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Ties – by John Dibblee, then Captain of the Royal Artillery

In early 1942 I was in Britain, trained as a 'Forward Observation Officer' to direct fire from friendly ships during bombardments of enemy held coast. No bombarding ships, no raids on enemy coasts, meant idleness for me. But in that year a large raid was planned on enemy held Dieppe on the French channel coast. The infantry concerned were the Canadian 2nd Division and I was to support a battalion called The Essex Scottish.

I believe they came from, or near, Windsor, Ontario, in Essex County and were called The Essex Regiment. They were part-time soldiers in peace time, like the British Territorial Army and evidently had great difficulty in attracting recruits, as all went to the Canadian variety of Scottish Highland Regiments with their brightly coloured kilts and furry hats. So the Essex Regiment became The Essex Scottish and designed the brightest uniforms of the lot. Unfortunately the Canadian Expeditionary Force which came to Britain were forbidden to bring their full dress uniforms with them, so they were just in battledress like the rest of us. But the Essex Scottish found a loop hole. Except in action officers were allowed to wear ties so the Essex Scottish officers insisted on wearing their "Scottish" ties, which consisted of alternative 1" squares of black and bright red, on all occasions. They insisted it was a "Regimental Tradition". Prohibition worked slowly up the hierarchy and was continuously ignored, until they were included in a parade that was to be inspected by the King (George VI). Everybody knew that this poor monarch had a bad stammer and could not conduct a conversation, so the warning was "not to cause the King to have to say more than an odd word." When, before the King inspected the Essex Scottish, the Colonel was introduced to him, the Colonel said "Do you like our ties, sir?" And the King was forced to reply "Yes, Very nice". So the officers went on wearing their ties "We are authorised by the King - he is our King as well as yours, you know - and he is the highest authority there is."

John in uniform

John Dibblee in uniform