RLI Ouens, their "Crows", families and honoured
guests started arriving on the Friday evening from
all corners of the world to attend the inaugural
Annual General Meeting of the RLI RA. This was followed
by the laying-up of the Queen's and Regimental Colours
of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the unveiling
and re-dedication of the RLI Trooper Statue.
Complimentary green bags were handed out, each
being adorned with RLI badge and picture of The
Trooper, and containing a glass tankard with engravings
of the badge and Trooper, an elegant souvenir brochure,
a plastic wristband with Troopie picture (for security)
and a name badge. The latter was to enable old comrades
to recognise each other on the off chance that the
years may have changed some of us. It was also suggested
that, after swapping war stories at the bar and
imbibing from the cup that doth both cheer and inebriate,
these would be needed as aide memoir for our own
names. On Saturday afternoon, George Dempster (supported
by Shaun Ryan, Mark Pilbeam and our Patron, Ron
Reid-Daily) chaired the AGM (which lasted nearly
2 hours) in place of the Association Chairman Ian
Buttenshaw (no passport and stateless) and Martyn
Hudson who was in hospital. The minutes of the AGM
will be distributed within the next 10 days. The
hotel bar was well supported from shortly after
the AGM till the early hours of Sunday morning with
dinner and a disco interrupting the many refreshments.
Sunday morning started with an early breakfast
- hotel intact - couples still together (how we
have aged) perfect sunshine and much anticipation.
Four coaches were boarded at 0900 by 205 delegates
for the short ride to Hatfield House to attend the
service in the Chapel and the Armoury by kind permission
of the Marquess of Salisbury. The steps of Hatfield
House were graced by six standard bearers holding
the Presidential and Regimental Colours of the RLI
together with those of the RAR, Rhodesia Regiment
and the RAA - supported by eight buglers of the
Band and Bugles of the Rifles. The buglers greeted
us with a triumphant fanfare.
Party - Gordon Harland - 3 Cdo and Marcus Austin
- Support Cdo
Rhodesian Army and RAA Colour party
- Jock Hutton - SAS and Iain Harper - 9RR
Colour Party - John Wynn Hopkins - 1RAR
Regiment Colour Party - Ian Robertson - 1RR.
The chapel suffices for the household but is
too small to seat two hundred and five delegates
- so well over one hundred were seated in the armoury
and honoured guests were seated in the Chapel. Our
Patron, Colonel Ron Reid-Daly, in true Selous Scout
style, managed to blend in with the crowd in the
armoury until discovered and seated in the Chapel.
A moving service lasting forty five minutes was
conducted by the Reverend Clive Larrett. There were
four large television screens in the armoury so
that all could see and hear the service. Pipe Major
John Spoor, in his splendid Scottish regalia, played
the bagpipes and marched from the armoury into the
chapel. The beautiful Isla St Clare, well known
actress and singer, treated us to an emotional rendition
of "The flowers of the forest". A real treat.
We returned to the coaches and transported
to the banks of the River Lee. A short walk later
and we came across the Troopie statue draped in
the Green and White. A short service was conducted
by the Reverend Clive Larrett followed by speeches
from Lt Colonel Charlie Aust, the last CO of the
RLI, and the Marquess of Salisbury. The Trooper
Statue stands on a wide grass bank in a sylvan setting
backing on to a commercial wood of tall straight
pine trees fronted by a copse of deciduous trees.
The statue faces out across the River Lee to the
far bank where the deciduous trees were resplendent
in their autumn colours. The RLI badge is prominently
displayed on both sides of the plinth and our Roll
of Honour faces the copse.
of Salisbury then unveiled the Trooper Statue with
NIMROD played by the buglers of the Rifles Band.
Wreaths of Flame Lilies were laid at the base of
the statue by the Marquess of Salisbury, Colonel
Charlie Aust and the Chairmen of the United Kingdom
branch (Martyn Hudson assisted by Mark Pilbeam),
the South African branch (George Dempster) and Australian
members (Shaun Ryan). This was followed by the playing
and marching of the Rifles Band and Buglers who
gave a stirring performance including a rendition
of "The Saints". They received a rousing three cheers
and a "Nog'n Piep".
We then returned by
coach to the Comet Hotel bar. All at the same time
and in true RLI fashion the bar-staff were overwhelmed
in a fine frontal assault, with a few queue jumpers
mounting determined flanking attacks. We were then
ushered into the dining room where we were seated
at round tables of ten, a mixture of Ouens and guests.
Lunchtime speeches ensued by Martyn Hudson organiser
superb of the Rededication followed by a rousing
address from Pat Lawless, the Chairman of the RAA.
It would be remiss not to point out that in a very
short space of time Martyn has had three major operations
and left his hospital bed to attend and supervise
the proceedings. Martyn epitomises the "Can do"
spirit of what made the RLI.
speech Colonel Ron Reid-Daly, affectionately known
to us all as "Uncle Ron" stood up to say a few words.
To the delight of us all "Uncle Ron" described the
history of the RLI and the emotional attachment
that he has with the regiment. A brief history of
the trials and tribulations of The Trooper was given
and we have many to thank for its preservation but
in particular "Uncle Ron" himself, Pat Armstrong,
members of the RAA and Tim Calvert. A deserved standing
ovation was then given to this fine soldier and
This report would not be complete
without a mention of the low level air display given
by the RAF Dakota over the venue - arranged by Mark
Pilbeam. Contrary to some reports the Dak arrived
five minutes early. Martyn, taken by surprise during
his speech, yelled "Contact" and, as per previous
instruction, most of us poured outside to watch
the display. We were treated to several low level
passes, the Dak door open, the dispatcher waving
- and tears were shed.
Some say our own
Blue Job guests of the Rhodesian Air force used
Mark to create this diversion - just before the
lunch buffet opened - in order to gain forward positions
in the buffet queue! In conclusion, our gratitude
to Martyn and his team, Lord and Lady Salisbury
and The Band and Bugles of the Rifles. Our thanks
to Field Marshal Lord Bramall (Retd.) Lt. Colonel
Richard Frost MBE of The Rifles, CSM Ewan Flemming
of the Parachute Regiment and RSM Pete D'Alton of
the Intelligence Corp of the British Army who attended
as our guests. A special mention of thanks to Maggie
Hudson, Diane Pilbeam and Brenda Larrett who amongst
many other duties attended to the reception of the