Troopie today; the RLI Roll of Honour is on the back and RLI badges on each side.
Although our RLI Troopie had been magnificently rededicated many weeks earlier, I saw Troopie for the first
time on a cold and wet morning on Saturday the 10th of November 2008. With a small group of fellow pilgrims,
I was to lay one of the wreaths in Remembrance of the fallen. My first glimpse was from about 150 metres away,
and the statue stood tall, imposing, and boldly dominating the beautiful grassed site on the south bank of the River Lee.
As I approached Troopie seemed to beckon to our small group to draw closer. We did.
Someone ahead of us had already placed a tiny wooden cross and small poppy wreath at the base of the memorial
As we all stood before Troopie, irrespective of the dripping umbrellas, he awed us with his sheer regimental
and national symbolism. To use a current idiom I was thoroughly ‘gobsmacked’. So much so that as I looked up
into in his sad but stern face, after laying the wreath, I was trembling with emotion, no, it was not that cold,
and I stumbled through my recitation of Laurence Binyon’s fourth stanza of his
'To the Fallen' - The 'Ode of Remembrance':
"' They shall grow not old
As we that are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them,
Nor the years condemn,
Lest we forget.'"
Our small group of pilgrims, from England Australia and the United States, led by the irrepressible and effervescent
Martyn Hudson, stood silent before ‘Troopie’ each with our own deep emotions. It was an overwhelmingly poignant occasion,
which was then wrapped up emotionally with some sensitive words from the Reverend Clive Larrett.
Martyn then said a few words about the site, with Troopie as its centrepiece, perhaps, in time, becoming a Rhodesian
Services Shrine of Remembrance in the United Kingdom. I felt that the words, names, and the clear badges on the plaques
surrounding the large solid black plinth made abundantly clear that our Memorial was singularly and powerfully to the
fallen of our Rhodesian Light Infantry.
For those few who were once concerned about the ‘reconciliation and hope inscription’, as was I initially, I can
assure you that inscription, to me, adds a small but significant dignity and integrity to the essence of the memorial,
and again, to me, in no way demeans our Regiment or the men who had fallen serving in it. Also the inscription may help
prevent anti-Rhodesia vandals despoiling the memorial. It has so far; and there are still many ‘socialists and lefties’
in the UK who still fanatically hate ‘Old Rhodesia’ and what we stood and fought for.
Therefore, I wholeheartedly and warmly congratulate all those who were involved in the development of the site,
to Lord Salisbury, for his moral support and generosity, and to those many who contributed financially. Particularly
I mention those who did the job with such brilliance, panache and dedication led by Martyn and Maggie Hudson, Mark
and Diane Pilbeam, Shaun and Annette Ryan, and their cohorts. All of us who once served in the RLI must be eternally
grateful for their creativity, dedication to our Regiment and their sheer hard work. Martyn Hudson’s indefatigable
energy, careful planning and supreme dedication, while under severe health traumas, deserves our special thanks
and heartiest congratulations.
Troopie now stands tall, proud and dominant. He represents singularly and emotively not only all of those of our
battalion who died in action, but also, subliminally, all of us who served together wherever and whenever within
our battalion. Troopie truly and splendidly also symbolizes the grand spirit and ethos of ‘Old Rhodesia’ and all
who served her militarily.
Let me add this. Without the inspiration and initiative of Charlie Aust, the creativity of Jerry Strong, the moral
support and generosity of Lord and Lady Salisbury, the personal financial support, energy, creativity and organisation
of Martyn Hudson, the moral and active support of the Museum Trust of Rhodesian Army Association (UK), and, again,
the wonderful financial support from so many loyal ouens around the world, Troopie might still be lying, uncared for,
forgotten, broken, grimy and dusty, in a back store room at the British Commonwealth Museum in Bristol.
Susan and I also saw the RLI Queen’s and Regimental Colours displayed splendidly and dramatically in the Salisbury
Family’s Chapel within Hatfield House. As they say these days: They were ‘awesome!’ Again, ‘well done’
to all those concerned.
Well done all those Ouens!
Well done the UK Branch of the RLIRA ;
'March on the Saints !'