Annual Re-union Dinner – Lewes - 11th September 2010


President’s Address


My Lord-Lieutenant, Councillor Lambert, Mr Mayor, Other Guests, and Gentlemen of The Royal Sussex Regiment.


The great delight of the Annual Reunion Dinner is that it is the main occasion of the year when we can all get together and enjoy ourselves in the good old Regimental fashion.  Having said that, we’ve lost some old friends this year, amongst others: Brigadier Andy Anderson, Punch Glue, Bill Holmes, Alf Keates, Fred Quarrell, Joe Steer and Henry Stock: and I would add particularly, the gathering of ‘Arry Harris last week – one of our legendary Regimental characters, with many a wise word, and who kept us in a permanent state of laughter or tears – but whatever the situation it was always enormous pleasure to be in his company, and you learned a lot from it.


As you know, I’m very keen to get the name of the Regiment spread more widely in the County as we are still, after all, the County Regiment of both East and West Sussex.  On your behalf, I would particularly like to thank, therefore, the Lewes Branch for having recently placed and dedicated a park bench outside the Lewes Library, in favour of the Regimental Association, and what’s more, has also arranged for our Regimental Flag to fly over the Town Hall while we dine here this evening.


You will notice when you read the latest edition of the Roussillon Gazette that we have finally reached a satisfactory conclusion on the future of Roussillon Barracks.  The Keep is to be kept as it is and, following refurbishment, it has become the Chichester Army Careers Office.  The major part of the Barracks is to be developed as a most attractive housing estate and will be named Roussillon Park.  The street names of our past Colonels will be retained, with possibly more to be added later.  And the Green, with its surrounding trees, is to be maintained for recreation by the residents.  So, at long last, it’s all good news for our old Barracks, and a very big thank-you to all those who have been involved in its preservation.


The main thing I want to emphasise this evening is that, before too long, we will be entering a period when we will wish to acknowledge the centenaries of the Regiment’s actions in the Great War of 1914-1919: I draw attention to 1919 in particular as our 11th Battalion, the last of the Southdown Battalions – Lowther’s Lambs - was sent to Russia to help fight the Bolsheviks, and after the war in Western Europe had finished.  The point to bear in mind with the commemoration of the First World War, is that we are now, probably, the last generation that will have been in touch through the living memories of relatives or family friends, in touch with those that actually fought in the Great War - fathers, grandfathers, uncles – we may have known them, or known about them, and will certainly be more than aware of those that gave their lives during the conflict.  We are now in the process of beginning to draw up a programme of how we can best commemorate the commitment that our forbears made and, obviously, would welcome any views or suggestions from you all on how we might best proceed.


But equally important to commemorating the centenaries of the Great War, is our need to recognise and commemorate the 70th Anniversaries of the Second World War.  These anniversaries are already upon us, and many of those who fought in those conflicts are here with us today, and we need to make much of their memories.  This year has already seen a number of commemorations of the Regiment’s hard-fought battles in France and Belgium in May 1940, and next year we will be remembering the 1st Battalion’s actions in Abyssinia, and the early actions in the Western Desert, such as the Battle of the Omars.  The following year, 2012, we will see the anniversaries of the battles of Alam el Halfa and El Alamein, where most of the Regiment, the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Battalions all took part.  And then in 2013 and 2014, we will be looking towards the 1st Battalion’s actions in Italy and the 9th Battalion’s steadfast battles in Burma.  That, in itself, is quite an intensive 70th anniversary commemoration programme, and that is even before we commence the programme for the Great War!


I think you will find that the 8-year period from 2011 to 2019 will not only keep us on our toes, but will continue to assure us of the strength, steadfastness and character of our very great Regiment.  But let us also remember in all this that, next year, in 2011, the 1st Battalion of The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment deploys to Afghanistan for another tour of duty.  There’s a lot there for us all to think about.


Finally, on your behalf, I would like to thank Major Smith and the Concert Band of the Royal British Legion for their marvellous and inspiring music this evening, with a promise of much more to come.  And also to the Caterers (Lynda’s Pantry) and their excellent staff, for not only producing such a first-class dinner but for serving it to us so superbly.  Last but not least, I would particularly like to thank the Cadets for all their assistance.