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Fred Silver

King's Royal Rifle Corps.



(Originally published on the AOBA Message Board 11 January 2005, subsequently deleted and,

but for the grace of The September 49ers, would have been lost to posterity).

George Millie (49B) ‘Chief Clerk’.



AAS Arborfield


Addressed to the Arborfield Old Boys Association Editor:


My name is Greta Silver Rindner; I am the niece of Fred Silver and daughter of the late Bugle Major Reuben Silver.  I was pleased to find the page describing my uncle, which is correct, and not having been in contact with him since 1960 when my father died in Berlin is how I remembered him.  As a child, memories are that he was tough and scary. It is sad to hear that he had passed away.  The reason I am writing is that the surname was SILVER and not Silvers. I am trying to trace Fred's two children, Freddie and Mary Silver and also his brother Bert (Moni) Silver who was in the 1st KRRC band. I left the UK in 1959 and have not been in contact since. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but maybe, as the historian, you have some records? Also, please correct the surname.  Thanking you so much.

Greta Silver Rindner



Response from “Mcg”:


I remember my first meeting with Fred Silver.

Dennis deVeras (later Burnett) and I had arrived from Gibraltar. The bus from Wokingham (a red double-decker with an open platform and a grab-post wound around with ‘handle-bar’ tape and high rear seats facing one another) deposited us on a bend of a narrow country road. Just to our left was a familiar looking gate; now where had I seen an arch like that before?

Surely inscribed was not ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’? No something much more prosaic.

Inside this unwelcoming gate and to the right was a long dark green corrugated iron hut with a verandah! How very Mediterranean!

Standing on the verandah was evidently the School’s Commissionaire. Not that I was particularly impressed as his buttons looked as if they could have done with a good polish I thought, and the colour of his uniform lacked vivacity. His general manner seemed a little curmudgeonly too; not what a keen young cadet would expect from the doorman of a hallowed institution.

I noticed several younger soldiers marching around stiffly in old-fashioned uniforms with peaked hats and white belts around their middle. Evidently Secondary-Modern Hobbledehoys brought in as our servants!

“Get inside!” said the Commissionaire and we entered the ominous hut.  Inside, it was a picture of simplicity, a long room painted halfway up the walls with green and above that a cream colour. The floor was wooden but a strange sepulchral white colour as if no-one had ever walked on it and it was dying of grief. In one corner stood what appeared to be a sort of pagan altar. It was a bed, but the mattress was folded to half its length and perched on top of that was a squared layered concoction of  sheets and brown coloured blankets. Perched on top of that was an array of boots, tins and knives and forks. Could this be an offering to Wotan, the supreme pagan god of war, I wondered?

In the middle of the floor was a single trestle table, again glistening white. On that was a silver urn and a large glass jar filled with purple cabbage. Next to that was an orderly pile of bread slices. The whole gave a stark impression of Spartan simplicity.

Handing my coat to the Commissionaire I said “Congratulations my man, this is a picture of minimalism, hardly yet fashionable, but soon to come.”

To my surprise he let my coat fall to the floor and shouted some something incomprehensible, but I could gather from his tone that he was not feeling particularly friendly toward me. For the ‘Commissionaire’ turned out to be none other than Sergeant Silver, a counterpoint to his namesake, Sergeant Phil Silver of ‘Bilko’ fame, in that our Fred evidenced no sign of humour.

I would become very familiar with Fred over the next three years, learning under his tutelage to operate fire pumps and the secret of the whitened floor as he gently advised me to firstly apply more soap and then more water as I scrubbed it (more f*****g soap, more f*****g water.) I found this advice invaluable, but he would accept no thanks, although I could sense that he was moved by the way spittle appeared on his moustache.

I once found myself in his company for malingering by reporting sick during a GOC inspection day. When I responded to his concerned questioning (through the bars of the cell) with the information that I was suffering from diarrhea, he gave me a thoughtful lecture on how, when faced with a similar situation, he had let the s**t run down his leg rather than miss the parade! After I had made repeated requests to go to the toilet (supervised evacuations), Fred decided the best place for me was the MRS, that strange place where inmates wore bright blue suits, white shirts and red ties! So he ordered one of his minions to march me down there in that curious fashion seen only (by me) in the AAS. This was a double-quick march with, it seemed, a mandatory white mug held in the small of the back, whilst the person in charge sauntered, ordering the villain to double-march on the spot if he got too far ahead.

Such were the gentle ministrations of Fred Silver. Loved by few, scorned by many.

But wait! Fred was a through and through soldier, who I am sure in battle conditions would have sacrificed himself without second thought. Such is the tragedy of the soldier. In conditions of peace he tends to be neglected, even despised. What does one do with them when there are no wars?

Not clever enough to be political (as, for example, all Sergeant Majors must be), Fred was consigned to the Provost Staff. This was a great failure of imagination on the part of his superiors. Surely he would do the job to the best of his ability, but he would be despised for it by soldiers who were brighter than he.

And to have such a position in a School! Madness!

So, my singular Silver, like you I did not, but in retrospect I respect, even admire your single-minded attention to duty. It was not your fault you found yourself in a position in which your virtues were laughed at.

Rest in peace my dear Fred!



Response from “Geo (51B)”:


Dear old Fred. He was nasty to rascals and scallywags, the rest were beneath his contempt. How many men of his size do you come across these days who could face a couple of hundred of teenage hooligans and take complete control with just a malevolent glare. Not many I think. The man had presence, something you don't see much of these days.

This "presence" was also owned by no end of those that ruled our lives in those days. The R.S.M, C.S.Ms, Drill Sergeants, C.Q.M.S's. Not all but most.

The Army was a different place in those times. They didn't get rid of those who had paid their dues; they found a place where their skills and experiences could be passed on. We were lucky to have known such characters and benefited from doing so. There's not many of us from that era who to this day consider ourselves to be "civvies". We owe a lot to those characters.

God bless them all.




Response from “TeeCee (55A):


Yes, these observations do give pause for reflection on our lives in those days before political correctness and consideration for people’s finer feelings.

Although we would not have thought so at the time, Fred Silver and all the "characters" who ruled our lives, wove a rich thread through those formative years giving us a yardstick to judge, compare and evaluate others in our later years.

I often wonder if appointments by the then 'powers that be' were deliberate, in ensuring that no matter who we encountered in later life, there would be no one in quite the same mould as those we had experienced at such a tender age.

And let's be honest, without the Freds of our youth, what would we have to talk about at our reunions!



Editor’s Note. 

1st September 2016. Additional information came to light in which Greta, niece of Fred, expands the story of the family of Fred Silver, and in particular her father Reuben, Bugle Major of the K.R.R.C.  The photo below is of Fred and his brother Bert (Moni).



Fred and brother Bert ‘Moni’ Silver of the K.R.R.C.



The information is contained in a separate web site.  To access it direct please   



First Published on this site:  24th September 2005.

Latest Update:  1st September 2016.




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