Sir John Foley's fight for injured soldiers

PUBLISHED: 01:16 25 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:39 20 February 2013

Sir John Foley's fight for injured soldiers

Sir John Foley's fight for injured soldiers

A gala dinner at Homme House on September 1 will raise money for a charity supporting Herefordshire's county regiment, The Rifles. Sharon Chilcott spoke to event organiser Sir John Foley

Retired British general Sir John Foley is continuing to serve Queen and country long after withdrawing from his distinguished military career, in his role as vice lord lieutenant for Herefordshire and as a committed fundraiser for The Rifles charity Care for Casualties.

His position as Her Majestys Vice Lord Lieutenant, an appointment granted in 2010, meant he was put in charge of arrangements for Diamond Day, the community celebration organised to welcome the Queen to Hereford on her Jubilee tour. Alongside those responsibilities, the former director of the SAS and one-time Chief of Defence Intelligence has also been heavily involved in this years 100,000 fundraising push for Care for Casualties. This appeal exists to give tangible and immediate help to injured soldiers and their families from Herefordshires recently adopted county regiment, The Rifles. The 1st Battalion of The Rifles is based at Beachley, near Chepstow.

The Rifles formed in 2007 from the amalgamation of several other regiments and is a proud descendant of the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and the Herefordshire Light Infantry (TA). It is the largest infantry regiment in the British Army, and since its formation it has seen almost continuous action in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sir John says: Since 2007, The Rifles have performed with the greatest skill and courage and gallantry in Iraq and Afghanistan and it makes me very proud that The Rifles have now established themselves as having a wonderful operational record. Sadly, in the process, 62 riflemen have been killed in action. More than 300 have been injured; 30 have lost one or more limbs and two have been totally blinded. Of the 62 killed, three were from Herefordshire, and of the 300 injured, one, from Hereford, lost his leg.

Sir John, a lieutenant general and holder of the Military Cross, is himself an ex-rifleman, so he identifies strongly with the men he is striving to help. Care for Casualties is a ring-fenced appeal within the Rifles Regimental Trust which exists specifically to raise money for both the immediate and longer-term care of casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts as well as the bereaved and the families of the wounded. The Rifles are every much a family regiment and we have always looked after our own. We can trace our history back to the 1700s and early 1800s when skirmishers and sharp shooters were deployed out in front of the mass of the army. It required each individual to have a suitable degree of personal initiative and they worked shoulder to shoulder in very close groups. From that has stemmed a very close bond. We pride ourselves as being the thinking rifleman.

He continues: I have been involved in The Rifles charity from the word go and thats why, more recently, I was asked whether I would run a gala fundraising event for Care for Casualties.

Sir John began his army career as a commissioned officer with the Royal Green Jackets, although he admits: When I was called to do National Service I had no interest in being a soldier at all there was no tradition in my family. Once he had decided on an army career, he says his route was determined when his father said that at 6ft 4in he was too long to fit into a tank.

He soon began to develop an interest in joining the SAS and passed the tough selection process to become a troop commander, serving in Aden and in Borneo. For a young person like me it was bliss it was what I joined the army for the travel, the adventure, the element of danger. He served in Malaya in the 1950s and went on to command a squadron during the campaign in Oman.

During the 1970s he worked in East Germany, where he headed the British Mission to the Soviet High Command (BRIXMIS), a military liaison role. There followed a promotion to major general and a job with the Defence Intelligence Staff in London, during the first Gulf War. After that I was very lucky (I have always been lucky in the places I went to) and I was sent to Hong Kong as Commander of the British Forces there. That was at the moment when we had come to an agreement with the Chinese that we would hand over the colony and my task was to make a plan for the withdrawal.

It was an interesting and memorable time, after which Sir John returned to the UK to be appointed Chief of Defence Intelligence. That was my last service job. Soon after I retired I was offered the Governorship of Guernsey, he says.

He has travelled and worked all over the world, but since 1972 Sir John has kept a bolt-hole in Herefordshire, where he grew up. He finally returned to live in the county in 2005, with his wife Ann, after his five-and-a-half year spell as Lieutenant-Governor of Guernsey, an appointment made by the Queen. We were thrilled to be back here. It is a great place to live and it hasnt changed very much, which is the nice thing about it.

The focus of Sir Johns efforts to raise an ambitious 100,000 for Care for Casualties is a gala dinner for about 330 guests at Homme House, Much Marcle, near Ledbury, home of Captain John Finnigan and his wife Jocelyn, on September 1.

It will be a glittering occasion, with a champagne reception, a performance by the Band and Bugles of the Rifles and an after-dinner auction of some impressive donated lots, 15 in all, which include the chance to enjoy a weekend shooting party at a luxurious country house, a five-day holiday at a luxury resort in Queensland and a weeks holiday in a boutique hotel in Sri Lanka.

Tickets for this event are available from or call 01432 870268.

For those unable to attend the event, the charity is organising a silent auction running from August 18 until midnight on September 8. A total of 65 auction lots include a week in an apartment in Ibiza and a Morris Minor Traveller. MPs Jesse Norman and Bill Wiggin have each offered to accompany a visit for two to the House of Commons. n

For more details, a full list of auction lots or to make a donation visit:

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