Visiting England

Intro

In 2008, I was in Afghanistan on a small team mentoring the Afghan National Army (ANA). The British Army were the Battle Space owners in our area.

The British had been in Helmand since 2006 but 2008 had been their most their most active year yet. They provided Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT) to assist in training the ANA and Afghan National Police (ANP).

The OMLT had soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment (1 IRISH) augmented by the Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS) and the Highlanders, 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS).

The 9/12 Lancers, a cavalry regiment, provided some smaller units. Among them was Gavin.

My team, partnered with the British Army, and manned four Combat Outposts in the Upper Gereshk Valley in Helmand.

Gavin

Gavin reminds of the actor Chris Hemsworth (Thor) but with short hair. Gavin is a true British gentleman with a quick smile he always has a kind word when he sees you.

We only met a handful of times in Afghanistan, but became good friends over the last couple of years thanks to Facebook.

The Invitation

Gavin invited me to England to the Amalgamation Parade of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers (Prince of Wales’s) and The Queen’s Royal Lancers to form the Army’s newest regiment- The Royal Lancers.

Gavin was in-charge of the whole thing. Despite being busy he was a great host and always made time to see me.

The Setting

The ceremony took place in rural Yorkshire in the heart of England. With its fields and farms look like Tolkien’s description of the Shire in The Lord of the Rings.

Heather clad moorland, with wide open valleys, rolling green hills topped with towering pines, rushing rivers all make up Yorkshire.

The landscape smells of freshly tilted earth sprinkled with village pubs and small cottage homes that have flower boxes on window sills.

Sheep and ancient stone walls lined the two lane blacktop road that led to my Bed & Breakfast, a 400 year overlooking the 1,000 year old Bolton Castle.

Billy

I got a chance to see another old friend from Afghanistan. Billy is a British Army Captain from the Royal Irish Regiment. A slender, intense man he ends most of his sentences tacking on the word “so.”

It is an endearing quality that brought me right back to Afghanistan in 2008. I remember listening to the radio crackle with the accent of the Northern Ireland province of Ulster, where most of the men of the Royal Irish came from.

They had the habit of adding “so it is” or “so I will” for emphasis. The English always add “yeah” when asking you a question they assume you will give a positive answer to. I lost count the number of times I got asked, “You want a cup of tea, yeah?”

It brought back the politeness and civility that I experienced in Afghanistan working with the Brits among the death, dirt and sorrow of that tour. They are true professionals who know how to soldier hard and have fun.

Richmond Castle

The ceremony took place at Richmond Castle, a striking sight. The castle tower (the keep) is over 100 feet high. It’s perched on a rocky spur with 100 foot escarpment down to the turbulent River Swale.

It was originally built to subdue the unruly North of England by the Normans in 1091, making it the oldest surviving stone castle in England.

Richmond Castle overlooks the medieval settlement of Richmond. The town’s close proximity to the Yorkshire Dales National Park and castles makes it a popular tourist destination. The castle dominates Richmond’s stunning skyline.

It was a great location for an historical event.

The Event

The parade took place on May 2, 2015. In attendance were the Regiment’s Colonel-in-Chief, Her Majesty, the Queen of England and His Royal Highness, the Duke of York (Deputy-Colonel-in-Chief) Prince Andrew.

The Queen had been the Colonel-In-Chief of the Regiment since 1948. She wore a pink outfit to celebrate the birth of her great-granddaughter Princess Charlotte.

The weather was a perfect English day- wet and cold. Despite having warmer weather all week it was windy, overcast and sleet gray.

The Parade itself had a wonderful, festive vibrancy with all the soldiers dressed in their best uniforms. They marched through Richmond and into the castle.

I remember most is the horses as the Honor Guard and saber flashings as they passed the Queen. It was a dazzling display of the grandeur of the British Army on parade.

It was a beautiful day full of amazing colors, honors, and heritage. The men in the parade performed spectacularly and looked very professional. I was honored to be invited to such a magnificent occasion.

I really enjoyed my trip to England. I toured the museum of the British Army Green Howards (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Yorkshire Regiment), frequently known as the Yorkshire Regiment, a line infantry regiment of the British Army.

The museum is in the old Trinity Church in the center of the market area in Richmond. Showcased was the regiment’s service throughout the world in for Queen and country. From the “American War of Independence” (the British name of our Revolutionary War) through Afghanistan in 2012.

I had a great time seeing some old friends and making lots of new ones.