties but the brigade maintained a regimental structure and in 1945 the 2nd (Ulster) Battalion was formed. This included St Marks’, St Goban’s Seagoe, St Marks’ Ballymore, Tandragee, St Aidens, Grange, St Saviours, Dobbin, St Columba’s Derrygortreavy, Mullavilly and St Saviour’s, Craigavon. Its first Chaplain was Rev Canon Bloomer and over the years three members of the parish, Douglas Goddard, David Clarke and Freddie McCann have served as Battalion Commanders.
- Military contacts were formed again in 1973 when the Royal Horse Artillery supplied the Brigade with a table tennis table and built a basketball court inside the Crozier Hall. These links were kept with all Battalions on N Ireland operational tours whilst they were in Armagh. In 1974 some 18 CLB members spent an enjoyable week with the RIR in their Ballymena depot taking part in all military activities.
- The CLB was also very active in Parish events and in 1972 was involved in the ‘Come All Ye’ committee helping to bring organisation more closely together. A Parents Association was formed under the first chairman Ronnie Blakely which successfully bought a very useful new minibus that was used not only by the brigade but also the parish.
- Camping was an important part of the year and included weeks at Donard Park, Newcastle, Annalong, the Isle of Man and Ardrossan. Butlin’s Holiday camp in Ayr was considered a real adventure in the 1970’s as was Girvan. Dougie Goddard also arranged a real change of camp location with a trip to the Holy Land during the 1960’s.
- One unforgettable part of the camps in the 60’s & 70’s was the food served by our famous Chef Ernie Warnock, who had returned home at the end of his military career. He helped with the YBC section of the brigade and was the caretaker of the Crozier Hall for a time.
- Many of the boys were successful in obtaining the Duke of Edinburgh Award with the Gold award being presented to Christopher McCann at Buckingham Palace. There were also 5 Silver and 5 Bronze awards achieved at that time. On one of the expedition training weekends in 1977 the boys were involved in a real mountain rescue drama helping the emergency services in the search for a lost group. In 1980 members of our Brigade were part of the parade reviewed by the Queen at a Royal review in Windsor.
- The Company were very pleased when three former members entered the ordained ministry in the late 60’s namely, Canon Dougie Goddard, Rev Alan Tilson and Canon Colin Moore. Also around this time another member Raymond White joined the RUC and attained the rank of Assistant Chief Constable.
- One member of our Brigade, Paul Blakely who was an active member of the company for many years, sadly lost his life in a terrorist bomb attack when serving with the UDR in Glenanne on 31st May 1991.
- The final proof of the benefits of the Church Lads Brigade in our parish is amply illustrated by our legendary Sexton, David Mansbridge.
For this Miscellany we are indebted to former CLB leader, David Clarke.