Growing up, I never really took an interest in my ancestry - other than asking my dad some basic questions, which he wasn’t all that keen on answering, until he and I reached that certain age when these things become important to you.
Despite a lot of family research since then, we never seemed to come from what you would call a ‘military’ family - until my Grandfather Tom Heron got called up while in The Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) for WW2 and was killed in action on HMS Boadicea on 13th June 1944. So, my father was orphaned as he, and his two younger twin siblings, had lost their mother (my grandmother) during childbirth.
Dad, also Tom, got called up for his National Service and was posted to the famous ‘Green Howards’ in 1952 and after three months decided to join up as a Regular. He loved the life and served in North Yorkshire, Egypt and Cyprus until 1956 when he decided to return home and joined Newcastle City (now Northumbria Police Force).
After flirting with Cubs, Scouts and Marine cadets (a month!) I was about to get married in 1982 when the Falklands war kicked off and, like so many others before me, I felt a wave of patriotism. Despite no understanding at all of military life I went along to join ‘The Fusiliers’ - my local county Regiment. It was during my induction that I was given a card for my wallet saying that The Regiment now had me for life, and I had joined the ‘Association’. Little did Iknow then how it would change my life; I had joined the ‘family’ - although this didn’t really sink in until November of 1985.
I was carrying the Queen’s colour for Sixth Fusiliers on the tri-centennial celebrations of the Regiment on the Lord Mayor’s parade in London. My wife went into labour and my daughter arrived six weeks before she was due. I took the phone call in RHQ in the Tower and my life changed completely. The way the Regiment looked after me and my family was superb, and I shall never forget the support we received then, which has continued to this day.
Many things change in a lifetime, but the transferable skills and lessons I learnt during and after my own volunteer service have been a constant reminder of how much we owe our service people. It was with disbelief then that I also found over the years, that as a country we don’t ‘honour’ or indeed respect our people in the way that we should. We do not, in fact,‘learn from history’.
We found ourselves attending too many Fusilier funerals and consoling families - not only of older veterans but of our younger soldiers too. Something had to be done, and our Association, like so many others, is withering on the vine. A change had to happen.
It is my sincere belief that we are close, very close now, to a sea change in how our Regimental family (which I believe is the best in the Army) connect and support each other.
We have finally joined the new century and with the development of Fusiliers Connect – a means by which we can contact each other instantly, and in a way that is available to everybody with modern technology. The way we can publish news and arrange events such as Walk & Talk, Coffee mornings and other events is second to none and - most importantly for me - is a way in which our peer groups can be alerted to a mate in need of support.
I hope that many of you will recognise certain aspects of my tale in your own story and would encourage all of you to spread the word, join up and take part and support your Regimental family.