It gives me huge pleasure to join you and your families once again in Aldershot to, rather belatedly, present you with these well-deserved medals for your time in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan. I was so disappointed to have had to postpone my visit last March due to the dreaded virus, but I am delighted to finally be here with you all today.
In my time as Royal Colonel I have seen the Battalion deploy on five operational tours in fourteen years – a remarkable, and gruelling, achievement. Yet for the last three years you have maintained a continued presence not only in Iraq, but also the wider Middle East and, until very recently, Afghanistan. You have proven your steadfast courage and tenacity in the most challenging of circumstances, and lived up to your exacting motto ‘Swift and Bold’.
Speaking from experience, as a soldier’s daughter, I must pay tribute to the families gathered here today – who in their own right deserve equal recognition. They have remained by your sides throughout, kept the ‘home fires’ burning and have been a constant source of comfort and strength when it was needed most, particularly in a year when we have all longed to be reunited with the ones we love. We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to their continued support.
When I heard, four years ago, that the Battalion would lead the charge to become one of the Army’s first Specialized Infantry Battalions (and once I’d grasped what this meant) I never doubted that you would rise admirably to the challenge with your famous spirit and rifleman humour. The Commanding Officer has informed me that these qualities were recently put to the test in the deserts of New Mexico, where your most alarming enemies were the local rattlesnakes and spiders!
No sooner had you crafted this new role, you now, once again, find yourselves as the vanguard of a new Ranger Regiment within the Army’s Special Operations Brigade through which you will continue to hone the skills and experience you have developed over the last three years to train, advise, and accompany partner forces across the world.
As you trailblaze this new path and forge a new character and identity, the legacy of the 4th Battalion The Rifles shall be one of relentless professionalism and glittering achievements that will live on. Whilst your name may have changed, your connection to The Rifles will continue and as your Royal Colonel, or perhaps now 4th Battalion Chief Ranger! I look forward to going on this journey with you. Each one of you should feel immensely proud of the reputation you have earned and I could not think of a better Unit to, once more, write a new chapter in this regiment’s proud history - rest assured that I will be following your progress with great pride and interest.
As your Royal Colonel, I thank you for all that you continue to do for this nation and once again I salute you all.