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Rod Havard first came to my attention towards the end of the Ballykinler tour of 1973 – 75 when he was cross posted from 4 Platoon to Coy HQ to become the Company Commander’s Batman. I seem to recall that his cross posting was shortly after Beastie Pinell allegedly saved his life during a foot patrol out in the cuds at Bessbrook by dragging him from a slurry pit that he’d fallen into. 

At first he was lazy and left all the block jobs in our part of Bessbrook Mill to us preferring to stay in bed but we got a grip of him and he soon became one of the boys. He was 6 months or so younger than me and a firm fan of the Bay City Rollers and a brilliant bloke to know. The ladies thought so too and he was full of himself and never far away from a mirror preening himself and smelling of Brut aftershave!

Sometime into the Shoeburyness tour he passed his driving test and was transferred to the MT Platoon and attached to B Company again, this time as the Company Commander’s (SAS Kenway’s) driver/radio operator. He was a crap driver – a boy racer if ever there was one. We all firmly believed he would kill himself before too long; that is if he was not banned for life first!

During the Cyprus tour (1975-76) he celebrated the end of his teenage years (I was only 20 years old myself at the time and recently married) and I recall we partied hard in Limassol. Our tiny group, Arfur Clarke 73, Mick Taundry, Rod and I shared some quality time together but all too soon it ended and we were once again in the rain of dear old blighty.

After the battalion moved to Warminster in 1976 as Demonstration Battalion Rod was back with the MT and was soon married to a lovely girl whose name, to my shame, I have completely forgotten. Between them they decided to quit the Army and start a new life. He was only days away from his discharge when, on the 8th of November 1977, whilst driving his Eager Beaver (Fork Lift) along the American Tank Road to Imber Village during Exercise Phantom Bugle, left the road and was crushed to death against a tree.

Much to my eternal regret I never had the opportunity to attend his funeral so have no idea where his body (or ashes) are interred. Do I miss him? You bet I do! Every time I hear a Bay City Roller record or Ray Stevens singing ‘Misty’ I think of him and wonder what he would be doing now if he were still with us. 

Rest in peace Friend!

Larry Finnegan, 1 DERR 1973 – 1995