Yesterday hundreds of nervous and excited family and friends of the men and women of the Waterloo, Alamein, and Burma companies filled the stands at Harrogate Army College looking out onto the parade square. The grey sky promised rain, but the atmosphere within the square was unbendable. A voice called out from the speakers behind each stand and told us what we were about witness. After twenty minutes of murmuring and anticipation the distant sound of the parade band could be heard, and silence caught the crowds.
Before long the band led the parade of over four hundred young men and women out into the parade square, excitement washed over the stands and each spectator gripped the edge of their seats as they desperately tried to pick out their junior soldier.
The band played wondrously, their skill beyond all, from the ‘Family Guy’ theme tune to Gustav Holt’s ‘Jupiter’. Calls from the platoon commanders rang throughout the square and the junior soldiers reacted with disciplined and timely synchronisation. An inspection took place and the young men and women stood, weapons in hand, waiting, unmoving, for the next call.
Soon after, the true parade began and we cheered as the junior soldiers made their way around the square, each platoon stopping before the stands giving the spectators just enough time to pick out their JS. Cheering, crying, and shouts of joy rang out from the stands as they passed. Some soldiers passed their eyes over the crowds, small smiles playing on their lips as they saw their loved ones, many others remained straight faced, disciplined right until the end of the parade.
Awards were given to those young men and women of distinction, those who had shown great improvement, or promise for an extraordinary military career, before one young man accepted the privilege of leading the parade out of the square.
Once the parade square was cleared the spectators filtered out of the stands and made their way into the gymnasium to collect photographs, DVDs, and to await the return of their junior soldiers. It was in there that I stood, along side my mum, in a queue for the penultimate photograph of JS TW Hardie’s time at Harrogate, when I saw my brother walk through the doors, red faced and tired. Waving over the mass of people he smiled as he met my pride filled eyes and found his way through the expectant spectators. Dad, and then mum, took him into their arms, before he turned to me – I of course received the best hug of all, being his most treasured big sister.
The men and women of Harrogate Army College, civilian and military staff, have worked tirelessly to ready the next generation of the British Army, and they have done, are doing, and will continue to do our nation proud through their work with the junior soldiers. Now, as the junior soldiers of intake 32 and 33 move onto their phase two training, I wish them all the best of luck with this next step, and in their future military careers.