Surrey Heath’s Fly the Flag ceremony honours Armed Forces Day

When the military attend a ceremony in formal dress, the least I can do, when in their company, is to wear a suit and tie, no matter how hot the weather. [PS, now returned home, wearing T shirt and shorts, drinking tea in the shade. Even so, it’s always worth showing respect to our armed forces personnel and veterans, to whom I enjoy a chat].

The Fly the Flag for Armed Forces Day is a ceremony carried out at simultaneously with local authorities across the country. Armed Service personnel and veterans joined the Mayor of Surrey Heath, Councillor Valerie White, at the raising of the flag to honour Armed Forces Day on Saturday 24th June 2017.

At 10.30 am this morning on the lawn in front of Surrey Heath Borough Council offices I joined the the guests at the ceremony. The flag party consisted of – from left to right: WO1 David Lightfoot, Mayor of Surrey Heath – Cllr Valerie White, WO1 Mark Eastley, Lt Col Jonathan Scott MBE, Lt Col Tim Cave-Gibbs, Karen Whelan – Chief Executive of Surrey Heath Borough Council, Cllr Colin Dougan, Rev Andreas Sistig – Mayor’s Chaplain. When I say I joined the party, really I took photos, and this video.

NOTE: Apologies, have transposed the names WO1’s David Lightfoot and Mark Eastley in the video. It’s correct above. Will edit asap.

Watch the Surrey Heath Armed Forces Day flag raising on Monday 19th June

At 10.30 am on Monday 19th June, simultaneously with local authorities across the country, Armed Service personnel and veterans will join the Mayor of Surrey Heath, Councillor Valerie White, at Surrey Heath House at the raising of the flag to acknowledge Armed Forces Day on Saturday 24th June 2017.

The flag raising takes place on the lawn in front of the Council Offices. While being a short ceremony, it is none the less a quietly moving ceremony.

Exhibition at Brookwood Military Cemetery celebrating CWGC’s first 100 years

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission [CWGC] Brookwood Military Cemetery at Pirbright is the focus of an exhibition to mark the centenary of the CWGC.

The exhibition was opened by Brian Blessed OBE on May 2oth, and will run for six months. Also available during the six months is the ability to join a guided tour of the cemetery by CWGC volunteers. Tours are available at 11.0am and 2.0pm daily, or at other times when visitor numbers dictate. The exhibition, and tours availability, is from 20th May to 19th November 2017.

We visited the cemetery on Saturday 3rd June, benefiting from the knowledge imparted by the tour guides. Having guides on hand to answer questions is valuable, as the variability in headstones, and much else, is explained. While visitors can wander around the cemetery as they please, we enthusiastically recommend taking a tour. The CWGC say about the cemetery and exhibition,

[The Exhibition] has been curated by CWGC staff and will be staged in the Grade 1 listed Canadian Records Building at Brookwood – the largest CWGC site in the UK with more than 5,000 burials and 3,500 commemorations on the Brookwood Memorial.

Below is my short video of our visit, which happened to be on a lovely sunny day.

Things to do: RLC Museum evening lecture on “Battlefield Success” by Fraser Skirrow

The upcoming lecture, in the always interesting Royal Logistic Corps Museum’s evening lectures, on Thursday June 1st 2017 by Fraser Skirrow is entitled “Battlefield Success –  achieving tactical excellence in an infantry battalion 1916-18”.

In January 1917 the 62nd Division went to France – a second line territorial unit, it had no experience of the realities of the Western Front and its first engagements were disastrous. By 1918 it was acknowledged to be one of the most reliable and aggressive units in the army.

This talk looks in great detail at how one battalion of the 62nd changed its tactics, weapons, and the skills of its officers and men throughout that period.

Major Dale Clarke and his RLC Museum lecture on “Arming Britain’s Wartime Secret Army”

The evening lecture series at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum generally uncovers the little known stories or understood aspects of Britain’s military history.

Thursday evening’s lecture this week on “Arming Britain’s Wartime Secret Army” by Major Dale Clarke is one such story. He told of the establishment, in 1940, of Auxillary Units, which were a secret irregular army, of men with an intimate knowledge of their local area, who were highly trained in guerrilla tactics hiding out in rural locations ready to fight should there have been a German invasion.

After the lecture I spoke with Dale, and about his book Britain’s Final Defence – Arming the Home Guard 1940-44.

The excitement of holding a Victoria Cross

I’m sure I may have mentioned that my dear wife volunteers at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum at Deepcut. While volunteering there yesterday she called me to say that a Victoria Cross was being loaned out, and would I like to see it. I duly nipped up there before it disappeared off site.

To handle the medal I had to wear latex gloves. Knowing how the Victoria Cross is revered for the exceptional bravery of those to whom it’s awarded transmits the moment you hold it. It’s the stories of sacrifice, courage under fire, and human selflessness that flood your mind, as also the desire to learn more about the recipient and his act of courage.

Here’s my photo of the obverse and reverse of the VC awarded to John Buckley, Deputy Assistant Commissary of Ordnance – Bengal Establishment, at the time of his act of heroism on 11th May 1857. [Click on images to expand]

To read about John Buckley VC, see Victoria Cross online, and brief summary below the medal photos

Four years later, in 1857, Buckley and his second wife and three surviving children moved to Delhi where he was appointed Assistant Commissary of Ordnance. He was employed at the Delhi Magazine, a storehouse of guns and ammunition. Later that year, the Indian Mutiny broke out against British rule and the mutineers soon reached Delhi.

On 11th May 1857, Buckley and eight fellow soldiers found themselves defending the magazine against overwhelming numbers. Rather than let the ammunition to fall into enemy hands, they decided to blow up the building and themselves. Miraculously four of the men survived the explosion, though sadly George Willoughby was killed in action two days later. The other men, including Buckley would be later awarded the Victoria Cross. At the time, the Royal Warrant for the VC did not permit posthumous awards so only three VCs could be awarded.