The Welsh Regiments’ Reception took place at Portcullis House, a parliamentary building adjacent to the House of Commons. Representatives from The Royal Welsh, both 1st Battalion and their Reserve counterparts 3rd Battalion, as well as 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards (QDG) and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, took the opportunity to talk through recent highlights and their upcoming military activity in 2020 and 2021.
Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, sponsored the event and Major General James Swift OBE made the opening address on behalf of the Welsh units in the room, with Brigadier Alan Richmond OBE, head of the Army in Wales, making a closing address.
Major General Swift said: “While our Regular units here today are not based in Wales, all of the soldiers pretty much come from Wales, their families are in Wales and their hearts are in Wales.
"When I was General Officer Commanding 3rd UK Division, one of the things I used to do was reward excellence by giving a General Officer’s coin and when I did that I’d always ask the recipient to tell their stories of why they joined.
“In almost all cases it was because they wanted that variety and challenge, but also you’d hear them talk of wanting to follow their family members that had previously served, to improve their lot in life and to develop as an individual. Many of those individuals are represented here today.”
Captain Jason Davies, from Swansea, of the QDG, said he joined the Army aged 16 and had experienced 10 operational tours across the world.
“We’re very lucky to be classed as The Welsh Cavalry and our bonds to each other and to Wales are very strong,” he said. "We have lots of Jones’s, lots of Williams. In fact, I’m one of three Jason Davies’s in the Regiment.
Jason said it had been a busy 18 months for the troops, with deployments on Operation Cabrit in Poland in support of a US battlegroup, helping to train other British Army units in Kenya and on Salisbury Plain and also as part of training teams in West Africa.
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Llewelyn-Usher, Commanding Officer of the Welsh Guards,told MPs 90 per cent of his battalion was from Wales.
“We’re currently on public duties and based in Windsor and some people may think our role is ceremonial and that’s it, but it’s not the case,” he said.
"Those you see mounting guard are serving soldiers and they play a very active and key role in our war-fighting capability as a nation. We’re currently building up for the Trooping of the Colour on June 13 and then we start our progression back into operations.
“Wales is a key link for us and not just something we pay lip service to. We have brothers, uncles, sons and fathers serving together in the battalion, with that strong familial Welsh thread running right through our lineage.”
Captain Sam Johns, representing 1 Royal Welsh, said the armoured infantry battalion was about to deploy to Sennelager in Germany for a four-week gun camp, with further company-sized deployments on exercise to the US, Canada and France to come.
“There are plenty of opportunities for soldiers, not just in terms of travel, but the educational programmes available and constant up-skilling, which isn’t just beneficial for their careers in the Army, but prepares them for life beyond the military,” he said.
“We have more than 300 years of history and we’re very proud of our traditions."
Lance Corporal Gareth Kennedy-Brown told MPs that as a Reservist with 3 R Welsh, based at Maindy Barracks in Cardiff, he valued immensely his military experiences with the unit and had enjoyed the numerous adventure training packages afforded him.
“The experiences I’ve had would not have been possible if not for the Army Reserve,” he told MPs. “Some use their time as a stepping stone into the Regular Army or as an extension of their life beyond their normal day jobs. I’ve gained so much from the mentors in the unit, learning from their experience.”
In the final address Brigadier Richmond said that, in his nearly four years as Commander of 160th (Welsh) Brigade, based in Brecon, he had seen a lot of change, with a much more collegiate relationship with Welsh Government and Defence.
“I believe Defence now has an approach that is absolutely devolution-aware, with unprecedented scrutiny on Defence and the Army in Wales,” he said.
“That can only be a good thing to ensure the Army’s connection and footprint in Wales is appropriately maintained. And with more focus on us, as icons of the union and indeed our, and the cadets role as part of that connective tissue of the union, there is that improved understanding of the nuances of military service within a devolved environment.
“But I also think it’s good for our service leavers and our veterans, who make such a positive contribution in Wales. Last year saw the inaugural Veterans’ Awards and it helped bust a few myths and change some perceptions by showcasing how much benefit veterans bring to Welsh society and how successful so many of them are.
“It’s also good for you and your constituencies to have that presence of Regular soldiers and their families, Reservists, veterans, cadets forces, adult volunteers and of course Defence industry, that not only brings in Defence pounds, but also strong values, standards and that volunteer ethos to enhance prosperity and community spirit."