Many moons ago whilst I was still working as a postman, a good friend of mine Alan Chilvers who was at the time the standard bearer for the Watton branch of the RBL got the honour to represent Watton at the Royal Albert Hall, and I remember thinking at the time wow that must be wonderful, and so was sparked a thought a germ of an idea that was still far off for I was not even in the Legion, but there we go.
Fast forward a dozen or more years, by then I had been in the RBL for a year or so enjoying the commerarderie and being nominated as deputy, stand in, standard bearers mate, I had done a few duties with the standard by then, and following a couple of beers I got talking with another friend (as you do) about how the branch was doing at the time and how we go forward from here, amongst other things the subject of carrying the standard came up and was it possible that (the germ of an idea) and wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could go to the Albert Hall, and then wouldn’t it be something if as deputy bearer I just might carry the standard, and what about some icing on the cake how about marching at the Cenotaph on the Sunday morning following it, now you have to remember it was after a couple of beers and so the idea just kind of floated at the back of my mind.
Then came the time to apply for tickets to go to the festival, it suddenly became a little more serious that it was a possibility (a small one) that we might go, now it came to pass that the branch had been doing a lot of work for the RBL at county level through John and Helen Daly, chairman and secretary respectively and it was through them both that the application was made, this all took place about 6 months or so ago and the waiting process began, now I don’t know if, what, or how, if any pressure or arm twisting went on, alI I know is that I received an e-mail telling me that our applications were successful, now it is at this stage that I must say a huge thanks to Alan who is the main standard bearer for the branch for allowing me to do this great honour and privilege to represent Watton in London even more so as it was the centenary anniversary as well.
I got a little excited and I think looking back that I must have told everyone I knew about it, I just hope it didn’t sound like showing off or anything like that, if it did please everyone forgive me cause I’m still a little boy at heart and going to London to see the Queen means a great deal to me, ……………
The big day is getting closer and closer it’s just a little way away now and there are preparations still to make, but the actual tickets have not yet arrived and it’s just a few days until we go….. (Hint of panic) check e-mails, call everyone, a week to go HUSSAR I’ve got my tickets we’re really going.
We actually travelled down on the Thursday to take in a little entertaining and sightseeing all good fun, anyway back to the plot. Friday evening arrives and it’s time for the first rehearsal, the Albert Hall is a big place, lovely building and then we get our first view of how many people are in this show, Sir Tom Jones, Sir Bryn Tervel and hundreds of others (no pressure then) so it’s time for our first run through, keep the standard low till you get on the steps, standard in sling whilst moving, “don’t trip” keep the step going down stairs, don’t swing the arm until you get to the arena “don’t trip” keep the step, don’t “tick tock” ……. Don’t panic, all will be well and it does go surprisingly well actually, we only run through it 3 times then home to the hotel.
Saturday arrives the big day and I have to be at the Albert Hall by 8.00am so it’s up at 6.00am to get ready on time, early breakfast, taxi arrive in good time, see Hugh Edwards arrive to do his stuff, then time for the full dress rehearsal which goes quite well time for a coffee while they sort something out, lunch time not too bad they look after you do the BBC, then it’s time for the first performance, this starts at 2.00pm 6,000 people in the hall “impressive” to say the least, then it’s us to go, keep the standard low till you are on the steps, put it in the sling whilst marching, don’t trip on the stairs, keep the step, onto the arena floor swing the arm at the right time “Don’t panic” all will be well, and it is.
Not too long to wait until the big moment when Her Majesty gets here for the evening performance with all the dignitaries and most of the Royal family so nothing to worry about then eh, time for the last performance keep the standard low till you get on the stairs, put in sling whilst marching, “don’t trip” onto arena floor , swing arm in time, keep the step, all will be well, march of the arena, up the steps, stumble part way up OH NO wonder if anyone saw it, too late to worry now, keep going, all will be well and it was well, a really great evening one of the best of my life, even the Queen waved to me as she left the hall.
Sunday morning and we decided to walk to Horse Guards where we are supposed to all meet up, there are people everywhere the crowds are huge with lots of police about to help people find their way around the place, when we get to Horse Guards we are greeted with 10,000 ex-service people all decked up in their marching gear, I think I must have used up all my adrenalin on the Saturday as I was somewhat calmer than I thought I would be, perhaps it’s being with the military again, unsurprisingly there is some waiting around (it’s a military thing) then march onto Whitehall for the silence and last post sombre time everyone with their own thoughts 100 years and what have we learned ? and then we are off marching feeling proud chest out, get to the Cenotaph eyes left and see the sea of wreaths laid on the ground, march a little further and Princess Anne takes the salute and then it’s all over, two days of great highs lots of time to pause and think your own thoughts, and pay tribute to those who have gone before us.
We Will Remember Them