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Let's not forget the Green Howards
A CAMPAIGN to preserve and celebrate the heritage of the Green Howards was gathering strength last night as senior officers pledged the regiment would not be forgotten.
The famous name – one of the most decorated in the British Army – will disappear for good as part of a Government re-organisation that will see thousands of frontline soldiers given their marching orders.
Within hours of the shock announcement that the second battalion of The Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards) was to be withdrawn, civic leaders from across North Yorkshire and the North-East were drawing up plans.
Council chiefs, many of whom represent towns that have given the second battalion the freedom of their borough, have thrown their support behind The Northern Echo’s calls for a special day to honour the historic regiment.
The Green Howards were merged with the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire and the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment to make The Yorkshire Regiment as part of an earlier Army shake-up in 2006.
However, to preserve each regiment’s proud heritage, each battalion retained an antecedent title – with the second battalion taking the Green Howards.
“This regiment has been a part of the lives of generations of people in the region and its scrapping is an absolutely devastating blow.George Dunning, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council
But the latest cutbacks will see the three full-time battalions of the Yorkshire Regiment reduced to two.
This will see the battalions give up their antecedent titles and be known only as the Yorkshire Regiment.
Regimental commanders have set up a regimental committee to examine ways of maintaining their links with the past – the so-called “golden thread” which, in the case of The Green Howards, stretches back to 1688.
The first meeting was held yesterday afternoon with top brass from as far away as Afghanistan joining in the discussions.
Although the talks are at a very early stage and no firm plans have yet been drawn up, senior officers have pledged the Green Howards will not be forgotten.
Lieutenant Colonel David O’Kelly, regimental secretary, said: “Although we are a forward-looking regiment, we have absolutely no intention to cut our heritage.”
In the meantime, towns throughout the Green Howards’ traditional recruitment area are planning to show their support.
Richmond, home of the Green Howards’ regimental headquarters, has offered to host the event in September, which is expected to draw thousands of people from across the region with connections to the battalion.
Mayor of Richmond, Councillor Stuart Parsons, highlighted the volume of support for the Green Howards.
He said: “I was very surprised that the reason given for disbanding the battalion was that they couldn’t recruit people and was shocked that the Yorkshire Regiment has said none of its historic names would be maintained.”
Among the first to show solidarity with the campaign was the French town of Crepon, where a memorial commemorates all the Green Howards who fell in Normandy, after D-Day in 1944.
Its mayor, Pierre de Poncins, said they sympathised with the situation the Green Howards soldiers were facing and that residents of Crepon deeply respected the battalion for their sacrifices, particularly Stanley Hollis, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour there 68 years ago.
He said: “The Green Howards’ flag will continue to fly over Crepon’s monument.”
The leaders of numerous towns and cities which have given the battalion the freedom of their borough, which include Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Stockton, Bradford and Redcar, said they would join the support day.
Councillor George Dunning, leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, said: “The Green Howards’ recent marches through Redcar and Guisborough attracted thousands of people onto the streets to show their pride and support for the troops.
“This regiment has been a part of the lives of generations of people in the region and its scrapping is an absolutely devastating blow.
“I will wholeheartedly support the day proposed.”
Scarborough Borough Council’s leader, Councillor Tom Fox, said his father, Mick, was a sergeant major in D Company of The Green Howards, and would have been horrified at the prospect of the Green Howards name being lost forever.
He said: “The Green Howards have a very proud history and, from a personal point of view, I would welcome any efforts to retain the name within The Yorkshire Regiment.”
Richmondshire District Council leader John Blackie said: “The Green Howards couldn’t be more closely linked to the community and we don’t want to see the connections sullied and eventually destroyed.
“The day of support is an excellent idea.”
Lt Col Barry Smeaton, chairman of the Green Howards Association, said it was heartening for members to receive the backing of the community.
He said: “It is a very kind and generous thought.”