Ladies and Gentlemen, you can have no idea how proud it makes me to be able to join you on this very special occasion which celebrates fifty years of loyal service 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards.
As some of you know, my very special Grandmother was your Colonel-in-Chief before me. She spoke often and fondly of you and I know she always found her visits immensely enjoyable. You can perhaps imagine, then, that I felt enormously privileged to take over from her in July 2003 and to establish an association with the Welsh Cavalry.
Today you will exercise your Freedom of the city. As you march through central Cardiff with ‘banners flying and bayonets fixed’ I hope it will give your spirits a lift and make you feel proud. After all, you have much to be proud of: the Regiment and its forbears, your Squadron, your Troop; your service and sacrifice on tours of duty; and, of course, proud, of all that you have achieved as individuals.
Throughout its fifty years the Regiment has maintained the highest of standards and the finest traditions. You all understand the importance of values such as loyalty, courage, service and sacrifice, values which are often difficult to find in today’s society, but which within the Armed Forces in particular, are cherished and guarded and passed on to the next generation. I am particularly delighted to see so many of the Regimental Association here today - you are the guardians of our heritage it is from you that these precious values and the ethos of today’s Regiment have been passed down.
Since I last saw you all you have been through a tough deployment to Afghanistan, where enemy activity was relentless, intense and unpredictable – whether in Garmsir or Musah Qaleh. In your marvellous way, you have endured many months far away from home, working in the most difficult and demanding conditions. You have encountered armed attack from a multitude of weapon systems, RPGs and AK47s to name but two, and you have also faced a steady steam of lethal IED attacks. Many of you, I know, have had to engage with Taliban fighters on countless occasions from Mastiff and Jackal and I can only begin to imagine just how alarming and challenging it must be, fighting in the close conditions of the Green Zone, often only a few meters from a desperate enemy.
I realize that the demands placed on all of you have been immense, but your endurance, fortitude and commitment have shone through. These qualities are the hallmark of the British soldier – one of the greatest assets this country has and one of which we are all so proud. Through such qualities you have helped sow the seeds of recovery which can be seen in you areas of operation in the form of the bazaars, the better trained Afghan Security Forces, the stronger local governance and the progress with reconstruction projects.
As I am only too aware, the Regular Army is asking more and more of its Territorial Army Colleagues and I just wanted to say how remarkable it is that so many reservists have continued to support the Regiment on operations over the years. I know very well that for the Reserve soldier, deploying to Afghanistan, or indeed Iraq, presents its own very different set of challenges - for you, your employer and your family. Therefore, today’s celebrations provide me with an opportunity to express immeasurable gratitude to our remarkable reservists and indeed for the families of both regular and reserve soldiers who, I know, play such a vital role in supporting and sustaining our troops when they are away in foreign fields and working in such testing circumstances. Having gone through the experience of my youngest son serving for a time in Afghanistan I know only too well how difficult it can be when your sons and loved ones are absent for so long. Your sacrifices and your moral support, which are so crucial to the operational success of this fine Regiment, are deeply appreciated.
There is no doubt that this country is greatly blessed to have so many extraordinary young men and women in our Armed Forces who are prepared to risk everything so that we may live in peace and security. In this, the 50th Anniversary of The Queen’s Dragoon Guards we are able to renew our special debt of gratitude to you all.