The Voice from Aigburth Vale
The name Ronald Brittain probably won't mean anything to the current generation, or even to their fathers. But in his day, Aigburth's Regimental Sergeant Major Brittain of the Coldstream Guards was as famous a soldier as Field Marshall Montgomery.
Ronald Brittain was born in Gordon Terrace - now replaced by Irwell Close - in 1899, the son of a gardener and the oldest of four children. After leaving St Anne's School in Aigburth Vale at the age of thirteen, Brittain began work in Platt's butchers in Ashfield Road, pedalling his heavy order bike around Aigburth and Sefton park as he delivered parcels of meat from the shop. The First World War had been raging for over a year when the sixteen year old Ronald decided he would like to do his bit and walked into a recruiting office, telling the sergeant he was eighteen. Though over six feet tall and strongly built, Brittain's youth was too obvious and he was soon sent on his way. Two years later after his eighteenth birthday in 1917, he was enlisted into the Kings Liverpool Regiment, where he would remain for two years.
In 1919, Brittain transferred into the Coldstreamers and rose quickly through the ranks, becoming a sergeant at just twenty three years old. Eventually he found himself teaching drill to the Gentleman Cadets of Sandhurst's Royal Military Academy. The onset of World War Two brought about a huge demand for officers and Brittain was given the task of trying to wrestle a huge volume of young men into shape at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in 1941. In all, around forty thousand soldiers are thought to have passed through his hands and gone on to be commissioned over the next twelve years. Titled sons of the aristocracy, foreign princes, descendants of the Empire's movers and shakers - all experienced Brittain's wrath and blistering bellow should they make a mistake during drill, or dare to have a pocket flap unbuttoned. It was not for nothing that Brittain was known throughout the army as The Voice, his parade ground roar being easily heard in the barracks next door. But like most men in his role, Brittain was always scrupulously fair and, behind his fearsome six feet four inch persona lay a genuinely kind man.
Eventually, in 1954 RSM Brittain took off for the last time the uniform he had first donned thirty seven years previously and became just plain Mister. He enjoyed a lengthy retirement, working first in an outsize clothing shop and then becoming an early recruit to the voice-over industry, as well as appearing in a few films. He later earned a steady living as a toastmaster at functions all over the country. Ronald Brittain died in Cheshire in 1981.
An interesting character,Paddy!
I never met him, but remember him and his exploits well, I served as a Medic with the 32nd Guards Brigade in 1951 & 1952, he was a well known character throughout the army.
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