AS a Dame, she is more used to standing on ceremony with the chains of office around her neck.
A representative of the Queen, you would think Hampshire’s Lord Lieutenant would be more accustomed to the most official of civic engagements.
But Dame Mary Fagan wasted no time in getting her hands dirty when she ditched her formal attire for Army combat gear and climbed into the driving seat of a Warrior armoured vehicle.
Sporting sunglasses, a beret and Army boots, Dame Mary was paying a visit to Hampshire soldiers from the First Battalion, The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1PWRR) – known as The Tigers – as they settled back into training after their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan ended last year.
The two-day visit to the battalion’s home in Paderborn, Germany, followed last summer’s homecoming parades when more than 300 troops marched through the streets of Southampton and Romsey, cheered on by thousands of well-wishers.
Dame Mary has close links with the The Tigers, who were formed following a merger of the Queen’s Regiment and the Royal Hampshire Regiment during the 1990s, and has paid them several visits, including a trip to Kosovo, on operations.
Her latest trip included a black tie dinner with officers and their wives before a whirlwind tour to meet the soldiers the following day as they practised live firing and demonstrated the Javelin portable missile system on the ranges.
Among those Dame Mary met was Lance Corporal Kyle Denham, 22, from Gosport, a former pupil of Bridgemary School, who said: “She told me that the whole county of Hampshire is behind us. It’s fantastic to have that kind of support.”
Dame Mary presented bravery awards to Lance Corporals Daniel Vincent and Robert Wells for their efforts in Afghanistan as well as the Brigade Commander’s Commendation to Corporal Sean Cartwright for the service he provided to families of the soldiers while they were deployed to the frontline between August 2008 and May 2009.
Speaking about the visit, Dame Mary said: “I had a super time, they really are a remarkable regiment. I have come away with a feeling of the overwhelming professionalism and dedication they have to their job.”