Royal Artillery Assembly.
Blackpool May 17-19, 2019.
More than 400 Gunners – retired and serving – gathered in Blackpool for their yearly Assembly and AGM, and we were privileged to be invited as guests of the Master Gunner, Lt Gen Sir Andrew Gregory KBE CB and Major General David Cullen CB OBE to give a presentation on the work of The War Horse Memorial and the Purple Poppy Appeal.
The weekend’s activities included a Standard Bearers’ competition; a Sunset Ceremony with music from the 103 Lancashire Artillery Voluntary Band and a Gala Dinner attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackpool, Councillors Gary and Debbie Coleman. And, as special treat, retired Gunner and Chelsea Pensioner, Colin Thackery, sang. The 89-year old touched the nation’s hearts on Britain’s Got Talent recently when he dedicated his performance to his late wife, who died in his arms in December 2016.
There are big changes in the planning at Larkhill Garrison, in Wiltshire, which is the principal training establishment for artillery warfare in the British Army, and we are in preliminary talks with Lt Col David Penniall MBE BEM and Regimental Colonel, John Catto ADC about the prospect of having a war horse memorial at the Garrison.
Many of the retired soldiers and their wives had travelled from all over the UK to be at the annual event, and it was wonderful for us to meet so many of them and to hear their memories of times in the Royal Artillery with good friends and colleagues. We are endebted to the RAA and NEC Chairman, Brigadier Mark Pountain CBE and Secretary Allan Solly for their hospitality and to those serving soldiers and those retired, including John Bishop, Chairman of the Association’s Canterbury branch, who have agreed to join our ever-growing ranks of voluntary Ambassadors.