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Contributed by Reg HARPER (51A)




Britons once did loyally declaim

About the way we ruled the waves,

Every Briton’s song was just the same,

When singing of our soldier braves.



Which of you has not felt his breast swell with patriotic pride at the sight of one of Britain’s glorious regiments marching through the cobbled streets of an ancient garrison town with band playing, bayonets fixed and Colours flying? The men you see stepping out in traditional full dress are living heirs of those glorious British warriors who shone forth at Agincourt, at Malplaquet, at Waterloo, and more recently at Goose Green.


The British Army has always been renowned throughout an admiring world as an “army of regiments”, each fiercely jealous of its own proud traditions and its spirit of independence within the context of a splendidly disciplined military organization which has been occasionally equaled but never excelled by our continental rivals.


On battlefield or parade ground, the British soldier is second to none. His loyalty to his regiment, his comrades and his commander, is direct and immediate, and engenders a strong sense of morale. His oath of allegiance to the Sovereign represents a bond of loyalty sanctified by custom, tradition and martial honour. These potent symbols are much admired abroad, where soldiers swear allegiance to soulless republican constitutions, worthless pieces of paper which are ripped to shreds with every political upheaval.


In some states, wedded to pacifist ideals, army morale is sapped by a lack of political respect for military tradition. Meanwhile everywhere, even in the stable environment of a staunch ally like the United States, the lack of a firmly rooted regimental system, together with a tendency for soldiers to be posted willy-nilly from one unit to another, can only have a negative effect upon morale. Several American Generals have strongly advocated the British regimental system in recent years, arguing that the bonds of loyalty associated with the regimental “family” might have produced a very different outcome in the holocaust of Vietnam.


Revolutions and invasions have shattered the once-proud regiments of continental Europe. In Britain, for the time being at least, they march on, their traditions and customs still intact. The Queen’s personal bodyguard, the Yoemen of the Guard, wear uniforms different only in detail from those sported by Henry VIII’s Garde du Corps at the magnificent “Field of Cloth of Gold”. The Royal Welch Fusiliers have never given up their archaic “flash” of ribbons, worn at the back of the collar, which once tied their powdered pigtails. The Grenadiers’ bearskin headdress was, in the way of a battle honour, awarded after they had vanquished Napoleon’s guardsmen at Waterloo, while the grim skull-and-crossbones banner of the 17th/21st Lancers commemorates the noble death of General Wolfe just before the moment of victory at Quebec that won Canada for the Empire.


The music of the regiments, too, is full of the romance of history. The oldest regiment in the army, The Royal Scots (known as “Pontius Pilate’s Own”) have the oldest regimental march, dating back to the 17th century. Both the Grenadier Guards and the old Buffs (now the Queen’s Regiment) claimed march tunes written by the mighty Handel, while the famous march of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, “The Thin Red Line”, commemorates that regiment’s valiant stand against the Russian Imperial cavalry at Balaclava. The Officers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards still toast the memory of a later emperor, the tragic Tsar Nicholas II, once Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, as the beautiful air of the old Tsarist anthem is played by the band.


The original “Thin Red Line” – the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Balaclava in 1854.


Is all this glorious heritage now to be vanquished, not by the honourable sword of a conqueror, but by the limp-wristed stroke of some politician’s pen? If so, we may be sure of one thing: while the one political hand abolishes ancient regiments or merges them into meaningless new formations of a European Army, the other will enthusiastically authorize vast new regiments of politicians, bureaucrats and “thought police”. This is the “peace dividend” we have been told to await with bated breath!


And what peace, you may well ask? Do you remember, not so very long ago, when a prominent world leader hailed a “new order” (and where have I heard that expression before) of global peace? Within months we had been plunged into the nightmare of Kuwait. More recently, Yugoslavia was ripped apart by bitter inter-federal strife, and we are still seeing fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Conflict is not receding but intensifying.


The peace of the world is as much in danger now as ever before, and still our politicians plan to decimate our regiments! Heads in the sand, jobs for the boys – and damn the consequences!


It is time for the British people to show that they are made of sterner stuff than their so-called leaders. Our brave soldiers have seen us through thick and thin. Now the time has come for us to stand beside them and declare unequivocally to our time-serving politicians …



No Regimental amalgamations!


The shades of our warrior ancestors watch with apprehension. Shall we ever dishonour their memory?


We cannot, we must not fail them now!