Earlier forays into race histories have looked at some of the well known and long established races in the calendar. Today, we turn our attention to a brand new race, as we head to Taunton, where the Territorial Army is moving into new …territory. The first race at Taunton today is the 6 Rifles B Company Novices’ Hurdle. It was to have been run earlier in the season, but rain led to the cancellation of the meeting, and not even the combined power of Army equipment and track ground staff could save the day then.
The TA are using the occasion as a recruiting event, and once that was fixed in the calendar, Taunton racecourse asked if they could name a race after the local B Company. Of course they were more than happy to agree, and as a result, 6 Rifles B Company are now listed in the racing pages, and will gain good coverage on At The Races this afternoon.
Capt Barney Barnes, a regular Army soldier who looks after recruitment, welfare, pay and rations for B Company explained, “This is the first time we have done anything like this at a race meeting, so we just don’t know what will happen. At the moment, B Company has 94 members, but we’ve space for a few more. And if the proposed changes to the Army go through in the next few years, we could be looking to grow to 150 soldiers.”
Most people would never consider swapping their day job for a tour of duty in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, but that’s all in the line of duty in a TA unit. Since 2007, 6 Rifles has had up to 85 people from its four rifle companies out there, carrying out routine security patrols and helping to train the Afghan National Security Forces.
Barnes said that his team of eight at the racecourse today would be able to talk about their experiences on active service, but they would also take part in some lighter activities, such as paintballing and showing people around the military vehicles.
And in a throwback to an earlier conflict, when the civilians were an amateur army, not like today’s TA, Capt Peacock will be on hand to talk about the officer role in the TA.
If we were looking for an appropriately named winner of the race, we would have to choose By Command, but I just can’t see that happening.