In glorious sunshine this morning I watched the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment parade through Bristol. The regiment recruits from the West Country and the South West of England and is conducting a tour of the main cities and towns of the region. This follows their return last month from a six month tour of duty in Afghanistan. The sight of the parade of about 250 men and women was made all the more enjoyable by the sound of the superb regimental band.
The parade set off from College Green after a service of thanksgiving and memorial in Bristol Cathedral. As well as singing some rousing hymns (I vow to thee my country, How great thou art and Guide me o thou great Redeemer) we heard the names of the fallen from Afghanistan and Iraq: Sgt SM Roberts, LCpl J Cartwright, LCpl TD Flowers and Cpl SJ Edwards (all Iraq) and Tpr JPW Hammond, Cpl LM Scott and Tpr BVJ Hall (all Afghanistan) read out by their comrades. Afterwards I told some of the men that almost every week I have heard Prime Ministers Blair, Brown and Cameron name casualties at the start of Prime Minister’s Questions.
The RTR was formed in 1917 after the first deployment of tanks on the western front in the first world war. I learnt this morning that they are the only British Army regiment to have a black uniform, a practical consideration from dealing with oily vehicles. They also introduced the beret to our armed forces – Montgomery chose to wear their black beret.
Whatever our opinions about recent and current conflicts it is right to pay tribute to all of our armed forces. A couple of weeks ago I was pleased to join the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Mayor and Leader of the Council at Bristol’s ceremony to mark armed forces week. Each November Bristol stages one of the largest Remembrance Sunday parades in the country. I hope there will be a big turnout this year to thank those who serve our country now and remember those who have fallen in the past.