Northumberland and North East Fusiliers Association
Maj Chester Potts TD
Chairmans Notes 2015
As far as Fusilier matters go a lot has happened over this year both happy and sad but there has never been a dull moment. The beginning of this year saw us say goodbye to a Fusilier legend from Berwick. Captain Henry McCreath MBE ex 9th Battalion RNF and an ex FEPOW who was captured at Singapore with the rest of his Battalion. There is an excellent obituary in the Scotsman and here is a short excerpt from it. “Everywhere you went there were headless corpses of the local Chinese, lying in the streets of Singapore” he recalled. At every corner there were heads impaled on poles”
Henry was loved in Berwick and the Church was packed out to capacity. A guard on honour from the cadets were on parade and representatives of 5RRF and the Association also attended. With his passing we witnessed an end of an era and he will be sorely missed. What was evident was the good humour at his funeral which was obviously on his own instruction. Good on him!
Every now and then we come across certain individuals in the community who put themselves out on behalf of the regiment and do something special. One such man is Jim Smith from Walker who took it upon himself to refurbish the memorial to the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers from the Great War in Walker Park. It was vandalised and the original bronze plaque was stolen for scrap in the 1970s. Not only has Jim had the memorial refurbished with the help of his old company Pearson Engineering but he has also had a roll of honour made to go into the parish church containing all the names of the men who gave their lives in the service of the battalion. In June a service was held in the church attended by members of 5RRF, Association and Cadets. It’s the first time I have heard the regimental march played on an organ and I can honestly say that it was one of the best most thought provoking services I have attended. Well done to Jim and his family and all the good people of Walker who have helped out. We look forward to the rededication of the Memorial next year.
My Dear Fusiliers,
The time has arrived where we can do no more to save
The Second Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. The government is
pressing on regardless with Army 2020 despite all the problems they are
running into and the targets they are consistently failing to achieve.
Major (Retd) Chester Potts TD
FUSILIER NOTES MAJOR CHESTER POTTS TD
The past 18 months has been a very hectic and the main issue that has faced our regiment is the proposed disbandment of 2RRF. More of that later.
St George's day took place in Newcastle last year with the 5th Battalion marching through the City of Newcastle led by our excellent band. The service was conducted at St Nicholas Cathedral. A reception then took place at the drill hall and later that evening the St Georges Day Ball was held at the Assembly Rooms which was very well attended. Guests included the Lady and Lord Mayoress of Newcastle and Lord James Percy the Honorary Colonel of the 5th Battalion.
Special mention was made of the thoroughly well-deserved award of the MBE to Colonel Ian McKenzie TD who can only be described as part of the Fusilier bedrock here in Northumberland. Ian continues to support the regiment in our part of the world and is a great ambassador for us all. We also welcome our new Colonel (Northumberland) Colonel Charlie Calder to the fold and hope that he enjoys his new and challenging post.
We welcome our brand new Fusilier CO of the 5th Battalion Lt Colonel Karl Mace who has set to work with gusto in trying to recruit more soldiers into the battalion. A process not helped by the beaurocratic nightmare that is the recruiting system at present. We can all play our part in assisting Karl with this task to ensure that the fusilier footprint grows within the area and maintains our strong links to the north east. It is vital that our only TA Battalion is given the support that it requires for the future of our regiment
Thanks also go to Major Graeme Heron TD for once again leading a highly educational and fun long weekend in France conducting another of his excellent battlefield tours. The tour concentrated on The Great War. I am assured that everyone who took part came back with a smile of their face.
In June the annual aviation events "The Great North Fly In" and "Lancashire Landing" took part at Eshott Airfield and at Knott End beach respectively. Over £2600-00 was raised for the Fusilier Aid Society through the generosity of all visiting pilots and members of the public. The Northern Aviators Group will continue to support the regiment next year.
Z Company at Ashington held a Past and Present dinner at the TA centre and the attendance was outstanding. Ex members of the company came from far and wide including Macau, Australia and Pegswood! Old acquaintances were renewed and it was decided (not before time) that the dinner would become a bi-annual event. A thoroughly good time was had by all and thanks go to Captain Tony Boyd and his staff for organising such a great event.
Sadly we again have lost fusiliers over the past year. However special mention must go to Tommy Hewitson. Tommy was a stalwart here in Northumberland and a great character. He had served both in the 1st and 7th Battalions RNF. Tommy's interest in the TA and the fusiliers is legendary and he wrote some excellent books on this subject which was dear to his heart. His knowledge was outstanding about past personalities and events concerning the regiment over the years. There was a great turnout at his funeral by the association and friends. The church at Newbiggin was packed. Needless to say he will be sorely missed by all as a great character within the regiment and the local area.
I now turn to the campaign to save 2RRF. After the march on Parliament last year the campaign seemed to tail off and revert to 'tick over' mode but latterly things and reverted to 'full on mode!' The reporter Kate Proctor from The Evening Chronicle, John Baron MP, Mary Glindon MP and Bob Keating representing the association attended 10 Downing Street and handed in 10000 signatures from all over the north east from members of the public who support our campaign.
In September association members from our area attended the Tory Party Conference and spent the day lobbying delegates about the situation concerning 2RRF. Sir John Hall made a point of chatting to the fusiliers for some time and signed the petition (his father was a Northumberland Fusilier). A short time later Alistair Campbell (Press Secretary to Tony Blair) also turned up and signed the petition.
Special mention should go to Frankie Spalding and Hugh Collie and his wife June who have been voracious signature hunters and have really pushed the boat out for the campaign. We returned home that day but left a small contingent of Geordie's to carry on the motion and help our Lancashire colleagues.
In October last year a very strong contingent again travelled to London to march on Parliament for a second time. The march was outstanding and gained huge press coverage. Speeches were made by Brigadier Trever Minter, Colonel Ian Brazier and John Baron MP ( you can find these on youtube).
The dedication of the Fusilier Memorial at The National Arboretum also took place which was attended by the Colonel in Chief HRH THE Duke of Kent. Fusiliers from all our regular and TA units were in attendance and the colours of the 1st , 2nd and 5th Battalions were on parade. The unveiling was a great success and perhaps we will never see again such a large gathering of Fusiliers.
A meeting was then held on the 19th of December between Phillip Hammond (SOS Defence) and Colonel Ian during which Mr Hammond refused to budge an inch despite the crisis in recruiting at all levels. The fight will continue into this summer as more questions are asked about the rationale of the decision to disband the 2nd Battalion.
At the time of writing plans are being made for St Georges Day and Major Graeme Heron will once again be part of a group of Fusiliers who will go to Mons for another battlefield Tour. He will also be part of a small party to attend a ceremony to bury a recently unidentified body of a Northumberland Fusilier, who along with others was discovered in a mass grave at Loos.
On August the 2nd this year the Fusiliers will hold the second St George and Dragon Past and Present Dinner at the Civic Centre to commemorate the start of the First World War and all those Fusiliers who took part in it. It is their sacrifice that we must never forget.
Major Chester Potts Christmas Address 2011
As we enter the festive season and the end of the year I would like to reflect on what we as an Association have achieved over the past 12 months. Once again the Association has had a good year and we continue to progress in our desire to modernise and bring ourselves up to speed in the way we communicate and maintain the footprint of our Regiment within our area.
The past year has gone well with St Georges Day being
celebrated in Newcastle Upon Tyne. This year saw the marking of the 60th
anniversary of the Battle of the Imjin where the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers
fought gallantly as part of the Commonwealth Division.
It was good to see that Derek Kinney GC came all the
way across from the United States to mark the occasion. Derek had been
awarded his George Cross for outstanding bravery and tenacity whilst a
POW of the Chinese. Derek was met by a guard of honour at Newcastle Airport
by members of the Fusiliers All Ranks Club and was a guest of honour at
their annual Dinner at the Federation Brewery.
I was particularly glad to see a WW2 veteran on parade with our Association at the Civic Centre. When I spoke to him he told me that although he had never served as a Fusilier he found it a great honour to be a member of our Association and be on parade on our Regimental Day. I can honestly say that this made me very proud that here was a man, who was part of a fading generation whom we owe so much to. Let us never forget.
The parade wound its way around the streets of Newcastle and finally up Northumberland Street. The reception by members of the public was truly outstanding and everyone stood applauding. Perhaps at last, people really do appreciate what soldiers do for their country and long may that continue.
Colonel Simon Marr MBE made a powerful speech in the Civic Centre about unity within the Regiment and made mention on a minority of detractors. This rang true for me on a more personal note having been at the wrong end of the wrath of an ex Fusilier who was convinced that the end of the Regiment occurred in 1968 and that anything that came after it was of no consequence. Apparently this individual has a colourful history of causing problems from afar!
Let us be in no doubt that the Regiment lives on and the traditions of our forebears are never forgotten and are remembered by all our modern day Fusiliers. The Fusiliers are making sacrifices on the field of battle not seen since the days of Korea, and to belittle that sacrifice by making personal attacks on the Regiment from events that happened 40 years ago cannot and will not be tolerated.
Today we are an all-inclusive Association and the Fusilier who fights in the fields of Afghanistan is equally important as the Fusilier who fought in the fields of Normandy over 60 years ago.
I would like to mention that next year sees the 70th Anniversary of the fall of Singapore in February 1942. As many of you will know The 9th Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers were there and before the surrender they acquitted themselves against the Japanese brilliantly. From my encounters with the survivors of the Battalion they all felt let down by those in charge of what was the British Armys worst ever defeat.
Through no fault of their own they became prisoners of the Japanese and were treated appallingly. Many were to die of disease and maltreatment but the Fusilier spirit kept many going to the end. One such man whose spirit was never broken is Captain Henry Macreath of Berwick who was a Company Commander at the time. For many years Henry and his survivors met at a pub in Wooler each month. Henry never forgot his men and their bond was never broken. I assume now that Henry, due to his age and his dwindling circle of soldiers no longer does this, but this exemplifies the Fusilier spirit which lived on, years after this appalling event which none of us can comprehend.
Remembrance Parades were held throughout our area and
I would like to make particular mention of the Sunderland Branch who had
the honour of leading the second biggest parade in the country through
the city. A task that they performed admirably.
We have now put together a Fusilier Event which we hope will take place on an annual basis. This will be the St George & Dragon Past and Present weekend which will be held in and around Newcastle and St James Park on the weekend of the 16th -17th of June 2012. The aim of the weekend is to have a mini gathering of Fusiliers both serving and retired and to bring the Fusilier Family together. The event will start with a Charity Football Match followed by a Beating of Retreat in Exhibition Park and then a formal dinner at St James Park football ground on the Saturday evening. This will be followed by a Curry Lunch at St Georges TA Centre on Sunday.
We hope that this will be the catalyst to reinvigorate the Fusilier Association in our area and generate new members into the fold
At the time of writing we have 820 members on our Facebook
page which goes from strength to strength.
We are now entering another time of uncertainty with even further defence cuts on the way and the Army reducing by a projected 20000 personnel. What this means for our Regiment as of yet is not clear. I have heard rumours of what may happen but I will not print them here without substance. In essence what this means is that there will be challenges ahead for us in the future and we will meet them in whatever form they take.
As Christmas approaches may I take this opportunity
to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Fusiliers
both non serving and serving wherever they are in the world. I would also
like to thank all members of The Fusiliers Association (Northumberland)
for all the hard work they put in keeping our Regiment to the fore in
Quo Fata Vocant