The inspired decision to invite a serving soldier to be guest speaker at the Guild’s annual Harvest Lunch may have raised a few questioning eyebrows – as it did with the speaker himself, Lt Col Hugh Campbell-Smith. But as the commanding officer of the Queen’s Own Yeomanry, a Reservist regiment, came to realise, there are numerous connections between the Army, rural communities and the farming industry.
“Food and water are essential, but unevenly distributed across the globe, and so have very often required protection or been the cause of conflict,” he pointed out. “If strategic global threat assessments are accurate, future wars will be fought over the scarcity of water and so I expect that the link between agriculture and the military will endure.”
In Afghanistan, the UK Government has invested heavily in trying to reduce poppy production for opium and replace it with more sustainable crops such as wheat by providing subsidised seeds and by establishing a new agricultural college.
“None of this is possible without the basic guarantee of safety – the first step that allows a farmer to turn his back on the Taliban,” said Lt Col Campbell-Smith. “This is the role of the Army and the Afghan Forces; but many British farmers have also assisted Afghans, including a farmer in Wiltshire with the Royal Yeomanry who has assisted in the role that I described above, but has also used his farm to run farming familiarity courses for soldiers so they can better understand their role in supporting Afghan farmers whilst protecting them.”
Lt Col Campbell-Smith also drew comparisons with the qualities required of a soldier and those who run or work in rural business, particularly farming: They are robust, independent thinkers and in many cases their employment is flexible. Working outdoors is the norm and early mornings are not an issue, he observed.
Anyone who brings those characteristics to a Reservist regiment such as the Queen’s Own Yeomanry get free training, with qualifications now being recognised in civilian life, that build on an individual’s existing strengths and experience, adding further layers of expertise, such as team-building capabilities and leadership skills that will be tested under extreme pressures.
Lt Col Campbell-Smith urged members and guests at the lunch to support any Reservists in their employment, to encourage others – and themselves – to consider joining, and to help communicate the mutual benefits of being a Reservist in the British Army to those who live and work in rural communities.