Person profile: John Scott – golf club manager and soldier

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 24, 2011 16:32

John Scott, former serving Secretary and a member of the GCMA for several years has recently returned from military service, as a Royal Marine, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John joined the GCMA whilst the manager of Wrexham Golf Club, in North Wales, back in 1995. Some golfing highlights of that time were the club hosting the Ladies’ Home Internationals and holding both the Welsh Men’s Team trophy and the Welsh Ladies’ Team trophy at the same time. Although won in successive years the slight overlap allowed both trophies to be proudly displayed together in the trophy cabinet. And it was here that John linked back up with the Royal Marines by joining the Royal Marine Reserves in Merseyside.

After four and a half years, John moved to Thurlestone Golf Club in Devon, the county of his birth. The history of Thurlestone Golf Club has a strong link with the Royal Marines, forged during the Second World War, when Thurlestone village was the base for officer training. The base of the parade square flag pole can still be found in the rough along the 16th fairway and raking the bunkers can still occasionally bring up evidence of the course being used for military training. A golf match is still played each year between the club and the Royal Marines for a trophy presented to the club by the Royal Marines. John always enjoyed those matches as he felt he had a foot in both camps.

The Iraq war in 2003 had John short listed for mobilisation for the war, but in the end he was not required and he remained at Thurlestone. Watching the war on television, reading about it in the papers and talking to friends within 3 Commando Brigade made John hanker for one more military adventure. So in the beginning of 2004, John left Thurlestone and commenced a six month tour of Iraq as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marines. Commanding a group of 45 men and women from the US, UK and Australia, he was based in Basra Palace and with his team ventured out all over southern Iraq conducting military operations in support of the American-led Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The adventure was now being lived and every mission was diverse and carefully planned. Having eight paratroopers as his force protection gives some indication of the type of work he was undertaking. One occasion saw him flying north to lead a search operation on the banks of the Tigris River, far from friendly forces; another driving just over the border into Kuwait to lead a memorial service, one year on to the day, on the site of the first casualties of the Iraq war. In the early morning of March 21, 2003, as the ground invasion of Iraq began, a US Marine Corps helicopter had crashed, killing eight members of 3 Commando Brigade and the US aircrew. In an article John wrote at the time for the Royal Marines’ regimental magazine he said “there was nothing to indicate the site of the crash, which had been located using GPS, and the desert was flat to the horizon. Under a blue sky and in bright sunshine, in a place where until now the only witnesses had been the camels whose footprints criss-crossed the spot, a hollow square was formed”. He then went on to report that those present gathered with a service chaplain to commemorate the lives of those lost, one Royal Marine spontaneously leaving the badge from his green beret to mark the occasion until such time as a more permanent memorial could be laid.

On returning to UK taking a break and enjoying some golf, John underwent training to specialise in a media role with the Royal Marines. After a stint working in the Ministry of Defence, promoting the Royal Navy and Royal Marines through television documentaries, came yet one more adventure. This time off to Afghanistan with 3 Commando Brigade as part of its media operations team. This was a very different job from previous military roles and the experience of being a golf club Manager proved to be highly useful. Dealing with the world’s media required all the skills of diplomacy, tact and persuasion ever used on any visitor, member or committee in any club by a Manager. Combining this with his military knowledge, John was responsible for ensuring that media visits to the Hellmand province in southern Afghanistan ran smoothly. Patrols out into the province were necessary for the reporters to report first-hand of their experiences and be able to meet local Afghans. The media being what it is meant that most of it wanted something exciting to report, which normally meant being shot at. The Royal Marines was able to provide those opportunities. From the time spent in Afghanistan some of the stories covered were heroic, like when The Sun detailed how a Sergeant had lifted a two ton vehicle, which had overturned in a pool of water, enough to release a marine trapped under the vehicle and under the water; or building work – for example constructing small police check points for the Afghan police whilst under fire from the Taliban; or just good fun like the Daily Mirror coverage of Gordon Ramsey cooking Christmas lunch for 800 service personnel. Sadly, all too often the articles covered the death of a serviceman. “Their eulogies were always amazing to read, these young men had always done so much, they were brave and selfless, and they were the sort of people you just wanted to have around you,” said John.

Returning at the end of January 2007, John was asked to go to Iraq in April to head the military media operation in southern Iraq.

Again, the working conditions were difficult and dangerous for everyone, but for John the camaraderie that is built up during these tense times is very strong and the British sense of humour shines through it all. It was an opportunity to work with highly trained and professional people in an environment where life and death were the key issues and some of the problems encountered elsewhere in life were, for a change, insignificant.

Now back home with his family, John reflects on these three operations: the joy shown by many of the Afghans and Iraqis towards the armed forces; the young children, especially, who were full of carefree happiness like youngsters anywhere. They are the future of their countries and it is hoped they will get the future they deserve.

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick October 24, 2011 16:32
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