1st Bn The Royal Sussex Regt 3rd Bn The Queen's Regt
QUEBEC DAY DINNER 2009
Lewes Town Hall – 12th September 2009
Councillor Grey, Madam Mayor, Other Guests, and Gentlemen of The Royal Sussex.
It is a great privilege and honour to be on my hind legs this evening, addressing you on this most memorable day, and whether the French-Canadians like it or not, we will celebrate the 250th Anniversary of the Battle of Quebec in our normal Regimental style. I know that when you go to Waterloo (the site of the Battle that is!) you are given the impression that the French won. It appears in Canada that the Battle of Quebec seems never to have even taken place at all! Nevertheless, we sent our greetings on this most auspicious day to those associated with the celebration of the battle. The message we sent was:
“As 400 surviving members of Otway’s Regiment – the 35th of Foot – assemble for their re-union Dinner at Lewes in Sussex on the eve of the 250th Anniversary of the Battle of Quebec (at a time that Otway’s was preparing to embark for L’Anse du Foulon), the President and all members of The Royal Sussex Regimental Association send the President and Members of the Wolfe Society, the Chairman and members of the Canadian National Battlefields Commission, and the Chairman and Members of the 35th Royal Sussex Regimental Society of the United States of America their felicitations on this historic occasion, and wish all their comrades very successful Anniversary celebrations, and a peaceful and prosperous future.”
If you want to know what really happened 250 years ago then Colonel Nigel Knocker’s excellent article in the latest Rousso is well worth a read and gives a much clearer perspective of events, particularly on the background leading up to the battle. We have also publicised the anniversary of the battle in both the Chichester and Lewes papers, and many, I’m sure will already have seen them.
Greg Fielder, a member of the Chichester Branch is in Quebec at the moment and tomorrow he will lay a wreath on the Regiment’s behalf at the Battlefield Memorial. Both Greg’s father and grandfather served in the Regiment – his grandfather, with the 2nd Battalion, was killed on the Somme in 1916, and his father served in the Second World War with both the 4th Battalion and the Commandoes.
Unfortunately, the Wolfe Society cannot be with us tonight due to their heavy commitments this weekend at Westerham, General Wolfe’s birthplace. Tomorrow afternoon, there is a re-enactment of the battle at Westerham and David Wakefield will there to represent the Regiment, and all others are welcome to attend.
I’m glad that so many of you are here this evening, particularly those that have made such a special effort to get here from afar; John Newham from Australia, Jonah Jones from Belize, Bill Kempton and Doug Jones from Canada, Paul Farrugia and John Snow from Malta, and several from Northern Ireland and the Continent, including two from Lemgo – I’m not sure if we forgot to bring them back with us or whether they’ve been absent for the last 40 years! We also have some of the youngsters, including Lieutenant Colonel John Russell, apparently the best Recce platoon commander ever, although presumably not taking either Cunningham or McCully into account. Young Russell is, of course, the son of Colonel David Russell, the last commanding officer of 1st Royal Sussex.
We have also lost some good people this year: amongst others - Bryan Richardson, Dick Cunningham, Len Smitherman, John Dunkeld and Clem Klimatis (or whatever his real name was!). Our oldest In-Pensioner at Chelsea – RQMS Bill Swingler was gathered in January this year but at the age of 104, he’d had a pretty good innings. Unfortunately, neither of our two remaining In-Pensioners, Sam Weekes nor Roy Prisley, can be here tonight as they are both bedded down, but they send their regards to everyone.
July this year saw the 1st Battalion of the PWRR exercising their Freedoms throughout most of their recruiting area and it was a great privilege for many members of our Association to take part in the parades when they were marching through Worthing and Lewes. The atmosphere and support on the streets of both towns was magnificent and very moving to all of us. It was particularly noticeable when the senior PWRR officer on each occasion, when replying on behalf of the regiment, make considerable effort to ensure that the public, in both Worthing and Lewes, should take note that the PWRR continued to be their local regiment in Sussex – they probably said the same in Kent, Surrey and Hampshire – but they were making the point that they consider themselves to be carrying on the Royal Sussex standards and traditions in the County, and that is good for all of us. And what’s more, their band played Sussex-by-the-Sea up and down the High Street in both towns! It was topped off by the magnificent lunch we were given in here in Lewes by the Mayor and Council afterwards.
You will have seen many of the exhibits commemorating the battle and the celebrations of past Quebec Days – and you will all have your special memories of the fun days that we’ve all had – the numerous Trooping the Colour Parades - the occasion when Major McCully was commanding the Escort to the Colour with his leg so heavily strapped-up that most others would have preferred to stay in bed – the Warrant Officers and Sergeants’ Mess Quebec Day Ball, with the whole battalion employed to make sure it went like clockwork, and all the young subalterns queuing up in the hope of getting a dance with the beautiful Mrs Ayling – so many happy memories. My special one was when we were at Catterick in 1976 – the day started with an Inter-Company Sports Competition and I arrived a little late but in time to witness the then commanding officer – an import who wasn’t keen on anything to do with Sussex – to see him going into orbit when he realised that Steve Thorpe had raised the Royal Sussex flag to the top of the stadium flagpole – and just as he was beginning to calm down, ‘Doc’ Costan came round the corner wearing a Royal Sussex stable-belt – the CO went apoplectic and ‘Doc’ was almost in danger of having to administer first-aid, but fortunately the RSM led the CO away to a quiet place out of the Sun. Fun days and I expect we’ll have a lot more fun tonight.
Most of you may be aware that, earlier this year, I received a number of suggestions to change the date of the Annual Dinner from April to September. Not only were people keen to make more of Quebec Day - as we are doing this year – but it would also allow us to break out of the situation where we had a large gathering for St George’s Day in Chichester on 23rd April, followed within a few days by the Annual Dinner in Lewes. I wrote to all Branches asking for their views as we felt it important that all individual members of the Association should be in favour of the proposed change. All Branches, except Brighton, agreed wholeheartedly to the proposal, as were those officers who live too far away to belong to Branches. At the Executive Meeting this afternoon, where all Branches were represented, it was officially agreed that, in future, the Annual Dinner should be held at Lewes on the second Saturday in September – a Saturday that always falls within 3 or 4 days of Quebec Day itself.
And the Town Hall has already been booked for next year!
One of the other things I’m concerned about is whether or not we know where everyone is. Tonight, we have 360 of the Regiment sitting down to Dinner but only 303 are members of Branches, or on the officers’ list. We therefore have some 57 or so members of the Regiment where we have no record at all of your whereabouts. This means that if there’s a problem, we don’t know how to contact you or your families. Let us try and make an effort this evening to get down the contact addresses of the “Lurking 57” - sounds more like a company of the Middlesex! - and I would be grateful if Branch Secretaries could try and pin each of them down. I know a number of the 57 are living overseas and it’s probably easier if you give your details to Brian Hudson, our Association Secretary.
In respect of some of those living overseas, I would particularly like to congratulate Jonah and Les Deacon, and the others, for all their dedicated work in managing and running the Royal Sussex/3 QUEENS website – it gives a great deal of comradeship and pleasure to many members of the Association.
Now we need your help. Many of you will remember the Millstone and Sundial recovered from the North West Frontier in India in 1920 and which stood on the edge of the Green in Roussillon Barracks. When the RMP left the barracks, the Sundial was moved into the area of the Keep for closer security. The Keep has recently been refurbished and, in doing so, the Recruiters were moved out for the duration, and when they moved, the MOD Police went as well. During that short period, the Millstone and Sundial went missing and, obviously, we want it back. The Police are investigating, as are the building contractors. What I would like everyone here tonight is to keep a lookout for it please - check out your local Garden Centres, particularly those selling statuary and ornaments, local reclamation sites and similar places, and cast an eye over adverts in local shops and newspapers – and try and get your friends and relatives to keep a lookout as well. The Millstone is circular, about 5 feet wide and almost a foot deep. The brass Sundial mounted on top of it is about 3 foot wide and has an inscription mentioning its recovery from the Khyber Pass by a Captain of 1st Royal Sussex in 1920. When and if we recover it, the Millstone and Sundial will be housed at the Redoubt in Eastbourne.
With regard to the Museum, you will be pleased to hear than Fran, the Museum Curator, gave birth to a daughter, Peggy, yesterday, some 4 weeks prematurely.
Now 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, 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 and the ladies of the Brighton Branch for all their help this evening in the sale of Christmas Cards and the Special Regimental Beer which Harvey’s Brewery of Lewes have specially brewed to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the Battle, and which I hope we will all take advantage of later.
But of course this evening would never have been a success without all the hard work put into it by Major Brian Hudson. The preparation and planning for this Dinner has been going on for over a year and in the last few weeks, and even more so over the last few days, Brian has been working his socks off on your behalf to get the detail and arrangements absolutely spot-on. And I know his wife Susan has been firmly at his side at all times. Royal Sussex, I think this calls for a standing ovation.