Friday 3rd July
Suffolk Royal British Legion County Parade Marshal
Is there a “right” way to become a Royal British Legion County Parade Marshal?
Some might say the role is a poisoned chalice, some might say it’s the best RBL Ceremonial position to hold and some might say “you lucky b****r” you must have been in the right place at the right time and know the right people. All of these would be correct!
It started a long time ago, my “military” career began, somewhat obscurely, by being sent as a teenager to a Naval Boarding School (RHS @ Holbrook) in the mid 60’s where a discipline (of sorts) became ingrained. This was followed by a 7 year stint in the RAF (strange change from a possible Naval career, but, as it turned out - for me - it was definitely the better option) where square bashing and being “shouted” at on a parade square were the norm! I seemed to be the only one from my section who ended up on all the formal parades - Freedom of Town, Remembrance Day, Royal Visits etc so there must have been something I was doing right (wrong)! After leaving the RAF I went through a rebellious phase of riding motorbikes and maintaining long hair & a straggly beard!
Marriage, kids & emigration finally beckoned but not before being made to tidy up and look presentable - oh the things we do for a quiet life!! On the birth of our eldest son I escaped two evenings a week to the local Air Training Corps Sqn where I became an accredited Civilian Instructor on propulsion & airframe subjects, moving abroad stopped that, until we returned to the UK in the early 90’s where I recommenced my Air Cadet involvement. After some “persuading” I was subsequently promoted to the rank of Adult Warrant Officer and within a short space of time saw myself dealing with all things Drill & Ceremonial on the Sqn, a stint learning to be a Drill Instructor at RAF Cranwell then propelled me into helping with D & C across our Wing, a move to a different Wing saw these activities follow me and on return to my original Sqn in the early “noughties” nothing changed except a more prominent role within the Wing. My responsibility then moved into (in RAF/ATC parlance) Banner Bearer training and oversight as well as running my own Sqn.
At the same time as returning to my original Sqn I received our local RBL Branch newsletter, spotting a plea for someone to take up the Branch Standard Bearer role - intrigued, I called the Branch Chairman and before I knew it I was looking to buy the “correct” SB Uniform (suit, beret etc) and carrying the Branch Standard at local funerals, followed by leading the town Remembrance Day Parade and paying the Branch’s respects at our local War Memorial at 11am on 11/11. This continued with various other local & national SB activities over the next 14 years - at the same time I took on the Branch role(s) of Secretary and National Conference delegate (where I carried the Branch Standard for the next 10 years), twice selected to attend the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall as Branch SB, then moving up to carry the Group Standard whilst training up the next two Branch SB’s. With an arthritis issue in my right wrist & forearm it was time to hand over my SB duties to the next Branch & Group SB.
Requested by the Branch to be Parade Marshall at their Remembrance Day activities took me back a bit to my Air Cadet times (since retired from uniform but still active with a different Sqn) where, instead of doing the “shouty” bit to teenagers in uniform this became a toned down version for our town dignitaries, guests and public. Also, assisting with PM duties at one of our large County Towns “Festival of Remembrance” commemorations allowed me to get to know the Deputy County PM who’s responsibility it was.
Having had a taste of Branch Secretary (and after retirement from full time work) I applied (and was nominated) to be a County Area Representative, to be the link between 6 RBL Branches and the County Committee, as a Committee member this brought me into direct contact with the County Chair & Vice Chair. Subsequently press-ganged onto the County Conference Committee (as Secretary!) also brought me into direct contact with both a previous County PM as well as the current CPM.
So, how did I get the role eventually? “Right place right time?” Representing my Branch at GP90 in Ypres (Belgium) a “lot” of talk happened while socialising, some of this “talk” was with the Deputy CPM who let it be known the current CPM wished to stand down, the Deputy wasn’t in a position to take it on and would I be “interested”! General discussions with our Branches SB’s at GP90 showed support from them for my application to be the next CPM. This was forwarded on from Branches to County and I was subsequently asked to take the role on. I have been in post now for 18 months and apart from organising and running one major County Parade and one National Parade, two County Conferences and one County SB competition I have also attended a National PM course at RBL HQ where (contrary to my thoughts at the time) a Grade “A” PM standard was achieved.
This year has been “different“ to say the least - where a number of County & National Parades have had to be cancelled but, hopefully, things will return to some sort of normality for 2021 when a busy year is expected to celebrate the RBL 100th Anniversary.