It was a happy and excited crowd that flocked to the Great Park on Sir Gilbert’s estate recently. It seemed that the whole combined populations of Pontrilas, Ewyas Harold and Abbeydore were gathered together on the greensward. Sir Gilbert had invited all the inhabitants of his domain to share his hospitality and celebrate some significant developments in the strengthening of his volunteer Corps.
The first item on the agenda, and just as attractive to the eager crowd as the more warlike attractions to come, was the appearance of the Right Reverend Joyce, Bishop of Monmouth. Looking magnificent in his diocesan robes, the Bishop was there to bless new standards that Sir Gilbert had graciously consented to award to some of his Volunteers.
The first beneficiary of the Bishop’s attention was Wrench, recently appointed by Sir Gilbert as the Bearer of the Hill Volunteers’ Standard. Although the honour had been conferred some weeks earlier, Sir Gilbert’s wish was that his faithful butler should gain the distinction of the Bishop’s blessing.
Next, the Bishop was pleased to present and bless a new standard to his fellow countrymen, the Welsh
Gangsters Nationalists (The Bulk Importers Volunteers) section. Signor Vittore Lombardi, being one of the few members of the section who may have been borne in Wales, was the appointed Bearer. Overwhelmed with emotion and religious fervour, he caused temporary confusion when he attempted to kiss the worthy cleric’s ring. The astonished prelate, being unaccustomed to such devotion, took a while to recover. After the ceremony, he was heard to whisper to Sir Gilbert:
“I say, I believe that excitable chap may be RC. Furthermore, he may not even be Welsh; extraordinary behaviour.”
Sir Gilbert replied noncommittally.
The final recipients of a flag were the Ewyas Harold and Pontrilas Women’s Institute section. The awarding and acceptance of this standard was, to say the least, unconventional. In the first place, it was not awarded by Sir Gilbert and he only reluctantly consented to the arrangement. It had been presented to the ladies by the crew of The Honourable Freddie Pitt-Bulstrode’s mortar section. These gentlemen had drawn particular attention to themselves since arriving in the area, especially amongst the Golden Valley ladies. Tall, dark and dashing, their charm was proving irresistible and the fact that they did not speak English (or indeed any language that anyone had yet been able to identify) only increased their appeal. In all honesty, Sir Gilbert was becoming slightly concerned in case their winning ways proved too irresistible to some of the ladies; only trouble could result from that. Also, he couldn’t help wondering apprehensively what the flag represented. POUM; what the deuce did that mean? However, such concerns were far from his and everyone else’s thoughts on this exciting day and so the flag was presented to the Bearer, Mrs Hilda Spreadborough and blessed by the Bishop .
This marked the conclusion of the first of the day’s events and a break was taken for tea and cakes, provided inevitably by the WI ladies