As your Colonel in Chief for fifteen of your fifty years of existence, I am very proud to be here today and to be able to share this special moment as we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Army Air Corps. It has been an extraordinary period that has seen enormous leaps in technology, and operations that have spanned the globe. It has seen the Corps’ stock continue to rise across Defence and it now sits firmly at the heart of the British Army and is a vital component of almost every operation. Today, as always, the officers and soldiers of the Corps serve with great courage, tenacity and sheer professionalism. It is important, therefore, that today we keep in mind those absent friends and colleagues who are currently serving with such distinction elsewhere....
If I may say so, I am most impressed that the professionalism and dedication to duty that the Army Air Corps shows every day on operations is also evident in your drill and bearing today. The Corps is, of course, no stranger to foot drill. In 1994 I had the enormous pleasure of presenting the Guidon to the Corps here, at Middle Wallop. At that time, the honours emblazoned on it were only those awarded since 1957. This year the Corps has been granted the privilege of having the many battle honours of the Glider Pilot Regiment also emblazoned on it.
More recently, I need hardly say how delighted I was to see the Pale Blue Beret on parade in London as the Queen’s Guard, where I had the opportunity to meet many of the officers and soldiers and was impressed by both their very high standards and equally high morale. I was even more impressed to find that such was their enthusiasm for their new-found skills a detachment had followed me to Edinburgh to act as an Honour Guard at Holyrood Palace during my time in Scotland....!
The memorial that we have just dedicated prior to this parade is a fitting symbol of the sacrifices that have been made in the name of aviation over the years, but occasions such as this are an opportunity to make the very important bridge between the past and the future. It is most appropriate that retired members of the Army Air Corps and members of the Glider Pilot Regiment and the Air Observation Post Associations are here today, since they represent the solid foundations on which the Corps will continue to build. It is also wonderful to see that our military affiliation with Australian Army Aviation has equally been acknowledged, and we are delighted to welcome their officers and soldiers.
I recently presented campaign medals to members of 9 Regiment who had returned from Afghanistan and it gave me the greatest pride to witness their enthusiasm and sense of duty, despite the incredibly difficult and challenging conditions in which they had been operating. Theirs was not a unique response, of course; I am constantly amazed at how resilient and good humoured the British serviceman and servicewoman can be in the face of the most appalling operational circumstances that would confound most people. We can feel justifiably proud of our Army Air Corps and I can certainly say what a huge privilege and pleasure it has been to serve as your Colonel-in-Chief for the past fifteen years.
Having served in the Fleet Air Arms and attempted to fly the Wessex 5 with 845 Squadron, I particularly appreciate and value the peculiar form of humour that permeates the Corps and which, for me, makes it so unique. Long may it last in these days of political correctness...
I can only congratulate you on the magnificent way in which you have chosen to mark this Golden Jubilee year and I am so very pleased to be able to share it with you all on such a special occasion.