First Person: Jess Forrest
Leftenant Colonel Wayne Forrest has served over 30 years of service for the Royal Engineers, and as a result received an MBE for his commitment, dedication and ultimate talent in the job. He first joined at the tender age of 19 as a soldier and was promoted to a paratrooper a few years later. He then became an officer, then Captain, then Major soon after and finally earned his official title of Leftenant Colonel Forrest MBE in January 2012. Jess Forrest his 19 year old daughter re-lives the day she visited Buckingham palace to watch her dad collect this prestigious award.
Interview by Natasha Pilling
Thursday January 10th 2012. It was like any other morning in the Forrest household, the dogs where barking to go out and the kettle has just about boiled so I could make a cuppa before I left for the long drive to London. I remember panicking like anyone does about forgetting something, as I knew how important this day was to me and wanted it to be beyond perfect. I kept imagining what would happen when the time came and thinking back about the letter my dad received from Buckingham Palace a few weeks before, printed on a gold trimmed yellow card it was. It read ‘You and 2 significant others are formally invited to Buckingham Palace in London to collect an MBE award for your Service for the Royal Engineers’.
I sat in the car ready to go in my 5inch heels and my tight-fitting designer dress I saved up for months to buy for the occasion. I don’t know whether it was the dress that was restricting my breathing or the nerves, he hadn’t even turned the engine on yet! I started to wonder as we got to the motorway who would be there, what they would wear, how would they sound. Was I overdressed, was I under-dressed? I was certainly still taken back with what was about to happen, but overthinking is what I do, I just couldn’t help but let me imagination run away with me.
We finally made it to London and despite the freezing weather and the deafening sound of traffic, my adrenaline was keeping me warm and numbing the sound of the busy city. All I could think about was the Queen, again overthinking, what would she be like, how would she dress, how would she sound. Would she smell of the latest Channel perfume or the kind of old furniture that sits in a library for years? We carried our bags into the entrance of our 5* hotel which was of course all paid for. We were only meant to stay for 1 night, but the stay was extended to 2 and our standard room was upgraded to the club lounge. WOW! Was I in heaven or what! The floors where all marble and hand painted, the staff where more posh than anyone I had come in contact with, EVER! And the free bar was calling my name. I knew I shouldn’t drink before meeting royalty the next day, but who in their right mind refuses a free bar? Far too many nervous drinks later, we decided it was time for bed as we were expected outside Buckingham Palace at 7:30am in the morning.
When we arrived outside, I find myself stood in awe at the gracious looking architecture that stood before me. I felt like I was a princess in a Disney film, but this time, I was with my knight in shining armour not looking for him. I crossed my arms outside the gate to warm up my body whilst waiting for something to happen. It felt like days before anyone from the palace even acknowledged us or anyone else waiting, but a few curious tourists did ask for our picture, I felt like a royal myself.
Eventually after about an hour we were taken in by some elegantly dressed guards in red, I tried to talk to one of them but he just kept looking past me like I wasn’t even there, I almost waved my hand in front of his face to get his attention. I looked above my head after walking about 100 yards into the palace and my jaw dropped as I saw the extravagant artwork that filled the walls. There were paintings as tall as 10ft long, couches that stretched for meters down the never ending hallways. I asked my dad ‘How many people live here again?’ he just chuckled under his breath and took hold of my hand surprisingly emotionless. Surely he was nervous, I was! My dad’s name was finally called and he took his MBE medal from The Queen while a 20 piece orchestra played a tranquil cover of a Beatles song. She didn’t say anything to him just smiled, a bit disappointed I didn’t hear her voice, but Im still amazed I got to see her in the flesh. He then shook Prince Charles’ hand, it was the proudest moment in my life, literally unforgettable and my dad was calmer than ever. He told Prince Charles’ he had worked with his son Harry in Afghanistan and Charles replied ‘Thank God for people like you!’