After almost fifty years of service, Captain Graham Reith of the Scottish & Northern Irish Yeomanry (SNIY) Ayrshire Squadron saw out his long and distinguished military career by receiving a Certificate of Meritorious Service during the Ayrshire & Arran Lord-Lieutenant’s Awards.
As an extra surprise, following the certificate presentations, Captain Reith returned to the stage to receive HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal.
Lowland RFCA caught up with Captain Reith during the ceremony at Ayr Town Hall on 4 October to hear his story and congratulate him on his illustrious achievements.
Tell us about your background in the Armed Forces.
I served in the Patna Detachment of the Army Cadet Force before joining the Royal Corps of Signals as an apprentice technician when I was sixteen. I had a very full and rewarding career with the Royal Signals, serving in Germany, England, Scotland, Italy, Cyprus, the Shetland Islands, Iraq, Kuwait, Kosovo and the Falkland Islands.
I enjoyed a lot of AT (Adventure Training) including parachuting, sailing and skiing, as well as playing rugby at unit level. I play golf and love fishing but my main sport was competition military shooting.
I was commissioned from Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of 32 Signal Regiment in Glasgow and then posted as Unit Welfare Officer and Second-in-Command HQ Squadron of 2 Signal Regiment in York, then later as Quartermaster (QM) of 19 (Mech) Brigade HQ and Signal Squadron in Catterick. I deployed to Kosovo as the QM of the UK-led multi-national Brigade for six months before volunteering for a seven-month deployment to the Falkland Islands as the Assistant Property Manager in Defence Estates.
I went back to 32 Signal Regiment as a Quartermaster and resigned my commission to become a full-time Permanent Staff Administration Officer (PSAO) with the Army Reserves, serving for five years with the Royal Signals in Glasgow and thirteen years with the Queen’s Own Yeomanry and finally the Scottish and Northern Irish Yeomanry (SNIY) in Ayr.
After forty-nine years in the Forces, you must have seen a lot of changes in that time!
Definitely. When I first joined, the Army stood at around 178,000 and now it’s down to about 72,000, as there were massive reductions following the end of the Cold War. There’s also a lot more emphasis on the role of Reserves nowadays.
Would you say that the increase in the number of Reservists is a positive change?
It’s a hugely positive change. I’ve spent a good fifteen or sixteen years with the Reserves, both as a Regular RSM and then as a QM, and also as a full-time PSAO. The commitment of the Reservists is indisputable and they make a massive contribution to Defence. I have a huge amount of respect for the Reservists who have to balance civilian employment, family life and Reserve time.
Apart from receiving a Lord-Lieutenant’s Award, are there any other highlights of your career that you like to look back on?
I’ve had a fabulous and varied career with some exceptional experiences, too many to list! Highlights would be:
- My two years in Cyprus on a NATO Communications Station in the early 80s
- My time in the Shetland Islands and Falkland Islands, enjoying remote island life and endless fishing
- My deployment in Germany, especially as a Sergeant Major
- Deploying on operations to Iraq and Kosovo
My time with 32 Signal Regiment in Glasgow was very special to me, and I was proud to be their RSM and QM over the years. My last thirteen years as PSAO with the Yeomanry in Ayr has been very rewarding with regard to making a contribution to the local community and getting involved with local civil events.
I have always enjoyed and made the best of each posting and met so many fantastic people along the way. I really couldn’t have asked for better.
Based on your own experience, would you encourage others to get involved with the Reserve Forces?
Very much so. I think both the Regular and Reserve Forces have a lot to offer to those who join up. Many people join the Reserves as a stepping stone to becoming a Regular and some remain as ‘blue-blood’ Reservists. Balancing their private lives with their work and their Army commitments can be challenging at times, but those who can strike that balance get a lot of benefits from it.