It seems longer than four years since the country began to remember the Great War. Since 2014 there has been an extraordinary multiplicity and variety of events: international ones have commemorated the defining moments of the war; the Somme, Gallipoli and the Armistice, our own national commemorations, many of them making spectacular use of the Flanders poppy to cover or fill great spaces, have engaged the imagination of many who knew little about the war and cared even less. It was remarkable to see the level of personal interest generated by re-telling of the story of the war over the four years. Many, and in particular young people, came to realise the extraordinary things that their forbears had achieved; long forgotten relatives who had fought and perhaps died in the war. Without ever losing sight of the terrible human cost and the shadow it cast over the nations that participated, I sense this process has led to a more realistic view of the prosecution of the war. The simple act of recruiting, equipping, training and sustaining nearly three million men in the 22 months between late 1914 and mid 1916 was a remarkable achievement in itself. That there were terrible blunders - as there always will be in war – is incontrovertible, but those accused of being out of touch, blundering, chateaux bound generals were the same ones who turned these men into such an effective fighting force that from mid-1918 onwards they achieved success after success against the German Army. Both nationally and locally, the Royal British Legion has been at the heart of many of these events and I would like to thank and congratulate all those who have played their part, large or small, in the process.
In 2019 it is back to business as usual, whatever that is. The snow fell and caused the cancellation of our annual conference in Trowbridge and I missed the rescheduled Conference in April as I was away assisting 3 (UK) Division on exercise in Fort Hood, Texas. Our County Re-dedication of Standards was replaced by the celebration of Armed Forces Day, nationally in the presence of HRH, The Princess Royal in Salisbury, as well as locally in Trowbridge. They were both highly successful events and attracted much public attention and acclaim. However, perhaps the event which had most effect upon the public was the 75th anniversary of D Day in which the Royal British Legion played a leading role. Thus I must use this opportunity, as always, to thank all of you for everything you do for the Legion and I look forward to seeing many of you at future events this year.