Sunday, 1 July 2012

Armed Forces Day Parade - Southwick

Yesterday the men and women of Southwick Park (previously HMS Dryad, now tri-services) paraded through Southwick High Street, passing the village green where a salute was taken by the Commanding Officer of Southwick Park accompanied by our local Squire.

People of the village decorated their houses, putting up the bunting last seen on the Queen's Jubilee but which had been taken down before the great storms of June took complete hold of our little world.  Many of us stood in the street and applauded as we watched the men and women proudly marching by.  I felt a lump in my throat as I watched, thinking of the things that these brave people had already been through in their lives and of what more they had to endure during their time in the services.  It was a pleasure to see them all in their uniforms and it made me wish that there was more interaction between Southwick Park and the village.

It was great to see them all in the Golden Lion afterwards, enjoying a well-deserved glass of beer - incidentally the public house which is famous for its D-Day connections.  There was a sense for me of being a part of something very special yesterday.  It was especially heartwarming to see the various ranks all sharing the same space harmoniously with each other and with the people of this village who had turned out to wish them well and to thank them for what they sacrifice for their country.

Imagine my disappointment though when I later heard that some of the lower ranked personnel were reprimanded for drinking in the same pub as the officers!  I knew already that due to some crazy ruling by senior staff at Southwick Park, the lower ranks had been told in the past that the Golden Lion was only to be used by higher ranks and that the junior ones were only allowed to drink in the other village pub, The Red Lion, which is less suitable for relaxing in a public bar just for a drink - they are set up mainly as a very popular and successful restaurant and although welcome drinkers as well, there are limited spaces for this.  The Golden Lion is also an excellent restaurant but has two bars as well, a small comfortable lounge with sofas and a large public bar, a darts board and access to bar games.  It's noisy and cheerful - you can eat in the bar if you prefer and it's never better than when it's filled with people of all ages enjoying themselves.

I cannot imagine why so called civilised people cannot live in harmony with each other - they don't have to sit together in the pub or even acknowledge each other if they don't want to.  Not that many of the higher ranks come in regularly anyway.  It's never overfull with them.  Surely in this day of equality it is wrong to exclude certain members of the society from being able to enjoy themselves now and again in our historical village pub?  It should be a part of their education when they come to Southwick Park and I'm sure they would be proud to drink in the place where Eisenhower, Montgomery, and even Prince Philip frequented.

And please, let's have a bit more integration with villagers.  I know things have changed since then, but there was a time when all of us in the village had passes to get into HMS Dryad.  We could use some of the facilities included a swimming pool.  The navy seemed to want to get more involved in village life.

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