Message from the Chairman
Firstly I must apologise for not being there in person, and had planned to be and booked my flights (Non refundable!) in April. But, I am in the process of getting my Omani Citizenship, and got informed by the British Embassy, on 19 August as I returned from leave in UK, that I was now no longer British and my Passport was invalid!! – I have yet to receive my Omani Citizenship/ Passport!! – it is normal to only hand your Brit one in as you receive your Omani one, but I fell foul of some new UK rule and am effectively "Stateless" at the moment. Hence my non attendance.
The weekend that you are attending should be emotionally memorable and I am sure it will be great to see our Colours properly laid up at long last and our Trooper Memorial emerge from storeage and be on display again. Martyn Hudson and his team have really done a sterling job in making it all happen, and our most sincere thanks must go to them.
We have been very honoured, that following Brigadier Digger Essex-Clarke’s resignation as Patron , that the legendary Colonel Ron Reid–Daly, the first RLI RSM and then Training Officer and OC Support Group and later CO Selous Scouts, has kindly accepted to take over as our Patron and is with you in Hatfield today. We on ExCo are really pleased to have him on board, as I am sure the rest of you are, he will be a great asset to our Association
Since the concept of reforming the Association was raised in 2006, the organization has grown extensively. The first branch was formed in Australia, an interim ExCo established and George Dempster created our excellent web site. The ExCo decided we had to take some control on our Memorabilia, that had been well looked after for us by the RAA, since it arrival in UK in 1999. It had been displayed once for 6 months in 2000, along with other Rhodesian Army Memorabilia at the BECM, after which it went into storeage and The Trooper was damaged. We started negotiations with Lord Salisbury in early 2007 and have been building up to this weekend since then. (More about this process later)
In August/ September 2007 the UK and RSA Branches were formed, and to get a better representation of member’s views, it was decided that the Chairmen of each Branch should serve on the ExCo, prior to the Elections scheduled for the end of 2007. Debate about the one man one vote elections then occurred, and it was decided that this could end up with a smaller branch being out voted and have no members on the ExCo. It was therefore, decided to amend the Constitution to make the elected Branch Chairmen permanent members of the ExCo, and for them to elect a chairman, and co-opt any additional specialists required. This idea was accepted by majority vote, The Australasians dissenting. Shortly after this the Australian Chairman put up a proposal on membership, for the third time and it was again voted down by the rest of the ExCo, as it had been twice before!!. Their Chairman appeared to take umbrage at this, and declared a "hiatus period" of one month (Jan 2008) just as the new committee took over, and has basically refused to participate in ExCo discussions since then.
At the same time as this was going on, in November 2007, Digger, Martyn, Shaun and Chris Pearce visited Lord Salisbury, and got final approval to lay up the Colours in his Chapel and chose the site for the Trooper Statue.
In February 2008, the ExCo decided to hand over the organisation and liaison with Lord Salisbury, to Martyn and his UK Branch Committee as they were in the best position to do it.
In early April, all the outline plans were drawn up and published on the web site (the ExCo had accepted these, subject to Lord Salisbury’s agreement). The Patron’s Appeal was also sent to Branch Chairmen to send on to their members and an abbreviated version put on the web site (the Australasian’s were not sent theirs for some time, and then only by the webmaster not their Chairman!).
Martyn went to a planning meeting with Lord Salisbury in late April to confirm the arrangements, which were accepted, however, it was then Lord Salisbury introduced his 2nd Plaque requirement, which took us all by surprise. We had known about him wanting The Memorial dedicated to all Rhodesians, and having some black faces to show reconciliation at the rededication, since Jerry Strong’s first meeting with him, but had heard nothing about the 2nd plaque. We were all taken aback by this and the initial wording was rather over the top, and our e-mail discussions on this matter were sent to all ExCo members including Tony Young of Australia. Instead of contributing to resolving the matter Tony launched his public attack using misinformation and untruth’s to derail the whole rededication, which a lot of you here will be familiar with.
The ExCo had decided anyway, to go back to Lord Salisbury and request that only the original inscription on the plinth in Cranborne was on the new plinth, thus not mentioning Rhodesia or Zimbabwe and purely remembering our dead. At a follow up meeting in June, Lord Salisbury agreed to this, but still insisted on a second plaque, however, in a very much toned down version. After much debate and in consultation with the two CO’s involved with The Trooper, Tufty Bate and Charlie Aust, we decided to accept this, as we wanted the Colours properly laid up and The Trooper Memorial publicly displayed again. We also found that we had a great ground swell of support for this action, apart from a very vocal minority, at the very most 20 members. I pointed out to everyone in a letter over the web, that the final decisions would be made after my meeting with Martyn and the organisers at Hatfield on 25 July 2008.
Following the meeting in July, I called for an ExCo vote on the 2 plaques which all members voted for, except Australia. This caused another outburst from a few Australians, led by Young and MacGregor, who this time went outside the Association and contacted other ex Rhodesian Organisations and even commercial sites, which has not put the RLIRA in a good light. It did however cause a flurry of resignations from onside Aussies, who have joined other Branches, even our former Patron, who suffered a lot of personal and hurtful abuse from several Australian members (He resigned as a result of this). The South Africans debated this issue at their AGM on 2 August and gave unanimous support to the project, plaques included.
We have continued to liaise with certain Australians to try and get them back on side, and I am happy to announce that following Tony Young’s resignation earlier this month, they have apparently elected a new Chairman, withdrawn their threatened UDI and wish to remain part of the worldwide Association, this we had confirmation of yesterday, this is extremely good news as they are an important part of the Global Association.
So Gentlemen, that is the state of play at the moment, after not a very pleasant few months. However, we must put these machinations behind us and move forward as a united Association, we have a lot still to do, and we need to do it in harmony.
Enough of the problems we encountered, that are now fortunately resolved, what about the future? My vision is that as well as expanding the membership within existing branches, that we encourage our USA members to create their Branch, there are moves afoot for this already. Also, in respect to the memorabilia still in storeage, that we get this permanently displayed. In this regard we are in negotiations with The Rifles, to have a small section of their Museum for us to display our artefacts in, Martyn has had his first meeting with them already. Also we need to have the Roll of Honour on the Trooper complete, to include those "Died on Operations" and "Book of Rememberance". You will see tomorrow that we only have the Roll of Honour for those " Killed in Action" at the moment, as we had neither the time nor the finance to do the rest.
Now we have a focal point "The Trooper Memorial" to gather at, we need to have some form of Annual Gathering, to both remember our fallen and just to get together as former RLI Ouens. Neither of our important dates; our birthday 1 February nor our disbandment date 31 October are really suitable, because of the weather in UK and that Hatfield House Estate is closed from 1 October until 1 May (The Hatfield Estate dates, however, are not insurmountable). A better day maybe 25 July, the day we had the final parade in front of The Trooper at Cranborne and moved it to RSA, as it is in the Summer and anyone coming on holiday to the UK from abroad normally try’s to come in the summer months. I will leave this matter for your discussion later in the meeting.
I think I have said enough, and I am sorry about the length of my Message, but I just want everyone to be absolutely clear about what has gone on in the last few months, and the fact that the problems have been resolved, with the Australasian Branch and we are now all working together again for the good of the RLIRA, which is excellent .
I wish you all a great weekend and am very sorry that I am not with you personally. I am certain many war stories will be told and old acquaintances reunited.
THE SAINTS FOR EVER