Regiment filled with pride

Terry Roberts
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Morale soars following visit of colonel-in-chief; presentation of colours

More than 100 soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment's 1st battalion are soaring from a weekend of milestone events that showcased the unit to the province and Princess Anne, the Princess Royal.

"Every fibre of our being comes together on a weekend like this," Capt. Shawn Samson, the unit's padre, said following a wreath-laying ceremony at the Caribou Memorial in St. John's Sunday.

Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, wrapped up a weekend visit to St. John's on Sunday. She is shown here at Bowring Park following a wreath-laying ceremony with Lt.-Gov. John Crosbie (left), Premier Danny Williams and Lt.-Col. Alex Brennan, commander of t

More than 100 soldiers of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment's 1st battalion are soaring from a weekend of milestone events that showcased the unit to the province and Princess Anne, the Princess Royal.

"Every fibre of our being comes together on a weekend like this," Capt. Shawn Samson, the unit's padre, said following a wreath-laying ceremony at the Caribou Memorial in St. John's Sunday.

In what was yet another benchmark in the regiment's storied past, the unit celebrated the 215th anniversary of its founding, received new Queen's and regimental colours and managed to again earn the praise and respect of Princess Anne, the regiment's colonel-in-chief.

During a toast to the regiment at an elaborate birthday dinner on Saturday night, Princess Anne described her visit as an "extraordinary weekend."

The regiment also went to great lengths to honour those who went before them, a gesture that was widely praised by descendants of those who served with the regiment in the First World War.

The Princess Royal was a guest of the regiment, and she more than earned her passage from England.

Often described as the hardest working member of the Royal Family, she carried out a very full agenda that began immediately after her arrival on Friday, and continued until her plane departed Sunday afternoon.

She received an honorary degree from Memorial University, handed out 150 Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards, participated in wreath-laying ceremonies, receptions, a church service and various other events.

She met personally with each member of the regiment, and spent time with veterans - young and old - on Sunday.

"She is probably the most gracious person I've met, and she brings a lot of dignity to the office of colonel-in-chief," said Samson.

"It means so much to the troops and to all that were gathered."

The regiment is a reserve unit, and is part of the 37 Canadian Brigade Group in Moncton, N.B.

The brigade's commanding officer, Col. Greg MacCallum, had nothing but praise for the regiment.

He said the realities of being a soldier is that you often train in auster conditions.

But when it comes to formal ceremonies, they are done with style and panache.

"This unit has done that," said Col. MacCallum.

"They love getting dirty, training and doing operations. But there is a pride in soldiering that really manifests itself in ceremonial occasions like we had this weekend."

"It's safe to say that every soldier walks a bit taller when they're all dressed up in uniform on a very high profile ceremonial occasion in the presence of royalty. Who wouldn't," he stated.

Lt.-Col. Alex Brennan, the commander of the 1st battalion, was beaming with pride Sunday.

He praised his soldiers for their performance, expressed gratitude to the regiment's many supporters, and had special words of thanks for Princess Anne.

"She captured our hearts," said Lt.-Col. Brennan.

Despite the busy schedule, he said she was untiring and very engaging.

"I think overall, royalty hit a whole new level here in Newfoundland. Not in terms of pomp and pageantry. But it showed that members of the royal family are warm-hearted and connected," he said.

Brennan said planning has already started for a future meeting between the princess and her regiment.

"Maybe in the next five years," he said.

troberts@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Queen's, Canadian Brigade Group

Geographic location: St. John's, England, Moncton Newfoundland

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