Hundreds of people have lined the streets of Derby and Worcester to say farewell to the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment prior to their formal amalgamation with 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment.
The historic parades saw the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment exercise the Freedoms of both cities led by the Regimental Mascot, a Swaledale ram named Private Derby XXXII. Music was provided by the British Army Band Catterick.
“We will continue to Stand Firm and Strike Hard and, although there will no longer be a 2nd Battalion, the same bonds of comradeship will remain” –LIEUTENANT COLONEL RICHARD GROVER, COMMANDING OFFICER 2ND BATTALION THE MERCIAN REGIMENT
The Mercian Regiment known as ‘The Heart of England’s Infantry’ recruits from the five counties that form the ancient kingdom of Mercia: Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire as well as the Black Country and the Wirral.
It was established in 2007 with the merger of the Cheshire, Staffordshire and Worcester and Sherwood Foresters Regiment and has a reserve battalion based in the Midlands.
Amongst the crowds in Derby was the parents, grandparents, auntie, brother and sister of Private Hemfrey who said it was a proud moment to march through the city.
Fellow soldier Private Anthony said: “It was a brilliant feeling, especially being a Derby lad. It was amazing to see the people on the streets. It means a lot to see the people come out to watch.”
Commanding Officer of 2 Mercian, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Grover, said: “The roots of the Mercian Regiment will always remain deep in the Midlands. Its towns and cities are very special to us and are a part of the fabric of the regiment. Its people have been a constant support and it is a relationship built on respect and loyalty and something we never take for granted.”
He continued: “The two battalions will officially merge on 1st September, with the 1st Battalion remaining at Bulford, Wiltshire.”
“Private Derby,” a Swaledale ram, is the regimental mascot, a tradition inherited from the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment.
The first Private Derby was a fine fighting ram that the regiment say was “obtained” during a route march in 1858.
Ram Major Corporal Philip Thornton explained: “It actually started in 1858, during the Indian Mutiny War at the siege of Kotah with the 95th Derbyshire Regiment.
“What happened at the time, was the commanding officer ordered a Pte O’Sullivan to take a fine looking ram into battle with them. The ram marched nearly 3,000 miles and subsequently fought numerous battles himself with other rams. Therefore, on the 2nd of August 1862, he was awarded his first medal which was the Indian Mutiny Medal.
“Ever since then, he became the mascot of the regiment.”
They have had a Private Derby ever since.
Since 1912 Chatsworth House has presented a ram from their Swaledale flock and are currently on Derby number 32.
The 30th iteration of the Mascot was known as Lance Corporal Derby XXX, before he died on 27 November 2015. His successor, known as Private Derby XXXI, was announced on 20 February 2016 but he died on 1 September 2017.
In December 2017 the current Private Derby XXXII was presented to the Regiment by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
“He’s actually a serving soldier,” explains Ram Major Corporal Philip Thornton.
“He gets £3.68 per day, which goes towards his feed. And if we need something like a new lawnmower for his pen, that comes out of his account.
Thornton jokes: “He’s probably one of the richest soldiers in the British Army.”
Private Derby has his own Twitter account. To follow him click here.