Reunion 2013


Although the attendance at both Turning the Pages in Oxford and the Oxford branch Reunion at Abingdon on Saturday 9th November was not quite as impressive as last year, it was still good. Extra chairs were needed at the ceremony in the Regimental Chapel at Christ Church Cathedral, and the names were read by Major Paul Allington of The Riles ACF for the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, and for the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars by Jo Riley, widow of the late Major Bob Sheldon, who had been scheduled to do the reading.

We were pleased to see centenarian Lawrence Belcher in attendance, and those who gathered in the Priory Room for sherry were treated a song rather than a recitation from him. Col Tim May, Vice-Chairman of the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Trust, announced that the new Museum at Woodstock is finished and that from the end of November the Research Centre will re-open for business by appointment. First contact should be by phone at 01993 813832 or via the website at It will be opened to the public next spring with a formal opening in the autumn by an eminent person. Presumably that will not be Peter Jay!

There were about 45 old comrades at the Reunion at Edward Brooks barracks that evening, and they enjoyed the usual impeccable performance by the Waterloo Band and Bugles of The Rifles. Perhaps the high spot of the performance was a display of Irish dancing by the well-built Bugler Gary Boardman – an obvious candidate for Strictly Come Dancing !

Brigadier Robin Draper thanked the Band and Bugles, and was happy to announce that in the past year the Rifles had suffered no fatal casualties in Afghanistan. He also mentioned that Major Charlie Helmn, the PSAO of ‘A’ Company 7 RIFLES and chairman of the RGJA Oxford branch , would be retiring next year. Brigadier David Innes, who is a Trustee of SOFO, briefly repeated his request for volunteers to join SOFO’s Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry research group at the Museum.

As well as the ‘Old and Bold’, there were a number of members of ‘A’ Company present, and an interesting innovation was a presentation by L/Cpl Alex Oates. Alex, who is a student at Oxford University, spent 6 months from April to September attached to ‘B’ Company, 4 RIFLES, operating out of a patrol base in Afghanistan, and the old comrades present were interested in the details of his experiences in this particular combat zone.

Following the presentation, Alex spent some time in conversation with 91-year-old veteran Sam Langford, who was telling the young reservist about his exploits in WWII. Sam served in the 52nd in France, having landed with the Royal Berkshire Regiment on Juno Beach on D-Day and volunteering for the Airborne a little later. He took part in Operation Varsity – the Rhine Crossing – and was wounded. Our photographs show Sam (Northern Europe 1944) talking to Alex Oates (Afghanistan 2013) and with Geoff Day (Cyprus 1956/7) listening.

We were pleased to see Brian Hill, who had come all the way from Exeter for the Reunion, and to welcome Les Smith as a new member of the Oxford branch. Les had served in the Regiment in Germany in 1954/5 and had been a member of the Nijmegen Marches team under the command of Michael Massy-Beresford.

As usual the conversation never flagged and there was plenty of reminiscencing of times past. The evening was rounded off as usual by the traditional curry.

Photographs can be viewed here.