On a fine soft morning in London, there was an excellent turnout of veterans, as well as a number of current serving men, at the Annual Parade of the Combined Irish Regiments Association. Joining the Parade again were men from the Irish Permanent Defence Force (PDF), who had served with the United Nations, and a contingent of Gurkhas, who have just commemorated 200 years of service with the British Army.
The Parade was led by the Pipes and Drums of the London Irish Rifles and the Honour Guard at the Cenotaph was provided by men from 'D' Company of the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) and all was kept to order by the presence of Parade Adjutant, Kevin Hyland and RQMS John Gavin.
Inspecting Officers this year were the Lord Lieutenant of Tyrone, Robert Scott, and Major General Mike Swindells with the Service of Remembrance being conducted by Canon Christopher Tuckwell. During the Service, wreaths were laid in honour of Irish Regiments, including those disbanded in 1922, and Don Sexton, Counsellor for EU and External Relations, laid a wreath on behalf of the Irish Embassy in London.
In his speech to the assembled men, Robert Scott referred to the continuing outstanding contribution of Northern Irish volunteers to the Reserve Forces, highlighting the fact that, from just 3% of the UK population, Northern Ireland had provided 20% of the UK reserves mobilised to Afghanistan.
Major General Mike Swindells also praised the Irish PDF for their support to numerous United Nations peacekeeping duties over the past 55 years including recent assignments right across the Middle East and it was noted that men of the London Irish Rifles, a number of whom were on parade, had served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq and recently joined a UN force in Cyprus.
As the Parade finished, a few shards of sunlight momentarily appeared from the heavens, which stimulated members to head to various nearby establishments for some pre and post prandial liquid entertainment. At the Civil Service Club, an impromptu display of skirling started emanating from the Pipes of the London Irish Rifles and noisy Irish roars were soon disturbing a sleepy Sunday afternoon in the heart of Whitehall.
We now look forward to the 94th Anniversary Parade in 2016, a year of resonant centenary commemoration for all Irish Regiments.