A set of nearly 50 portraits of Army officers dating back nearly two centuries have been returned to their rightful home in York.
The images are of previous General Officers Commanding-in-Chiefs of Northern Command, a now-defunct military formation which used to be based at the city’s Tower House.
Imphal Barracks, home of 2 Signal Regiment (2 Sig Regt), has held the portraits since the former headquarters moved there in 1958.
The support that the Armed Forces receive from the public is heart-warming Lt Col Jamie Balfour
Lieutenant Colonel Jamie Balfour, Commanding Officer (CO) of 2 Sig Regt and Commander York Garrison, said: “The military has been a fundamental part of the city of York and our surrounding region for hundreds of years and the support that the Armed Forces continuously receive from the public is heart-warming. I am pleased to be a part of this project where our history is captured and our links with society are enhanced.”
Northern Command itself was amalgamated in 1972 but the images, including one of a Victoria Cross winner, were stored for safekeeping by the Kohima Museum, situated in the camp on Fulford Road.
Together with York Garrison, York Civic Trust, and Tower House Business Centre, the museum took the decision to return the portraits, which date back to 1849, to the old home of Northern Command.
Bob Cook, curator for the museum, said: “We felt that the strong historic link that exists between the military and the city of York would be strengthened by placing these photographs in the care of Tower House for future visibility and research.
“Generally, the development of the military has followed the development of society and this can be easily researched through the activities of these Generals.”
The handover ceremony was attended by representatives of all these organisations, with the Lord Mayor of York also present.
Harry Gillam, who manages operations for Tower House, said: “We are incredibly proud of our building and it’s rich history. It is a privilege to be part of this project and we are delighted to welcome back the portraits to our building. We greatly appreciate the generosity and support of the Kohima Museum and Imphal Barracks in rehousing these portraits.
“We hope that by bringing these portraits back to their spiritual home and working alongside York Civic Trust, we can play a part in raising awareness and public interest in the fascinating history of Northern Command and the British Army’s deep connection and ties to the city of York over the years.”
It is a fitting tribute to the Army that has served the city so well Dr Duncan Marks
The project was also supported by four students from the University of York, who researched the history of the officers and Tower House.
Dr Duncan Marks, Civic Society Manager for York Civic Trust, said: “The return of the Commander portraits to the former Northern Command building is all about legacy. It is a fitting tribute to these individuals and the collective Army that have served the city so well over the centuries, in times of war and peace, including helping York citizens during flooding and the Covid vaccinations.”