Even though the REME Museum was closed for much of 2020, we still added a significant number of artefacts to the collection. This included photo albums, letters, tools, training notes, books, badges and medals. All these items help us tell the REME story, but today we’re featuring just one donation.
In September we were kindly given a collection of four presentation pieces that were bestowed on Brigadier Brian David Heelis MBE ADC. Heelis sadly passed away in March 2018 and these items were given to the Museum by a thoughtful ex-REME neighbour.
The presentation pieces chart the latter portion of a very distinguished career which was documented in his obituary, published in the September 2018 edition of the Craftsman Magazine (page 428).
Brigadier B D Heelis MBE ADC
Born in 1925, Heelis was conscripted as an Engineering Cadet in August 1945. He was later commissioned and embarked on a long a successful career with REME, serving in Aden, Malta, Germany and Nigeria. In April 1961 he took his first staff appointment at the War Office.
In 1964, Heelis was in Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation with Commander REME Far East Land Forces.
In 1965, Heelis, then a Major, was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. The recommendation for his MBE, stored in the National Archives, applauds his work which was tied up with the expansion of Army equipment and the reorganisation of the War Office.
‘He is a big man with a big outlook, full of zest and having a great sense of humour; the excellence of his performance has delighted everyone with whom he works and there is no doubt his efforts merit recognition.’ – Quote from Heelis’ MBE citation, dated June 1964 (WO 373/171/68).
By the end of the conflict in 1966, Heelis was back in the UK, first posted to Headquarters Southern Command before moving to Army Headquarters Strategic Command. He was made a Colonel in 1969.
In June 1972 Heelis was made a Brigadier. In February 1973, he was posted to BAOR, as Commander of 23 Base Workshop REME in Wetter. He remained with 23 Base Workshop until 1976. On leaving the Workshop he was presented with two different gifts, presented by his men.
Presentation piece, inscribed ‘Presented to BRIGADIER B.D. HEELIS MBE 23 Base Workshop REME on leaving September 1976’. The piece, designed for use on a desk, features two pen holders, a movable crank shaft and plate featuring the names of members of the Workshop. 2020.44.4.
The tiny crank shaft on this presentation piece moves, making for an amusing executive desk toy. 2020.44.4.
Presentation piece in the form of an ashtray with a wooden base. The inscription reads ‘PRESENTED TO BRIGADIER B D HEELIS MBE BY STORES SECTION RAOC ATT 23 BASE WORKSHOP REME SEPTEMBER 1976’. 2020.44.2.
In the 1970s Heelis was made Aide-de-Camp to the Queen Mother. Several members of REME have held ADC roles. Another Museum acquisition this year was a set of rank slides as used by current REME Corps Colonel, Colonel Andy Rogers ADC, who is Aide-de Camp to the HM the Queen.
I the same decade, after his promotion to Brigadier, Heelis must have had some involvement with 33 Central Workshop REME, based near Newark. The Workshop presented him with a framed metal plaque, depicting Saint Eligius, the Corps’ Patron Saint with an account of his life.
Presentation piece, framed metal plate with story of Saint Eligius, inscribed: ‘Presented to Brigadier B. D. Heelis MBE by 33 Central Workshop REME, Newark, Notts.’ The Museum holds several similar Saint Eligius plaques suggesting that the piece was mass produced at one time. 2020.44.1.
From November 1976 until August 1977, Heelis was based in HQ Director General Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Andover, remaining with Logistic Executive (Army) until he left the service in 1980. On retirement he was given a charming presentation piece made by REME apprentices.
Presentation piece with model eighteenth-century brass and wood field artillery gun and cannonballs. The inscriptions read ‘MODEL OF 9 POUNDER GUN CAST IN 1812 BY W. CARRON IN THE REIGN OF GEORGE III MADE BY APPRENTICES 34 CENTRAL WORKSHOPS R.E.M.E.’ and ‘PRESENTED TO BRIGADIER B D HEELIS MBE ADC ON HIS RETIREMENT MAY 1980’. 2020.44.3.
Donating to the REME Museum
Have you been left a historic artefact by a relative? Or do you have old photographs kicking around at home? Even the most meaningful memorabilia can get dusty on your shelves. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with these important items.
At the REME Museum our mission is to preserve REME stories. We collect objects, papers and images related to all aspects of Corps history: from technical manuals to souvenirs picked up on postings. Whether it relates to a Brigadier or a Craftsman, we want to hear about it.
If you have something you think we’d be interested in then contact us today by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot accept every item, but we are grateful for every offer. Find out more about how we collect items on our Donations page.