Virtually all the Livery Companies have well developed links with the military. The reasons for this are historic in that in medieval times the Livery Companies provided the watch for the defence of the City walls, and the patrolling of the wards. The Livery Companies also had a responsibility to provide men, clothing and food for the City’s Trained Bands (precursor to the Army Reserve) and, of course, many Freemen and Liverymen were (and still are) members of The Honourable Artillery Company.
Today the Livery Companies maintain links with over 200 Regular and Reserve Forces units. The Livery Companies have a vital, and much appreciated, role in supporting numerous regiments, ships, shore bases, air stations, training establishments and other units in the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force. The ways in which the City and the Livery Companies support the Armed Forces of the Crown are as numerous as they are diverse, but they are all important and some have lasted generations. Where there is an obvious trade, craft or professional relationship between the Livery Company and their associated military units the relationship will often extend to career mentorship, training, examination and awards for excellence presented by the Livery to serving members of HM Forces.
Some examples of links built upon common professional interests are The Honourable Company of Air Pilots with several RAF affiliations while the Honourable Company of Master Mariners has equally strong naval links. The Worshipful Company of Engineers is linked to the Royal Corps of Engineers etc. And there is no shortage of serving and former members of HM forces among the ranks of the livery.
This week we enjoyed our annual Curry Night with 151 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps with which we are affiliated. We were hosted in the spectacular Wellington Barracks Officers’ Mess adjacent to Buckingham Palace, home to the Foot Guards, the Regular Infantry regiments of the Household Division of the British Army. We were on the first floor in rooms adorned with military artwork and treasure with a large balcony overlooking Birdcage Walk with marvellous views of the Illuminated Shard, London Eye and Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben.)
During pre-dinner drinks we were entertained by a brass quartet from the Band of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment that our host the Commanding Officer of 151 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps, Lt Col Mike Taylor OBE joked had flown in from Gibraltar specially to play for us. Dinner consisted of three different curry dishes with all the trimmings and most of us took our plates and wine glasses and balanced them precariously on the balcony shelves as an impromptu table. It was a surprisingly balmy October night and we were further entertained by a military band with bagpipes of the Band and Corps of Drums of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment.
The Colonel spoke warmly of the relationship and thanked us profusely for the support we had given the regiment in helping it with its recruitment. 151 is a reservist regiment and the Government’s Defence Strategy has been to reduce the size of the regular army to 82,000 but partially compensate for that by increasing the size of the reserves to 30,000. Unfortunately this has not been well-communicated and the message that has got out on the street is the downsizing of the army. Further recruitment was outsourced to one of those outsourcing companies whose principal skill seems to be their ability to win government contracts. Traditionally recruitment has been conducted by NCOs with real field experience.
Nevertheless the Marketors have been instrumental in help with segmentation and communication strategies and 151 has achieved considerable success and is regarded as one of the leaders amongst its peers. This is very satisfactory as we don’t just want the relationship to be one based solely on mutual entertainment, but rather of practical support and help.
The City’s relationship with the Armed forces of the Crown is probably as old as the Monarchy. For centuries kings keen to pursue foreign wars saw the City as an ever bountiful source of taxation. Indeed some Livery Companies regarded this as extortion and it strongly influenced their attitude to particular kings. Charles I went too far in the eyes of the City and they refused to raise armies for him, instead preferring Oliver Cromwell, and so indirectly deciding the outcome of the Civil War.
On restoration of the monarchy Charles II first action was to revenge his father’s death. He demanded that Oliver Cromwell be captured and executed. Told he was already dead he ordered that he be dug up and his skeleton hanged in public. Seven other regicides, i.e. those who had signed the death warrant, were hanged, drawn and quartered and their heads displayed in London Bridge. There is a pub in the City that commemorates the occasion.
Even in the eighteenth century the Master of the Cooks’ Company was imprisoned by the king because he refused to raise the money necessary to build a new warship.
So the relationship has not always been smooth but it has been symbiotic. It is no coincidence that the City has Livery Companies for such warlike crafts as the manufacture of Bows (Bowmen), Arrows (Fletchers), Hand guns (Gunmakers) and Armour (Armourers).
Among the many offices of the Lord Mayor is that of President of the Reserved Forces’ and Cadets’ Association for the City of London. In addition he is the only commoner entitled to a military bodyguard in the form of the Honourable Artillery Company’s Pike men and Musqueteers. As well as the links with HM Forces there are over 100 links between Livery Companies and Cadet Forces. Cadets will often form a ‘carpet guard’ at formal dinners and the companies provide funding and expertise to their affiliated Cadet units. Our own link is with St Dunstan’s Combined Cadet Force.
The City is the only place in Her Majesty’s realms where her forces may not proceed without the prior authorisation of the Lord Mayor. Some units have been granted ‘City Privilege Regiment status’ allowing them to march with Bayonets Fixed, Drums Beating and Colour Unfurled in the City- however the Lord Mayor’s permission is still required to enter or proceed in the City.
various livery company websites