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P.D. GRIFFIN
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MODERN BRITISH ARMY REGIMENTS

Alma Day (20 September) is observed in the Green Howards Battalion with a colour trooping and parade of Russian drums captured in the battle. The sergeants' mess honours the sergeants of the 19th Regiment who picked up their battalion colours as they fell and carried them forward into battle.

Generations of Green Howards have held military appointments in Norway and there exists a regimental alliance with the country's Kongens Garde. The regiment's relationship with the Norwegian royal family came through King Haakon VII, son-in-law of Queen Victoria and Colonel-in-Chief of the Green Howards from 1942. Soon after his death in 1957 King Olav V succeeded to the appointment, and King Harald V in 1992. The champion company goes under the title of King Harald's Company and bears his emblem. A special toast to the colonel-in-chief is followed by a silent toast to Queen Alexandra in the officers' mess. Mess protocol observes a number of interesting customs. The loyal toast was proposed only after three taps of the gavel, and the mess president and vice-president had bowed to each other and passed the port. Officers of the 2nd Battalion were wont to pass round a snuffbox, once the gift of a grateful Napoleon to Marshal Ney. Subalterns new to the mess are faced with the Brights Cup and its formidable 14 pints capacity. Retiring officers are breakfasted out of the Green Howards instead of being dined out, a custom that originated in the Ulster 'troubles' of the 1970s, when security duties often altered normal procedures.

In the East Yorkshire Regiment the loyal toast was customarily proposed and seconded by the mess president, a nod to a certain dinner party at which the vice-president was found to be too inebriated to be able to voice his part of the toasting ritual. The PWO upheld the custom with the mess ignoring the president's first (seated) proposal to the vice-president. Only when the president stands and repeats it to the mess does everyone stop talking and respond with the toast. Orderly officers of the EYR wore their swords to dinner as a reminder of stormy days in Scotland during 1689, when arms were rarely laid aside because of the constant threat of Jacobite raids. In the PWO Battalion the orderly officer symbolises this readiness by wearing cap and sword when in the anteroom of the officers' mess before dinner.

Mess silver is the pride of any officers' mess and that polished up for the Duke of Wellington's Regiment includes two pieces of historical interest. The central section of King Theodore's Drum, taken at Magdala in 1868, is inscribed, 'This drum of gold from the Dejaj Match Oukie which he gave to Queen Meuvin in the year of St Mark 1737'. The Abyssinian Cup was made to duplicate the regiment's Cornwallis Cup of 1806. Lord Charles Cornwallis was colonel of the 33rd Regiment before the Duke of Wellington and is remembered for raising it to a level of excellence in the eighteenth century.

THE MERCIAN REGIMENT

Future Army Structures of 2004 nominated three county regiments of central England for amalgamation under the title of Mercian Regiment. Mercia was the kingdom that spread across the Midlands in Anglo-Saxon times. Battalions affected are 1st Cheshire (RHQ at Chester Castle), 1st Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters (RHQ at Norton Barracks near Worcester) and 1st Staffordshire Regiment (RHQ at Whittington Barracks near Lichfield).

County attachments run deep. The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment was raised on the Roodee at Chester in 1689 and the South Staffords were born of local volunteers, many from the county's militia. The 38th (1st Staffordshire) Regiment, formed in 1705 at the King's Head in Lichfield, was remembered on the tercentenary in 2005 when a regdmental deputation revisited the King's Head to mark the occasion. The romantic term 'Sherwood Foresters' originated in 1814, when the Prince Regent approved the title Royal Sherwood Foresters to the Nottinghamshire Militia after it had guarded royal buildings in London during the previous year. The name also settled temporarily on the 45th (1st Nottinghamshire) Regiment around 1866.

DRESS DISTINCTIONS

The Mercian Regiment

Blue caps and berets currently display one of three badges: the Cheshires' star and acorn, the WFR's elongated star and cross, the Staffords' knot and plume. The Cheshires' Victorian star is characterised by an acorn and oak leaf centre, which came from King George II at the Battle of Dettingen according to legend, although it is known that the arms of the founder of the regiment, Henry Howard, 7th Duke of Norfolk, included a horse with 'in its mouth an acorn sprig with two leaves'.

Provost corporal of the Staffordshire Regiment in No. 1 dress 'blues' with the glider sleeve badge

Provost corporal of the Staffordshire Regiment in No. 1 dress 'blues' with the glider sleeve badge. (Grenadier Publishing)

The Dettingen theory has it that a detachment of the 22nd guarded the King on the field of battle in 1743 and was presented with a clutch of oak leaves plucked from a tree, which is why the Cheshires wear oak leaves on the cap in the presence of royalty and on special days.

WFR officers in different orders of dress, 1996

WFR officers in different orders of dress, 1996; the orderly officer, left, in mess kit complete with duty sword. (Grenadier Publishing)

The Stafford knot, from the arms of the earls of Stafford, has been used by regiments and departments associated with the county for over two centuries. The Staffordshire Regiment wears the knot with the Prince of Wales's crest, a combination first seen in the North Staffordshire Regiment. The crest came from the 98th, which took the Prince's title in 1876 after he had presented new colours to the battalion on Malta, a compliment to the previous 98th, the Prince of Wales's Tipperary Regiment (1805-1815). The Stafford knot is worn with the buff holland backing that was added to the South Staffordshires' cap badge in 1935 to symbolise the sacking used to repair uniforms during the extraordinary span of service endured by the 38th Regiment in the West Indies from 1706 to 1766. Alliances with the Jamaica Defence Force and the Antigua Barbuda Defence Force commemorate this period of the South Staffords' history.

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