The Welsh Regiments’ Reception took place at Gwydyr House, the Office for the Secretary of State for Wales, which is adjacent to the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall.
Representatives from The Royal Welsh, both 1st Battalion and their Reserve counterparts the 3rd Battalion, as well as 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards (QDG) and 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, took the opportunity to talk through recent and pending operational deployments both at home and across the world.
Welsh Guardsman are currently on duties in the Falklands, on Operation Shader in Iraq and with upcoming deployments in the new year on an anti-poaching task in Zambia, also having recently joined the Parachute Regiment on Operation Pitting.
Warrant Officer Class One, Dan Cope, the Regimental Sergeant Major for the Welsh Guards, said: “Being Welsh means everything to us: our motto ‘Cymru am Byth’ is sewn into the fabric of what we do. Ninety per cent of our soldiers, both men and women, come from Wales.
"Even though we’re based in Windsor, we regularly get back to Wales, just last month taking part in the official opening of the Senedd and also taking part in remembrance events at the Cardiff City Stadium. We’re involved in a lot of engagement with young people in Wales about the opportunities that exist within the Armed Forces and I am living proof that you can join the Army at 16 and rise to become a Regimental Sergeant Major.”
1 R Welsh, which operates with the Warrior Armoured Vehicle, is currently preparing to deploy to Estonia, with preparations underway in Germany, following a robust programme of activity on exercises and also supporting the NHS across the UK in the fight against COVID-19 during the last 18 months.
Colour Sergeant Dan Mazey, 1 R Welsh, said: “Even though a large contingent of our personnel comes from South Wales, we have a broad mix of soldiers from across Wales and beyond and that brings a lot of diverse experiences and whether those soldiers leave after four years or 22 years, they always leave more knowledgeable going back into civilian life with a range of skills and abilities.
"We are fiercely proud of our status. We love being classed as the Welsh Warriors and we take that status everywhere we go, whether it’s being out on operations in Estonia, on exercises, or even working out in the gym."
Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, said: “It’s poignant being here, just a couple of days after the Cenotaph Memorial service just across the road. We take our commitment to and respect for the Armed Forces in Wales incredibly seriously and is one of those issues where there is cross-party recognition and support in everything you do and all that you stand for.
"Being here is also an opportunity for MPs from across Wales to thank you for your incredible support in the fight against COVID-19. It’s not something you ever dreamt about being involved in when you joined the Army but, across the length and breadth of Wales, in every vaccination centre, in every testing station, there has been some kind of uniformed presence and it’s given huge comfort to the public we represent.”
Major Rob Mansel told MPs about the light cavalry role of the QDG. “We are reconnaissance soldiers who move out into the battle space and we gather information and intelligence and wrap that up to make an assessment with our young commanders in an accurate and timely fashion and pass that up to higher command, who then make the decisions on defensive or offensive actions they then need to make.
"That makes us extremely deployable and the regiment has been pretty much on constant operations in one shape or another on Operation Cabrit and more recently in Mali, supporting the UN mission there, called Operation Newcombe. We are very proud of our Welsh heritage and it’s massively important to us."
Lieutenant General James Swift OBE thanked Simon Hart MP for hosting the event and the MPs in attendance.
He said: “What you’ve heard today from the Welsh Warriors, Welsh Guards and Welsh Cavalry is just how proud the soldiers are of their status and of having that Welsh title in their name. Wales is where they’re from and where they’ll go back to.
“Most of what you’ve heard today is from the Regulars, but the Reserves in Wales are very important to us and connected to the communities in Wales: they live there and they work there in their civilian and military roles.
“We’ve not talked about cadets tonight but what a fantastic organisation which gives young people, sometimes from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds, an opportunity to flourish. Visiting the CCFs across Wales is something I enjoy the most and hearing their stories of achievement. Some of those youngsters go on to decide to join the Army, and that’s great, but that’s not the ultimate purpose of the CCFs.
“Our veterans and Regimental associations are very important also and so news of a Veterans Commissioner is significant. Increasingly, our families choose to live in Wales and not where the soldiers are based. That separation comes with challenges but what it really means is they need the support in Wales to look after them so the soldiers can deploy on whatever the nation asks us to do. We are so well supported through the Armed Forces Covenant and through the wider community in Wales and I’m very grateful for that."