From a Royal Marine Website - 2018
Keeping the spirit alive (Tony Toms)
Having achieved the Green Beret, the inevitable next step in the ego-tripping scenario, was to become a Physical Training Instructor. However, I had my first stint as a foot-Marine in Aden.
‘The Radfan’ etc was my first experience of active service as such. I also came across Sandy McVicar, who was my company Sgt Major in Y Company of 45 Commando. Having had my first bullet whistle about 5 yards above my head (in anger, of course) I realised that the fighting aspect of being a Royal Marine Commando was definitely 100% not for me. Cowardice is very easy to admit to now, but of course at the time, I pretended that it was all in the line of duty. Having shat myself every time we went up country, I was ecstatic when my year in Aden was over!
By the way, during my time in Aden, Sandy McVicar had definitely a positive effect and influence on the young Tony Toms, in his learning and manner, and his natural leadership ability. He corrupted me with the opposite sex in the then ‘VIPs Only Bureika Club, a club served for the Oil people and Sandy and me, because we played rugby for the Combined Services Middle East – so we were mini stars!
I began my TWOs course in 1965 along with Len Scott, a bright lad; Fred Cummings, then in the British Judo Squad, a real trier; Mac McKenzie, very smart and a good vaulter; Alex Lynn, a good rabbiter. I haven’t mentioned all the others, not because I didn’t love them as I did all the rest – all great guys with their own reasons for wanting to become a PTI.
Fred and I were blessed with the inability to absorb the medical terms of physiology and we’d had a buzz that the inner ear would be in the exam, so we conspired to copy the inner ear, ossicles and all, on toilet paper and carefully rolled it back up so it was in the third toilet, waiting to be exploited. My chances of being scarred during the exam were negligible but Fred was in the British Judo team – good credibility. He was duly allowed to go to the toilet. I waited with baited breath for his return, as he was to write it down and then pass it to me. After ten minutes I looked at him with a quizzical look and he looked back at me in the way only a brainless person can do! He then scribbled something on his paper and dropped it on the floor. I dutifully picked it up ready to start copying the inner ear, only to read the following: ‘Sorry, mate, I’ve really gone blank. I can’t remember. I really can’t!’ I hated Fred Cummings with vengeance from then on. So I was delighted when during our Qualifying celebration, PU Maurice Logue, who weighed about 3 stone at the time, floored Fred in a Judo contest breaking Fred’s thumb as well. Delighted I was!
While I’m at it, it’s strange that all the people who were helped the most by the Corps and the Physical Training Instructor Wing don’t seem to come back for the reunion – to pay homage if nothing else. Like professional football clubs, the Branch is always bigger than any individual.
I learnt that lesson very quickly in my professional football days. I was Jack Charlton’s right-hand man for seven years at Sheffield. Wednesday visiting CTCRM a number of times as a privilege we both appreciated. However, having saved the club from the lower end of the Third Division into the Premier, and change a 3 million-pound debt into a 2 million in the black, to reach two semi-finals, to be asked to resign, was a hell of a wakening up period for me. I related to a conversation in a pub in Sheffield a few years later when a supporter was singing my praises and the supporter opposite him said: ‘Tony who?’ That’s how quick it is, like that, no you can be thankful you’ve been there, looking back. I am a very proud man that I belonged to the PT branch for so long. The branch in particular gave me empathy that chance to put yourself in other people’s shoes, especially where pain and other people’s physical and mental distress are on the line. A great lesson for anyone.
I am writing this from East Timor where I am currently trying to earn a living, so bear with me as the facilities to write are zero where I am. I hope to see you all at the next PT Reunion!