Ladies and Gentlemen, before you go I just wanted to say what a real pleasure it has been having an opportunity to meet so many of you, many of whom fortunately I have come across over the 35 years you have put up with me as Colonel. It has been a particular pleasure to meet so many of you who have been, I know, incredibly generous to The Welsh Guards Afghanistan Appeal. You will all know, from talking to the members of the Battalion here, just how much it means to those serving in the Battalion.
I must say I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Appeal and I have seen at first-hand something of the problems our soldiers have to face, and as a father I also understand how the families feel when their loved ones are deployed on operations. I am, sadly, also only too aware of the terrible effects of bereavement and long term physical and mental injury, some of which of course may not emerge for many years. As Patron of Combat Stress I have some idea of the challenges that all this presents. And that is why I can only endorse the Trustees in their need to keep a balance between immediate and longer term needs.
As you know, the Appeal was launched a year ago with a target of £1million, with the Three Peaks Challenge. Of course soldiers will probably tell you that the most dangerous thing on the battlefield is a young officer with a map! I can only assume that advancing years must have improved their expertise, (or was it possibly the Satellite navigation systems?), as Sandy Malcolm and his colleagues managed to climb the right peaks - and within the 24 hours which I think is truly remarkable I must say - and raised £50,000. They are to be greatly congratulated.
Since then, not only has the Committee supported and organised many fundraising events, but so have many of you, I know, in a remarkable surge of support for the Battalion. None would have succeeded as they have without the wonderful generosity, energy and enterprise of those in this room, and the many who helped them in their endeavours. The total I’m told now stands at £800,000 and £70,000 has already been disbursed in grants. I must just say at this point how enormously grateful I am to Peter Williams for his marvellous efforts. It makes me feel so old, Peter, to think that you were Commanding Officer when I first became Colonel in 1975, but you have worn so well! I also want to say how deeply grateful I am (and I’m sure everybody will be) to Jessica Tomblin and her husband who raised so much money with the polo match at Kirtlington Park, in memory of Rupert Thorneloe. I think we owe such a debt of gratitude to her for her wonderful enthusiasm.
I am astonished at the sheer diversity of activity of your fundraising efforts. The Worshipful Company of Drapers, Chepstow Racecourse, Kirtlington Polo Club, Glanusk, Cardiff City Football Club and London Welsh Rugby Club have all been enthusiastic and open-handed supporters, and individuals have scaled peaks, run desert marathons, raced a horse, organised golf, skydived and walked and marched all in aid of the Appeal. One person I am told was even tattooed in the cause, but they are not revealing where! It must all say something about not only the culture of fitness in the Regiment, but also its sheer enterprise.
But of course none of this could have worked without the kindness and generosity of all those who have given to the fund, whether much or little, and though it is a pity that we cannot thank everyone, at least we can personally thank you, the principal donors and sponsors. The support and encouragement you have shown the Regiment means a tremendous amount, I can assure you, to every single Welsh Guardsman. I just wanted to use this opportunity if I may to thank all of you most warmly for your remarkable contribution. It is astonishing I think the amount of generosity that exists in this country; so much money has been given in aid of military causes. Thank god people do understand what the military is doing out in Afghanistan and of course in other corners of the world. I am sure that this will be a huge encouragement to many of those serving at the moment, and also to those who are wounded and who need a great deal of attention in the future.
Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen.