Wednesday, 30 May 2012

The Albuhera Dinner, Friday 18 May 2012

I was very privileged to represent the Needlemakers at the Annual Albuhera Dinner in Canterbury on May 18.  The Needlemakers supports The 3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (3PWRR) and the annual sword presentation to an outstanding soldier will take place at our July dinner. 3PWRR is the Territorial Army infantry Battalion for the south east of England. Soldiers in the Battalion take time out from their normal civilian jobs, which are protected by legislation, to experience life at the sharp end of the British Army's work.

The Albuhera Dinner is held each year to remember the eponymous battle that took place on May 16, 1811 in the Peninsula Campaign and involved the predecessor regiments of the PWRR – including The Buffs who suffered a staggering 85% casualties and the 57th (West Middlesex) Regiment which suffered 66% casualties.  The latter have a famous nickname – the Die-Hards – taken from the exhortation of their Commanding Officer who called on the men to “Die Hard 57th! Die Hard!”

After the battle the surviving officers and sergeants of the 57th met at an inn by the battlefield and swore to meet annually to commemorate the “Immortal Memory” of their comrades who died on that day.

This dinner was the 201st commemoration. We all stood in a circle to hear an account of the battle read by the CO and the silent toast was then drunk one in turn to remember those who fell in the battle, and since. There was time for reflection on the consequences of war – fought by soldiers but waged by politicians. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Territorial Army (TA) it is the largest of all the Reserve Forces and throughout its history almost every major operation has seen TA soldiers operating alongside their regular army counterparts..

I remember a few years ago attending a reception in the City to highlight problems being faced by TA volunteers in the workplace. If you thought that joining the TA involved yomping around the countryside now and then, that is far from the truth.  TA soldiers serve alongside their regular army counterparts and in recent years have seen tours of duty in Iraq and now Afghanistan. In these difficult times it puts pressure on the employer and colleagues and challenges the individual in fitting back into the workplace after a tour of duty.  Posts have to be held open for the duration of service away.  There are even concerns about membership of the TA acting as a barrier to recruitment in the corporate environment which is sad as these men and women learn much in the way of communication skills, team building, flexibility and adaptability which enhance their own development and benefit the workplace.

The Regiment has a long, distinguished history, having been involved in virtually every theatre of war since the Battle of Tangier in 1662. It is the most decorated of all British Army regiments, with 57 Victoria Crosses. There are three PWRR battalions, two regular and one territorial. Members of the 1st and 3rd battalions are currently supporting operations in Afghanistan.

No comments:

Post a Comment