RAC 80th Anniversary Keynote Speech

Col G H J Deacon OBE ADC - Colonel Royal Armoured Corps - RAC 80th Anniversary Keynote Speech at The Tank Museum, Bovington.

It is a great pleasure to welcome you all here today, the 80th anniversary of the founding of the RAC. I hope you have all enjoyed the day so far, met up with friends and seen the vehicles you have served on, because I’m afraid you’ve got me now for the next 40 minutes or so!

Whether you served most recently on Challenger or Scimitar, on Chieftain or Scorpion, on Centurion or Saladin, on Sherman or Daimler; or any other of our lightly armoured vehicles such as Ferret - in war, on operations or in peace, we all have something unique in common - we all know the comradeship and intimacy that comes from being a crewman; we all know the feelings of power, excitement and fear that go hand in hand with our roles; we understand that we depend on both our mates and our equipment to get us into and out of trouble; we can think fast, react quickly, and change our plans in a heartbeat; we find and destroy the enemy and we exploit his weaknesses.

We are the epitome of fighting power and nothing defines that better than the steel gauntlet which the Colonel Commandant unveiled this morning.

Every element of our Army has an important part to play, but without us it would be second division at best, and the infantry (the other combat arm) - good as it is - simply does not and cannot do the things we do – nor is it meant to. We might be expensive and require significant logistic support, but in a real punch up, everyone wants us and in greater numbers than we can normally provide. We all know that, and everyone else realises it eventually.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the RAC and is a milestone. To my knowledge we have not celebrated any before so why pick the 80th? Surely our 50th or 75th would have been more appropriate, or perhaps we could wait until our 100th. No, the timing is right. This is a good year to celebrate.

The RAC is a strange organisation and for much of its history has been operating in the shadows of our more colourful and characterful regiments. But with scant recognition, it has been developing the Armoured and Reconnaissance capabilities of the Army; it has been serving our regiments in every way - it has been recruiting and manning our regiments, it has been training our soldiers and managing their careers, it has been developing doctrine and tactics; it has been contributing to the debates on future equipment. It has trialled and fielded new equipment and it supports our veterans.

Over the last 80 years HQ RAC has grown and then shrunk and some of these responsibilities have been taken away. Today, HQ RAC is the smallest "Corps Headquarters" (smaller even than the Int Corps’ headquarters) and I am only truly responsible for Museums and HHQs, with other general staff branches responsible for everything else. However, those staff branches are busy already and are generalist in nature, rather than RAC-specific, with broad portfolios; as a result, focus on the requirements of the RAC has dimmed until recently. And the RAC has not been inclined to act on its own behalf, and when we have, it has been to address the needs of our regiments rather than of the Corps as a whole.

That’s because we have never been a Corps as such and in some ways the RAC has been little more than the collective noun for a group or groups of regiments, not even including the Household Cavalry. The RAC was created midway through the process of mechanisation which started in 1922 and ended in 1941, and its creation was in order to bring order and efficiency and to capitalise on the development of armour - pioneered by the RTC - and to get our ducks in a row to meet the then obvious threats of the 2nd World War.

But even then, with a fight for national survival looming, the regiments of the new RAC were allowed to continue as individual entities in an association, rather than amalgamate into numbered battalions of one corps. It was assumed that would follow, but the character, standing and influence of each of our very well-connected regiments, was such that no one dared upset the status quo, thus regiments were allowed to retain their own identities, names and traditions. They kept their own regimental colonels and colonels in chief, their own regimental bands and associations, their museums and trust funds and effectively remained and still are independent.

The history of our regiments, many long since gone, and their performance during the Second World War, followed by the dominance of armour in those early years, cemented the place of our regiments in the ORBAT and confirmed the high regard enjoyed by the RAC. This continued throughout the life of the British Army of the Rhine - which was an armoured force. It was organised into armoured divisions of armoured brigades, with armoured battlegroups and also armoured infantry battlegroups. The need for, and role of, the tank and armoured recce was undisputed. Such was our importance and professionalism, our Regiments dominated the brigades they were part of, and we were expected to, and did, provide the brigadiers and generals who would command them. The British Army was, by and large, an armoured army.

Which was fine until the end of Op TELIC in Iraq.

Already the Army was re-examining its Orbat following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the RAC failed to take note and look to the future. The situation was changing fast. Financial pressure and the lack of a tangible threat to set our force against was always going to be a problem. Perhaps we were complacent, perhaps we were distracted, but part of the problem was that we lacked a collective focus. We failed to speak with one voice, the rest of the army did not see what the RAC regiments had to offer; worse, we were seen by some as an extinct capability that died with the Cold War. And we failed as an organisation to lobby effectively for our own (and therefore defence’s) best interests and we (as individuals) were more concerned about protecting the things we liked and were comfortable with than grasping the nettles. In short, we were more interested in the needs of our regiments and preserving them rather than the needs of our Corps, and the harsh reality was that few outside the Corps understood or cared about our regiments in the way we did; we were targeting our efforts on the wrong thing rather than fighting and winning the arguments we needed to. And HQ RAC - not owning the regiments which attracted all the attention - was gaining little traction in debate and thus not serving the needs of the RAC as well as it could have done.

This is not to criticise my predecessors - far from it - each of them has recognised the same problem, and either had different issues to tackle or were not faced with the same urgency. And even if they had, the timing was not right: RAC First (our campaign to put the RAC back on centre stage, about which more later) would have gained no traction 10 years ago.

But on arrival as Colonel RAC it was clear to me that the RAC was in trouble and losing out to louder voices in the Army. We did not have the ear of ECAB, had a relatively minor role in Afghanistan compared to the infantry – not surprisingly - was consequently not getting its commanding officers promoted out of command, was no longer filling its fair share of brigade command appointments, was falling behind in equipment, was not winning the argument to justify the expense and was subject to multiple cuts by the bean- counters.

Some of this was circumstance, some of this was the result of the way the RAC thought of itself, but I am afraid some of this was lack of professionalism - the myth of the gifted amateur - a myth which only works if you are genuinely gifted which most of us are not - and a misplaced confidence that the strength of our regiments would see us through, which led us to believe everything was ok. It was not. The reality is that most outside the RAC, especially the budgeteers, do not care about the nature of our regiments, do not understand the intangible benefits of the regimental system and its contribution to fighting spirit and are only interested in fully manned, properly equipped and welltrained fighting units delivering specific capabilities. Everything else is irrelevant.

So, four years ago I launched RAC First (copied by Mr Trump I notice). Together, speaking as one, we would be stronger; we would use our manpower more effectively; we would as a Corps project our best people. We would not fight publicly amongst ourselves, instead we would present coherent arguments defining the requirements for a 21st century reconnaissance and armoured capability. We would as 14 regiments understand and promote the excellent work that the light cavalry community has been doing ; we would as 14, explain in words of one syllable why 2 tank regiments were not enough, and why they needed to be of a certain size; we would as 14 regiments promote the RAC's suitability to be at the heart of "Strike"; we would as 14 get behind AJAX as both the next armoured reconnaissance vehicle and together embrace the willingness to explore the realities of medium armour, whilst as 14 regiments we would remind everyone that although medium armour had its attractions there will be times when only a tank will do. With all 5000 of us from troopers to generals saying the same thing, these clear and coherent messages would eventually take hold at every level.

Does placing the RAC First erode the strengths of our regiments? perhaps a bit. But by giving a bit we gain a lot. The army does not care much about capbadges and the colour of our trousers. Indeed, I would say it does not like the extra costs that accrue with individuality and in some quarters it promotes a streak of jealousy.

What the Army wants is units of capability. Provided we can deliver, we can (within reason) wear whatever we want, follow whatever traditions we wish to, behave as we like and retain all that is important regimentally, but if we fail to provide 3 good tank regiments, 3 good armoured cavalry regiments, 3 good light cavalry regiments, an exceptional mounted regiment and 4 yeomanry regiments, all of which contribute to the needs of Defence, we will be unpicked and under the sort of pressure that leads to reductions and amalgamations.

And we do not want that. Not because I or we are sentimental about our own capbadges, but because the Army needs a force that provides armour and reconnaissance of sufficient quality and quantity. And our job is to both deliver what is required today and also to explain and educate others - especially those who have only lived through the Herrick years - of what we do, how we do it and why we are important. And it is this last bit we have not been so good at.

If after explaining clearly what we offer, the Army decides - knowing all the facts - that we do not need tanks, or armoured reconnaissance or light cavalry then so be it. We will have tried for the right reasons and the General Staff in its genuine wisdom will have decided something else.

So, professionalising; what have we done? We now run precourses for those attending career courses, so our people go there with the right frame of mind. We make young officers read about their profession and write about it too. We are trying very very hard to catch up with, or rather return to the position where we fostered technical expertise. (It is notable that today, the majority of the staff appointments responsible for our equipment are filled by cap badges other than our own.) Without going too far down this rabbit hole, ATDU thrives, but we don't have enough of the jobs and courses to develop technical expertise in our young officers and NCOs, and worse, because developing technical expertise requires education, not just training, it is seen as an expensive luxury. Add to that we do not have our own tanks anymore, so commanders and drivers are no longer living and breathing equipment husbandry. And we do not “promote” careers in the technical stream. The very worst thing is that we seem to think this is normal and acceptable, because there are few still serving from the good old days of the long armour infantry course, or Div 2 of staff college so most serving officers do not know what we are no longer doing - if that makes sense!

We are treating our officers more professionally: We have never had a problem recruiting officers – we have 4 "interested cadets" at Sandhurst for every place we have on offer, so can afford to pick the best ones to join our regiments. What we have not been so good at in the past is investing in them, so they remain at the top of their intakes throughout their careers, unlike the gunners and engineers and some infantry divisions, who have. Through the Armour Centre we have injected more rigour into the Troop Leaders' Course, rewarding the best; we’ve put in place a pan-RAC mentoring scheme to develop the professional skills of our officers, so they can fulfil their potential and in later years compete more effectively with officers from the rest of the army for the top jobs. By looking after them as RAC officers rather than within the narrow boundaries of regimental life we can provide greater opportunity and experience and there is more chance of our investment in them being realised. For a long time, we have had officers commanding regiments that they did not join originally, bringing great benefit to both regiments and individuals alike. We now do the same for squadron leaders and soon squadron sergeant majors and perhaps eventually RSMs. So, whilst we have always sought the best possible people to fill our command appointments and seen the benefits of appointing commanding officers from a different regiment occasionally, we now seek to fill our most influential appointments at RD without being fixed by cap badge limitations. This is not the thin end of any wedge moving towards Corps rather than regimental manning, but rather ensures increased opportunity and that the best possible leaders are appointed – this is win/win as our soldiers are led by the best, and the best are professionally developed further.

But this does not and must not stop us enjoying soldiering. If it is not fun, then we will lose many of the soldiers and officers who have the character and imagination and élan that the RAC is known for. We want spark, we want colour, we want humour; these are battle winning qualities that cannot be created artificially. If we fail to seize the initiative, if we are frightened of taking risk, if we dither, if we are nervous about acting with limited information, if we are not prepared to make mistakes and cannot laugh in the face of adversity then we would not be the force our army needs.

And we have professionalised the management of the RAC. We have established a council made up of all the brigadiers, which meets twice a year to address matters of the moment pertaining to the RAC.

This has four advantages. Firstly, all of our regiments have a brigadier (who is probably not yet the colonel of the regiment) which means that whatever the council decides on can be communicated directly to each regiment by one of their own rather than just through HQ RAC, which has limited authority and no command responsibility. Secondly each of those 1*s has a day job, so he can take from the council and spread the RAC’s messages through his own part of the Army. Thus, the messages and the influence of the RAC has suddenly improved. Thirdly, our 1*s are pretty wise folk and by concentrating on the matter of the moment, they can give me and my staff very clear and helpful direction, and fourthly they can be given responsibility for portfolios, which helps HQ RAC staff address routine business, so we have council members responsible for developing technical proficiency, sport, history and heritage, officer development, innovation, armour and reconnaissance etc. etc. And most importantly, The Colonel Commandant is no longer a figurehead but through his deputy directs the RAC in a way he has not been able to for some time.

But we have a lot of ground to make up. Perhaps the low point was during Op Herrick in Afghanistan. Granby was the high point where two armoured brigades and an armoured division swung into action in Iraq, but since that time without a tangible threat, the RAC, as the proponents for high intensity conflict, began to wither. Whole Fleet Management, the cost of training, focus on the current crisis rather than contingency operations all contributed to this. We were not alone and everyone engaged in high intensity armoured operations was affected. The number of warriors, AS90, Bridge layers, Prime Movers etc. were all reduced as well.

And then came Herrick.

Our regiments were all committed to operations in Afghanistan and some in the reconnaissance role. But many of our squadrons were employed out of role doing everything from operating Warrior - the infantry fighting vehicle, Mastiff - an up-armoured troop-carrying truck, Viking - the latest over snow (and sand) vehicle usually used by the Marines, and also on foot. But the British Army did not deploy any tanks - instead we put our tank trained crewmen in everything else and relied upon the Danish Army to provide us with armoured support. And they proved their worth time and again.

Our soldiers were outstanding, and our regiments earned numerous plaudits whilst taking their fair share of casualties as a Corps, but we were on the back foot and we did not have the opportunity to demonstrate our skills in role. Even though the RAC mindset was evident, and our strengths evident, it being an infantry campaign, our infantry colleagues had the opportunity and thus reporting advantage, and as a result were promoted faster and into key jobs more frequently than our own because they had the wind behind them. So, we have ended up in a position where the senior officers of the army are predominantly infantry, where the army's understanding of armour is woeful, where even our own officers and men have limited experience in their core role because contingency training and all arms manoeuvre training made way for focused preparation for tours in Afghanistan, and the cost of Herrick led to underinvestment in the RAC and necessary supporting arms.

A perfect storm – As a Corps not only were we not good in our core role, and we had forgotten what good looked like so did not even know it.

I took over against that backdrop and on arrival two things shook me. Firstly, I visited a regiment on ranges which turned out to be completely at odds to my recollection of a range period. Rather than the hustle and bustle you will all remember, with a squadron’s worth of tanks on the firing point ghosting targets, and troops waiting to be set off on troop battle runs, there was one tank on the firing point with three others waiting in reserve with the squadron crews cycling through them. That was bad enough, but worse the regiment in question thought that was ok and having no experience of range packages as you and I remember them, simply knew no better. And secondly - one of our regiments failed BATUS. Unheard of.

RAC First has now run its course and some of the more controversial aspects are now accepted: for example I decide where new recruits go, and until they are badged to their regiments (usually their first choice) they are badged as RAC, and many of us now wear the RAC flash on our arm rather than the regimental flashes which have popped up over the last 15 years. In short, our people know they joined the RAC first and as members of their regiments will have a stronger sense of association than hitherto. Trooper Deacon will still very quickly be absorbed into his regiment and be as loyal to that regiment as the next man, but like the junior leaders of old, he will always remember he was an RAC soldier first. And we re enforce this; for example we organise collective events for troopers from the entire RAC, and promote RAC sport as a level above regimental sport, all of which makes makes us realise our similarities, so making later movement between regiments easier and perhaps even welcome.

And we are all thinking of each other rather than ourselves.

So where are we today? The RAC is in the spot light. RAC First has helped and been seen to be a good thing (even the infantry is trying to copy aspects of it) and is making a difference. But perhaps Mr Putin helped us most with his foray into Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea. It was a major wake-up call. Suddenly all our allies were tuning back to tank warfare and so did we eventually.

Our 10 regular regiments look pretty secure - not always the case. We have three armoured regiments - the QRH, KRH and RTR equipped with the increasingly tired Challenger 2. And next year they will all be based in Tidworth. Armoured regiments have not changed significantly since 1945 so you would recognise them, although you would be amazed not to see a tank park full of the regiment's tanks.

We have six regiments conducting recce. They have different equipment which means they are better suited to different tasks. Three regiments equipped with CVR(T) (HCR, RDG and RL) are now called armoured cavalry, but their basic role is as it ever was in the days of medium recce or formation recce. Anyone who served in Wolfenbüttel or Herford would instantly recognise them, but we only have one vehicle type and no helicopters! They are all due to collect in and around Salisbury Plain over the next few years.

And we have three Light Cavalry regiments, QDG, Scots DG and LD. They are equipped with Jackal, optimized for the desert but valuable in all theatres. Lightly armed and not armoured, it is an ideal platform for engagement and establishing a presence in the build up to conflict. And used aggressively with forward air controllers and guided weapons can be a formidable platform from which to fight.

And very much part of the RAC are our 4 yeomanry regiments. Three of them, RY, QOY, and SNIY are currently equipped with WMIK - which stands for Weapons Mounted Installation Kit, but to you and me is a Land Rover with no doors or roof and a weapon station on the back capable of mounting a GPMG, a .50 or a grenade launcher. Each of those regiments is paired with a light cav regiment and they have similar roles with the primary task of bolstering the regular regiment with crews, troops or up to a squadron. They are currently replacing WMIK with Jackal so will be able to join their paired regiments painlessly in the near future.

The fourth yeomanry regiment is the RWxY and they are a tank regiment. Although based in the south west with their RHQ in Bovington, they have a national appeal and many of their recruits are recently retired RAC officers and soldiers who wish to remain involved in the RAC, often at a rank below that at which they left, and their job is to provide individual replacements and formed crews. They do not have their own tanks.

Of particular significance is that once the army has settled into its new locations, the bulk of the RAC will be centred on Salisbury Plain and so the yeomanry will be our only representation throughout the country with squadrons throughout England with one in Scotland and one in Northern Ireland.

And then there is still the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment which provides mounted escorts and guards turned out of Knightsbridge to the very highest standard. Every year there are discussions about public and ceremonial duties and the condition of Knightsbridge, which is tired, and every year nothing ever changes least of all the commitment of the soldiers!

But the future is very bright for the RAC. Last month the first two vehicles from the AJAX family arrived at Bovington to allow us to start training the trainers. They are the ARES variant (think spartan in CVR(T) terms, or Saracen in the FV 600 series) but the main variant for the RAC will be AJAX itself (the first being delivered to HCR in their new location in Bulford later this year). It has a 40mm gun which is significantly better than the 30mm on Scimitar; a very sophisticated surveillance and target acquisition suite and is much better protected than CVR(T). So, after 40 years' service with relatively few improvements in its life time the much loved CVR(T) will gracefully retire and we will all miss the lurch between 4th and 3rd gear, the grinding as the driver changes between forward and reverse, and the wake-up call of the horn as new drivers hunt the starter button!

The sharp eyed will have noticed that AJAX is big. And heavy. It weighs in at nearly 40 tons and being almost as tall as a tank, there are some who question its ability to perform recce tasks. In a straight comparison with CVR(T) there are certain things it will not do so well, it will not be able to ‘snurgle’ around the battlefield and will not be able to hide as well, but in every other way it is markedly better. The disadvantages are soon written down when one remembers the battlefield of today and tomorrow is quite different from that when CVR(T) came into service. CVR(T) is just as difficult to hide from electronic detection and given the sensors on AJAX you do not need to snurgle around the battlefield to the same extent and you can stand-off further. So, all we need to do is avoid using tactics that suited CVR(T) and develop new tactics for AJAX. And Experimentation starts now.

Furthermore, AJAX has more punch and better protection than CVR(T) so recce by stealth may give way to recce by fire. If your platform allows you to take the fight to the enemy, then we need to rethink the manner in which we conduct reconnaissance and be ready to do so when required. And recognising the step changes in capability, allows us to explore the option of “medium armour”, using the same platform with all its attributes as a protected, mobile, direct fire weapons platform.

To that end, the future orbat of the British Army shows two medium armour regiments equipped with AJAX. They will provide the punch in the two strike brigades, where reach and rapid deployment are key. For us, we need to ensure that everyone understands that the regiments equipped with AJAX in the recce role are recce soldiers first and foremost whilst those in the medium armoured role are armoured soldiers, and you will need no reminding of the difference between the two and the manner in which they go about their business. To us in this room that definition is clear, but we have to ensure the rest of the army understands that distinction in order to make the most of the platform and the crewmen together.

So, the Orbat will have two armoured recce regiments (HCR and RL) and two medium armoured regiments (RDG and KRH who will have converted) all equipped with AJAX, leaving just 2 tank regiments. Whilst this in my view is not enough, I am more comfortable interpreting the Orbat as having 4 armoured regiments i.e. one more than at present, albeit on 2 platforms.

Challenger 2 is still man enough to retain its place on the modern battlefield and stand up to all opposition, but we can do better. And we are going to do better. We wait with baited breath for a positive announcement that we are to invest in a significant upgrade of our tank fleet. Whilst it started out as a life enhancement programme, so is known as Challenger 2 LEP, and will use existing CR2s as the basis for improvement the only thing that will definitely stay the same is the hull - the metal box. I understand that almost everything else will be improved or be brand new. So, we are hoping for a brand-new tank that looks like Challenger and hopefully in enough numbers.

The cost is eyewatering: the cost of the AJAX version coming to the RAC (the turreted version) with associated costs is £6.5Bn and the cost of the new tank is less, but still more than a billion. With these two major equipment programmes the RAC is the recipient of the lion's share of the army's equipment budget. We are only 5.8% of the army's strength, yet we are destined to receive 55% of the army's equipment budget over the next 10 years and buying new systems is just part of the level of investment. We are expensive to operate as well, and we consume 20% of the army's operating budget. But as we know, we are worth it, and this level of investment suggests the government knows it too.

With attention focussed on the heavy end of the RAC, there is a risk that the Jackal equipped regiments are being overlooked, and there is a bit of truth in that. We lobby (as should all RAC regiments) for some simple enhancements to make a significant difference in capability. The vehicle is fine, but the radio fit is not, nor is crew comfort - by which I really mean survivability in anything other than the most benign environments. Yet our light cavalry regiments have done extremely well over the last 4 years and carved out a niche for themselves such that everyone wants them. Not only are they ideal for peace support operations, our soldiers have proved they can play a significant part in major operations and during exercises in California our squadrons have earned the highest praise.

So, all in all the RAC is in a much better place than it was 4 years ago, and we need not plug "RAC First" as hard as we have been doing. As a Corps we are regaining our self confidence and the rest of the army is no longer ignoring us and what we bring to the party. For sure there will be some challenges ahead but there will for certain be a Corps that delivers armoured and reconnaissance capabilities for the next 20 years and that means the RAC is going to remain a key player rather than a supporting arm - which it was in danger of becoming. And if we are answering the needs of defence then the manner in which we do it is partly under our control. And that means we can continue to exist as distinct regiments, within a loose Corps without having to explain and defend ourselves time and again. But we cannot be complacent, and we want to ensure we are as well prepared for any future threats as we can be, and we must adapt, and adjust to stay in the first division.

And because we are reducing to a critical level we have to be even better at what we do and even more willing to shape ourselves for the future. History is after all littered with examples of armies that lost the current war because they were still fighting the last. Having not lost a proper war for some time - though coming pretty close in 1940 - we have to be even more rigorous in testing our assumptions, and the way we do business, and the tools we use to make sure we are not misleading ourselves and we really are ready for whatever threat we may face.

To that end the next RAC conference is going to be slightly unusual and will focus on 2039 and beyond, in other words when AJAX and Challenger 3 – or whatever it will be called - are approaching the end of their lives, when artificial intelligence and automation will be unimaginably more capable than today, and a troop hide under a dripping cam net will be as out of place on the battlefield as a red tunic and bearskin would be today. What will it mean for our people and our regiments? I do not know but we need to think about it now.

And finally, I said earlier that I was officially responsible only for home headquarters and museums. My 1*commander added to this that I and my opposite numbers in the infantry and corps are also the conscience of the army. I am old enough and - with no prospects of promotion - open minded enough to speak freely.

I have done that, and some of what I have said particularly within the ranks of the RAC has not gone down particularly well. Our people are fantastic, committed, robust and fun and there are few I would not want to be closed down in a turret with. But there are some who do not share my views and we have been in danger of falling out. Our regiments are extraordinary institutions that bring out the very best but sometimes give rise to a different side of our characters. It is staggering how logic and good sense makes no impression on regimental loyalty. This is in part a good thing, because our soldiers will fight and die for our regiments, but it doesn't half make us vulnerable to the challenges defence must face, not least potential strategic defence reviews. We simply have to work closely and act as one if we are to provide defence with the best armoured and reconnaissance forces it can get, and on this, our 80th anniversary, we have got a bit closer.

On the creation of the RAC it was always assumed we would form a corps numbering from the right in the fullness of time, but we haven't, and we do not need to as long as we behave as a corps; we really can have the best of both worlds.

It's been a real honour to be able to speak to you all today and a real honour to be the Colonel of the Royal Armoured Corps. I retire this year but still have a bit more to do. Top of my list is to build upon the enthusiasm and interest I have discovered in the many ex RAC soldiers who have been in touch following my initial letter to you all. There is so much experience amongst you and so much good will that I must try and harness it for the common good and for the benefit of the officers and soldiers who are joining our regiments today and tomorrow. I'm doing my best. So, I owe you a very big thank you for responding so positively.

And whilst I have the opportunity there are a few others I would like to thank; Firstly the Tank Museum, which safeguards our history and heritage and so much more; indeed it does more for the Royal Armoured Corps than the Royal Armoured Corps does for the Royal Armoured Corps; secondly ATDU, commanded by Paddy Bond (whose father recruited me) for the work they do to test, trial, develop and field the equipment that becomes so much a part of our lives; The Armour Centre, commanded by Jason Williams who I first served with 19 years ago, not so much for their support today, but for the extraordinary job they do every day at converting the youth of today - who we are always too quick to malign - into the crewmen of tomorrow, who will fight and die on our behalf when called; and our home headquarters who are in the background looking after our interests from the day we join to the day we drop dead. And of course all those who have made today memorable, such as The RAC Band and our sponsors. But I have not forgotten the staff of HQ RAC who have managed to turn my idle thoughts into the most magnificent day...

And finally, we all owe a real debt of gratitude to those of us who have gone before and allowed the great regiments found in the Royal Armoured Corps to live on against the odds. Despite all I have said and that we are RAC First, you would not have to cut me too deeply to discover that I am QDG through and through and immensely proud of the family I am lucky enough to have joined.

And on that note, you are now free to enjoy the rest of the day and I look forward to meeting you this afternoon or this evening.

Posted: Monday, 04 March 2019