By Major General Sir Edward Smyth-Osbourne KCVO CBE, The Life Guards Lieutenant Colonel Commanding Household Cavalry unrelenting desire to get the basics right on Salisbury Plain, there being a little of ‘back to the future’ about the admirable B CHAT cards RHQ brought out of hibernation (formatted Report Cards for various scenarios). Troop Tests on Dartmoor were innovative - and the aim: to instill robustness, resilience and initiative is exactly what we should be doing in an Army that preaches mission command but often fails to practice it, and at a time and in an environment where you may need true grit. The first deployment of 2017 to Brunei looks imaginative, novel and refreshing. This is all about readiness and relevance, attributes that the Service Regiment has in spades.
ow you hardly need me from a far and distant bunker in the Southern Alps to recite that which you have achieved but I shall observe on some of it. Conscious of the notably successful recent inter regimental boxing night, it strikes me that you have lived up to Kipling’s aspirational quip in his poem If; ‘If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run ...’. And, boxing aside; the laying up of Squadron Standards of both The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals in St George’s Chapel, Ypres (where they hang astride the altar), the splendid Freedom of the City of London Parade and the particularly noteworthy achievements of the Mounted and Service regiments at the Cambrian Patrol all speak of cohesion, cooperation and credibility in an Army fraught by change. Hackneyed though it maybe to say it, seldom has peacetime been so busy. The Service Regiment completes its tenure as the Lead Armoured Cavalry Battlegroup. Despite not being called, we saw many individuals mobilized to support operational training teams and advisory groups ranging from the Black Sea to the Baltic. This has brought spice and variety whilst keeping our thinking at the forefront of contemporary operations. Back at home, the focus on field skills and vehicular trades has been a welcome and timely return to our armoured heritage and role. It was difficult not to be impressed by the
And throughout all of this our Mounted ceremonial continues apace. Her Majesty’s 90th was brilliantly orchestrated in Windsor and standards were as high as usual at the Queen’s Birthday Parade, or The Troop as our Foot Guard cousins call it. The State Visitors see a shop window second to none, and that buys influence across the world. For me, who never served on State Ceremonial and Public Duties until I took over as the Major General, two things surprised me. First, fresh out of Kabul, I was struck by the unrelenting demand, often in excess of an operational day and way beyond the norm. We expect a lot, but the discipline and administration that our soldiers learn pays real dividend and we should be justifiably proud of what they do. Secondly, Mounted Ceremonial is widely admired from Copenhagen in the Baltic to Bahrain in the Gulf. The Danes, our allies through the campaigns of Iraq and Afghanistan, request ceremonial liaison at the same time as we strengthen our military ties. The King of Bahrain chooses to visit Knightsbridge whilst in London, and requests support to form his own Mounted unit - whilst building links in the Gulf. You only have to consider the number of tourists who flock to watch the Queen’s Life Guard and what they bring into London, to appreciate their contribution to prosperity. Those of you serving at Knightsbridge do more for our Nation and Defence than
most ever realize. Now I think it is worth me saying a little about AJAX. The decision to go down that route was taken in 2012. It was based on our pedigree of armour and armoured reconnaissance. It is a role that offers a place at the heart of the STRIKE brigades and by that token the Army; that brings investment and operational utility. It also comes with an establishment that allows us to sustain the delicate balance between the Service and Mounted regiments; in effect keeping the committal rate to ceremonial duties at a reasonable level whilst preserving our armoured skills. The recent exercise in Texas was important because it looked at how the capability could and should be used and we shall be at the forefront of that. But there will be challenges too. It is big and heavy. Our armoured doctrine has perished somewhat over the years and will need refreshing. It will drive our move from Windsor to Bulford for reasons of training, operational fleet management and engineering support. And though we have moved numerous times before, many of our families will now be committed to routine movement at a rate beyond all others in an Army that has placed a premium on stability. This is unpalatable and unattractive. It will require guarantees and understanding. But we must prioritize role and operational utility over bricks and mortar. We shall be judged on what we can do rather than what we are or what we have achieved in the past. So, as we face a resurgent and more belligerent Russian Federation to the East, an aggressive Daesh to the South, and an unpredictable North Korea in the Far East, we might occasionally belie the loss of the comfort blanket of the Cold War’s uneasy but nonetheless stable