Soldier who have served

Major S P B Badger Royal Anglian Regiment

Jim Badger, minstrel, poet, sportsman and hugely popular Regimental officer, has died in tragic circumstances after a long illness, at the age of 52, near his home in Mickleover, Derby.

The eldest son of Col Peter and Joan Badger, he was born in Singapore on Christmas Day 1951. Christened Simon Peter Beaumont, he was nicknamed Jim (no one knows why) at West Hill Park Preparatory School in Hampshire and thereafter known as such to all but his mother who, resolutely, remained true to Simon.

Jim moved often with his family, spending time in Goslar, Leicester, Münster, Berlin and, eventually, Suffolk, which became the Badger home. He was educated at St Edward’s, Oxford, where his modest academic achievements were overshadowed by extreme success on the sports field, on which his great strength and aggression belied his gentle nature.

On leaving school, he worked briefly in Oslo before tackling a variety of manual jobs on Suffolk farms, during which he enhanced his repertoire of agricultural ballads, many of which contained lyrics of a dubious nature. On joining the Army and further education at RMA Sandhurst, he was commissioned into the Poachers in 1973, joining B Company as a subaltern in Creggan Camp, Londonderry. He subsequently served with the Battalion, in a variety of appointments, in Münster, Gillingham, Berlin, Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Celle, from where he left the Poachers, for the last time, in 1988. He then took up a post at the Army Apprentice College Arborfield where he remained until May 1991, at which time he left the Army, supposedly for good. But nine months later he rejoined and served as Training Major, 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, before retiring, again for good, in 1994. He is fondly remembered from a tour, commencing in 1982, as the first Regular Adjutant of the 6th (Volunteer) Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, in Bury St Edmunds. He is also fondly remembered for collecting more farewell presents from the Poachers than any officer, before or since.

Jim Badger settled with his family in Derbyshire and took up a post at Repton School, at which both daughter Katie and son Ollie subsequently attended. Not known previously for his financial acumen, he became the well dressed businessman who, from scratch, established and then ran Repton School Enterprises for nearly nine years. His task was to commercially market the outstanding facilities of the school when they were not in use.

Soon after joining the Poachers in 1973, it became clear that Jim Badger was not destined to be a future member of the Army Board. Totally disorganised, slightly unworldly and a platoon sergeant’s worst nightmare, he was, however, a huge character and great and loyal friend, much loved and respected by a generation of Poachers. While serving with B Company as a subaltern, he completed two operational tours in Northern Ireland during which he first proved the absolute dedication to the soldiers that became his trademark. Either leading them on the streets of the Lower Falls, or supporting them from the Operations Room, Jim never rested until all had returned safely. From his time in Münster he will be remembered as a rare officer boxer who, during the inter-company novices competition, was being soundly thrashed. But on receiving yet another direct hit on the nose, he lost his temper (for the only time in his Army career) and subsequently, with one blow of his enormous fist, terminated the proceedings, in B Company’s favour.

In 1974, a number of Poachers, including Jim Badger, returned temporarily from Münster to Tidworth, on the occasion of the presentation of new Colours to the Regiment by the Queen Mother. Many will recall the inclement weather through which our then Colonel-in-Chief strode in her green wellington boots. Never once did she use the shiny, open top Land Rover that had been prepositioned for just such an eventuality, much to the obvious despair of the driver. On the Queen Mother’s helicopter borne departure, the parade fell out and, together with the spectators, commenced the long walk back to barracks in their hundreds. At this point Jim spotted the Royal Land Rover and, having flagged it down, asked for a lift. The still dejected driver agreed and Jim, standing in the open top, complete with Royal wave, was driven back to the Mess through the admiring masses and the not so admiring senior officers.

The Poachers subsequently returned to Gillingham from where, in 1978, B Company deployed on exercise to The Gambia. Jim Badger was tasked with organising the live firing camp. In the African bush he was sustained by Woodbine cigarettes and copious quantities of Lipton’s Tea. He arranged for a photograph to be taken depicting his permanent range team posing in front of a kettle and a large yellow can of Lipton’s. He sent a copy of the photograph to Lipton’s who, by return, sent him a complimentary variety pack of their differing teas. They also published the photograph in their annual magazine. Jim tried the same trick with Wilkinson Sword razor blades. He wrote to them explaining that one of their blades had lasted him on operations for over a year. But Wilkinsons were not fooled and wrote back, also by return, thanking him for his letter and enclosing another years supply…one razor blade!

The Poachers were posted to Berlin and, for the Berlin Tattoo, chose to re-enact the Battle of Sobraon. Bobby Roberts’ Circus provided a number of cannon hauling elephants and Jim Badger was appointed Officer in Charge Sikhs. Jim and his Poacher Sikhs lost the great battle against The 10th Foot, gloriously, every night for two weeks, in front of thousands of Berliners. Later the Royal Irish Rangers hosted a curry lunch at which the stated dress code was as for the Raj. All of the guests, which included many Poachers, arrived dressed appropriately. Jim appeared dressed as a Soviet Army Officer complete with jackboots, grey greatcoat, fur hat and Brezhnev mask. He was asked why he was improperly dressed. He responded that he had come as the Soviet Military Attaché…to New Delhi.

While in Berlin Jim was also appointed Officer in Charge of the Poachers’ Pig Farm. Less importantly, he was also the Mortar Platoon Commander and thus was tasked to demonstrate his firepower on Sennelager ranges. Jim arranged for a high explosive bomb to be replaced by a sand filled training device which, when supplemented by some pre-positioned plastic explosive, was caused to explode just in front of the entire Battalion. Few would forget the sight of 600 Poachers, Commanding Officer included, diving for cover in the Sennelager mud, with the commentator apologising for dropping the bomb a tad short of the target. It was also in Berlin that Jim met Jan. They were subsequently to marry in 1980.

Having completed a residential tour in Londonderry, The Poachers returned to Colchester from where they deployed to Cyprus for a six-month UN tour. Jim Badger was appointed Adjutant of the East Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia. On the arrival one morning of HMS Fearless, moored just off the Officers’ Mess beach, Jim contacted the captain who, promptly, invited a number of Poachers to his Wardroom. The Commanding Officer informed Jim as to who was to go to represent the Poachers. Jim, instead, made up his own list. It consisted entirely of his mates who had a thoroughly splendid time with the Senior Service. Not surprisingly, the Commanding Officer was less than happy with this early display of Mission Command.

Jim Badger’s last tour with the Poachers was in Celle as OC D Company. Among other appointments he was the popular chairman of the Poachers’ Angling Club. Under his leadership the club thrived and, prior to an annual dinner, he always organised a privates v corporals v sergeants v officers fishing competition. The honours were never in doubt; the privates always won, the corporals always came second and, in the real needle match, history cannot recall the officers ever gaining the much-coveted third place. But that never really mattered because, as Jim always vowed to remind them, it was he who threw the winning dart that defeated the much vaunted Sergeant’s Mess Darts Team, some ten years previously, on that glorious night in Berlin.

Jim Badger was a man of many talents, many contradictions and huge potential. He was a capable musician, a gifted artist and a poet of sorts. And he had an almost unique gift for friendship and for touching the lives of so many people, from so many differing backgrounds. Yet for those who knew him well, there appeared to be a part of him that remained unfathomable and somehow unfulfilled. We always said that Jim should have been been a wealthy landowner, with a vast rambling estate, over which he could wander and write his prose, secure in the knowledge that he had a ruthlessly efficient manager to run things for him. In the Poachers we would remember Jim best as the entertaining minstrel; after all, we were the only Battalion to have one of those. There was Jim the Chelsea Pensioner; Jim the Co-Pilot of the living in officers’ Lancaster Bomber Crew; Jim the lead Teddy Boy in the Battalion Review; Jim the Officer in Charge of Officers’ Mess Dancing Classes and Jim playing the drums in Joe’s Bierhause in Berlin. And Jim and his trusty mandolin, singing Catfish Blues in Münster and, for 20 years, or so it seemed, singing his trademark song, The Thrashing Machine, everywhere else. We all knew the chorus: it finished ‘I ‘ad er, I ‘ad er, I ‘ad er, I ay, I ups an I shows er the way’. But that we could hear it one more time.

The true measure of Jim Badger was clearly demonstrated by the huge turnout of former comrades and their families, not only from the Regiment, but also from the wider Army and Repton School, at his funeral in Repton School Chapel, on 29 December 2003. It was Jim and Jans’ 23rd wedding anniversary. So to Katie and Ollie, of whom he was immensely proud, and to Jan and brother Chris, we send not only our deepest sympathy, but also our gratitude for Jim’s service to our Regiment.