216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron Medals Parade

 

216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron reconstituted post-POL on 31st May 2011 in preparation for the forthcoming Medals Parade and visit of the Corps Colonel in Chief, HRH The Princess Royal.

The location for the day was the Royal Hospital Chelsea, a more fitting venue for royalty than the rather windy parade square of Merville Barracks. Following a day of rehearsals which saw WO2 (SSM) “Robbo” Robertson lose at least a stone from sorting out last minute dramas, the officers and soldiers of 216 travelled to London for the dress rehearsal phase.

Set amid wonderful surroundings and blessed with plentiful sunshine, the Squadron demonstrated that practice really does make perfect, with the initial rehearsals proceeding well. In-pensioners gathered by the dozen to watch the rare phenomenon that is Airborne drill, appearing to enjoy the spectacle as three ranks squeezed through a gate only wide enough for two.

The following morning fate saw fit to bless us with another beautiful day, and all was proceeding smoothly. Despite the very early start, the soldiers and their families appeared in good spirits as they descended upon Chelsea en masse. The only ones in a less than exuberant mood were the hosting party, clearly not looking forward to a day spent in No.2 dress under the beating sun. The courtyard was a blur of activity as final administration was completed, the admin party earning their pay and both WO2 (SSM) Robertson and Capt Dunwoody, the event co-ordinators, sweating the final details to ensure nothing less than perfection (or at least not half bad).

The morning’s Memorial Service proved to be an emotive event, the feelings of relief from returning home from HERRICK 13 tempered by the sadness of the loss of a Squadron member. Not one of those present was unmoved, and the spirit of a superb soldier and a great man will be preserved in our memories.

At precisely 1100hrs The Princess Royal arrived, to be greeted by a substantial welcoming party comprising the Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Master of Signals, Signal Officer in Chief (Army), the Officer Commanding, the Aide de Camp, the Corps RSM and 216 (Parachute) Signal Squadron RSM. Handshakes completed, the Colonel-in-Chief graciously signed the Squadron Visitors’ Book, allowing Major Fawcett and RSM Spink to take leave and rejoin the parade. Her Royal Highness was piped onto parade by SSgt (Pipe Major) Jimmy Scott, and after a formal request from the Officer Commanding proceeded to present the Operational Service Medal for Afghanistan to the front rank. Meanwhile the Master of Signals and the Signal Officer in Chief (Army) presented medals to the second and third ranks, with the Band of the Scots Guards providing the accompaniment to the ceremony. After words of encouragement and high praise from their Colonel in Chief, the Squadron marched off parade, executing the new “three into two” drill manoeuvre through the gate with practised efficiency.

Upon her departure at 1325hrs, the Princess Royal gave her thanks to the Squadron for the invitation to present the medals, and reiterated her congratulations to all involved on an exceptional operational tour. She gave her thanks for being well hosted by the Squadron and departed.

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