Yesterday was the repatriation of one lad from 1 Lancs. and 5 lads from 3 Yorks (Duke of Wellington’s Regt.).
They died after their Warrior armoured fighting vehicle hit a massive IED in Lashkar Gah, Helmand, Afghanistan. This type of thing is what the Warrior is built to withstand to a degree, but apparently while all is not yet known, it’s believed the munitions inside the vehicle ignited killing all on board.
Yesterday, along with thousands of civilians, RAF personnel, the battalion and hundreds from many other units and regiments. I stood in silence as the 6 hearses (+ 1 spare) came past and stopped for the families and friends to pay their respects.
This, as many Brits know is something that started in the town of Royal Wootton Basset on the main road between RAF Lyneham and the M4 motorway. Lyneham has now closed and has moved to RAF Brize Norton.
The so-called Repatriation seems a little too orchestrated now, run by the Oxfordshire County Council with people in Hi-Viz suits that stand firmly out against a crown of mourners (as such I have to admit, I thought they looked like a group of escaped Ronald McDonalds at first) .
In the hours of cool spring air that passed as we waited, someone from the houses behind the area was cooking up a ferociously great smelling curry, a major distraction to the hundreds of soldiers. As the smell crossed the waiting crowd, you could see the heads of “Squaddies” turn in a wave… with obvious thoughts in every single mind “is there beer with that?” as the sudden onset of hunger struck.
It is what it is, but for those few moments the bodies of people who stepped into the line of fire and did what most have not got the fortitude for, came past – the silence becomes deafening. People before the main area brace, come attention and salute without word of command. As the cortege enters the main area, only then is an order to come to attention given, flags are lowered and the crowd move forward as the vehicles come to a stop. Even the children who had become fractious from standing in the cold for over 2 hours also fell silent.
It is a place where there aren’t toilets, refreshments or anything – just the side of a road where people gather, and today they gathered in the thousands.
It was a day I learned much too, and with the swallowing up of the Dukes into the Yorks, much is no longer recognisable and much of Wellington’s history passed away in a newer badge, a combined history. Listening to the guys tell me how many have left due to the boredom of being an armoured training unit for years now since amalgamation has taken its toll. Strange seeing as the Dukes used to be the most over subscribed regiment in the British Army.
As too, was the frankly bizarre knowledge that battalion members had to make their own way there, such is the modern army of today. Some were even on guard duty overnight, but still came.
Today as those same men are back at barracks they’re all doing the CO’s Iron Man course and prepare to embark on their own journey to Afghanistan.
The Yorkshire Regiments cap badge is taken from the upper half of the Dukes cap badge. It embellishes the White Rose of Yorkshire and says Yorkshire in the scroll beneath. The missing part of the Dukes cap badge are two scrolls; the lower one was simply “The West Riding” (the recruitment area) and the upper was “Virtutis Fortuna Comes” meaning Fortune Favours the Brave (not “bold”, boldness is a fleeting thing, bravery is of the heart). It is now permanently translated to English and is the moto for the entire Yorkshire Regiment.
As I shook the hands of many today, I feel the history that once was, is now all but gone, it was with that sadness I turned away from my last handshake and left.
The regiment is a very different place now. Repatriation is vital and important, but the Ministry of Defense seriously need not cheapen it by using cheap nylon flags!!
And in a conversation with a senior rank of another regiment, I simply asked “Just how shitty is it over there?” His answer after several tours “Real shitty!” . I felt there was more to that and had a feeling I knew what it was, we nodded and parted our ways.
Fortune does favour the Brave… But it does today under the name The Yorkshire Regiment and not the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, and as such, it is time to lower the flag, roll up the stable belt and shield and box them up for a time in history when they maybe remembered by someone who will know what they meant.
An Army is a tool of government, they go where they are sent and do as they’re ordered – it is a simple as that. They have no say in what should or shouldn’t be fought over… In these places, soldiers fight for each other, their buddies and the regimental family… they have little belief in flag waving or the politicians that do such bidding… They do their job, they fight to live and survive and come home. In this I will always support the work of the fighting man, because if you’ve never put on a uniform, you simply do not know. And frankly, who knows better of Afghanistan than those who have fought there.
To Cpl Jake Hartley, Pte Anthony Frampton, Pte Christopher Kershaw, Pte Daniel Wade, Pte Daniel Wilford, and Sgt Nigel Coupe, Thank you for your service and sacrifice, I know you did not want to die, yet you still put yourself in harms way for a nation who for the most part often seem ungrateful – but for those who know… they truly are the people who care enough to say simply
And with that, I went home myself, to visit my mother – unbeknown to me, also for the last time.