Update: 4/5/07: Marina Pepper only managed to raise 735 votes on Wednesday, and was therefore not re-elected.
April saw the 76th annual old comrades reunion dinner of The Royal
Sussex Regimental Association, which I have the honour of attending as an association member. This
event is held every April in the Town Hall in Lewes, Sussex, where at least one of the guest
speakers each year is drawn from Lewes District Council.
This is a special day for these men, who spend their time renewing bonds and friendships that have been forged in war, sharing stories and exchanging long lost photographs, and together mourning and honouring those who are no longer with them.
was no exception, except that the guest speaker managed to disgrace herself with
blatant, opportunistic and inappropriate electioneering which prompted spontaneous
and understandable calls of derision, table banging and foot stomping from the
assembled old soldiers.
Chairman Marina Pepper stood up to began her speech, and looking a little the worse for top table wine, wobbled a little, then
with a slurred screech called into the microphone ‘Hello Boys’, attempting to
sound like Geri Halliwell visiting the troops. Few were impressed, there were no welcomes, thank you's, I am honoured etc, no recognition of the men or the regiment.
immediately followed by ‘If I were elected, I would not send you boys into an
illegal war’, at which point the booing and foot banging began. Soldiers are
rarely impressed by politicians, but these old soldiers, with years of service to
their country behind them were incensed.
Association chairman stood up politely suggesting that the speech may be
inappropriate for this audience, placing his hand on the microphone gently attempting
to remove it.
up and inebriated Marina wasn’t finished, shouting over the noise of the assembled
veterans, screamed into the mic ‘I hope you will all come and vote for me on
the 3rd, vote for me', finally sitting down.
What a really
stupid thing to say. These men have travelled from all over Britain to spend their day in Lewes, less
than a handful live there.
fell on the hall, until the bandmaster struck up with the Regimental anthem, Sussex by the Sea, which got everyone to
their feet singing. The sound of 600 men singing marching songs is very
stirring, so much so that our tipsy LibDem guest felt the need to place four fingers
into her mouth and repeatedly whistled in a manner one can only describe as better
suited to the local football match.
who is supposed to be a switched on politician, I am afraid that not only did
this one disgrace herself, but also failed to understand why these men meet
here every year, or that they have all earned under fire the right, both as old Soldiers
and as Freemen of Lewes to the respect and gratitude that they deserve.
I am aware
that several of the men felt it necessary to voice their opinions before Marina
Pepper left, and a senior Colonel confided later that ‘there will be
Sussex is an old and distinguished regiment, formed in 1881 from the 35th
(Royal Sussex) Regiment of Foot and the 107th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Light
The taking of Quebec 1759, The 35th Foot took the plumes from the hats of the defending Rousillon Regiment and adopted them as the regimental badge. The Rousillon regiment held the same number in the French line of 35th.
have seen service since then in many theatres of war, being part of the
relief column sent to save General Gordon at Khartoum, serving in the Boer War and the
Northwest Frontier in India.
1916 they took part in the Battle of the Boar's Head, Richebourg
L'Avou, a diversionary action and pre-cursor to the Battle of the Somme.
regiment had a battalion in every theatre including in Russia in 1919, losing a total of 6,800 men and winning four Victoria Crosses.
second world war the regiment won honours at Dunkirk, in the Western Desert, North Africa, Monte Cassino, Arnhem (where their only Victoria Cross of
WW2 was won), Iraq, Persia, France, and Burma. They have also served in Korea, Aden and Kenya.
In 1966 the
regiment was amalgamated with The Queen's Royal Surrey Regiment , The Queen's
Own Buffs, The Royal Kent Regiment and The Middlesex Regiment to form The