26 Apr

It was an honour and delight to be asked to present the inaugural awards to “recognise values and standards of excellence”. It is an inspired idea to add some moral colour to the association between the World Traders and the Rifles.

For me, the shared values were cemented at the very beginning when Colonel James de la Billiere brought RSM Poulter to my Installation at Drapers Hall in 2010 to experience first-hand the City’s values which would inform behaviour in the forthcoming campaign in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. For us, these values are epitomised in our motto “Commerce and Honest Friendship With All”.

The visit to Beachley Barracks in Chepstow was to present the Awards, but it brought back strong memories for me of our visit there just before the Battalion deployed to Helmand, and then upon its return. The warmth of the welcome was striking and conversation flowed freely: ranging from the Ukraine war (inevitably!) to recent deployments in Kenya and Estonia, as well as the nature of the World Traders.

The Boxing Competition event itself was a fascinating insight into the Army approach. A professional boxing ring had been constructed in the middle of a vast gym. In the interval, I was asked to present the Awards Certificates (and a gift voucher) to the winners. The Citations brought a lump of pride to my throat that we should be associated with such a wonderful group of men. Getting in from my ringside seat – and even more importantly, getting out again in a Livery Gown – was quite a challenge.

While standing in the ring – though flanked by the CO (Colonel Oliver) and Adjutant (Captain Hunt), it suddenly became clear to me why the Army places such value on developing the boxing skills of novices in just six weeks.

The floodlights above the ring made the huge crowd appear to vanish into the shadows. For the young boxers who had been battling it out a few moments before, they are alone with the (temporary) “enemy” and only one of them can win this hand-to-hand combat. There is no way to escape: amidst an ear-shattering noise of supporting “warfare”, you have to take on all that the “enemy” can throw at you and, in the instant, work out how to counter it.

But afterwards there was a handshake, and hug of “honest friendship”. The “commerce” seemed to take place in the bar later!

Thank you, Rifles – for an amazing and memorable event.

Graham Bishop