Allan "Taff" Dunbar
Taken from The Wire - December 2008
DUNBAR - Maj Allan (Taff) Dunbar passed away on 22nd September 2007
The Corps took a pace backwards when it heard that Maj (Tfc Offr) Allan Dunbar had contracted an illness that was likely to prove fatal. Why? Because he was a tough soldier, arguably the finest all-round sportsman to serve Royal Signals during the past 40 years and even in retirement he kept himself extremely fit.
Allan hailed from Whitland in Camarthenshire and having attended the Grammar School with distinction he joined the Army Apprentice College, Harrogate in January 1961. Colleagues have suggested he set high standards even at 17 years of age but there was more than that. He was a gifted teenager with a fine brain, an athlete's body that could turn to any sport with the realistic hope of excellence and a sunshine personality.
Forty six years after joining Royal Signals Allan's contemporaries talk about his steadfastness and loyalty, his calmness and never having the need to raise his voice. He wasn't a gung-ho leader but his warm personality and reasoned approach ensured people always followed him easily.
Unusually Allan, or by now Taff Dunbar was posted from Harrogate and trade training as a TG Op directly to 249 Signal Squadron, Singapore. Air Support Troop was a specialist morse unit with the very highest of standards and Taff immediately started to reach for the uppermost branches. He was detached to 266 Sqn Borneo. It was too quiet at HQ Div and Taff found himself in the warm seats in rotation. Based with the Brigades at Kuching, Tawau and Brunei he was pushed 'up country' to the battalions on the Indonesian border and always returned with glowing reports. He usually returned to Labuan at weekends, where Army Borneo played RAF Borneo at rugby. Playing without Taff at flanker was like having a leg cut off.
Taff flew back to Singapore with operational experience, was promoted Cpl and given a 'tentacle' - a forward air support detachment - working with the battalions in the jungles of Malaya. Lt Col Ponanga, CO 1RNZIR, a Maori, treated him like one of his own and would bypass protocol to call in person for Taff 's detachment. There was confusion because at about the same time and despite his large frame, he earned the nickname 'Dun-bahadur' - a tremendous accolade suggesting in the jungles of the Far East, he could be likened to a Gurkha.
In the 1960s 'matelot morsers' enjoyed a fine reputation as HF radio operators and none more so than on the aircraft carriers, but in short order Taff was stretching their very best to 28 words per minute on circuit. It was a game because few could write at that speed but it established the Far East pecking order with Royal Signals in pole position.
not to say that this paragon of virtue was all virtue! Taff had an enormous
appetite, enjoyed copious quantities of 'Tiger' and the very hottest curries
from Zam Zams in down town Singapore. His party trick after rugby, more
Tiger Beer and a few 'blue juice' curries was to run with others along
the length of the upper floor and leap out of the window to land amidst
the tables and chairs below.
At this stage Taff started to play some seriously good rugby, being cemented into a rampant Corps team dominated by Fijians, and frequently the Army. He was often mistaken for a Fijian; he excelled in the rough and tumble of 15's, was a fine 7s exponent and had he stayed in Whitland, who knows what Wales representative honours would have been bestowed on him. He was that good.
Despite the various labels of Maori, Gurkha and Fijian, Taff remained a fierce and openly patriotic Welshman, true to his roots and all that stood for. He enjoyed a fine voice and wore the Red Shirt with pride.
When the time came in 1969 Taff 'flew' the YOS entrance exam, strolled the most difficult course devised in the Army and was posted to Hong Kong as a SSgt (YofS). Tours in 3 Bde (NI), more promotion and tours at large international headquarters such as SHAPE led to his commission into the Corps, a return to Northern Ireland, then Cyprus and Bielefeld. He played an important role in the development of Army CIS Engineering before retiring in 1998 to join NALLA UK, where he met Bernie and they married in 2000.
Taff was happy in retirement. The sportsman in him took up golf and the domestic man turned to gardening - not any old heap of dirt but a patch to be proud of. The leopard never ever changed his spots.
These few words have painted a picture of a man on top of his game in all areas of his life. He was a Corps man, an Army man without, at any rank, feeling the need to be a 'military wotnot'. He was promoted ten times from Sig to Maj; he attracted friends with ease throughout his life who each felt a very special bond with a very special man. From GD wallahs to Generals he was known as Taff. If proof were needed, some 400 turned out at Blandford to bid farewell to a true friend. It does not matter how many times people said Taff's funeral was a celebration of his life, which it was, it was also a very sorrowful occasion. When the kilted piper played, the men who had faced bullet, bayonet and worse were in tears.
Taff Dunbar was a man who had nothing to prove to anyone. He was a stable platform in a troubled sea - but he could also create waves. He was a first class soldier, a gifted sportsman and a family man who took enormous pride in his sons Mark and Wayne and their families. He was a great guy to be with at both work and play. We, probably thousands of us, would like to share with his wife Bernie, sons Mark and Wayne and his grandchildren Fiona, Rachel, Kerriann and Kieran, their grief. We send our sincerest condolences to all his family but particularly to his devoted wife Bernie who was at his bedside throughout the darkest days of a long illness.