It is a huge pleasure to be with you here this evening, in these wonderful surroundings, to commemorate the glorious history of the Regiment at this, the last annual officers' dinner of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers.
As the proud daughter of a 12th Lancer, Major Bruce Shand, who fought with the Regiment in France, and North Africa alongside the Desert Rats, and was awarded the Military Cross in both campaigns, I grew up with the history and traditions of the 12th and subsequently the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and have always felt a deep affinity to the Regiment, which is hardly surprising as you are, after all, the "Prince of Wales's own"!
I suspect a few of you here tonight will have read my Papa's book, Previous Engagements, in which he describes his wartime experiences with the 12th Lancers; from joining up at Sandhurst until he was 'put in jug' after being wounded and captured at El Alamein. He recalls his Squadron coming under heavy fire and being shot in the face; the bullet going in one cheek and coming out the other (thankfully missing all his vital organs) but tragically killing his wireless operator. He was taken to Rommel's encampment where he recalls seeing the General in a heavy greatcoat leaving the desert in a small plane for the last time.
We visited Egypt in 2006, a year before my Papa's death, and went to the British War Cemetery at El Alamein. He had asked me to lay flowers on the graves of his wireless operator and his driver who was also killed... It was a truly humbling experience and one that I shall never forget.
But on a lighter note, when I asked him about his worst wartime experience, he told me that when billeted in a French farmhouse before the evacuation of Dunkirk; the pregnant French wife of the owner (who was away fighting) went into labour; with no one else on hand, my father's helpful contribution was an encouraging cry of "Poussez Madame"! ... thankfully history doesn't relate what happened next! But I do know that wherever Papa is tonight he will be drinking a toast to the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, a regiment in which he was so proud to have served.
This year marks the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, an honour that your Regiment proudly carries. In this year of amalgamation, you can all take heart that an action, fought by the 12th Royal Lancers 200 years ago, is still a part of your great Regimental history.
Having had the pleasure of speaking to so many of you this evening, from the 'old guard' to the current serving officers, I have no doubt that you will all preserve your history as you become The Royal Lancers in May. Indeed, in the spirit of "Mons-Moy Day" it will be so important that as officers you all lead the charge, making sure your recent successes are never forgotten.
I am hugely honoured to have been invited to share this unique evening, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, as a regiment, for allowing me to join you on so many occasions. I feel very proud of my connection to this regimental family, and it is with enormous pride that I put on my 9th/12th Lancers brooch, which I intend to wear for many years to come.
I would like to finish by reiterating the words inscribed on the amalgamation plaque at Tidworth Garrison Church, dated 11th September, 1960: "It is not the beginning, but the continuing of the same, until it be thoroughly finished".
I salute you all.