With over 100 members and guests attending the regimental dinner meeting of Pro Patria Lodge No 9952, elbow room at St Annes Palace, was still pretty limited for what was a very short business meeting.
The bugle fanfare ‘Pro Patria’ was sounded, and the WM Juan Topping and his officers entered the lodge room, preceded by the Union Flag. The lodge was then opened in due form and the brethren stood to order in respect of departed merit.
The secretary, Bob Wareham, presented the dispensation to hold the meeting at St Annes Palace and several items of lodge business were adroitly despatched including the successful election of Andrew Parrack as a joining member and Bob Sims as a re-joining member. With the limited agenda completed the lodge was closed and those present retired for the main object of the evening, that of the annual regimental dinner.
Assembled in the bar before dinner, those present were regaled with the first of several ‘bulletins’ from the period surrounding the invasion by Argentine forces of the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. This initial bulletin was delivered by Royal Marines Warrant Officer Richie Puttock, who was acting as the Mess Butler, which is like the lodge director of ceremonies. Richie had a busy night ahead of him but he carried it all off with consummate ease.
Visitors from far and wide included a sizeable contingent from Furness and South Lakes. Several other visitors took pride in wearing their military dress uniforms, complete with medals. Their presence added much gravitas to the occasion. Added to this the flags of the principal regiments were on display along the front of the top table, with that of the Parachute Regiment taking centre stage as the WM was a ‘Para’.
Other flags included those of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force. Finishing touches were provided by a camouflage webbing along the wall behind the top table and a canopy formed from a green and white parachute above the principal diners. A nice finishing touch was a separate single table laid for one person in honour of departed comrades.
The principal guest at dinner was Bernard Worsfold, a veteran from WWII who had received assistance from several members of the lodge and had shown his appreciation by providing 15 litres of fine ruby port for the benefit of all present. Bernard has another connection with St Annes Palace in that he attends regularly for meetings of an organisation named ‘Just Good Friends’ which brings people together in the community from many walks of life. The port went down very well with the toasts and the cheese and biscuits.
The after-dinner speaker was Major Kevin Porter, immediate past master of Semper Fidelis Lodge No 4428, which meets at the Palace. Kevin regaled his audience with anecdotes from his military career which included his time as Her Majesty the Queen’s Engineer, as well as postings in Canada and Northern Ireland.
Throughout the different stages of the festive board regular bulletins were still being read by several veterans, recounting the progress of the conflict in the Falklands. The evening came to an end at a ‘late’ hour, with the last drops of port finally drained.