Did You Know: Every year the Official Farewells for warrant officers and senior NCOs from the Regiment is conducted at the Regimental Sergeants’ Mess. The first such occasion was conducted at the Regimental Sergeants’ Mess, at North Head, in 1975 and it is now an activity that is held annually by most corps’ within the Army.
In 1975 the then RSM of the School of Artillery, Warrant Officer Class One Don Donkin, was walking through the city of Sydney when he came across an old mate, a former WOI, who was just down from Brisbane and who’d recently discharged from the Army. During the ensuring conversation the mate mentioned that after 31 years service in the Regiment his ‘official’ farewell from the Army had been conducted by an Ordnance Corps major in a sergeants’ mess at Enoggera Barracks.
Don Donkin thought that this type of farewell was entirely inappropriate and unbefitting for a Gunner who had given so much long, loyal and dedicated service to the Guns. As a result and after a discussion with his Mess Secretary, it was decided to conduct an annual official Regimental Farewell for warrant officers class one who discharged with 20 or more years service. The first such Farewells was held in the Regimental Sergeants’ Mess that year (1975) and the mate in question, and two other former WOIs, all in attendance as invited guests, were formally recognized and thanked for their long and dedicated service to the Regiment.
A few years later the Farewells were amended to include the relevant qualifying warrant officers class two and senior NCOs, and then the Regimental Officers’ Mess began conducting a similar event for retired Gunner officers. This method of honouring former members was then quickly adopted by the Sappers and then the Infantry, and over time it spread across the Army.
Sadly the week before the 2008 Farewells a funeral was conducted in Brisbane for Tom Bandfield, a former Gunner warrant officer class one; Tom was the mate that Don had run-into in Sydney, back in 1975; the one who had been farewelled by the Ordnance Corps major.