I hope that this note finds all my fellow members of the London Irish Rifles Association in good health.
As you know, the main event last year was of course our pilgrimage to Loos-en-Gohelle for the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Loos. I went out as the sole advance party, with Noel Gunning bringing the main party over. The weekend had started a little behind schedule with the coaches being held up at the tunnel, with comms filtering through in true London Irish style - we were due to hold a service at Dud Corner at 15.00hrs and coaches were still queued up in Folkestone! A change to the programme was clearly required. Thankfully, the coaches made it just in time for the Regimental Dinner being held on the first night - I think sitting down on my own with our many guests from Loos-en-Gohelle would have made for a very long evening indeed! However, a very enjoyable night was had by all with over 100 guests sitting down, the football and regimental silver being a hit with all attendees.
The Company however were not that lucky and were held up at the Eurotunnel till the very early hours of the morning and, by the time they arrived in Loos, they literally jumped off the coach and were just in time for the service and parade. A very big well done to them for their efforts. My personal original expectation had been to hold a Commemorative Parade for about 60 people and a scattering of VIPs, but as the day got closer it became obvious that the event was going to be a whole lot bigger. It was such a lovely surprise to find that there were so many people in attendance and with so many cap badges on parade, and most importantly many of the town’s people and school children of Loo-en-Gohelle arriving at the cemetery to take part in the service.
As I mentioned, the expectation was to see quite a small crowd of people to watch our commemorative service so seeing over two thousand people across all age ranges was incredibly humbling and, if I was to be honest slightly, scary! The day had been two years in the planning and went off very well with a number of presentations, speeches and the odd glass of wine. It was something I shall never forget and so many thanks go out to all, who helped make the day and weekend such a success.
Another major event that took place during the year was the award of the MBE to Ms Barbara Edwards. Apart from her normal day job of running the administration for the company, Barbara also assists with the running and administration of the Benevolent Fund for the Association, so our huge congratulations go out to her on receiving her award - it is a great honour and very richly deserved
This year we have recently taken a small party of 30 over to Sicily in September to Piedimonte Etneo to commemorate both our battalions who fought through Sicily during the Second World War. The town of Piedimonte Etneo have erected a remarkable Memorial commemorating the London Irish Riflemen and towns’ folk who lost their lives and invited us to participate in the commemorations and the unveiling of the statue. It is hoped that the names of the LIR men who died in Sicily will later be permanently recorded on the Memorial.
In terms of the Association itself, Noel Gunning has recently decided to stand down as Vice Chairman, despite all of my attempts to encourage him to stay. I would like to send my huge thanks to Noel for all his help and support to me personally and for all his hard work during his time on the General Management Committee (GMC).
The AGM in June was reasonably well attended, although I have to say it disappoints me that we do not have a bigger attendance. I think it so important that younger members of the Association get more involved and show support. There have been some changes around the GMC during the year with Corporal Paul Thomas taking on the role of vice Chairman. Paul is currently serving with the company and I wish him well in his new appointment. The Annual Lunch was a great success this year with Colonel Ian Denison, as guest speaker, who delivered an excellent and somewhat to-the-point speech. Colonel Ian also presented C/Sgt Sammy Kilpatrick with his long service medal - hearty congratulations go to Sammy who is not only an asset to D Company, but always provides immense help to the Association.
It goes without saying that a huge amount of work is delivered by the GMC each year, ranging from Welfare to Finance, from Museum to Band, from Events to Membership and I would like to express my thanks to you all for the hard work, time and effort you all give and look forward to another successful year ahead for the Association.
Finally, it is with great sadness that I have to report that three members of the London Irish family have passed away recently: Bridget Keating, wife of Capt. Bob Keating in November 2015; Liz Caufield, wife of Tony Caulfield, in January 2016; and Bob Keating, who recently lost his battle with cancer in July 2016
Bob had been the PSAO for D Company for many years and been largely responsible for transitioning the company from the Duke of York’s HQ to Connaught House, our current location. He ensured that we brought over the full pictorial history, full range of museum artefacts, the Regimental silver - in short everything associated with the London Irish and he was also responsible for organising the recreation of Mulqueen’s bar and the Officers’ Mess into what you see today, D Company owes Bob a massive debt of gratitude for this alone and, after his retirement, when he became Treasurer for the Association. His energy and commitment was a constant over the past few years. The deaths of Bob, Bridget and Liz have been a great shock to us and they will all be sorely missed.
Peter Lough, Major (Retired),
Chairman, London Irish Rifles, Regimental Association.