Regimental Lieutenant Colonel, Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers, Guardsmen, and families of the Irish Guards.
Whilst I am extremely happy to be here celebrating St Patrick’s Day with you once again, I’m incredibly sad to be giving this speech, as it really does mean my time as your Colonel has come to an end. It has been one of the great honours of my life to hold that title; I’m proud of everything it stands for – just as I’m immensely proud of every single one of you.
My first experience with the Irish Guards came at Sandhurst in the formidable ‘presence’ of Colour Sergeant Parke – of course, you know him now as Major Parke; The living embodiment of what it means to be a fighting Irish Guardsman, and the reason I feared coming back for my second term!
It’s also no secret that while at Sandhurst I had a potential officers visit to the Irish Guards, an experience that placed this Battalion firmly at the top of my personal wish list. Operational reasons alone prevented me serving my front-line years with The Micks.
I have however, relished every opportunity to visit you – I just wish the opportunities had been far more frequent. From exercises and range days here in the UK, to training overseas – such as Kenya in 2018 – I have such vivid memories of witnessing what you do so brilliantly in the field.
Your work in Africa alone has been inspirational to so many, and I am hugely grateful for all you have achieved in this vital area, but when you put this alongside your operational list, the tempo has been staggering. Operations Herrick, Tosca, Temperer, Trenton, Shader, Rescript, Interflex, with deployments to the Falklands, Thailand, and Belize to name but a few – a lot has been asked of you, but you’ve delivered in spades.
I would now like to speak directly to the families gathered here today. I hope you know how truly grateful I am to all of you too. On this, my 13th and final St Patrick’s Day as Colonel, not only am I saddened that I’ll likely fail once again to finish a pint of Guinness… but I am also sad that I won’t in future see more of you, the families, whose unwavering support enables these outstanding men and women to do what they do.
I may be stepping aside, but in Colonel Catherine you have a committed, focussed, and already incredibly loyal 11th Colonel.
As you serve together over the years ahead, know that I will continue to watch you, with huge pride in having been one of you.
Before I finish though, I would like to pay tribute to a great Irish Guardsman, who died last week. Major General Sir Sebastian Roberts – or ‘Colonel Sebastian’ as we all knew him – was my predecessor as Colonel. Loved by generations of Irish Guardsmen and many, many others, he was, quite simply, a phenomenon. I was proud to know him, and I extend mine and Colonel Catherine’s heartfelt condolences to Lady Roberts and his family, and to you – his other family: the Irish Guards.
Good luck to you all, Godspeed, and thank you.