Colin Oman

Alan Oman, of Michigan U.S.A. is hoping to find someone who knew his father, who served in the LFs in the late 1950s. He has sent this very illustrative letter hoping to jog someone's memory of Colin Oman, ex Lancashire Fusilier, and much travelled man.


He was born in Salford in 1933. The LF's are pretty much the family regiment on both sides. After completing his apprenticeship and City & Guilds as a plumber around 1953 he set off to see the world, working first in Canada and then in East Africa. While in Kenya he was drafted (is that phrase used in the UK) into the Kenya Regiment. It was the tail end of the Mau Mau emergency and he did his basic training with the regiment and then what I think amounted to territorial duties; weekends, etc. He seemed to have really enjoyed Africa and even climbed Kilimanjaro.

Upon returning to the UK he was immediately called up as he had left before he'd served his National Service. So he was in the Army for the second time. (He wasn't exactly the luckiest guy around!) When he was called up, I think he was sent to Bury for basic training. His first day on parade in his newly issued kit he was the only one to show up properly dressed and looking immaculate. This immediately caused suspicion as they wanted to know "whose army he'd been in before." When he explained that about his time in the Kenya Regiment it was realized that sending him through basic training again was a bit of a waste of time so he was shipped off on an NCO's Cadre. I'm not sure of the details but he was also trained as a small arms instructor and returned to the Depot to train recruits. His memories of the Depot were not always the fondest as it mostly involved "too much to do, and too little time to do it in." Being a junior NCO, he was required to train recruits as well as command guard detachments, etc. I remember him telling me that he especially enjoyed the assault course and also instructed recruits in all small arms and infantry weapons. (He mentioned one incident of a recruit accidentally dropping a live grenade with the pin out at his feet. He managed to pull himself and the recruit to safety before it went off.) I'm not sure but I think the battalion was in Cyprus at the time, which may have meant the Depot was short staffed which I think caused much off the extra responsibilities. One of the lasting results of his time as an instructor was that he became increasingly deaf in one ear as he got older. The result of constant use of the SLR on the ranges.

Anyway, at some point he was offered a chance to return to Kenya. The regiment had a single NCO posted to 24 Brigade and the position was becoming vacant. He jumped at the chance to return to Africa. I know 24 Brigade was not part of East African command but was an emergency reserve for the middle east and Iran. He was posted to the platoon responsible for the defence of Brigade HQ. I know much of the brigade was made up of Cameronians and Coldstream Guards. They had their own transports assigned (Beverlys) and the one major exercise he took part in was to Aden. I remember he mentioned the Brigade's nickname was the "rainmakers." Before they arrived in Aden there had been a two year drought... they experienced a flood! He returned to the UK at the end of his National Service. He married my mother, Agnes a Salford lass, in 1964 and I was born a year later. We lived in Eccles where my father ran his own business. In 1976, we moved to Canada and he died of cancer in 1985. As I was growing up we spoke often of his army time, largely due to my interest in all things military. When I was a teen, I even drafted him to serve as a civilian instructor with my Army Cadet unit. I now live in Michigan with my wife but my mom and my wife's parents still live in Canada and we visit usually once a month. I have some pictures from his army time, but I think they're mostly from Africa. I'll be home to see my mom in two weeks, I think she has some photo's from his time at the Depot. I'll pull them out and see if I can send them on to you. Even though he passed away, sixteen years ago, I miss him very much. It would mean a lot if you come across someone who may have served with him.

-Best Wishes, Alan Oman

P.S. It may interest you to know that when dad died we had his regimental badge engraved on his headstone.