Northumberland and North East Fusiliers Association
Chairmans Page

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”
Among the gruesome duties he had to undertake were the clean-up of the islands Alexandra Hospital after the massacre of over 100 of the doctors, nurses, and patients and the construction of a wall around the Japanese Secret Police Headquarters, the screams of the torture victims inside seared into his mind as he toiled”
One can only imagine what Henry and the rest of the 9th went through over the next 3 years of captivity with 173 men of the Battalion not surviving their ordeal.

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!
We also saw the death of Davey Reynolds the Newcastle Branch Chairman and stalwart association member after a brief battle with cancer. Dave gave many years to the regiment of loyal and valuable service and he will always be remembered as a gentleman. He raised money for good causes and throughout his life gave service to others. He will be sadly missed by all who came into contact with him.
On a lighter note we saw the arrival of our new Colonel Northumberland Mike Butterwick who took over from Colonel Charlie Calder. With Mike only just living down the road at Catterick we look forward to seeing him at many of our forthcoming events.
St Georges Day was a quiet affair with 5RRF in Germany and no parade but a reception was held in St Georges ARC Centre with Mary Glindon MP, Chi Onwurah MP and Ian Lavery MP attending as guests. We continue to maintain good relations with our MPs and Civic dignitaries.
In May we saw the laying up of the colours of the 7th Battalion Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, The 5th Battalion and 6th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at Alnwick Castle. This was the biggest Fusilier Event in living memory and Fusiliers came from far and wide (including the Fusilier Cycling Club who cycled from London).
The 5th Battalion led the way with an excellent parade and march past with the colours being laid up in St Michaels Church. There followed an all ranks buffet at Alnwick ARC Centre which was attended by the now Major General Paul Nanson. It was great to catch up with him after all these years and reminisce about the 3rd Battalion. A fantastic day was had by all and Fifth Fusiliers performed brilliantly!
Mention should be made of a highly successful WW1 battlefield tour conducted in France with Major Graeme Heron and Mr Ian Johnson organising. This proved very successful and was centred on the village of Authuille.  It commemorated the 16th Service Battalion  and the other Commercial Battalions of The Northumberland Fusiliers and their sacrifice on the Somme.
As a follow on from this and in conjunction with Newcastle and Gateshead City Council Fusilier memorial benches were dedicated on the Quayside and Gateshead to commemorate the Commercial Battalions who fought in the Great War. Again this was driven by Ian Johnson and supported by 5RRF and the Association and Cadets with Colonel Northumberland in attendance with other dignitaries. TV crews from BBC attended and the event received excellent coverage in the media.
In June myself and Major Heron held a short ceremony at Portland Bill Cemetery to remember all who died on HMS Boadicea which included Major Heron’s grandfather. This was quite fitting as our next stop was St Valery where we attended the 75th anniversary of the surrender of the 51st Highland Division in 1940. The 7th Battalion RNF were captured here with many local men from Northumberland included in their ranks. HMS Boadicea was at the time giving fire support to the Division during this action.
Raphael Distante our French host was magnificent in hosting us and organising such a fantastic commemoration. Sadly only one survivor of the Division was able to attend as they are so few in numbers now. Nevertheless it was marked by the French with great dignity and professionalism with many of the town’s people in attendance.
Our next stop was to drive up to Ypres on a flying visit as guests of the Liverpool Scottish who 100 years ago attacked through the 1st Northumberland Fusiliers at Bellewaarde in June 1915. It was great to get a picture of members of both regiments side by side again after all those years.  We look forward to returning to France for the 100th anniversary of the Somme which will be a massive event for all concerned.
One very proud moment for me in July was presenting a posthumous Croix de Guerre on behalf of the French government  to Eileen, the daughter of Lt Norman Middleton who sadly passed away a year before he was awarded this honour. It was awarded to Norman who as a young Fusilier with the 9th Battalion RNF defended the Free French ship the SS Felix Rousell against a large Japanese bomber force as they sailed into Singapore. The Fusiliers shot 3 aircraft down during this action. Due to his captivity he never received the medal and was unaware of this honour when he died.
Eileen was understandably quite emotional to receive her father’s medal and it was presented at the National Arboretum with services being conducted at the Fusilier Memorial and next to a section of the Burma Railway. Our thanks go to the RAF Marham Royal British Legion for all their work in getting Normans medal after all these years.

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.
Other events that have taken place were a charity fundraising event held at Wallsend Labour Club in aid of Lee Rigby’s son and the Fusilier Aid Society organised by Ronnie Dunbar. The event raised over £3000-00.
Mention should also be made of the efforts of Major (retd) Ray Butler and his efforts to have the war memorial at Choppington refurbished and rededicated. The event was attended again by all the Fusilier family and the local primary school provided refreshments. What was evident was that the local people cared about this and gave great support.
We head into 2016 with a renewed vigour and a closer bond with 5RRF and the Cadets in our working relationship in maintaining our Fusilier footprint in the area.  As a regiment we need to maintain our links with the community which has lapsed over the years. We are doing a lot more now to put that right.
 As I write this we are also looking forward to the reinstatement of the Christmas weekend with 5RRF up at Otterburn, to renew old friendships and create new ones. Long may that continue.

Major (Retd) Chester Potts TD
Chairman Fusiliers Association (Northumberland)

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.
Never has a regiment been so badly betrayed by a Secretary of State for Defence in order to further political aims. In fact, despite our reasoned argument and figures that show that the Fusiliers are one the best recruited regiments in the British Army. It appears that Mr Hammond has buried his head in the sand. At the very least he has been badly advised and it appears he sees the MOD as merely a spreadsheet to be adjusted at will, so that he can get his figures right.
What he fails to see is that there are real people behind these figures who have suffered because of this decision, and people, who unlike others, are and were prepared, to give their lives in the defence of this country
We may have come second best in the campaign but I can assure you all, that we will be proved right in the medium to long term and that the decision to axe the Second Fusiliers will be one that this government will regret in the future. The defence issue will haunt this government, be assured of that!
It seems totally illogical, that in a world which is getting more and more dangerous by the day that they are choosing to dismantle one of the finest infantry battalions in the army with a record second to none.
I would now like to thank all of you who fought this campaign with such gusto and commitment and invite you to look back on what you achieved. Twice the Fusiliers marched on Parliament not only winning the vote but morally winning the argument. The government was also taken aback when two of our number infiltrated the Tory party conference in Manchester and interrupted Mr Hammond's speech, thereby putting the debate on defence, well and truly at a national level.
The rear-guard for this action were the Fusiliers from Lancashire and Northumberland who were 'lobbying' the tory party faithful all day outside the conference and explaining in sometimes blunt terms to delegates that they had got it all wrong!
The petition and the letter campaign exceeded all our expectations. Many of you gathered thousands of signatures from our public who were only too willing to sign and show their support especially for our local lads. I know a lot of hard work went into this and many letters were received by the government by you all outlining their miscalculation in selecting the Fusiliers for disbandment.
The honour guard made up from our London contingent which stood outside number 10 in all weathers, and over the past few months made sure that the hackle was visible to all those in power and outlined the fact that we were not going to go away.
Never has a regiment been so united in peacetime as it is now. Fusiliers from all of our four areas turned up to show the government the strength of feeling that we all held over this crass decision. The associations were magnificent and the enthusiasm from you all was outstanding. To all those who took time off work and travelled from afar I would like to thank you for your outstanding loyalty and contribution to the regiment. You have all proved again to be England's finest.
I would also like to thank our local press for keeping us in the headlines and in particular the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal who supported our stance from the very beginning. Without their help we would not have been able to galvanise the support from members of the public and keep them informed of the real issues. Their assistance with the petition was invaluable.
I would also like to thank the Members of Parliament who did fight our cause and particularly some of our local MPs who know how important this regiment is to the north east. Special mention should be made of the hard work that John Baron MP put into this campaign and the considerable effort he made in outlining this flawed decision. John continues to press the government on the defence issue and remains a thorn in their side. He continues to hold the moral high ground and will eventually be proved right.
Never did I think that we would have to get involved in a political battle as a regiment. Had our argument been wrong, then the campaign would never have started in the first place. However, right was on our side and it was incumbent upon us all to fight for those who were not allowed to do so.
Fusiliers, you can all look back on the last two years with immense pride in what you achieved and all your hard work has not gone unnoticed. You were, and are, a credit to your regiment. Our Chairman received many messages of support from across the Armed Forces and admiration that we, as a regiment could muster so much support from across the board. This was reinforced by the fact that many ex Armed Forces veterans wanted to join our protest against the cuts.
You can all hold your heads up high and look back knowing that you did your bit and more, and that you fought in one of our hardest battles to date. We fought against all the odds, and we knew that this time, we were up against it. However you stepped into the breach willingly and gave it your all. No-one could ask more of you.
This episode has still to play out, and we will see in the coming months and years where this will lead us in this uncertain world. There are certain things in life worth fighting for; our regiment represents integrity, loyalty, courage and self-sacrifice. Perhaps a political establishment, who reward these traits with redundancy, should take a good hard look at themselves the next time they turn up at a remembrance parade, and, ask themselves some very pertinent and soul searching questions.
Once a Fusilier Always a Fusilier!

Major (Retd) Chester Potts TD
Chairman Fusiliers Association (Northumberland)

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 TD
Fusiliers Association (Northumberland)

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.
Click here for the Photos

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 Army’s 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.
Click here for the photos

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.
Click here to go to Facebook Page

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 our area.

Chester Potts

Quo Fata Vocant