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The Future of Home Headquarters (North), The King’s Royal Hussars
Message from The Colonel of the Regiment, General Sir Richard Shirreff KCB, CBE
As many of you will know, Captain John Cornish retired as Assistant Regimental Secretary, based in Fulwood Barracks, in July 2014. Since then, we have been actively recruiting a suitable successor to ensure that the service our Home Headquarters offer to the Regiment, both serving and retired, is second to none. At the start of this process I ensured that the job specification was clear that the selected candidate should ideally have served as an officer in The King’s Royal Hussars, one of our antecedent regiments or at the very least, another cavalry regiment. I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that this has involved a lengthy and complex bureaucratic process starting first with internal recruiting from within the Civil Service before widening the net. To cut a long story short, I am pleased to say that Major Steve Penkethman was appointed Assistant Regimental Secretary on 4
February. Major Penkethman joined the Royal Hussars in 1975, was RSM of The King’s Royal Hussars from 1995 to 1997 before being commissioned in February 1997. He retired from the Army in June 2013. In every respect Major Steve Penkethman is an ideal replacement for Captain John Cornish, he could not be better qualified, is regimental to the core and we are very lucky to have him in such a key regimental position.
This appointment has led me to look very carefully at the question of maintaining two small separate Home HQs serving a regiment which has not been an exclusively Lancashire regiment since its formation in 1992, increasingly has a national footprint and which is almost certain to be based permanently in Wiltshire. While the service provided by Captain John Cornish from Fulwood Barracks was exemplary, there is no question that it has been an administrative nightmare for both regimental secretaries trying to coordinate activity some 250 miles apart. Furthermore the reality is that, despite the continued strength of recruiting in the North West, there are no longer the same local links with civic authorities or recruiting offices as existed in the days when Major Bill Williams was Regimental Secretary in Fulwood Barracks.
I have concluded that concentrating effort in a single Home Headquarters offers the most efficient and effective way of supporting The King’s Royal Hussars, both the serving and wider regiment. The ideal solution would have been establishing Home HQ in Aliwal Barracks alongside the serving Regiment. However, the real estate simply won’t allow this. In order to ensure Home HQ is as close to the serving regiment as possible I have therefore decided to concentrate effort in Winchester and to close Home HQ in Fulwood Barracks. This is the intent; we are now engaged in putting together a detailed plan for execution and I hope to promulgate more detail in the next regimental newsletter.
I have not done this lightly and completely understand the dismay with which this will be received in the North West, particularly by the ex 14th/20th King’s Hussars. On top of this, there will be many questions: what happens to the Columbarium and Barton Church? What happens to the Preston Reunion and the Remembrance Day parade and service? How will ex-soldiers in the North West stay in touch with the Regiment? How will our links with the Museum in Preston be handled? And, of course, the all important question: does this mean that the KRH will lose its links with the North West?
My answer to the latter question is absolutely not. We will continue to recruit quality soldiers in the North West of England and Lancashire and Cumbria will remain at the heart of the ethos of the Regiment, alongside our other recruiting areas in Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and elsewhere in the UK. As for all questions relating to what was done by Home HQ North, these issues will still be managed by Home Headquarters, but in Winchester. And that Home HQ will be significantly more efficient by being larger and staffed by two Regimental Secretaries working closely together supported by two clerical staff, although sadly not with Jenni Pennell who naturally has decided to stay in the north and work elsewhere in the Civil Service and to whom we owe a great deal for her dedicated service. Not only will this allow all the administration, welfare, data, records, archives etc to be concentrated in one place, but a more efficient and effective Home HQ will allow for one of the regimental secretaries to travel north on a regular basis to maintain and rebuild local links.
This will not be popular but that is not the point. I am aware that I have had to make a very tough and unpopular decision. But for the sake of the Regiment this is a time to pull together, to be united, to embrace change and above all to work together to maintain the strong links we have always enjoyed in the North West. What matters is the efficiency of our Home HQ and how well it serves the wider Regiment. I am in no doubt that with Lt Col Peter Garbutt and Major Steve Penkethman we have a superb team and that the time has now come to concentrate effort in a single Home HQ as, arguably, should have happened some time ago after the formation of The King’s Royal Hussars in 1992.
Owfen born and Warburtons bred