IT was smiles all the way as His Royal Highness Prince Charles made his first visit to 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment in their Bulford barracks on Friday to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the formation of the Mercian Regiment.

The Royal Colonel-in-Chief was met by an Honour Guard formed up in front of the Warrant Officer’s and Sergeant’s Mess which including the Regiment’s new mascot Private Derby XXXII, a Swaledale Ram.

He was welcomed by the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ginn and the Regimental Colonel, Brigadier Andrew Williams, and then proceeded to present Long Service and Good Conduct (LSGC) medals to members of the battalion and then United Nations medals to soldiers from the 2nd Battalion for their service in South Sudan.

Among those receiving the LSGC were the Regimental Padre Keith Barrow and the Quartermaster, Major Nick Whitlock, who received a bar denoting 30 years exemplary service.

“I joined in 1987,” said Nick. “And I have not regretted a minute of it. I have met Prince Charles before when I was the Regimental Sergeant Major. I served in the Gulf War with 1 STAFFORDS and have now settled in this area with my partner running a coffee shop in Wilton.”

Prince Charles was then given a private in depth briefing on the battalion, its roles and activities before he joined families in the mess where he spent a long time chatting to soldiers and their wives and children.

Among those he spoke to was Colour Sergeant Lee Fowles who had only minutes before been told that he was being promoted to Warrant Officer Class 2. Lee was with his partner Lindsey Barrow and their daughter Annabel. “He asked us how we met,” said Lee; “and how we were finding primary school for Annabel.”

Private Thomas Paisley and his wife Mellissa and their two-year-old daughter Lillie May chatted to Prince Charles about life in the battalion. They are in married quarters in Perham Down and Melissa loves being in the area.

The Commanding Officer then thanked Prince Charles for his visit and presented him with a silver statuette of a double headed eagle with a crown, the regimental cap badge.

Speaking without notes, Prince Charles then gave a short address, expressing what a ‘huge pleasure it was to be with you and to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the amalgamated regiment’.

He explained how he became Colonel-in-Chief of the Cheshire Regiment in 1977 and then the Mercian Regiment ten years ago, adding: “It has been an enormous pleasure and privilege to have held this role for the last 41 years.”

He stressed how important that the family feeling of the regimental system was and just how much he enjoyed visiting the Regiment. He apologised for the long intervals between his visits, but explained that he was Royal Colonel of quite a number of Regiments.