An event which is becoming a must-attend on the Fylde Coast is the Pro Patria Lodge No 9952 Regimental Dinner. The lodge, which received its warrant in September 2017, is made up of members from all branches of the armed forces. This year’s main event took place at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool with over 90 members and guests in attendance to see the story of the D Day landings, ably told and illustrated by Royal Marine Warrant Officer Richie Puttock, assisted by fellow Warrant Officer Darren Taylor.
Richie and Darren are no strangers to this event. Those present at the previous year’s dinner will well remember their excellent handling of that occasion, where the story of the recapture of the Falklands was portrayed in excellent detail, with film clips, readings and step by step bulletins throughout the evening. On that occasion Juan Topping of the Parachute Regiment was the WM. On this occasion Mark Smith of the Royal Marines was in the chair and calmly handling proceedings at table.
Further entertainment was provided by the Royal Marine Association Corps of Drums and an ensemble known as Adaptive Brass. Background entertainment was provided by ‘Julie and Steve’. Interspersed with these were the story line of the famous World War II landings on the beaches of Normandy, presented by Richie and Darren.
All the time that these items of entertainment were being played out, the diners were tucking into a fine feast of spiced carrot soup, chicken breast served with a red wine and mushroom sauce with seasonal vegetables and apple pie served with Chantilly cream. All this washed down with beer, wine, spirits and complementary port at the end.
As usual, there was no shortage of military pomp and colour, with several diners in their mess dress uniforms. Some of whom included the WM in marine uniform, his son, Richard, who is a Major in the 5th Regiment of Fusiliers and several others besides. Many not wearing uniform were still proudly wearing medals from several campaigns and conflicts.
The principal guest for the evening was retired Colour Sergeant Paul Minter who had served 18 years with the Blues and Royals, The Household Cavalry Regiment and The Brigade Reconnaissance Regiment. Paul completed four tours of Afghanistan and one of Iraq.
Paul lost 15 friends to suicide during that period. On retiring from the army he set about helping colleagues and members of all the armed forces who were suffering from mental problems by starting the Heads Up charity in August 2021. This charity aims to promote and support members of the armed forces struggling with mental health problems.
During his after-dinner speech, Paul spoke of some of his harrowing experiences both while in combat and the after effects when he was at home. One incident led to him being arrested when he was sure he was dealing with a terrorist in the street. After one final tour of Afghanistan Paul was medically discharged and set about creating his new charity, with the assistance of three other veterans.
The four of them sat down to create a business plan and came up with an idea to create a retreat where anyone in the armed forces could go and receive help. It would involve seven days with no military environment, with help and counselling available. All free, even fares there and back. They are now looking for a site in the Midlands to build the new unit.
All this will take extensive funding, of course, so they looked at several ways to raise money. They came up with a plan to run around the 5,000 miles coast line of England. This eventually came into fruition and took seven months to complete. It enabled them to talk to people about the problems faced by military personnel during engagements and the problems they faced when returning home to find no support.
During the run they met several members of the Royal Marines Association whist on the Fylde Coast and received much help and encouragement from them both during and after the run. Paul is raising money by other means and is touring the country giving talks and raising awareness of the needs of this charity.
At the end of his speech, Paul received a cheque for the sum of £1,000 for which he expressed thanks on behalf of all who would benefit from the lodge’s generosity. Other funds raised on the evening included £615 from the raffle and over £600 from the convenience bucket and several other fund raising schemes.
With most of the formalities complete there was just one other presentation to be made. That was the passing on of the ‘Crowd Jewel’ to Ryan Modlin of Baines Lodge No 7844. The Crowd Jewel was the brain child of several Fylde Coast lodge members, including Baines Lodge and the members of that lodge were out in force to claim it back. The object of the exercise is to encourage visiting between lodges and the trophy can be claimed by visiting the current holders with five or more members, including the WM, and having the highest numbers of visiting lodge members present on the night.
The brethren rose from table shortly afterwards and the socialising continued well into the evening, with carriages staggered over a period well past midnight.