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Beating Retreat and Charity Dinner at the HAC 9th June 2011

The work of the ad hoc committee comprising members of the Mercian Regiment and members of the Bowyers Company was meticulous in preparing for the major charity fund raising event during 2011. Weeks of planning, several committee meetings at various locations, briefings both in person and electronic, and a plethora of emails came to fruition on 9th June, when one hundred and sixty guests were entertained, wine and dined in style in the magnificent grounds and splendid hall of the H.A.C. in City Road near Finsbury Circus.

The evening commenced with a champagne reception generously donated by Bacardi Brown-Forman and much appreciated by all those who had spent their day in the office. Meantime members of the 1st Mercians, only a few months back from their recent tour in Afghanistan, had set up a display of some of their modern armaments including a sophisticated grenade launcher and mounted rapid fire machine gun. Members of the regiment, dressed in their combat uniforms, gave detailed explanations of the workings of these fearsome weapons and happily talked about their experiences in being part of one of the UK's front line infantry regiments.

The display was titled "From Agincourt to Afghanistan". The Agincourt perspective was supplied by Freeman Mark Stretton, dressed in the full mediaeval bowmen's outfit. Mark, who is a senior officer in English War Bow Society, was on hand to demonstrate the artistry and craft that supplied the then much deadly weapon in 1415. The juxtaposition of the longbow and grenade launcher highlighted the importance of the right equipment to wage war and emphasised the need for brave young men to use them and complete the task.

At 7.30pm all the guests were invited outside to witness the "Beating Retreat" performed and played by the Band of the H.A.C. For over twenty minutes the Band treated their onlookers, including "Derby" the Regimental Mascot, to a mixture of traditional and modern tunes accompanied with precision marching. "Derby" appeared impressed and behaved himself impeccably. According to his Colonel this is not always the case! A ram of Derby's dimensions can do some damage and be obstinate. Not for no reason does he have two handlers when on Parade.

The bugle call of "Come to the cook house door" and the Beadle's invitation summoned the diners into the Hall. An excellent dinner followed accompanied by some fine wines courtesy of Corney & Barrow. No complaints were forthcoming about the meal of smoked salmon terrine, English lamb and summer pudding. The caterers are to be congratulated on serving such a good meal to a "full house". The Master Bowyer, Howard Mundy, proposed the Queen and Brigadier Andrew Sharpe proposed the Duke of Chester (The Colonel-in-Chief of the Mercian Regiment, The Prince of Wales).

A short break was swiftly followed by the Drums Platoons of the 1st & 4th Mercians performing a "Victory Beating" to the delight and much appreciation of all. The two platoons alternated drum routines displaying a high degree of polish rhythm. Speeches were banned but the one that was allowed was a vote of thanks delivered by The Right Honourable Andrew Robathan MP, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans. He paid tribute to our Armed Forces and gave thanks to all who were involved in organising this particular evening.

Not so much a cabaret act but more of a "tour de force" proved to be the Charity Auction conducted by the RSM of the Mercian Regiment. WO1 Blackshaw proved to be a more than a competent auctioneer as he persuaded the assembled well heeled City workers to bid for the three lots that all had been generously donated. A case of House of Commons whisky; a personally tailored and tutored wine tasting for up to ten people (Corney & Barrow); and a Supacat Drive Experience (Supacat) were the lots on offer. These not only met their reserves but exceeded expectations. A stirrup cup was required to calm the nerves before guests wended their way home and all in agreement that it had been a first rate evening.

The total raised by the evenings activities, including private donations, was approaching £20,000 to be shared by the three beneficiaries of the evening: The Soldier's Charity (Army Benevolent Fund); The Mercian Regiment Benevolent Fund; and The Bowyers' Charitable Trust. There are many who have to be thanked for all their hard work that made the evening so enjoyable and such a success. These include the Commanding Officers of the HAC and 1 & 4 Mercian for allowing their Band and drummers to perform; the major sponsors and auction prize donors: Bacardi Brown-Forman, Corney & Barrow, Blakemores, Interactive, Supacat and Tony Baldry MP. Congratulations are offered to the committee comprising: Brigadier Andrew Sharpe OBE, Lt. Col. (Rtd) Richard Spiby, Lt. Simon Cupples CGC, The Master Bowyer, Court Assistant Hugh Colver CBE and Liveryman Mark Elliott.

Finally a vote of thanks to the excellent support form the Livery and the City firms who were present on the night.

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