Grenadier Guards offer Bognor gala of remembrance

Grenadier Guards: WO2 Buckley, Maj Smith, WO1 Marinescu
Grenadier Guards: WO2 Buckley, Maj Smith, WO1 Marinescu

It’s more than 60 years since John Norris’ four-year stint in the Grenadier Guards came to an end.

But the pride endures for a lifetime.

John is delighted to be the producer of a special Gala of Remembrance at the Regis Centre in Bognor on Saturday, November 4 at 7.30pm.

The night features the Band of the Grenadier Guards – and is presented by the Sussex Branch of the Grenadier Guards Association, of which John is secretary.

“The Band of the Grenadier Guards is one of the world’s premier military bands and has a long and distinguished history dating back over 300 years,” John says.

“Enjoy a wonderful nostalgic evening through the First and Second World Wars with this world-renowned ensemble.”

John is keen for audience members to wear their medals. And remember you are entitled to wear your ancestors’ medals – if you remember to wear them on the right.

“I joined the Grenadier Guards in 1951 for four years. I was originally doing national service, and then I became a regular soldier. I loved the army life. It gives you a sense of purpose.

“Most jobs in Civilian Street, you are trying to please people to a certain extent. Maybe part of my character is not to please people! But I really enjoyed the life in the army.

“If you have ever marched in the trooping of the colour or down the Mall, there is just nothing else like it. I take part in the memorial march in Whitehall in November and unless you have done it, you just can’t know what it is like to be there.”

During his time, John served in Egypt, Jordan and London – Egypt during a time of increasing tension.

“We were sniped at continuously by the local nationalists. I was on the top of a searchlight tower, and if anybody was going to be a target, it was me! Sometimes you wondered why on earth you were doing it!”

John left the Grenadier Guards and enjoyed nearly three decades in the police force.

Now he is honoured to support the work of the Sussex Branch of the Grenadier Guards Association, a body which has a membership of around a hundred.

Proceeds from the Bognor Regis gala night will be split between Help for Heroes and also The Cononel’s Fund, effectively a benevolent association for former Grenadier Guards in time of need.

The origins of the Band of the Grenadier Guards go back to King Charles II who laid the foundations when he commissioned 12 hautbois (early oboe) players to the First Regiment of Foot Guards in 1685. The Regiment was to become known as the Grenadier Guards after their victory on the battle field at Waterloo.

The return of the king and his court from exile on the continent sounded the death knell for the Puritanical severity of Cromwell. The arts exploded into London under the court’s continental influence. Charles’s decision to maintain musicians in his Foot Guards regiment was also a reflection of this, and some of his musicians would have come from Germany where the Hautboisistenbande had originated 20 years earlier.

The band has served 15 monarchs over 325 years with dedication and pride. It has been present at all the major royal occasions: christenings, coronations, weddings and funerals.

Tickets on 01243 861010 or alexandratheatre.co.uk. Ticket price includes a glass of prosecco or soft drink.