A soldier’s dedication to Pat Kerr

To the untrained eye this is a dull grey ‘government’ envelope, to the trained eye it is SO MUCH more.  This is a “SABC” envelope and it contains one simple thing, a message from a SADF troop serving on the Border to a loved one and a song request.  It has been through the army censor (see stamps) and is on its way to a true radio legend in her time – Pat Kerr, host of “Forces Favourites” on the SABC’s English Service to be read out on air.

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To the troop who penned the note, the request meant everything, cast your minds eye to solitary SADF soldier fighting on the Angolan border, exhausted, weary and writing a note of love to his sweetheart back home, hoping it would be read to the nation and that his girlfriend would be tuned in on her radio to the English Services at the allotted time.  It would certainly “make his day”.

The sad thing is that “Forces Favourites” was an iconic radio show in its time, it was the voice for English speaking national servicemen, and Patricia (Pat) Kerr was a leading radio personality, however her passing and the radio show she championed has slipped into obscurity.

1960098_10152055619561234_1409976751_nThen known as a voice of South Africa, Pat’s authoritative tones later echoed across Farnham in England when she settled there in 1992.

When 90-year-old Patricia Murray Chinnery – stated by a former colleague to be ‘an institution on South African radio’ passed away at her home at Headley Down on February 4th 2015, very few people were aware of her death – yet she was known by millions of radio listeners in the country of her birth – South Africa – and many more in Farnham.

Pat, who used her maiden surname of Kerr for broadcasting purposes as well as Scully and Chinnery surnames of her two husbands, both of whom pre-deceased her) had an unforgettable voice.

An actress, as well as a presenter of radio programmes, Pat Kerr was also a character voice (that of Enid Blyton’s Noddy) in countless episodes of Little Peoples Playtime on South Africa‘s English Service.

She was best be remembered for her programme Forces Favourites on South Africa’s English Service from 1962 to 1989.  Her service to the armed forces cannot be underestimated, Pat Kerr was even awarded The Order of the Star of South Africa Knights Cross (Civil Division), by the then State President, P.W. Botha. The award notification appeared in General Orders 177/81 dated 27 November 1981. This was awarded to civilians for outstanding service to the country.

Her obituary was covered in the local Farnham Newspaper in England, and other than actions by a close friend to notify the SABC, her passing would have gone absolutely unknown in South Africa, in fact this article will come as shocking news to many in the military veterans fraternity.

Her show “Forces Favourites” was disbanded at the end of hostilities on the South West African Border in 1989, and programming format changes at the SABC have left this unique part of South African broadcasting history slip.   A nationwide phenomenon which if you did a “Google Search” on it now would reveal very little.

To give some insight to her personality and love for the “troops” these are her words on compilation album called “Soldier Boy” which she worked on with The Johnson’s Group.

soldier_boy“It was with some trepidation that I approached the task given me by Brigadiers Records of selecting what I thought were the most popular tunes in “Forces Favourites” . Although I have been presenting this programme for a number of years on the English Service of the South African Broadcasting Corporation and have come to know the tastes of the young people who listen to this programme (which is broadcast to the young men doing their National Service, their families and girl-friends) it is always difficult to pick a short list of favourite songs …. The boys do their National Service every year, and there are so many men in the Permanent Defence Force, to whom these songs mean a great deal. I hope you will all enjoy the selection, whether you are in uniform, or not, and that my special friends in the Flying Squad, the Police Forces everywhere, the Army, Navy and Airforce personnel, and Top Brass, will remain listeners to this record “Soldier Boy, and other Forces’ Favourites” as long as the grooves last”.

Pat‘s funeral was held at the Guildford Crematorium in England, March 10th 2015. Well Pat, the “grooves” still stay with us veterans.  Thank you for your service and may you Rest In Peace in the full knowledge that you “made our day”.

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