Camilla meets bereaved families of riflemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan

·3-min read
The Duchess of Cornwall attends The Rifles Sounding Retreat at Horse Guards Parade (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cornwall attends The Rifles Sounding Retreat at Horse Guards Parade (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)

The Duchess of Cornwall has met the bereaved families of riflemen who have been killed in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The private meeting took place when Camilla, as Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles, attended The Rifles Sounding Retreat at Horse Guards Parade in London on Thursday.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, who are Colonels-in-Chief of 6th and 7th Battalions The Rifles respectively, also attended the evening of military music and pageantry which tells the history of The Rifles regiment from the Napoleonic era to modern times.

Camilla joined a private reception with generals and commanding officers along with members of The Rifles and their families, before a sunset parade in front of St James’s Park, which ended with a firework display.

The Duchess of Cornwall watches the ceremony (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)
The Duchess of Cornwall watches the ceremony (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)

There were about 500 veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts who attended, some of whom were injured and many who would not have seen their colleagues since they were last on the battlefield.

Retired Lt Col Baz Melia is head of the Always A Rifleman organisation, which was set up in August to help servicemen from the regiment who are facing trauma or are close to taking their lives.

He said: “The most important thing we are doing is connecting everybody after a sustained period of being disconnected or isolated.

“Something like this brings everybody back together in a family in which they once served.”

He said that Camilla’s dedication to The Rifles was valuable because “she is an individual who galvanises the whole of the regimental family – from the veteran to the serving community.”

Fireworks explode over the area (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)
Fireworks explode over the area (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)

Earlier, as part of the proceedings, Camilla had given permission for the Sounding Retreat to start.

Scenes of the regiment’s past were played out by actors in detailed outfits fashioned to recreate different historical events.

Camilla and the crowd stood as Ukraine’s national anthem and also God Save The Queen rang throughout the parade ground.

The English National Opera also gave a special performance of You’ll Never Walk Alone, the anthem adopted by Liverpool Football club to provide comfort during the triumphs and tragedies of the decades, as a sign of support for the people of Ukraine.

Mr Melia said: “One of the things we stand for is democracy and freedom. When that is challenged you will find we glue ourselves together and support anybody whose freedom is threatened.

Members of The Rifles band perform (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)
Members of The Rifles band perform (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Wire)

“At the moment Ukraine is being threatened and one of the ways we show our solidarity today has been with a rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

He added: “We are all a family.”

Camilla took over the role of Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifles from the Duke of Edinburgh in July 2020.

The Rifles, which is the British Army’s largest infantry regiment, was formed in 2007 when four British Army infantry regiments were merged.

It holds 913 battle honours and 117 Victoria Crosses.

Rifle regiments were first created from the red-coated Line Regiments that used the drum to communicate orders over short distances.

The image of a rifleman dressed in a green uniform and armed with rifles rather than muskets when fighting on the battlefield dates from the forests of North America and Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s.

It stems from the fact that a drummer was unable to communicate instructions across the wider distances and noise of battle.

This led to the bugle, complete with its clarion call, being picked for use by riflemen.

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