Prince William of Gloucester Barracks, Grantham, has commemorated its 100th anniversary with a Beating Retreat ceremony.
The Band of the Welsh Guards performed the Beating Retreat in front of 250 assembled guests including His Royal Highness Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Chief Air Marshal Sir Stuart Peach.
The ceremony concluded with a flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane from RAF Coningsby. Following the Beating Retreat there was a tree planting ceremony by His Royal Highness in front of the Officers’ Mess. The reception closed with a firework display.
The military base, home to over 1,000 Army and civilian personnel, first opened its gates as a Royal Flying Corps station in November 1916 and has been RAF Grantham and RAF Spitalgate. For 14 years the Women’s Royal Air Force also trained at RAF Spitalgate.
It became an Army barracks in April 1975, where it still stands as the largest Army barracks in Lincolnshire and surrounding areas. It was fitting that The Duke of Gloucester attended because the barracks was named after his brother Prince William, and opened by his mother, Princess Alice, in 1977.
The base served as HQ for the Dambusters raid on the Ruhr Dams of Germany in May 1943. It was also the base where Air Marshal ‘Bomber’ Harris and Barnes Wallis, the inventor of the ‘bouncing bombs’, monitored communications throughout the night.
Its prestigious history also includes the training and point of departure airfield for the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade during Operation Market Garden. The first Tiger Moths also flew there in 1931 and RAF Spitalgate, as it was known in the 1940s, can claim a number of Battle of Britain pilots among its ‘old boys’.
The Station Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Guy Stone, Welsh Guards, said: “The aim of the evening was twofold: to reflect and commemorate 100 years of history, both Royal Air Force and Army and, secondly, to thank those locally who have supported both Services through their time here in Grantham over our first 100 years. This Station is defined by its fabulous location, its outstanding facilities, its special relationship with Grantham and the local community and, most importantly, by its people: past, present, Royal Air Force, Army, Regular, TA or Reserve and civilian. It is a remarkable place and long may that continue.”
The barracks is home to many units today:
A Brigade HQ – 102 Logistic Brigade – which employs 5,000 soldiers across the UK. Over the last 12 months the Brigade has deployed on 25 operations and 33 exercises across 45 different countries including Mongolia and Uruguay.
An Army Training Regiment, the Army’s only Regular unit in Lincolnshire, which is training over 1,400 Reserve soldiers each year.
An Army Catering Regiment - 167 Catering Support Regiment - hundreds of military chefs who support operations and exercises across the globe. Over the past 12 months the Regiment has committed over 8,500 days of catering support in the UK and Overseas. Thirteen per cent of the total number of Reservist soldiers deployed on operations last year came from this Regiment.
An Operational Support Group (2 OSG) - over 150 personnel who have provided staff officers, contractual management, labour support and communications specialists across the globe.
A Supply Squadron – 294 Supply Squadron - who issue and account for all 750,000 items of equipment in use by the British Army.
The Army School of Physical Training who train almost 500 soldiers annually with 14 intensive courses for potential PT instructors.
Two detachments of the Lincolnshire Army Cadet Force (Royal Lancers and Royal Logistic Corps).
And finally, the Home Headquarters of the Royal Lancers, formerly the QRL and 17/21st Lancers who have a strong association with this area.