By Major R Elliot, BEM
On Thursday 12th May 2011, at Howe Barracks Canterbury, England, very early in the morning, the Pipes and Drums of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland burst into tune as they played the early Reveille, after which the camp came to life in preparation for the day ahead which was to be a very memorable day indeed.
After a hearty breakfast, weapons were drawn, kit was polished and crowds gathered as the men marched onto the square to receive well-earned Afghan Medals. Formed up in Company groupings, the Officers, Senior Ranks and Jocks were received by a most notable host of guests who had the honour to present Medals up and down the ranks of the Battalion. This was preceded with a march past to the delight of the crowd, guests and dignitaries. After a caffeine top up, it was on the buses and off to the City Centre which was bustling with activity.
Standing in the crowd with elbow room only, excited children were waving flags, photographers in their dozens, shoppers looking on and families of soldiers pushing for viewing space, the skirl of the Pipes and Drums reached our ears from the distance. Then they arrived with Cruachan and his master Corporal Perrie at the front, the Pipes and Drums led by Drum Major Sloane followed by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Adam Griffiths leading his Battalion with sword held steady, neck back in the collar, followed on by a hugely proud and very fit looking Battalion with Bayonets fixed and Colours flying. The crowds went wild and the cheers were painful to ones ears. Each Company passed by with a renewed cheer from the onlookers who were clearly delighted with the show the Battalion was putting on and the swagger they produced. Following up the rear was the Battalion Second in Command Major Nick Calder. The fact that they marched through Canterbury wearing kilts was an immense crowd pleaser and very much welcomed by all and commented on by many.
The parade ended at Canterbury Cathedral and there was a break before going into the Cathedral for the Homecoming Service. Included throughout the day were most of the soldiers wounded during operations who were a delightful team. It was a most humbling experience chatting with them and it was delightful that they were able to attend and be a part of the celebrations.
The Service in the Cathedral was very nostalgic and to some extent very personal for the Officers and Soldiers on parade. Officiating at the Service was the Vice-Dean, the Reverend Christopher Irvine and the Battalion Padre Stewart MacKay. Music was provided by the Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland Male Voice Choir of 5 SCOTS. As part of the service an Act of Remembrance was conducted and the names of those from 5 SCOTS who have lost their lives were remembered. It was an immensely proud day for 5 SCOTS who now depart on well-earned leave. We are also delighted for our soldiers’ families who played a part in the day’s celebrations and whose support for their husbands was commendable.
The main guests were:
Vice Lord Lieutenant of Kent — Viscount De L’isle, MBE DL
MP for Canterbury — Right Honourable J Brazier MP
Commander JHC — AVM C Dixon, CB OBE FRAeS RAF
Regimental Guest — Major General D P Thomson, CB CBE MC
Commander 2 (SE) Brigade — Brigadier S P Wolsey, OBE
Representative Colonel — Colonel B W O Russell, MBE
Regimental Trustee — Colonel A P W Campbell
Regimental Trustee — Colonel A K M Miller, CBE
Canterbury Council — Mr R Vick
The Companies were commanded by:
A Company — Major Neil Brown
B Company — Major Will Horridge
D Company — Major Nick Wight-Boycott
MSp Company — Major Bruce Petrie
HQ Company — Major Jake McKay
Regimental Adjutant — Captain Mark Kerr
Regimental Sergeant Major — WO1 (RSM) D Park
Queens Colour: 2nd Lieutenant A Campbell
Regimental Colour: 2nd Lieutenant E Howell
Escort to the Colours:
Pipe Major — Colour Sergeant Pywell
Drum Major — Sergeant Sloane
Pony Major — Corporal Perrie