Unless Branches are supported and member numbers increased, the WFRA as we know it will cease to exist, and none of us want to see that happen! You might be a member of the Association but, are you a member of a Branch? If not, you might give consideration to joining one to help ensure its continuance?Contact details of Secretaries are available at http://www.stand-firm-strike-hard.org.uk/index.php/branch-contacts
HISTORY OF THE WORCESTERSHIRE AND SHERWOOD FORESTERS ASSOCIATION
Regimental associations were formed originally for the relief of hardship among soldiers. They evolved into ‘Old Comrades’ Associations to promote the spirit and wellbeing of all ranks of regiments. For practical purposes it was necessary to organize most social activity on a local basis, so branches of the association were formed wherever and whenever there was the enthusiasm and the need. As a result a regimental association is always rather ephemeral, expanding and contracting according to circumstances. Branches are therefore really independent ‘clubs’ with their own officers and constitutions. They chose to register as members of the Regimental Association and elect representatives to the association committee and thereby owed allegiance to the centre.
THE WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENTS’ ASSOCIATION
The Worcestershire Regiments’ Association was formed in 1912 by Major J M (later Col Sir John) Reddie to bring together for the purposes of comradeship and mutual help, those who had served in the Worcestershire Regiment in the First World War, the scope of the Association was enlarged to include those who had served in any regiment, Regular or Territorial, of any arm or regiment in the County of Worcestershire; hence plural ‘Regiments’ in the name. John Reddie served as Secretary until 1947 when he became President and handed over to Brig ‘Tiny’ Wills. Under Brig Wills’ strongly encouraged the establishment of 17 branches at home and abroad. It was decided to embrace those who had served in the Home Guard and those who had served as adult members of the Worcestershire Army Cadet Force. Under Brig Wills some 6000 new members joined the Association and 8436 members were helped including £48,500 was disbursed in grants and loans up to his retirement in 1966, when he handed over to Major ‘Knokkah’ Knox.
THE SHERWOOD FORESTERS ASSOCIATION
Lieutenant General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien K.C.B., D.S.O., together with Colonel F.C. Shaw and Captain M. McGuire initiated the idea of forming an “Old Comrades Association and the first meeting was held at Nottingham on the 15th February 1908. At this meeting it was decided that the title would be “Old Comrades Association” and its objectives were to foster the esprit de corps of the Regiment, by bringing together old comrades with the younger generations who would have the opportunity of meeting those who had seen good service with the Regiment.
It was also agreed that a system of help for and by one another be set up and that an annual dinner be held (now known as the Crich Dinner and still held each year) A committee was voted into office and consisted of representatives made up of all ranks. Membership was limited to those who had served with the old 45th and 95th of Foot and the 1st and 2nd Battalions Sherwood Foresters. Individual members paid a subscription of 1/-d (5p), the Line battalion paid £10 from PRI and £5 Sgts Mess, the Depot paid £3. Over a number of years the sum built up to many thousands of pounds (£23,793 by 1949) and from this fund many hundreds of cases of benevolence were funded.
There was a change of name when in 1949, it was felt that the word “OLD” in the title was keeping many away. Therefore at a meeting held in Derby on the 15th October 1949, it was agreed to change the title from “Old Comrades Association” to “Sherwood Foresters Association” with no change to its aims or administration. The association continued over the next 62 years in this form until on the 28th February 1991, the Colonel of the Regiment Brigadier P. F. B. Hargrave C.B.E., announced the official formation of “The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regimental Association, the first meeting of which took place at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield, on the 10th August 1991.
WORCESTERSHIRE AND SHERWOOD FORESTERS REGIMENTAL ASSOCIATION
At amalgamation in 1970 the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regimental Association was formed, under the abbreviated title of W & SF Regt Assoc, to foster the spirit of the new Regiment and to relieve hardship among its members and their families. It was also to act as an umbrella organization for the two former associations, the Worcestershire Regiments’ Association (WRA) and the Sherwood Foresters Association (SFA), which were to remain in being and continue to operate independently for the time being.
In 1991 it was decided that the W & SF Regt Assoc, the WRA and SFA should be disbanded and all branches of each become members of the new WFRA as the sole association. From 1991 to 1997 the Association was organized as follows:
The Area Funds administered both the Association (social) and welfare funds
In 1996 the Charity Commission ruled that charitable and ‘social’ funds must be separated. Consequently in 1998 the WFRA was dissolved and reformed purely as a sociable organization with no direct charitable function. A separate WFR Welfare and General Charitable Fund was set up under the management of the Regimental Trustees, with Association representation on the Welfare Fund F & E Committee to monitor use of the former Association’s funds. Area Committees and Branches carried on much as before, though the area funds no longer disbursed welfare funds.
All ranks who had served in or were serving with The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, The Worcestershire Regiment, The Sherwood Foresters or who were members of any of the Regiments' associations were automatically members of the Association. Members were active in varying degrees; many did nothing, some just subscribed to the Regimental journal, some appeared periodically at Regimental events and the most active were full members of branches giving moral, financial, and a dedicated few, practical support to running the Association.
As mentioned, branches were established wherever there was a need answered by energetic members who were prepared to organize. They were essentially independent ‘clubs’ and had their own constitutions and rules and were only accountable to their members. Most chose to register as branches of the Association and thereby agreed to abide by the Bye-Laws of the Association, though some did not formally register for several years remaining completely independent bodies. As age and enthusiasm waxed and waned so did branches and their membership. Some branches folded altogether when it was obvious no amount of recruiting would prolong their life. In other places, imaginative committees rejuvenated their branch by such measures as women’s and junior sections and most took in a liberal number of associate members who never served with the Regiment but actively supported their local Association branch. Most branches were geographically based in the principal towns of the Regimental counties with a few ‘external’ branches eg Rugely and District, London and Home Counties, Birmingham etc. Others were organization or campaign based eg the Warrant Officers’ and Sergeants’ Past and Present Club, Kohima Veterans, Sherwood Foresters Malaya Veterans etc. Rugely, although in the heart of Staffordshire, was formed as a result of a large number of Staffordshire recruits being badged Worcestershire on completion of their National Service basic training in order to make up numbers for the 1950-52 operational tour in Malaya. This branch was instrumental in raising memorials to those of the Worcestershire Regiment who died in the Malayan Emergency.
Reunions. Effectively ‘The Regimental Reunion’ was the Worcestershire reunion and the ‘Crich Pilgrimage’ was the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire reunion. Heavily subscribed by branches, these events also draw large numbers of members from far and wide who are not branch members.
Annual Reunion Worcester – originally held at Pitchcroft (Worcester Racecourse), in the 19th C it was used periodically for major reviews of local army units. Now the Reunion is held at Worcester Rugby Club on the nearest Saturday to 1st June. The Reunion starts informally in the bars and concludes with a drumhead service and march past of Old Comrades.
Pilgrimage to the Regimental Memorial (usually known as the Crich Pilgrimage). Held at the Crich Regimental War Memorial on first Sunday in July. Mayors and representatives of civic bodies in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire are invited to attend a memorial service, conducted by one of the bishops, followed by a wreath laying ceremony by all concerned on the Memorial. When available, Regimental Colours and the Regimental Mascot are paraded. The day concludes with a reunion around the bar.
Worcestershire Regiment NW Europe Reunion – lunch in May at Kidderminster
Kohima Veterans Annual Lunch held at The Shrubbery TA Centre Kidderminster
Sherwood Foresters Malay Veterans Branch – AGM and Supper in May at Nottingham
Drummers’ Reunions periodically incorporated into Worcester Branch Christmas parties
‘The Other Reunion’ held in Derby from 2006
Members of the Association always supported major Regimental events such as the Tercentenary, the Presentation of New Colours etc
12th July 1997 7th Bn Worcestershire Regiment Memorial, including a ‘time capsule’ was dedicated by Kidderminster Branch at St Mary’s Church Kidderminster.
23rd Apr 1997 Mansfield Branch dedicated WW2 plaque on the Regimental Memorial in Carr Bank Memorial Park
20/21 May 2000 Millennium Reunion at Bolsover Castle by Worksop Branch
17th June 2000 Worcestershire Malaya Emergency Veterans dedicated a Memorial in Worcester Cathedral to all those who died in the Malaya Emergency 1950-52. This was a major event with a service in a full cathedral followed by a march past at the Guildhall by all sections of the Regiment concluding with the Reunion at Pitchcroft. Later they dedicated a similar plaque in the Garrison Church Whittington Barracks, Lichfield and two trees and a seat at the National Memorial Arboretum
25th Aug 2000 Worcester Branch dedicated a memorial at Vernonnet in France to those of 1st Bn The Worcestershire Regiment who died at the Seine Crossing in WW2
26th May 2002 Dudley Branch dedicated a major new town memorial near the Council House in Dudley
2004 The WFRA Band was created from the Wyre Forest RBL Youth Band which was formed in 1980 as the Worcestershire County RBL Youth Band
1st June 2005 The Association dedicated two trees to commemorate both regiments’ dead at the National Memorial Arboretum, they were planted by Mr G F Willetts (Dudley Branch) and Mr W H Jackson (Mansfield Branch - 8th Sherwood Foresters)
Funerals. Regimental funerals were usually well attended by members of the Association with a Regimental flag draped over the coffin, branch standards on parade and a bugler playing the Last Post; or at least a recording of it. Sad though the occasion was, the departed member’s life was rather more cheerfully remembered at the local hostelry afterwards often with a few rarely seen members appearing who had been special friends.
At Amalgamation the WFRA had no direct control over the two former Regiments’ associations which continued as independent charities. In the early days the WFRA Fund received and re-distributed income largely from the Regimental Day’s Pay a Year Scheme (DPY - whereby serving soldiers voluntarily donated a day’s pay a year to the Association). It retained one third and transferred one third each to the two old Regimental associations. In 1991, when the WFRA was reconstituted, the fund had grown to £146884. By 1997 when the Fund was separated from the WFRA, £443,195 was transferred to the new WFR Welfare and General Charitable Fund. Since 1970 Association funds had expended a total of some £282,000 on relief of hardship among members and their families, which peaked at £26,276 in the year 1994.
After 1997, the area funds were purely to support local Association activities, and where appropriate branches, assisted by a small annual grant from the Welfare Fund to reimburse members’ expenses on welfare work. The WFRA Fund was responsible inter alia for the Regimental journal ‘Firm and Forester’ and received income from the Welfare Fund from the Day’s Pay Scheme to pay for the free copies of the journal issued to all contributing members.
At Amalgamation, virtually all benevolence to members in need was handled by the two former associations and the W & SF Regt Assoc only handling the few cases involving serving or ex-WFR people. Most of its remaining income was used to grow capital for the future.
In 1991 all three associations were dissolved and the former WRA and SFA Committees became area committees of the new WFRA, which was set up as a new fund, its objects being primarily to relieve hardship and promote comradeship. Benevolence was administered by the area committees and controlled and monitored by the Finance and Executive (F & E) Committee chaired by the Regimental Secretary and reporting to the Association Committee. Each area committee had a paid secretary who administered benevolence day to day through an area fund account. Initially in Worcestershire there was a part-time secretary paid from Association funds until 1997, when the Assistant Regimental Secretary took over as already happened in the RHQ office in Nottingham.
Each area had its own modus operandi inherited from its former regimental association. At the Nottingham office, the Secretary referred each case, once investigated, to two members of a benevolence sub-committee, who made recommendations on the amount and nature of the assistance to be given, the Secretary then acted on the advice given in deciding the amount of any grant. In Worcestershire the Secretary investigated and made his own decision on what help should be given in each case. Although the former could be seen to be better balanced, the latter was swifter; analysis in later years showed that the average amount granted per case was very little different between the two methods.
In 1997 on the formation of the separate Welfare Fund, the WFRA ceased to have any direct involvement in welfare, except that the Association elected four representatives to the Welfare F & E Committee to oversee policy for and monitor use of the former regimental associations’ funds.
Both the former Associations had had their own merit awards and in 1999 a WFRA scheme was approved. Awards were made for outstanding service to the Association whether or not a member of a branch; they were not given for long service. Awards were in the form of a framed certificate and a specially struck Association badge with the words ‘Merit Award’ under the garter. In the years of their existence, awards were made:
2000 Mr David Jones - Kidderminster Branch
Mr Dennis Tideswell - Rugeley & District Branch
Mr Michael Brown - Ilkeston Branch
2001 Mr Tommy Aslin - Newark Branch
Mr Reg Berry (Dec'd) - Newark Branch
2002 Mr Gordon Willetts - Dudley Branch
2004 Mr Dougie Hudson - Ilkeston Branch
Mr Fred Orme - Worcester Branch
2006 Mr John Berrow BEM - Services to the Association
2007 Mr Gerry Morgan JP - Services to the Association
Mr Fred Lawley (Dec'd) - Dudley Branch
2008 Mr Harry Minton - Coventry
2010 Mr Cliff Housley – Long Eaton Branch
Mr Keith Kenworthy – Mansfield Branch
Mr Peter Jones – Coventry Branch
Mr Ron Harris – Kidderminster Branch
Maj (Retd) Ken Bowmer – Derby Branch
Mr Reg Bailey – Rugeley and District Branch
2011 Mr P Jeffrey - Ilkeston Branch
2012 Mr A Fish - Worcester Branch
Mr M V Murry - Nottingham City Branch
Maj B K Robinson - Long Eaton Branch
2013 Mr C Davis - Worcester Branch
Mr H Massam - Worcester Branch
2014 Mr D Plant - Worcester Branch
2015 Mr N Fish - Worcester Branch
Mr M Smith - Worcester Branch
2016 Mr R Smith - Derby Branch
Mr A Poyner - Worcester Branch
2017 Mr M Butcher - Worksop Branch
In 2016 the Mercian Regimental Association was activated and the WFRA continues under the umbrella of the new association alongside the Cheshire, Staffordshire and Mercian Volunteers regimental associations.
When you join an Association, Society or Guild
Just pause for a while as your form’s being filled
And think of what being a member entails
Don’t turn out to be one more member who fails
It’s not just the cost of your annual fee
But attending the Branch instead of TV
Of actively helping arrange the club “do’s”
And not opting out whenever you choose
Don’t say all decisions are made by the few
Get on the Committee and state your own view
Drum up fellow members when interest lags
Don’t say “Not tonight it’s too much of a drag”
Or, “There’s gardening and painting and lots more to do
A Branch is made up of such members as you
Remember the comradeship found when abroad
With that and hard work the future’s assured
So please do your bit be it large be it small
Without you my friend there’d be no Branch at all