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In Memoriam
  Matt McBirney  
Royal Corps Of Signals
Died March 2008.
Matt was a member of Minden Platoon, 'D' Company until he graduated in December 1962. He certainly played football for 'D' Company and possibly the Regiment.
Matt's Funeral took place in Falkirk on Thursday 3rd. April 2008.
Ex-members of 216, 244 and 249 Signals Squadron's attended the funeral service. The chapel was crammed full with family, friends, and work-colleagues, and there were many floral tributes. Jan, Lorraine, Gary, and their children have asked me to express their thanks to those who attended and for the many messages of sympathy they received.
Remember Jan, you are part of our Airborne family and we would love to see you at the reunion's. Please stay in contact with the Old Comrades Association.
Keith Weller

Matt was an ex Tonfanau boy, a Para in 216 Signal Squadron, a good footballer and a real character. We served together in 249 Squadron in Singapore and there are so many stories about him - most of them true! Matt always seemed indestructible and his departure is a real loss to so many people. He graduated from the AAJLR in December 1962.
Gus Boag

Matt started his Army career in 1962 with Minden Platoon, D Coy, AAJLR Tonfanau. In 1963, after qualifying as a Radio Telegraphist at 24 Signal Regt in Catterick, and looking for adventure and excitement, Matt volunteered for Airborne Forces. He effectively survived the eventual 'P' Coy at Maida Barracks, Aldershot. In 1964 he joined 216 Para Signal Sqn at Ellis Barracks, Farnborough, and hardly had time to unpack before the Sqn deployed to Cyprus for operational duty with UNFICYP. 1964 was to prove a busy year with another operational deployment to Borneo with Patrol Coy, 2 PARA. In 1965, he joined 2 PARA again, this time for active service in the Radfan - adventure and excitement indeed!
Those of us fortunate to know him will remember Matt as a complete rascal with a legendary sense of humour. Nothing and no-one was sacred - from his early antics in Aldershot impersonating "Dr Kildare" whenever he encountered young QARANC recruits on their first foray into the NAAFI Club - through to the penultimate prize-winning performance that earned him a permanent place in Corps folklore. Not many ride a horse through a Sergeants' Mess and come away unscathed by injury or official retribution, let alone with First Prize and the coveted Blue Rosette.
Some would say it was this sense of fun, and a few days unauthorised leave (AWOL) in Blackpool with the late John Angus (the two of them should have been on a 216 Sqn parachuting exercise) that combined, not in his downfall as you might expect, but in his redemption. How so? Well, following the "Blackpool" incident the powers-that-be decided Matt needed to "broaden his horizons", and he was posted to Air Support Troop, 249 Signal Sqn (FARELF). There he was to meet Jan Walkinshaw of 4 Coy WRAC, a fellow Scot, his future life partner, and given this was exotic Singapore in the 1960s, his undoubted saviour.
Having (some would say) fortuitously survived the exotic Far East, Matt, new wife Jan, and first child Lorraine, returned to 216 Para in 1971. There followed a N Ireland tour to Lurgan with 16 Para Brigade, a Drill Course at Pirbright, and numerous para/radio exercises in UK, Norway, Cyprus, Turkey, Sardinia, and Germany. Throughout this time he firmly established himself as an outstanding NCO and a highly experienced radio det commander. Matt excelled at sport, particularly football, and represented the Sqn at Brigade level, and the Corps at Army level.
While in Aldershot, Matt and Jan were further blessed with a son, Gary. In 1976, when 16 Para Brigade disbanded, Matt went as a Staff-Sergeant to 7 Signal Regt in BAOR. Promoted WO2 in 1979, he joined Queen's (Belfast) UOTC as PSI.
His artistically successful UOTC tour was followed in 1981 by a posting as SSM to the newly-formed Junior R Signals Regt at Ousten. His last move was to Cyprus in 1983, as RQMS with 9 Signals at Ayios Nikolias. Matt retired from the Army in 1985, having completed 24 years regular service.
On leaving the army, Matt, Jan and family moved back to Scotland, to Cumbernauld and a job with Tennant's Brewery. In later years he served briefly with 32 Signal Regt (V) in Glasgow. In 2007, mobility problems forced him to retire early from full-time work. Both his knees were knackered by years of parachuting and football, and he found it most difficult to walk.
By the end of 2007, NHS Scotland had scheduled Matt for double knee-replacement surgery. However, in February '08 he suffered peritonitis then septicaemia, which saw him spend eight days in Intensive Care, followed by five weeks in hospital. Making a good recovery he was allowed home. He and Jan talked about plans for a summer cruise. Tragically, on 23rd March his heart failed, and he died peacefully in his sleep.
A funeral service was held at Falkirk Crematorium on 3rd April, attended by his family, and scores of friends and work-colleagues. Some old comrades from 216, 244, and 249 Signal Squadron's helped fill the chapel to capacity. There were many floral tributes, sent from near and far, and numerous messages of condolence posted on the 216 Para Sigs guestbook.
Matt will be fondly remembered by his countless friends and comrades, throughout R Signals and the Airborne. Deepest sympathies are extended to his loving family.
RIP, Matt McBirney - a wonderful brother-in-arms - sorely missed, never forgotten.
Richard Hamilton

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