2010 Regimental Reunion
Saturday 15 May dawned optimistically bright, as Devon and Dorsets from the length and breadth of Britain, and from as far afield as Hong Kong, made their way to Exeter to our annual Regimental Reunion. This was the fourth we have conducted since our Regiment merged to form The Rifles in 2007, and we used the now tried and popular daytime formula.
The day commenced with our Annual General Meeting. This is an important event, as it provides a forum for members, and allows the Association Committee to progress new ideas. The Chairman, Lt Col Mike Richardson, reiterated the Association's objects. He applauded the significant efforts of those who give up their time to organise the different elements of the Association, and make it the vibrant, going concern that it is. He also stressed the close and mutually supportive relationship we have with our successors in The Rifles, forged in recent intense combat. He expressed sympathy for the casualties the Regiment has suffered, and applauded its very real contribution to creating change in Afghanistan. Lt Col Tim House, CO 6 RIFLES, then briefed us on current developments in The Rifles and thanked the Association for its generous support.
Next came our march through Exeter. This was a most stirring event, and some 300 members were on parade; a magnificent showing. The Salamanca Band of the Rifles and our own Regimental Standards led the way, as we proceeded smartly in two guards commanded by the Chairman and Brig David Shaw, an Honorary Deputy President.
As ever, we received a hugely warm reception from the people of Exeter. Mr Eric Dancer, Lord Lieutenant for Devon, took the salute outside the Guildhall, flanked by our President, Gen Sir John Wilsey, and the Lord Mayor of Exeter, Mr John Winterbottom. Our other guests were Brig Jolyon Jackson, Colonel The Rifles South West, now a firm Association friend, and Maj Chris Willis, ex-Officer Commanding Rear Party 1 and 3 RIFLES, and past Bandmaster of the Rifle Volunteers and the Salamanca Band.
As we halted, and made our way into the Corn Exchange, many described proudly how we had progressed; upright, imposing and fully in step, and of the emotion they had felt in showing off our old Regiment once again. The parade was a great credit to WO2 Kelvin Latham, our Parade Master, and WO2 George Symes, who managed the second guard.
We strive to preserve the memory and traditions of our Regiment and remember our fallen. We do this through a simple, drumhead act of worship, which was led again by our Chaplain, The Rev Nick Wall, in his robust, inimitable style. This year, a special place in the service was allotted to a presentation of the Elizabeth Cross by the Lord Lieutenant to the families of Pte Philip Stentiford, Cpl Gerald Jeffery and LCpl Stephen Taverner, who were killed during their service in Northern Ireland, and Cpl John Cosby, who died in Iraq. This simple, poignant ceremony reminded us all of the extreme sacrifice that many of our number have made on active service since 1947.
There then followed the President’s Awards to those who have contributed extensively to our Association for prolonged periods. This year the worthy recipients were Lt Col Jerry Blake, Mr Ken Chivers, Bugle Major Tony Cox, Mr Vic Farminer, Mrs Mona Harrison and Mr Dennis Northey. Citations and photos are on our Awards page. Finally, the President was presented with a generous cheque for £160 towards the Association funds gathered by ‘The Jolly Boys’, members of the Old Comrades website managed by Mr Ritchie Liggins, who hold social and other events throughout the year. This forum is not a formal element of the Association, but does a great job maintaining comradeship among D and Ds.
Then the towels came off the beer-pumps, the excellent buffet was revealed and a most convivial time was had by all. Notable, amongst the meetings, conversations and humour, was the especially warm and friendly atmosphere that pervaded this year, and the attendance by many members who we have not seen for a while. It is a particular delight to meet such old friends again, and splendid that we seem to grow in strength as time goes on.
The raffle concluded, we closed up after tea. In what has now become a cheerful routine, many now continued the movement by heading to well-attended branch socials, notably in Exeter and Plymouth, or by gathering their friends and going to the pub. Many simply went home, taking with them a new set of very special memories.
As ever, many people contributed to making the day happen. Very many thanks to you all, especially to our indefatigable Secretary, Maj Don Jellard, who set it all up and drove it ever onwards.
This year’s reunion was a resounding success. If you were present, we hope you enjoyed it. If you are a D and D and were not there, you missed something rather special. We very much hope to see you next year.