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contributed considerably to the success of the 60th Reunion.


Having been very comfortable at the Liberal Club since the TA centre closed, we were surprised when the management announced that they wished to triple the rent. Not being able to afford this, we have moved to the Boarhound pub where the landlord lets us have the use of a room in exchange for a donation to the East Cheshire Hospice. We are delighted to do this and are now secure in our new home, enjoying the atmosphere and, of course, the comradeship we have always been used to.


Nantwich and District by Ray Stafford and


Tom Hodgkinson Several members have not enjoyed the best of health recently but, like old soldiers, Branch activities continue to flourish. We continue to have excellent attendances at our monthly meetings in the Crossville Social Club in Chester Street, Crewe, with much lively and humoured discussion throughout, so ably chaired by Harry Tomkinson. As well as home-grown activity, several members attended The Malaya Reunion at Walsall and they certainly seem to have enjoyed themselves.


We were invited to attend a Reception for the veterans of all the British Forces conflicts in Crewe Town Hall on National Veterans’ Day. The Mayor and Mayoress of the Borough of Crewe and Nantwich, Councillor Brian Silvester and Mrs Sheila Davies, hosted the event and branch member, Ray Stafford, responded on behalf of the Veterans. Three of our ladies, Jean Webster, Vera Smart and Betty Cooke, all WW2 members of the branch, travelled to Blackpool to attend the Veterans’ Week 2008 event that celebrated the achievements of veterans in the armed forces and really enjoyed the event, commenting that such events help us to remember those colleagues who we served with who are no longer with us. In an earlier newsletter, Jean wrote about her experiences in the war years when she was a driver with the ATS.


A busy autumn started off with a dance night in aid of branch funds in the Crosville Social Club. We took a full part in the Mons Reunion and lunch at Chester on September 14 – always an event to be savoured! We also enjoyed the 60th East Cheshire Reunion at the end of October, particularly the display by the 1st Battalion’s Corps of Drums. On Remembrance Sunday 9 November, as well as attending the ceremony at the War Memorial, we also went to the “Airman’s Grave” to the rear of Shrewbridge Road in Nantwich. This unique war memorial is dedicated to the memory of Arthur Leslie Brown aged 23 of


The Mercian Eagle


Orangeburg, NY State, USAAF, who stayed at the controls of his aircraft steering it away from the town and crashed it into the bank of the River Weaver. The aircraft was swallowed up by the sand banks on impact and as it was unsafe to attempt recovery, the site remains as the grave of this tragic young hero.


We were represented at the Presentation of the Freedom of the Borough to The Mercian Regiment at the end of November and Ray Stafford, one of our Honorary Members, presented the President, Maj Michael Morgan-Wynne, with a framed replica copy of the Freedom Scroll. Maurice Boon is now back in harness, recovered, we hope, from his long illness. And so it was quite natural that he was re-elected as Branch Secretary at the AGM. The Branch continues to meet in the Crossville Social Club on the last Tuesday of each month; we have 33 members and have just welcomed Maj Jim Salisbury into our fold. Jim served over thirty years in the 22nd and was RSM of the 1st Battalion before being commissioned; he is now Commandant of Swynnerton Training Camp.


Southern Region


by George Szwejkowski We had an excellent meeting in July and it was nice to see Fred Sims, well into his eighties, but still brave enough to trust the vagaries of London Transport in order to attend. It was also great to see Les Stelfox, in his nineties, but still with bags of energy and enough stories to keep the meeting going all night if the Chairman would let him.


Talking of nineties, we can now welcome John Dean into that exclusive club of nonagenarians as we celebrated his ninetieth birthday in the Royal Hospital on 1st July. Although John is still in the infirmary, we managed to smuggle him into the In-Pensioners Mess for a special birthday cake and a pint of Guinness. It was good to see him looking so well and that he has finally got batteries fitted in his hearing aid. September saw the Op Banner Commemoration Service in St Paul’s Cathedral: it must have been a good omen that, after weeks of almost incessant rain, Wednesday 10 September was a bright and sunny day. St Paul’s Cathedral, with an autumnal sun behind it, still managed to cast an impressive shadow, although the surrounding area is now dwarfed by much taller, though less inspiring, architecture. St Paul’s was packed with serving and ex-Service personnel, as well as His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and a plethora of politicians, including the present Prime Minister and several of his predecessors. The Service was to commemorate the part that the military had played in Op Banner. Op Banner was the name given to the


deployment of troops in Northern Ireland from the summer of 1969 to July 2007, some 38 years in total and the longest deployment in the history of the British Army. Although much has been said about the political settlement, up until now little has been said about the work and sacrifice made by the armed forces in enabling that settlement to be made. Some 300,000 Service personnel saw Service in the Province and, although the official total of those who lost their lives stands at 763, the true number would be greater if casualties of accidents and friendly fire were included. The Bishop of London gave an excellent sermon, stating that, although force cannot resolve social conflict, it could offer a vital breathing space in order to allow political and democratic means to assert themselves. The Bishop went on to say that the military held the forces of chaos at bay whilst the people of Northern Ireland learnt how to communicate with each other and for those with very different backgrounds and aspirations to live together and do business with one another. The Bishop was also at pains to point out that it was often the humour and professionalism of the squaddie on the ground that defused situations that might otherwise have got out of hand. The whole Service was very moving and the lighting of a candle of Remembrance by Mary Moreland, the widow of a part- time soldier in the Ulster Defence Regiment, was particularly poignant. At the end of the Service, The Last Post echoed around the walls of St Paul’s before an almost eerie silence fell upon the congregation.


After the Service, over 700 veterans marched to the Guildhall with our Colonel in Chief taking the salute outside the Cathedral. Having marched past the Cenotaph for many years, I found this march a little different to say the least. Perhaps it was the difficulty of negotiating a great deal of what is known as “street furniture” or maybe it was because the parade stuttered to a halt for some ten minutes or so, apparently because somebody had forgotten to close off one of the main roads to traffic! The main reception took place in the Guildhall, thanks to the City of London Corporation. Because of the way that tickets had been distributed it is difficult to say how many from the 22nd had been in attendance. I can report that I saw Brig Tony Twiss, Col Tony Gauvain, Col Bob Stewart DSO, Maj Ron Goodwin MBE, Capt Chris Smith and Mr Alan Gregson, although only Ron Goodwin bought me a drink afterwards. (Sub-editor’s note: Ron Goodwin buying somebody a drink – there’s a first time for everything!)


It had been an excellent day and a fitting tribute to all those who had served in Northern Ireland during Op Banner. I think that the words of the Bishop of London and Mary Moreland best sum up for me what this commemoration was all about. The Bishop said during his sermon “Civilisations


October 2009 141


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