‘Fiercely loyal cadet leader with big heart’
By BlandfordForum People | Wednesday, November 17, 2010, 09:00
A popular Army Cadet Force leader in Dorset has died suddenly at the age of 41.
Cadets in Blandford Forum, to whom Sgt Major Gary Pugh was commandant from 2000 to 2008, learnt of his death just before they took part in the Remembrance Day parade in the town on Sunday.
He had died in hospital on Saturday morning after undergoing tests to investigate a shadow on the lung.
A spokesman for the Blandford cadets, Adrian Oliver, said: “They were all gutted by the news.”
Prayers were said as part of the Remembrance Day service by the Rev Roy Burley, senior chaplain at Blandford Camp, for Mr Pugh, who worked at the camp as a civilian storeman.
Lt Col Gordon Davies, commandant of Dorset ACF, with whom Mr Pugh first signed up as a cadet in 1983 with Kemp Welch detachment, Parkstone, said: “He just had a massive enthusiasm and total dedication, nothing was too much trouble. He was involved in absolutely everything, and was totally dedicated to getting the best for the cadets.”
He said Mr Pugh had gone through the ranks with the cadets to cadet sergeant, and moved to become an adult instructor in 1988, promoted to sergeant instructor in 1990 and posted to Lytchett Minster, where he lived, until 2000 when he became detachment commander at Blandford, attached to the Royal Signals detachment.
He served there until 2008, and was promoted to sergeant major instructor in 2001, and company sergeant major instructor in 2003.
“He left Blandford in 2008 to become company testing officer, assessing the cadets during their training levels, and was our regimental Signals officer,” said Lt Col Davies.
He was awarded the Cadet Force Medal in 2002, and the Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet for Outstanding Service in 2009.
“He was due to get his first class award in September this year, which will probably now be presented to his widow Sara, who has herself served with the ACF.”
His son Paddy serves with the cadets in Lytchett.
Mr Davies said Mr Pugh had gone into hospital for an exploratory operation for a shadow on his lung, and when the results were unclear went to Southampton for further tests, but suffered eight cardiac arrests on Thursday night, and died early on Saturday.
“You can replace the post, but you can never replace his massive personality. Hundreds and hundreds of cadets have benefited from his enthusiasm and dedication. He was a big man with a big heart.”
Scores of tributes have flooded onto a tribute page on Facebook, many from former cadets and current members of the Blandford detachment.
One describes him as “the best instructor the ACF ever had”, and another “You made Cadets amazing”.
Mr Pugh was held in equally high regard at the Blandford Garrison, where he worked in support of the Royal Signals. More recently he was a storeman for 4 (Military Training) Squadron within 11 (Royal School of Signals) Signal Regiment.
Officer Commanding 4 (Signals Training) Squadron Dan Ashton said: “He was linchpin to the Squadron, a friend to those that needed him and always fiercely loyal.
“This is a loss that will be felt for a long time.”