Ladies and Gentlemen before I rush off, I think they are trying to get me to drive a warrior, which could be a very dangerous exercise, I just wanted to say what a huge pleasure it is to be with you, albeit rather briefly on this occasion.
I can apologise if you had to freeze outside when I arrived. It was a wonderful opportunity to present long service and good conduct medals to some people, and indeed the United Nations Medal to those of you who have been to South Sudan, and I realise that for those of you who were in Iraq, the medal hasn’t appeared yet so I hope there will be another opportunity to present those ones.
The great thing about this visit is that it enables me to mark the tenth anniversary of the amalgamations of the regiments. Believe it or not, I became Colonel in Chief of the Cheshire regiment, as it then was, 41 years ago in 1977. Very worrying when you look at the odd photograph around of what I looked like then!
But I was so proud to take it on at that particular point, and when the amalgamation came, I was just beginning to work out which battalion was which... when suddenly another battalion disappeared, which, at my age, becomes quite confusing.
Nevertheless, it has been an enormous pleasure and privilege to be associated with all of you for the last ten years and indeed for the last forty years.
And I remember years ago arriving as Colonel-in-Chief of the Cheshires, believe it or not on the train, I got out at a level crossing somewhere like Lydd or Hythe, to join a live firing exercise down there, and to my amazement suddenly required to take part in a shooting competition! Which was very unfair, I thought, as the whole thing was weighted against us.
Particularly as I had my ADC and my policeman, or something, and the other team had the Regimental Colonel, an ex-Regimental Colonel and the Regimental Sergeant Major, who it turned out was a shooting champion! So, of course the result was a forgone conclusion. And I remember many other marvellous occasions.
But the thing that I find so wonderful about this engagement is that it reminds me of the fact that Colonel Ben Wilde, who commands a Battalion here, his father I knew when he was in The Cheshires all those years ago.
So I am thrilled to hear that Colonel Ben’s son is rather enthusiastic about the army as well, and with any luck, can keep the tradition going of all these families who maintain the wonderful nature of our regiments.
So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I just wanted to say that I know you are kept very busy so on this occasion it has been it has been a great pleasure to meet the wives, other halves, partners and the small children and older children and apart from everything else these regiments are real family operations, and that is what makes them so special I think, and, of course, each battalion marches with all your families as it were behind you.
I just wanted to use this opportunity to pay a particular tribute to your families who provide so much support and encouragement and understanding to their other halves who are so often carrying out all sorts of challenging operations here and in different parts of the world. We owe all of you in the battalions and the regiments an enormous debt of gratitude for the service and very often the sacrifice you provide.
I personally never take what you do for granted and I’m enormously grateful to you for all the effort you put in. So, I do hope that those of you having some leave, or may have had it already, will survive the rest of the training period and I look forward very much on future occasions to catch a glimpse of you. I hope your realise I have a few other regiments and my problem is getting round them all!
It’s been a particular joy today and I hope you have great success in the future. Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.