Monday, November 01, 2010

Newham Council Civic Reception to Honour 7 Rifles

On Thursday evening there was a Newham Council Civic reception in the historic Old Town Hall in Stratford to honour the soldiers who serve in our local Territorial Army infantry Battalion, The 7 Rifles. 
A number of whom over the years have volunteered to support their Regular Army Rifle Regiment counterparts on tours of duty. 
The Company headquarters are in actually my ward at the TA Centre, Portway, E15.  Not only that but my fellow ward Councillor, Freda Bourne,  has a son currently serving in Afghanistan and our third ward Councillor, Ron Manley (a former regular soldier) has a grandson who is due to go out in December.
Next year they are looking for 15 soldiers from West Ham to go to Afghanistan and join the Regular Army Battalion for a winter tour.
It was a privilege and a pleasure to talk to our soldiers about their experiences.  Some of them had brought their wives and partners to the reception. 
I spoke to a newly qualified London bus driver based in Newham who had been on 7 different military tours including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Kenya and Cyprus. 
During the formal speeches Newham Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, thanked all of our service men and women who put themselves at risk on behalf of our country.  He pointed out that Newham Councillors represents all sections of the community and we are all very proud and supportive of 7 Rifles. 
Our local MP Lyn Brown was also there chatting to the soldiers and their partners.  I was particular impressed with the honesty and openness shown by some of these soldiers who had fought in recent conflicts and who had lost friends and comrades.  The Rifles Regiment as a whole I believe has had 52 men killed in action in Afghanistan. With Remembrance Day coming soon our thoughts are with their friends and families.
I was pleased to find out while in conversation with the Deputy Lieutenant of Newham, Colonel Mike Dudding, that in a former life he had been a trade union rep as well!
(pictured with Cllr Sharaf Mahmood and Cllr Firoza Nekiwala with members of 7 Rifles)

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