After the disbandment of the HSF Batteries, Squadrons and Companies, some HSF soldiers were offered TA posts in their sponsor Regiments or Battalions, others retained their HSF status, but soldiered on until their engagements ran out. The majority accepted that their time had come, but they vowed to keep on meeting and formed their own HSF Veteran Unit Associations, or “Units”. The creation of these Units was piecemeal and remains so today, but the internet allows us to keep a watch on people who claim HSF service. Some have subsequently contacted the last website and we hope that will continue. Lastly, it is sad fact that a number of HSF officers and soldiers have passed away, and with them their knowledge and memories of HSF service.
In 1997 a National Home Service Force Association was formed to provide a coordinating and parenting role. Units needed support and comradeship, many Unit leaders have little experience of running such groups.
Thanks must go to Peter Rowe, the first HSF Association Chairman, who was already chairing the 348 (ICCY) Sqn HSF Unit in The City of London, and Major (Retd) Albert Pryce-Howells who chaired the E Coy(-) 7R.Anglian Unit in Leicester. Albert has been HSFA Treasurer ever since. Joining them came Claude Ingham, from Leicester, who became the first Secretary and also circulated memorabilia (PRI) goods; and also The Rev.Phillip Wallce-Pugh, also of Leicester who became Association Padre.
In the early days, Peter Rowe was able to organise an annual reunion weekend, through contacts, at National Rifle Association’s Bisley Ranges, using an unused and rather sorry-looking pavilion, some grass and lots of initiative. The HSFA gained access to the ranges and also to neighbouring pavilions, sponsored by Rifle Clubs. HSF veterans rubbed shoulders with well-heeled enthusiasts and every reunion was extremely interesting, it appears.
In 2002, it became clear that Bisley was not going to become available in the future, amongst stories of Olympic practice and renovation costs. The real reason was probably that the mutual contact connection faded away and the HSFA’s influence was somehow reduced.
In 2003 and 2004, The HSF Association held a simple AGM at The Denbigh Arms in the village of Monks Kirby in Warwickshire, where the landlord was an HSF veteran. The location, close to the Fosse Way, M1 and M6, was ideally central for most travellers.
In 2005, the National Memorial Arboretum opened and with it the new Home Service Force Grove which was dedicated and officially opened by The President. That year the AGM was held at the NMA.
A new website was produced by Lt. Col Alan Mulder, then Deputy Commandant of Surrey ACF, but formerly an OC of E (HSF) Coy 2nd Bn The Wessex Regiment (V). Alan’s website replaced a gallant effort earlier created by Peter Rowe but which had discontinued after Peter moved on.
An Annual Reunion Weekend – somewhere in England
in 2006, after the NMA costs had been totted up, Brian Turner, the new Secretary wrote an ambitious letter to The General Officer Commanding 5 Division, based in his home town of Shrewsbury, asking if the HSFA could hold its AGM at an army camp in 5 Division’s bailiwick. Surprisingly, the General came up trumps and made arrangements for the HSFA to go to an army camp in Staffordshire, which shall remain nameless, but which has a left-hand-drive road system marked out (got it?).
Brian didn’t stop there. In the same year, he also started a HSFA Newsletter, “News & Views” posted to all Units and other as well.
Rising costs and value for money
We’ve been there ever since. Every year in October. In the beginning the cost per delegate was £15 and Units had to hold lotteries to see who would attend. Since then the cost has steadily risen and, in 2011, stood at £50 per delegate. In 2009 & 2010 we failed to raise the attendance charge and were forced to raise the shortfall by raffle, auction and donations which caused a few grumbles.
The present cost of attendance, and we are hoping to keep it at £50 in 2012, is hoped to be subsidised to remain the same, but the actual cost of running the camp is increasing. Some of this has to do with the current economic crisis, and the catering and other contracts, but also because the administration of such camps is now administered by an MOD-influenced arm’s-length company, to whose employment, the camp administrative staff have been forced to migrate, with associated reductions.
The Reunion Weekend is held in the English Midlands and while some Units find the economic crisis difficult to bear, indicating that they are unable to justify the cost of travelling to Staffordshire, added to the increased costs of attendance. Attendance in 2011 was therefore greatly reduced, certainly less than 50% down on the first event at this location.
The new HSFA Chairman approached the 2011 Reunion Weekend expecting to be voted in and to immediately disband the Association.
The membership, however, had different ideas and it was resolved to carry on for another year and to:
- Examine the future location and format of Annual Reunions, considering alternatives.
- Examine opportunities for regional reunions in the South of England, the North of England and in Scotland.
- Examine opportunities for additional reunion events at other times of the year.
- The current Reunion venue has been chosen for the immediate future.
- Potential regional events have been examined and it is considered that these are best to be as guests of one or two Units, a Regimental event or a commercially run, but popular event. These are Air Museum sites, or annual regimental gatherings. None of these have been examined on site to the subject of contact with the organisers. The earliest this could be arranged would be in 2013.
- Only one event at another time of year has been identified, so far. The ICCY (Inns of Court & City Yeomanry) reunion has been held in late May every year at the NMA and the HSFA had adopted this as an early opportunity to meet for one day only. The ICCY UNit cannot attend for the Annual reunion in October because of clashes. It is, nevertheless, in the English midlands.
A new Website, a new Chapter.
In 2011, Colonel Alan Mulder informed us that he was unable to continue with his website because he had succeeded to the post of Commandant Surrey ACF and also the website was based on a website “platform” that had become obsolete and overtaken by more modern solutions. To recreate his work on a new system was clearly too much work.
We congratulate Col. Alan, wish him well, and salute the part he played in helping us reach Units, their members and new recruits to The Association.
A word on Reunion venues.
Demographics is a word bandied about quite often these days, and it’s as well to define what it means in relation to The HSF Association. Units, Unit Members and individual contacts are all over the UK, may be the world. They are also (by definition) getting older and so are their wives, husbands or partners. They have their own loyalties, responsibilities and issues to deal with. We all do.
It is understandable, therefore, that an annual reunion weekend in a location reminiscent of “the old days” will not suit everybody. Some are ready for a little more comfort and some prefer to travel with their loved ones. Some have shift work and/or have to work every weekend.
Those in Scotland and the north of England, as well as those in the south of England have indicated that travel costs have borne more heavily upon cost than before. This country is in recession, and the world is dealing with an economic crisis.
It is therefore vital that we continue our search for regional venues, or regular events which groups of Units can meet up. The present annual reunion weekend arrangements are constantly under scrutiny and we know that we need to make decisions quickly based upon short notice.
We undertake to work towards a mixture of solutions which will encourage current Unit Members and also those who are new to the HSF Association.
If we need to operate only by communication, using a website as a backbone, we will.
Adapt and survive.