1st Bn Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
I thought you might be interested in the latest bulletin from Y Company First Fusiliers currently on Ex ASKARI STORM in Kenya.
Capt (Retd) A R G Harris
Assistant Regimental Secretary
Hello and welcome to the first Y Company Newsletter typed
in the hot and challenging climate of Kenya. I hope this Newsletter
is useful in providing you with a regular update of what the company
is up to. Our current deployment in Kenya is the first of three overseas
exercises that Y Company will undertake over the next 12 months so expect
a steady flow of these dispatches!
We will compile another Newsletter whilst operating from FOB TWIGA ready for sending out at the start of June. In the meantime, please enjoy this first edition and I wish all of you back home all the very best and I look forward to getting to know you over the next 2 years.
Major Alex Mills
The week in pictures
Notes from 8 Platoon by Captain Rob Whittle, 8 Platoon Commander
The first 10 or so days here in Kenya have been very fast paced,
and the Fusiliers have responded to with their usual look of absolute
distain and disgust. However, once we deployed into the field and away
from the RAF movement controllers the mood was raised. After a quick
36 hours in camp we deployed on an epic 6 hour infil/safari in the comfort
of the MAN Trucks, where upon reaching our destination (the middle of
nowhere) we set up our home for the next week. A ring of barbed wire
around a few trucks may not sound like much, and it isnt! It did
give the Fusiliers a sense of security however, as much from the locals
as from animals as proven when a certain other platoon commander decided
to demonstrate the effectiveness of the wire by getting himself trapped
requiring the services of one of his young Fusiliers to free
folks, dont try this at home!
Id like to take this time to say that it is an absolute pleasure commanding mature Fusiliers of this calibre and that you should be proud of your son or partner, as he really is earning his pay out here.
8 Platoon quotes of the week
Sgt Nick Smith: This is the worst yoghurt ever.
Capt Rob Whittle: Isnt that jam?
Sgt Nick Smith: (pause) Yes, yes it is.
Fus Tom Peek: But it had the cold, red, lifeless eyes of a killer (on being questioned as to why he fired a miniflare into the darkness).
Fus Ryan Hodnett: Just fire it, the platoon Sergeant will never find out (he did)
Fus Kristopher Stirling: Boss, didnt you say this exercise was going to be buckshee?!? (I didnt!)
Fus Annonymous: Fus Hogg; half man half turbo clip.
Foreword by the Commanding Officer
Lt Col J Swift
It has been another frenetic and demanding year split
between foundation training for BATUS and mission specific training for
our forthcoming tour to Afghanistan. The first few months witnessed the
First Fusiliers Battle Group conduct a series of conceptual and physical
exercises to build the team in preparation for Ex PRARIE THUNDER 1 in
BATUS. This period included some fast work by Y Company who successfully
converted to Bulldog in time for the deployment in May. The 28 day exercise
was professionally rewarding and I am pleased to report that the enemy
were solidly beaten. Meanwhile, X Company continued their development,
re-roling back into Warrior in support of the 2 RTR Battle Group for Ex
PRARIE THUNDER 2. Their performance also attracted many plaudits
that their good report resulted from the arrival of the new commander
in BATUS (my predecessor, Col Jim Landon) are completely unfounded! Last
year I wrote that I was excited with W Company's development of the armoured
infantry's Fire Support Group concept. BATUS proved a useful testing ground
of the concept and has placed the Battalion in a great position to exploit
this new capability in BATUS in 2014.
Operating Away From The Battalion
Photo 1: Members of 6 Platoon in routine during the CBRN and Defensive Phase
X Company provided the Armoured Infantry Company within the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment Battle Group (2RTR BG) for the majority of 2012. The Company found itself attached to the Battle Group from very early on in the New Year with rapid preparation being undertaken in order to deploy to Germany for two weeks of simulated battle in the Combined Arms Tactical Trainer and Command and Staff Trainer (CATT/CAST) hangar in Sennelager. There followed a frantic period with a number of exercises and further preparation for Exercise Prairie Thunder II and balancing all of this with specialist courses for the future deployment to Afghanistan in 2013.
With the deployment to Germany imminent the Company was busy with last minute preparations to assist in the smooth running of the coming weeks. Ensuring all crew members had the required information for the turrets but more importantly that the Company could crew all the vehicles was paramount. With the Company only having very recently moved back into the WARRIOR role after a lengthy spell as a light role company there was plenty to be getting on with. After a few days practising with the system and getting back into the AI mentality the Company progressed well through company level operations. A few problems were tackled as the Company adjusted tactics to suit the vagaries of the CATT system but these were rapidly overcome and the Company moved onto the Battle Group level operations. The Company performed extremely well during these operations proving they could be used in a variety of roles, be it the traditional rapid armoured delivery of dismounts onto positions or forming a delay and rather dogged defence against an enemy main thrust. A number of performances are worth mentioning with LCpl Daryl Barber stepping into the role of Warrior Sgt despite only just being a qualified vehicle commander and to LCpl Christopher Haggan for commanding the remnants of a number of platoons into a strong rear guard action that eventually defeated the enemy.
Photo 2: A Warrior crew learn the difficulty of attempting
to drive through marshy ground (crew to remain unnamed
Photo 3: Captain Matt Selby (2IC X Coy) taking the fight to the enemy (he must have been lost).
After Germany the Company deployed on a number of Combat Team (CT) 1 and 2 exercises both with an armoured and dismounted focus, ensuring they were ready for any eventuality when in their next port of call; Canada. Here the Company faced a problem due to being detached from the Battalion. Attempting to maintain a firm grasp of operating as an Armoured Infantry (AI) Company whilst juggling a multitude of Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs) on vehicle, weapon and command courses in preparation for deployment to Afghanistan proved to be a real struggle. Maintaining a priority and focus for members of the Company was the hardest part of it with many members flicking on a weekly basis between the two different requirements.
Deployment to Canada proved to be relatively simple
despite the best efforts of a variety of people and organisations. The
Company soon got into the swing of being in the middle of the prairie
by conducting basic low level refresher training alongside more advanced
tactical and contemporary serials. Running this training whilst simultaneously
preparing the WARRIOR fleet to deploy back into the field for another
month meant a hectic week or so prior to deploying. The 2RTR Battle Group
consisted of a multitude of cap badges with large numbers of "tankies",
infantryman and supporting assets all represented. The Company instantly
assumed the role of ensuring they demonstrated why the Fusiliers have
a reputation second to none.A very intensive live firing package started
the exercise and the Company responded well on all weapons systems. The
training was progressive and despite a number of inexperienced personnel
within the crews and dismounts the Company excelled itself and performed
to a very high standard. The shoots were varied and covered such things
as defence of a Forward Operating Base (FOB) through to complex Company
/ Squadron Group attacks on dug-in enemy bunker positions stretching over
Photo 4: FOB Defence with Cyclops Squadron 2RTR.
Photo 5: 4 Platoon enter the intricate defensive network in the enemy village.
The focus soon switched to the Tactical Effect Simulator
(TES) where the BG was up against the already defeated (from Ex Prairie
Thunder I) 2 LANCS BG. Valuable information was gained regarding the enemy
positions, tactics and key personalities. The whereabouts of this information
was never established, but the name of the ex-"Kingo" Lt George
Eid (OC 4 Pl) was thrown in the mix and he swore it was by honourable
means! Needless to say the Company provided the BG with many outstanding
victories most notably the defence of M37 alongside Cyclops Squadron and
the rapid complete destruction of the enemy BG in the villages of Tarmek
and Tondoz. With the TES taking full effect there were many noteworthy
performances by the JNCOs within the Company who all stepped up to the
mark with excellent command and tactical skills helping to ensure mission
Photo 6: LCpl Aidrean Salem showing that CBRN doesn't
have to be all doom and gloom!
Photo 7: X Company breaking into the village of Tondoz.
Photo 8: 4 Platoon clearing through the village of Tondoz.
Photo 9: X Company - Ex Prairie Thunder II.
The X Company Training Year
For X Company the past year of training has been both colourful and challenging. In November Lieutenant George Eid had the dubious pleasure of taking a Platoon of X-Men to Kenya on Exercise ASKARI THUNDER 4, attached to 2RRF. If operating in the light role in such harsh, unpredictable conditions, over the unforgiving terrain of the Nanyuki Plains was not challenging enough, the Platoon also had to contend with the perils of East Africa's fearsome array of dangerous species; the men would not have been disappointed had the deployment been advertised as a safari. Fusilier Martin Wilson was unfortunate enough to be bitten by a snake which, luckily for him, was firing blanks and did not inject any venom. On returning to the exercise after receiving medical treatment he went straight back into Indiana Jones territory and narrowly avoided stepping on another snake. Thankfully, Fusilier Wilson's animal magnetism did not extend to big cats, although another callsign did report that they were stalked by lions whilst lying in an ambush! In another near miss a stampeding buffalo almost crossed paths with the Platoon as they tabbed into their final attack; happily, the prospect of meeting X Company's finest was more than enough to deter the errant beast.
X Company remained with 1RRF up until January of this
year when it was again detached to 2nd Battalion The Royal Tank Regiment
(2RTR) Battle Group prior to deploying on Exercise PRAIRIE THUNDER 2 in
the British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS), Canada. The Company enjoyed
more than one excursion onto The Plain where it was tested on, amongst
other things, the finer points of Chemical Biological Radiological &
Nuclear (CBRN) contingencies i.e. crews manoeuvring 25 tonne Warrior Armoured
Fighting Vehicles in the black of night wearing steamed up respirators,
sweltering charcoal-lined suits and rubber gloves so unwieldy they would
make the operation of the Warrior's computer system an ordeal for any
MOD stenographer, let alone Lieutenant James Gilbert [pictured] with his
Photo 10: Lt James Gilbert working hard on Exercise!
Notwithstanding extended periods of confinement inside
the vehicles, Corporal John Wells [pictured] managed to bypass the protective
equipment, receiving a significant dose of UV rays and ingesting an unhealthy
quantity of carbon-coated meat courtesy of Company Quartermaster Sergeant
Chris Fenwick. In another bizarre feat Lance Corporal Craig Hodson became
the first person ever to perform a somersault and half twist from a Warrior
wearing full CBRN suit and respirator; he was granted leave to prepare
for a late entry into the London Olympics but sadly was edged out by Tom
Photo 11: Cpl John Wells proving that a Geordie can get sunburn in any weather!
Later in the year, after a solid performance in BATUS,
X Company returned to 1RRF Battle Group and began the long process of
Mission Specific Training (MST) for HERRICK 18 in Afghanistan. Late in
September the Company deployed to Lydd and Hythe Ranges for an intensive
week of live firing. Beginning with zeroing weapon systems and going all
the way up to a live complex compound clearance. The package was a fantastic
kick start to MST and began the evolution from hybrid Armoured Infantry
tactics to an Afghanistan-specific focus. The men were given ample opportunity
to play with new weapons systems, including the Sharpshooter Rifle and
the Combat Shotgun which they fired in Captain Tom Phillips' intriguingly
named 'Penetration Demonstration' range. Despite the obvious innuendo,
this was actually a showcase of the ballistic capability of the British
Army's weapon systems. Most coped extremely well and Fusilier Chris Haggan,
amongst others, looks set to become a formidable sharpshooter (especially
against melons). Fusilier Andrew "Gary" Barlow, however, needs
to compensate for his short stature and aim a little higher with the Under-slung
Grenade Launcher (UGL) to avoid engaging sandbag walls!
Photo 12: Sharpshooter vs Melon
All in all X Company has had a fulfilling year of training and the learning curve has been steep but rewarding for all. The Company looks forward to continuing MST in 2013 before putting their skills into practice in Afghanistan in 2013.
1 RRF Skiing Expedition
The time had come for the sequel to Ex ALPINE HACKLE 2, conveniently named Ex ALPINE HACKLE 3! The location for this adventure training exercise was the rough and ready Les Deux Alpes in France. The exercise aim was to introduce up to 15 members of 1 RRF to Alpine Skiing in a French resort. First-time students would gain their SF1 award. The exercise also aimed to develop planning ability, leadership, team work, physical fitness, mental robustness and contribute to unit cohesion. Before the group could leave from Gatwick airport Sgt Lee (Chuck) Morris was at hand to issue all of the new ski kit with the help of 1 RRF's very own skiing instructor Sgt Scott (Den) Healey. This seemed to go very smoothly until it was found later that Fus Keiran (Wardy) Ward spent a full day skiing with two left boots! After a short flight and a bus ride the party arrived at La Muzzelle apartments, inside each room were two bunk beds and a sofa bed accommodating 4 men in total. The group was content as the shout came down the corridor from Fus Tyrell Knight: 'So much room for activities!'
After settling into the rooms, giving out CILOR and
preparing skiing kit for the next day (with the exception of Fus Ward!)
there was some much needed down time and a chance to sample the delights
of the resort!
Photo 57: Get ready for the first run!
The first training day had arrived. After what looked
like a scene from 'Cool Runnings' where the group came outside, realised
it was cold then ran back in for warm kit, the Fusiliers hit the slopes.
The group was split into three groups from beginner to pro and headed
off for the week to conduct the training. The speed at which the beginners
turned into pros and the pros turned into legends was quite amazing with
the exception of Fus Tyrell Knight who was soon after known as "Bigfoot
on skis". As per any organised activity with a group of men there
were a few rebels who knew better than the instructors and thought they
were the new ski jumping champions (mainly Sgt Lee Morris and LCpl Marcus
Granaghan). This did not turn out very well for LCpl Marcus Granaghan
who ended up being CASEVACed off the piste (but who is now recovering
well). Apart from the occasional bump the expedition turned out to be
very successful, it certainly met the aims and was thoroughly enjoyed
by all who took part.
Photo 58: Taking a break on the slopes.
It's been a busy period for Y Company since the last edition of the Fusilier (it appears compulsory to start articles with words to this effect), with the Company continuing to meet a myriad of diverse challenges head-on and with great spirit. The year began with conversion from WARRIOR to BULLDOG vehicles in preparation for Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER. This period was characterised by much wailing and gnashing of teeth as everyone got to grips with 1960s armoured vehicles (albeit a 'pimped up' variant), bemoaned the lack of powered rear doors and more importantly worked out how to get most out of the BULLDOGS in the field. The conversion period was particularly busy for the tech team and vehicle crews as they had an uphill battle to get the inherited BULLDOG fleet up to scratch for training use.
Having converted to BULLDOG, the Company put them to
good effect on Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER in BATUS, covering huge swathes of prairie
to deliver troops close to (but not onto) their objectives, allowing Y
Company to get stuck into the various bits of complex terrain that BATUS
After some traditional on and off the bus action, Y Company were committed to the Olympics to assist with security after the much published shortcomings of G4S. This task was initially met with frustration as it impacted on IMST, involved some pretty turgid training and most importantly required some leave to be cancelled. It was, however, ultimately very rewarding once deployed on task to Hampton Court (see LCpl Collins-Cooper's article) and all agreed it was quite something to have been involved in the national success that was London 2012.
Having finished rubbing shoulders with Olympians (all of whom we spoke to were massively grateful and complimentary) the Company did get away for a decent stretch of leave and returned refreshed ready to start MST and really focus on Op HERRICK 18. The Company are now in the midst of the training storm and striving to get the most out of each and every event to hone skills and procedures. The training is very good, and the new equipment, which is gradually being issued, is excellent. All are now in the HERRICK zone and looking forward to the remaining challenges of MST and of course the Afghanistan tour.
As ever the Company has seen a significant change in
personalities; Major Edd Sutthery has departed to manage officers' careers
at Glasgow, Captain Luke Rowbottom has joined 5RRF as Adjutant, Lt Andy
Wellum-Kent was posted to 1 Bde HQ as AMA to the Commander, CSgt Lloyd
left for civie street and Cpl Chappell moved to W Company. Arrivals have
included Maj Chris Head as OC, Capt Ben Everson from X Company, Mr Roberts
and Bowkett fresh from PCBC, CSgt Gough from 2RRF and Sgt Fassett from
Photo 41: A fair well to Capt Luke Rowbottom!
1RRF Corps of Drums
(Photos saved in the "Journal Photos" word document due to issues with getting photos on the DII system )
What a busy year! firstly a welcome to the new Drummers;
Andrews, Black, Carter, Harford-Evans, Kilty, Mckissock, Shaw, Smith,
Varte, Watkins and also LCpl Emmerson-Scotchers, and welcome back LCpl
Collins-Cooper with his expertise on the bass drum, replacing Dmr Kershaw
whom is wished good luck on his posting to Recruiting Team North-West.
Cpl Jon Prosperini joined the Drums from 2RRF, and his experience has
already helped hugely. 2RRF's loss is definitely 1 RRFs gain on a Drums
Photo A: Cpl Jon Prosperini and Drum Major Craig Heneghan
It took some time and effort but the Drums is now fully manned and boasts 21 members. The year staerted in Bolton at the very popular "LADS AND GIRLS CLUB" boxing event. The Drummers stole the show and had the crowd on their feet clapping to "SET OF JIGS". This was a real eye opener for the new members. There were a couple of celebrities at the event including Amir Khan and Micah Richards who were both happy to meet the lads (although I'm not so sure the Man Utd supporters in the Drums were happy about Micah Richards the Manchester City defender). Dmr Walsh, a die hard City supporter, nipped off home to get some memorabilia to be signed. I raised an eyebrow when he returned with a seat from Manchester City's old home Maine Road! Micah signed the chair but was visibly amused at Dmr Walsh's request. Nothing surprises me anymore.
The Corps had a good couple of weeks free to rehearse after Canada, thanks to (the now departed) Capt Luke Rowbottom (COY 2IC) who had a real eye for the Drums, and always made time in a hectic training programme for rehearsals. He is now an honouree member of the Corps of Drums although that's as close as he will get having witnessed him try to play the side drum (sorry sir). It was an opportunity to rehearse some new routines which were presented to both Messes where it went down a treat. Several of the Officers, WOs and SNCOs stated that the current Corps the Battalion has ever produced (Ed; write to the Drum Major not mewith any comments you may have on this!).
The Corps conducted a short KAPE TOUR in the Bury area. This was pleasing to the likes of Cpl Greenhalgh, LCpl Reeves and Cpl Prosperini who live a short drive from Holcombe Moor. The first job was to march in front of the Olympic torch as it was paraded through the streets of Bury. It was amazing and the lads really enjoyed the experience. WO2 Joe Hayhurst (Y COY CSM) came along to show support and also took some pictures (which I have now been informed are copyrighted), he agreed it was an amazing experience. We finished the parade at the town hall and at this point were asked by a wedding party if we could play a short set for their special day!! This went down really well and the guests were treated to a twenty minute set.
The Drums supported the Football team tour around the North-East on Ex FLYING HACKLE, this was another great opportunity as it gave the now flourishing Corps a chance to really show off. They performed at numerous schools and venues but the highlight was visiting "Wet and wild", better known as "Splash Mountain" by the lads, this was headed up by LCpl Emmerson-Scotcher and the remainder of the Drummers donned their Speedos and acted like kids for a well-earned afternoon off!
There followed a job at the AHQ at St Johns House, Warwick. On arrival, however, the streets of Warwick were packed and the drums were actually expected to play at the Warwick Summer Classical Music Festival at Warwick Castle! Following the thousands of people in a disorderly queue the Drummers finally got into the venue. As the Drum Major I am an experienced Drummer and not easily unnerved, however, the Drums were asked to perform a set for 25 minutes on a stage the size of Glastonbury! After the Wives' Military Choir had performed, I showed the men the stage and the crowd of about 6000 that was gathering for the show. On this very stage the global superstar, Jessie J, had performed only 24hrs earlier, but they had seen nothing yet; now the Corps of Drums of the First Fusiliers were in town. The Corps marched onto the stage and faced up to the crowd who were applauding loudly. I was then about to direct the lads to play when I was passed a microphone by the stage manager and told to address the crowd. So in my finest Geordie I spoke to the huge crowd and told them a little bit of how Fusiliers do business. We played through the set and I have never received such a magnificent reception; nearly six thousand people cheered and clapped, Union Flags everywhere - I was very proud of the Drummers and I know some of them will never perform to a crowd of that magnitude again. It was a simply brilliant experience.
In short, the Drummers have gone from strength to strength. They have worked hard and can be proud of all they have achieved in the past year. They are certainly the best Corps I have ever been involved in during my 18 years as a Drummer.
The Corps must also say a short goodbye to LCpl Usher who is posted to the Infantry School of Ceremonial Music in Catterick as an instructor. He has been of great service to the Corps whilst I have been Drum Major and will be sorely missed, however, I will not miss his constant chatter revolving around his beloved Sunderland A.F.C. He will be back in two years time, in a way I personally will miss him as my team Newcastle United are still the North-East's number one team and I used to like reminding him of it.
My London 2012 experience
I really wanted to get my hands on a London 2012 ticket
to the men's individual time trial, but as you can imagine tickets weren't
very easy to come by! I've been cycling for a couple of years now, I'm
a massive fan of the sport and so really wanted to go to London and watch
it on my summer leave with my family.
Ex PASHTUN HAWK
Zulu Company has experienced a high degree of churn this year. But what has been unfailing is the quality of leadership. Despite the best efforts of some of the Chilean locally employed civilians, the Company, complete with Fus Griffin, returned from the Falkland Islands late in 2011 with a real swagger in it's step. The Falkland Islands proved to be a hugely testing environment for dismounted Infantry, as Fus Topping's interesting article below articulates.
The Company focus shifted to preparation for and deployment to BATUS for Ex Prairie Thunder 1. The early G4 effort from CSgt Lock and SSgt Coleman clearly paid dividends on the complex and testing Exercise. WO2 Stephenson's article on the AI perspective of Ex Prairie Thunder is well worth a read.
The Company's focus is now very much on Herrick 18. Mission Specific Training is well underway and there was a range package run for the Company by 2 LANCS at Lydd and Hythe ranges during September. The weather was fantastic as was the training. The Company perfected the use of Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) weapon systems, with some interesting and unique tips from WO2 (QMSI) Trainner from the SASC. Left handed, one legged single eyed fire positions with the Sig Sauer pistol were all new to Company Headquarters!
The new TES (H) Warrior (Warrior upgrade package) is incredible and has inspired a huge degree of confidence among Zulu in its capability. The Company has welcomed Sgt McQueen from Y Company for the tour to 'the Dirty Dozen' (12 Platoon) as their Warrior Sergeant and congratulations on promotion go to Sgt White as 'the Snails' (11 Platoon) Warrior Sergeant. Congratulations go to Cpls Brown and Lord from 'the Cutting Edge' (10 Platoon) on promotion to Cpl and Cpls Dixon (Snails) and Peel (Dirty Dozen) for the same achievement. The Company waved a fond farewell to Major Gareth Boyd and Emma, and is hoping they have a house in the USA by now! Farewells go to Sgt Oldham to FSG, Sgt Marshall to 4 Platoon and Cpl Falloon to the MT Platoon. A welcome to the new wider Company Group with new arrivals from Fus and Mrs Sonko, Sgt and Mrs Pike (twins!), Fus Keelan and his partner, Fus Crighton and his partner and Cpl Brown and his partner. We are keeping our fingers crossed for LCpl and Mrs Smith, due around the time of publication. A final mention must go to the Dirty Dozen, winners of the Platoon competition by a hair (of the dog!), much to the Snails and Sgt Wilde's disgust!
Photo F: Zulu Company in Lydd on completion of Ex Pashtun Hawk
Z Company in BATUS 2012
Z Company, along with the remainder of the First Fusilier Battlegroup deployed to BATUS (British Army Training Unit Suffield) in Canada in May 2012. By this stage the advance party had already been out in Canada working extremely hard to prepare the Warrior fleet ready to accept the main body. The CQMS (T) Colour Sergeant Paul Lock and the Tiffy Staff Sergeant Jase Coleman, along with their work parties, did a magnificent job and had the fleet to a very high standard meaning the Company had a significantly reduced maintenance work load prior to D Day.
Whilst the advance party were working their magic,
the rest of Z Company was back in Tidworth preparing for the deployment.
This took the guise of many tasks from Warrior Gunnery and Driving cadres
to rifle, LMG and GMPG ranges, amongst all of the other day to day Battalion
work. During this time the Company conducted a hugely successful Annual
Crew Test (ACT) package at the AFV Gunnery School in Lulworth. This was
due to the support received from the rest of the Battalion with Regimental
Gunnery Instructors coming from across the remaining companies.
Photo 15: The Warrior being put through its paces.
The training and preparation stood the company in good stead for what ultimately turned out to be a very successful PRAIRIE THUNDER exercise. On D minus one the Company moved to a leaguer location given by the BATUS safety staff and began preparation for the following day's whirlwind of ranges to get everyone in the company to the required start standard in the progression of training needed for the Exercise. On D Day, the company was involved in grouping and zeroing with bayonets fixed! Warrior Systems Performance Checks (SPCs), Close Quarter Marksmanship, LMG, GPMG and limit of night visibility shoots to name but a few!
During the following few days of firing the complexity of the shoots was increased by the safety staff at a considerable rate and the Company was subjected to a number of seemingly harsh debriefs from Major Campbell, who was the senior safety supervisor for the AI Company. To the untrained ear these may have seemed over the top but it was Major Campbell's way of squeezing every ounce of effort from the Company who subsequently obliged by achieving some very commendable results. It was during this time that the company conducted a dismounted company attack with a fire support group provided by four Warriors commanded by the Platoon Warrior Sergeants. The accuracy and fire effect from the Warriors was excellent and enabled the rest of the company to see what the Warrior can provide from a slightly different perspective. It was during this range that CSM WO2 Kev Brunksill certainly earned his pay! The company received no less than four no duff casualties that day. The first was Fusilier Kerr who managed to break his fall with his face and receive a very nasty injury in the process. Fusilier Crighton managed to step into a gopher hole and badly damage his knee. Fusilier Darroch collapsed with what looked like a very serious heat injury and the worst of the day was Fusilier Carr who collapsed with a very serious heat injury and it was only due to the excellent work of the CSM and the medics that he recovered so quickly and so well.
After the first maintenance day the company was given
a boost in its headquarters with the arrival of WO2, QMSI Kev "the
sugar goes there" Lacey. The QMSI became the gunner in 0C and within
a matter of minutes transferred the admin grenade that was the back of
the vehicle into the most organised picture of perfection ever seen!
Photo 16: Leaguering up for the night
As the company progressed through the training the pace of action slowed due to the complex nature of combined arms operations. This pace was quite surprising particularly to the old and bold who were used to the old "MEDMAN" exercise where 'bleeding eyes' from the ever present 18 hour moves was the norm! At the midway point in the exercise the Battlegroup moved into a leaguer where it transitioned from live fire to TES. This period was also used as battle procedure for the up coming series of missions where the Company would be fighting against a live enemy who were absolutely intent on defeating us!
On the evening prior to the start of the first mission the Commanding Officer addressed the Battlegroup and delivered a particularly powerful battle speech and left everyone in no doubt that the Fusiliers were to do what it took to win.
It was during the TES phase that the command and control
of the sub units was tested to the extreme as there was no longer the
safety constraints of live fire and therefore the missions became even
more complex. It was no longer a mass manoeuvre to a FUP then assault
two up and destroy all enemy within boundaries. Now we had to deal with
the complexity of the hybrid environment. The company now had civilians,
armed insurgents, foreign army, local police and IED's to consider to
name but a few of the complexities On a number of occasions the Company
demonstrated the flexibility of Armoured Infantry by manoeuvring at speed
across large distances to move in and support other sub units in their
missions at very short notice.
Photo 17: The action through the thermal sight
The TES exercise was a brilliant opportunity for both the vehicle commanders and dismounted commanders to gain some vital experience and become very familiar with their roles and responsibilities particularly as Zulu Company has been chosen as the Armoured Infantry Company for Op HERRICK 18.
The experience gained in Canada will serve the Company
well on deployment to Afghanistan in early 2013 .
Photo 18: The Battalion in BATUS
12 Platoon in the Falklands
Photo G: Welcome to the Falklands
Shortly upon arriving in the Falklands, 12 Platoon was dispatched to Onion ranges by helicopter (which was the first time on one for many of the platoon) for one week to perform live fire team, section, and platoon attacks at both day and night. Unfortunately on several days the ranges had to be cancelled due to the RAF rescue helicopter not being available (Ed; nothing changes!), on those days the Platoon focused on PT! The accommodation wasn't all bad, the worst thing about it for many of the lads was no internet or phone line, though a huge case of morale was a Chilean man nicknamed "handlebars" who understood the squaddie sense of humour.
The next tasking was patrolling around the Falklands visiting the capital and farmers to keep up relations with the local population and do recces of the beaches and surrounding areas in case of an invasion or SF infiltration. Patrolling through the Capital was bizarre as locals stopped their cars, got out, shook our hands and offered their thanks and then continued on their journey. The locals on these islands are more patriotic and proud to be British than 90% of the population of the UK.
One Patrol which stands out in the memory more than others was due to a little old lady we stayed with. Mr Gay asked permission for us to stay on her land during a patrol but she refused to let us sleep outside and opened up her house and cooked everyone a roast lamb dinner but apologised as she didn't have enough plates so asked that we use our mess tins. The fight to get to the front of the queue for scoff was epic! As a favour for letting the patrol stay they spent a full morning working on her land, doing odd jobs and giving her left over rations which she appreciated. (Ed; if an MOD accountant sees this there will be trouble and she will probably be billed!)
Towards the end of our tour in the Falklands an exercise
took place which involved all branches of the Armed Forces. The Platoon
moved in the cargo hold of a ship in order to do a night beach landing
in preparation for the main attack the next morning which was supported
by the RAFs Typhoons. The food on board was amazing and far better than
the cookhouse at Tidworth.
Ex ATLAS FUSILIER
After a few hectic weeks surrounding the Battalion's completion of Exercise PRAIRIE THUNDER in BATUS, ten of the Company were fortunate enough to fly to Morocco in order to complete a trekking route around the Atlas Mountains.
With the hard work planning the expedition already
done by Lt Alex Gay, who was sadly unable to go, the group arrived in
the mountain village of Imlil, from where the trek would begin. Pleased
to be in the relative cool of the mountains and having met our guide and
general 'go-to-guy', Amzil, we finalised the route with some very serious
looking, moustachioed policemen. Satisfied that we did not pose too big
a threat to either ourselves or the locals they handed us over to our
Moroccan Army 'babysitters' who would join us for the trip.
Photo 19: The intrepid Team!
The trek was to take six days in total and provided
the group with the opportunity for physical challenge, as well as a welcome
change of scenery from the all too featureless prairie of Suffield. In
addition, it was the first time many of those present had experienced
a way of life so starkly different from our own, and perhaps not so different
to one which the next year will expose us to under more testing circumstances
The final day of the route started before dawn in order
to complete the bulk of the climb before descending to Imlil. The views
were spectacular and there was ample opportunity for posed photographs
with the Moroccan Army contingent who had decided to change into uniform
just for the occasion!
Photo 20: Almost at the top!
On Thursday 20 September 2012, Z Coy, 1RRF ran a Military Skills Competition with all Platoons taking part in the day's events.
The day consisted of five stands predominantly geared towards the recent Afghanistan training which the Company had under taken.
The first stand was a kit inspection and a Military Knowledge Quiz with the three Platoons being given different time slots within which to report and present their equipment. Once this was complete personnel moved on to the Battle Exercise stand. Personnel were presented with an IED strike on a Warrior tracked vehicle. Within the vehicle soldiers found two causalities and were expected to carry out first aid as well as casualty extraction and vehicle recovery.
The next stand was a 4 mile, loaded, timed march conducted at Platoon strength with a live shoot once the march was completed. The shoot was carried out over varying distances with the targets falling when hit. Once the day's outdoor stands were completed all personnel assembled in the NAAFI for the final stage of the events which were fun based. Selected personnel from each Platoon took part in a FIFA football game whilst the remainder of the Company enjoyed a couple of sociable beers and a BBQ. At the culmination of the FIFA football game it was decide that as the scores for the day were very close between two of the Platoon's that a final event should be conducted. It was decide that a Boat Race between selected members of 11 and 12 Platoon would be run to ascertain the overall winners. A close run event but 12 Platoon were the eventual overall winners taking the final event by the narrowest of margins.
The day's events proved to be a fantastic success confirming Platoon skills as well as identifying points which require future development. The day was a great team building event both for the Company as a whole as well as the individual Platoons. The combination of Military Skills as well as the fun element ensured that all enjoyed the day whilst also establishing a sense of Platoon identity.
As a previous member of W Company, returning as OC was like putting on an old, comfortable jacket, albeit one that was slightly older than the other jackets, slightly baggier, definitely smellier and one didn't necessarily want to dig into the recesses of the pockets. The Company has been through a significant amount of churn over the last 12 months, CSM Collins mournfully informed me that I was the 4th OC he had had to break in, shortly before he himself left for a post as RQMS at the Infantry Battle School. The RCWO could no longer take the strain of catering for OC Mortars, Capt Atkinson, who was sent to Kabul, where, if the photos are to be believed, writing ANSF AI doctrine is principally achieved through the medium of drinking tea and eating cakes. In came Capt Stu Richardson, fresh from achieving full manning across the Regiment as the RRO and relieved to have the Regimental Secretary's foot off his throat. (Ed: as I recall it was a knee not a foot)
The annual butcher's bill for W Company had gone out in December 2011, and by January 2012 there were a significant number of new W Company recruits. Not all of the 'volunteers' were downgraded with significant G1 problems, the Rifle Company Commanders had actually let some real quality slip through their fingers! An intensive cadre period followed with the Recce Pl proving that one has to earn the right to wear the black cap badge, the Mortar Platoon running a Numbers and Executive's cadre and FSG re-roling from a JAVELIN Pl to an FSG complete with HMG, GMG and GPMG SF. Snipers sniped and the cadre period provided an excellent opportunity to ditch the softies and shemaghs from the LWC BG role, particularly if they hadn't deployed on Op FIRIC, and engage in core Fire Support Company tasks.
There followed a 2 week live fire exercise in Dartmoor, providing an opportunity for the Platoons to get to the start standard required for BATUS. The post exercise report, as backbriefed by OC Recce, ran along the lines of:
'Dartmoor? Cold but not particularly wet, and although the CFT was a bit cheeky, 'One-Armed Clark' from Mortars, who had been on the biff for the last 4 years, managed to pass. (Ed: to translate for our older readers; 'a bit cheeky' = demanding, 'on the biff' = sick)
There was of course slightly more to it and getting to the start state for BATUS, as well as undertaking some typically robust PT courtesy of CSgt Hills, provided an excellent opportunity to bond the Company and shake out the legs prior to deploying to Canada.
After reminding the Mortar Pl to breathe in, breathe out and repeat for the next 6 weeks, managing to find the Recce Pl and Snipers, and realising there was no doctrine for employing an FSG out of WARRIOR, the Company deployed on Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER 1. Despite the change in nomenclature, some elements of the exercise were reassuringly familiar to large swathes of the Company who recalled the MED MAN exercises with fondness - the inevitable discussion about the altitude level after the first PT session, the scores of soldiers trooping down the Jenner Highway to get fleeced in the CANEX (like the NAAFI, but slightly better) and the hard yards put in on the Dust Bowl prior to deploying.
W Company trialled a variation on a theme, a Recce
Group of Snipers on quads (great when the sun was shining, not so composed
when it was lashing it down) the Recce Pl in CVR(T) (when they weren't
in the ECCP) and FSG in Warrior. The concept was straightforward, a Recce/Sniper
FIND, followed by an FSG FIX, with the phenomenal amount of firepower
available to them. The concept certainly worked in practice, enabling
the BG to generate some real momentum. The FSG developed AI FSG TTPs as
they went along (see related article). The Snipers also worked especially
hard to integrate their quad-borne expertise into the All-Arms battle.
They had significant effect, especially as the exercise moved into the
stabilisation phase. The Mortars certainly flexed their muscles, firing
over 3000 rounds during the live fire phase, with OC Mortars getting particularly
excited when a Rate 12 (12 rounds a minute; Mortar nirvana for anyone
who is not actually loading and firing the mortar every 5 seconds. Not
sustainable in the long run) was called for. The Hybrid Foundation Training
element of the FORM cycle certainly stood the Company in excellent stead
as it embarked upon collective Mission Specific Training on return from
Photo 49: Fus Martin Grenfell looks out from his HMG position
Inevitably some elements of the training have been better than others; however highlights so far have included a very good range package in Lydd and Hythe, with the Compound Clearance range being a particular favourite.
With the amount of churn over the past year, there
have been too many new faces assigned in and out to mention all of them.
However, particular mention must be made of the departure of WO2 Collins
to the Infantry Battle School and Capt Mulira to 2IC Z Coy. In their place
are welcomed WO2 Tarbuck, fresh from ensuring that the Somali's have regulation
length sideburns and salute to a flank and Capt James Ranger. Particular
congratulations must also go to Judith Clarke for making an honest man
out of Fus Clarke.
Photo 42: "It was like this when I found it!" - Capt James "Jimmy" Ranger OC FSG
Despite a busy training year and being Op OLYMPIC'd, the 1 RRF Officers' Mess has managed to organise and host a few functions with the flair, panache and style associated with First Fusiliers Officers, showing off the superb Mess in the process. Highlights of the year include hosting the Mercers' for dinner, some of whom showed the subbies exactly what is meant by the 'work hard, play hard' mantra. As his final throw of the PMC dice, Mark Milne organised a particularly classy Ladies Dinner Night, at which the CO was introduced to champagne cocktails and for which he has demonstrated a predilection ever since. After several false starts, the format for the Summer Ball was decided upon, invitations issued, guests sourced from around the country and the decoration of the Mess about to begin when the balloon went up and the Battalion chefs were required for the Olympics (feeding the troops on Op OLYMPIC, not competing) .although the G4 tail should not wag the G3 dog, a Summer Ball without food would have been distinctly sub-optimal and the decision was reluctantly taken to cancel it.
A very successful Minden Dinner night, attended by officers from the 1 RRF HERRICK 18 Battlegroup, and preceded by a quite special performance from the Corps of Drums, took place just prior to Summer leave. Roses were consumed with gusto, with Comd 1 Mech Brigade earning a commendation for enthusiasm. Prior to the evening, there were several frantic phone calls to Celle by those who had joined us from 2 RRF, adamant that they had eaten a rose previously - the PMC took a lenient view and determined that faxed photocopies of their entry in the 2 RRF Rose Book would suffice as proof. As pointed out, however, by 2IC Y Company, the QMs name is mysteriously absent from the 1 RRF Rose Book but the QMs word as an officer, and the fact that it never pays to annoy the QM (Ed; a truism) was good enough for the PMC.
Despite a hazy recollection from some in the Mess that the Duke of Kent actually has some connection to the Regiment (tip: he is the Colonel-in-Chief, George, and his picture is on the left as you walk into the Mess) the Colonel-in-Chief enjoyed lunch with his officers in September. Contrary to strict instructions regarding portion control, the excellent Officers' Mess chef, Cpl Lee, produced helpings that would have kept Capt Tom Atkinson busy for a week. The Colonel in Chief had no chance of finishing his lunch but seemed to enjoy it anyway. The livers-in have continued with themed nights, including a 'Barbecue in the Rain' theme night, to which those elements of the BG who had been with us in Canada were invited. Plans for the rest of the year include an Oktoberfest, for which the Ops Officer has dusted down his lederhosen already, and a Christmas Ball.
There have been numerous changes to the Mess ORBAT over the past year; we have bid farewell to Maj David James-Roll and Claire, Maj Edd Sutthery and Jen, Maj Gareth Boyd and Emma, Maj Tony Tuitt and Amy, Capt Mark Milne and Harriet, Capt Tom Atkinson and Ali, Capt Luke Rowbottom and Beth, Capt Tony Frank and Anouska, Padre Tracy Bateson and Jack and Capt Ben Buckingham and Sian. In their place we welcome Maj Chris Head and Helen, Maj Ollie Campbell and Monica, Maj Jim Skelton and Natasha, Maj Charlie Goldsmith, Capt Tom Phillips and Katie, Capt Del Snelling and Tina, Capt Paul Davies, Capt Debbie Waterman, Capt Ben Everson, Padre Gary Keith and Louise, Lt Adam Wooster, Lt Nick Wilcox, Lt Paul Mather, Lt James Gilbert, Lt Pat O'Hara, 2Lt George Hicks, 2Lt Edd Roberts, 2Lt Will Bowkett
Congratulations go to Capt Tom Atkinson and Ali, Capt Tom Phillips and Katie, Capt James Ranger and Holly and Capt Matt Selby and Julie for tying the knot and although the fashion for engagements is in temporary abeyance, we are expecting a few late runners and riders to bolt just before the tour (gentlemen, you know who you are).
First Fusiliers Fire Support Group (FSG) - Ex PRAIRIE
THUNDER 1 -
Photo 44: The men of W Coy enjoy the delights of Med Hat
D Day was a relief for Cpl Nick Preston as all his
hard work prepping the vehicles paid off and the Pl deployed in good order
to the furthest part of the ranges. There began an excellent special-to-arm
field firing package, both mounted and dismounted, which saw the FSG operate
independently and with Y Coy. This was an excellent opportunity to get
hands on all the weapons and see their effect in real time (less Javelin).
The blokes thoroughly enjoyed it, except Cpl Bowen who got rapidly "threaders"
with the banter about his barrel strike. The FSG tested and adjusted their
SOPs throughout, realising that trying to dismount even a four man team,
with GPMG SF or Javelin, from a Warrior and establishing a gunline quickly
is not as simple as it seems. Cpls Dean Goodyear and Nick Preston ensured
that equipment care was of the highest standard during the maintenance
days and in no time at all the combined arms live firing was upon everybody.
This saw FSG combine with the rest of the Recce Gp to support Egypt Sqn
and Z Coy in a deliberate attack, a delay battle and FOB defence. The
Recce Gp remained together for the subsequent BG Ops and the concept of
integrating FSG, Snipers and Recce worked well on the whole.
Photo 45: The FSG prepare a FOB defence
After an extensive TES fit, the Battle Group began the force on force phase of the Exercise. This was much more varied for the FSG as it was organised differently for each new Mission. Sometimes with the recce group, sometimes as teams supporting B and Y Coys, mounted and dismounted, it proved to be a challenging and demanding exercise for all. The highlight of this had to be the dismounted FSG callsign catching 2 LANCS armoured company unprepared in a leaguer, destroying all the vehicles with Javelin before they could identify the firing point.
Photo 47: Fus Michael Inglis celebrates his birthday BATUS-style
Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER 1 enabled the FSG to try new things
and develop SOPs in the hybrid environment. Warrior is certainly not an
ideal mobility platform for an FSG - it lacks the space to accommodate
the whole range of weapons and ammunition, has a very large signature
and has a very high equipment support burden, all of which limit it's
effectiveness in high intensity operations. However, the Platoon was able
to work with Warrior to minimise it's weaknesses and use its mobility,
organic firepower and protection to our advantage. After this, the Platoon
certainly has a much better grasp of its capabilities and the best TTPs,
all of which will help us as we move onwards and upwards into MST.
Photo 50: Covering the arcs!
I write this having been sat in the OC seat for approx one month, during this time I have been attempting to learn the 226 faces of the Company who are currently dispersed to the four winds. I would like to take this public opportunity to thank my predecessor Major Tony Tuitt in leaving me a Headquarters Company in excellent condition to inherit. He is currently on attachment in Qatar, but will return to the Battalion in Dec to say his farewells. The Company continues to go from strength to strength and there is a real buzz at the moment with the anticipation of the forthcoming Op HERRICK deployment. This has been an exceptionally busy year with the Company supporting the Battalion in various exercises, most notably Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER in BATUS. On the exercise the Company deployed A1 and A2 echelons for the first time in many years and it was to the complete credit of all concerned that the deployment of these two sub units was an outstanding success. A special mention must go to the MTWO, CSgt Andrews who deputised for the MTO as commander of A1 for a large portion of the exercise.
The Company has welcomed a new CSM, WO2 Kev Douglas from the Fifth Battalion and a Company 2IC, Lt Nick Wilcox from the Second Battalion.
Over the last year the Company has continued its relentless support to the Battalion and has been fundamental to the success of key events such as CAST and CATT, both conducted in Germany which involved the MT conducting an emotional move of over 300 personnel by coach to attend the two weeks deployment. In the middle weekend of CAST and CATT a conceptual study exercise to Bastogne was organised by the IO, which allowed the Company an opportunity to have a bit of down time as well as an opportunity for individual development. More recently the Company deployed to Lydd on Ex PASHTUN HAWK to conduct mission specific live firing, where the Company HR senior, Cpl Ruggins put most of the Company to shame with her aggression and enthusiasm, especially on the Sig Pistol. The period until Christmas will see elements of the Company supporting Bn activities including Ex PASHTUN LION (CAST) and PASHTUN PANTHER (CFX). After a well earned rest over Christmas the Company will start ramping up for the FTX and the subsequent deployment on Op HERRICK 18
We sadly say farewell to a large number of personnel, to civi street or on posting. There are too many to mention but all go with our best wishes and fond regards.
Since the last edition of the journal the QMs Department has been at the cusp of most of the Battalion's events notably Ex URBAN WARRIOR 3 in Southampton, the Combined Arms Demonstration on Salisbury Plain and lately Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER 1 in BATUS.
The QMs Platoon was given the task of providing real life support for over 400 exercising troops during Ex URBAN WARRIOR 3 which included building a tented camp for 200 soldiers. With assistance from members of X Coy, WO2 (RQMS) Rutherford and CSgt McNally erected the tented camp in less than a day. As you can imagine the Sea Mounting Centre is a very windy place at times being so close to the sea and it was the call that the QM had been dreading when two of the tents had upended themselves and crashed down on the remainder of the camp. Luckily there were no injuries and a bit of re-building allowed the tented camp to be reoccupied.
During the Combined Arms Manoeuvre demonstration it was the Catering Platoon who was predominantly on show with the exception of Z Coy and Egypt Sqn who provided the exercising troops. Each unit within the Bde was given a different demonstration to conduct and all visitors including some high profile officers had to be fed both breakfast and lunch. As always the event became a bit of a cook off with each catering platoon trying to out do the other. WO2 (RCWO) Wood and all his chefs, as always, provided the ultimate bacon and sausage rolls followed by the mother of all lunches which satisfied the spectators before making the long journey home.
The department's focus then switched to Canada and
Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER 1. Deploying earlier than the main body the QM(T) Capt
Mark Webster along with a substantial technical team arrived in BATUS
to start the activation of some 340 platforms which had been sat around
during the winterisation period. It was credit to him and his team that
the BG deployed on the prairie in good order. What was more impressive
was the team had only five days to prepare and handover the same platforms
to 2 RTR BG for their exercise. This was achieved and the BG recovered
to the UK successfully.
Photo 21: The Geordie stop sign "Stop Areeeet!"
Elements of the platoon will deploy to Afghanistan on Op HERRICK 18 and will leave RQMS Wilkinson holding the fort back at the home base while Capt Webster will leave to take over as Quartermaster Second Fusiliers. We wish him all the very best of luck in his new role.
(From the document "Journal Photos")
"Another year in ComBAT "
Building upon the successes of previous years, the 1RRF CIS Platoon (Ed; Signals Pl in old money) has continued to provide service to the Bn wherever it has been deployed. The Foundation Training year has provided another opportunity to extend the corporate knowledge of ComBAT and push BOWMAN to the extremes of what it can do. Building on skills developed and learned on the Combined Arms Staff Trainer (CAST), and practiced during exercises in the Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (CATT), then successfully executed during BATUS on Exercise PRIAIRE THUNDER 1. Sgt Cliff Kendrick, the BOWMAN Systems Manager for the 1RRF BG takes up the story, and explains how BATUS went from the Headquarters point of view:
"After a few days on the tank park with the BG Plug Up (Ed; establishing comms) going as smoothly as could be expected, the BG and BG Main in particular were ready to deploy onto the Prairie. Sgt Ross Baston had other ideas and managed to stab himself with a penknife whilst falling from a Bulldog vehicle - only to receive life saving surgery from the RSO ( he removed the knife, and applied a FFD what a hero!). The first move could have been smoother with only 50% of the callsigns making it to the first set-up location. After the LAD had come to the rescue the Platoon managed to complete setting up Main and ironed out any outstanding problems.
During the live fire stage BG Main moved a few times so that they could practice where and how things fitted into the vehicles. Before we started the next phase of our training we managed to lose the RSWO, but fortunately the other 3 SNCO's were able to pick up the slack and some would even say we performed better without him! The test phase started with the complete destruction of BG Main, although somehow 11A driven by Fus Hutchinson managed to escape. Returning from this disaster we deployed onto the defensive phase, in which our role was mainly static. We managed to make it back without further mishaps and initiated the rehab procedure. With a lot of help from the tech team all went well and was handed over in good order, ready for our flights out after another successful BATUS."
From a sub-unit point of view, it was also excellent to see the full and effective use of BOWMAN and ComBAT. LCpl Luke Vickers, the Regimental Signals Detachment Commander (RSDC) for Z Company explains how the exercise was for him, and his company:
"I deployed on the activation party 4 weeks before the exercise started, and with the rest of the company took over 16 Warriors and an FFR. Winter maintenance had taken place on the vehicles but there were still issues, mainly concerning data, that needed resolving.
The first week of the exercise was company level training which gave me an opportunity to test Automatic Situational Awareness (Auto SA) on our manpack radios. This feature allows anyone with ComBAT to see the movement of the troops on the ground. In order for this to work, a GPS is fitted to each radio, which then automatically reports its position across the Net. The main issue was the extra drain on the radio batteries that the GPS caused. I had to change my power management plan and put charging units into every vehicle so they could charge their own batteries when needed. The exercise itself went smoothly and we maintained robust voice and data communications for the entire exercise. We found out later that we were the only BG to have ever achieved this.
I consider PRAIRIE THUNDER1 a complete success at BG and company level. The main thing I took away from it was that the more communications training you give a company, the more confidence they have in the kit and equipment. This means they also take a more active interest in maintenance, freeing up the Coy 2IC's and my time to spend in company headquarters maintaining communications to BGHQ."
A successful Ex PRAIRIE THUNDER set up the CIS Platoon to return to the UK and begin preparations for Operation HERRICK. The developing reliance on ComBAT and BOWMAN in theatre will mean that we will continuously be thankful for, and draw heavily upon the difficult lessons that we learned in BATUS. To assist the Platoon as it moves forward towards operations, we have welcomed a Royal Signals Infantry Support Team (RSIST) of 5 signallers, headed up by Sgt Mike Jones. These will complement the Rear Link Detachment (RLD) that we will receive in theatre. It is of particular note that one of the team has already proved his infantry credentials, with Cpl Stu Gray winning a coveted place in the Bisley 100.
Photo L: "Battlegroup Headquarters" - Not a small beast
Photo M: The First Fusiliers CIS Platoon takes a break on the dustbowl in BATUS
Photo N: Members of the RSIST team preparing a TacSAT on the dustbowl. You'll have to ask them how they managed to get a hackle behind "Jimmy"!
First Fusiliers Boxing
This season has been a very eventful and busy time
for the boxing team as they not only entered the Army Team Championships
but also continued their support to Bolton Lad's and Girl's Club and supported
a charity event in Warwickshire in aid of 'Fallen Fusiliers'.
Photo 22: The boxing team outside the Fusilier pub
The RIFLES believed they were on a come back winning
the next two bouts until Cpl Sandilands showed true grit and determination
to beat his Cruiserweight opponent whilst Fus Kelly finished the win 6
- 4 proving to all who the better boxers in the Bde really were.
Photo 23: Fus Peace winning the first bout against the RIFLES
After a short Christmas break the team travelled to everyone's worst boxing nightmare 3 PARA in Colchester. The weigh-in commenced on the 23 Jan and as the boxers stepped onto the scales it was evident to see from the various 1,2 and 3 PARA tattoos that this was going to be a hard fought competition. The team were not phased one bit by the home crowd and each and every one of them climbed into the ring and faced up to their opponents in true Fusilier fashion. First up were the Featherweights and what was hopefully an indication as to how the night would turn out. After producing some of the best technical boxing the crowd had witnessed Fus Knight put the Fusiliers into the lead but soon things did not go our way and with some dubious refereeing decisions the team went into the interval 3 - 1 down. After the break Fus Kelly braved an onslaught from his opponent and was unfortunately beaten on points. It was later discovered that he had in fact received a collapsed lung during the bout but continued regardless. LCpl Connally received some abuse from the home crowd but gave as good as he got when he stopped his man in the third round. The overall score of 7 - 2 did not reflect the commitment given by all Fusilier boxers on the night and the PARAs eventually went on to win the overall competition smashing 22 Engineers 8 - 1 in the final.
The team had only four days before they travelled to Bolton to aid the clubs annual charity event which they have done for the past 3 years in succession. Attended by Amir Khan it was evident to see that the Bolton club had chosen some good local talent to match the Fusiliers and although there were some outstanding performances from Fus Knight yet again, Cpl Reay and Fus Sedgwick the Fusiliers lost the contest for the first time in 3 years. It is with regret that we will be unable to compete and assist the club in 2013 due to operational commitments.
To cap the season off before concentrating on HERRICK training the team travelled to Warwickshire to compete in yet another charity event organised by Chris Sunner ex Second Fusiliers. The event in aid of 'Fallen Fusiliers' raised over £450 for the charity and finished the season for the First Fusiliers boxing team who will now not box again until 2014.
I would normally finish the article with a write up about the Hart's Medals Inter Coy competition but this year's competition was initially postponed and then cancelled due to Op OLYMPICS. I will, however, close the article to say thanks and farewell to CSgt Bennett who has coached the team for the past three years and leaves the Army for a future in Portugal. To all the team who proudly wore the colours of the First Fusiliers and produced the performances you did; well done! You should be proud of yourselves.
Ex BASTOGNE HACKLE
During HFT (Hybrid Foundation Training) 1RRF BG had to conduct a two week training package in CATT and CAST (Combined Arms Tactical Trainer and Combined Arms Staff Trainer respectively). Naturally, the BG was sent to the training facility in Sennelager, Germany rather then that in Warminster 40 minutes down the road. The true challenge lay not in the logistical feat of getting an entire Armoured Infantry BG to Germany and back but rather what to occupy them with during the middle weekend.
In order to maximise the training opportunity the weekend provided but also to ensure some down time occurred for the soldiers and officers undergoing the training, a Conceptual Study Exercise was organised to Bastogne to learn about and learn from the 'Battle of the Bulge' campaign that occurred during World War II in the winter of 1944 -45.
Provided with local historians and enthusiasts, dressed in what appeared to be part of Capt Stu Richardson's wardrobe and having watched countless loops of the Band of Brothers DVD whilst on the coaches the BG was well prepared.
The BG rotated through a number of stands over two days that emphasised certain aspects of both historical and modern warfare. A poignant point was the defensive stand which focused on Easy Companies defence of the wood line overlooking the village of Foy. It proved particularly atmospheric in the winter air as junior commanders discussed modern low level tactics with their men after a historical narrative from the local historian.
The conceptual study exercise proved that whilst the 'battlefield studies' of old may no longer be viable, with a little additional effort and imagination the soldiers involved can learn from the past and develop their current understanding of both doctrine and tactics in a Company and Battle Group
Sailing the Seven Seas!
As a man with numerous fears; heights, confined spaces, spiders, reptiles and deep water, not many adventure training pursuits give me the thrill of fun, least of all sailing. In fact, I actively try to avoid anything that involves swimming or immersing myself in water above head height, confirming my life motto of; 'if I was meant to swim I'd have fins.'
How was it then that early one morning in April I arrived dockside to undertake a week's introduction to Sailing? We were only a small group of five, perfect crew size for the 'Bold Fusilier': the Infantry's sailing boat. Fusilier Andy Barlow GM was to be our captain, with Cpl Lee Bowen acting as day skipper. My nerves were obviously showing, because he laughed and took me aside. He gave me a quick explanation of what we would be doing and how it was easy for people who had no sailing experience which seemed to calm my anxiety. We made our way to the boat and were given a tour, along with a brief description of what everything was and what it did. The clouds were darkening outside, and the wind picked up. Andy decided that the weather wasn't good enough for an inexperienced crew like us. So, instead, we took the opportunity to celebrate St. George's Day in good old fashioned Fusilier style!
Tuesday morning began with a few lessons on essentials like types of knot, parts of a boat, nautical terms, safety, and 'actions on' if an incident occurred. We were going to be sailing to Cowes, a seaport on the Isle of Wight, famous for its annual international yacht races. The sail was a lot smoother than I imagined it would be. It wasn't quite the 'Perfect Storm' scenario I had imagined, so I wouldn't be getting my George Clooney moment just yet. Roughly three hours later we noored up and I was surprised how new the port looked. Showers and toilets that were modern and working were a far cry from the pirate style shipyard I had expected. Dinner that night was spaghetti Bolognese, cooked by newly appointed resident chefs Lance Corporal Darryl Toone, and Fusilier Chris Smith. After the hearty meal, a good conversation, and a film, I climbed into bed. Maybe sailing wasn't going to be as bad as I had feared.
The next day began with a shower and a full English breakfast, the perfect start to any morning. We set sail again with our destination set as Portsmouth. The weather was okay, but a strong breeze was pushing itself around the port. About half an hour into the return journey, the wind had picked up ferociously and in typical British tradition had brought his good friend, Mr Rain. It became worse and worse until eventually Andy had to break out the storm sail. I had never clipped myself to something so fast before, but I refused to be forced to swim in the ocean. The boat was now rocking at such angles that I was certain we were going to capsize. The cocktail of fear and paranoia, mixed with three parts sea sickness had gotten the better of me. I leaned over the side, as far as I could safely, and threw up. Momentarily confused by the fact my sick was orange, I had failed to see Sergeant Michael Petrice taking photos of me in my hour of need. Typical, I thought, turning away to try and avoid the look of sheer joy spread across his face as a result of watching me empty my stomach into the sea. However, on the other side of me, were Darryl and Chris , apparently having their photo taken with me as a souvenir of some sort.
We made it to Portsmouth, alive and well (most of the
crew anyway). We cleaned what we could that night, and emptied the food
from the boat. Laying my head down for the last time, I swore to myself
I would never get back on a boat. Friday had brought us the gift of cleaning
the Bold Fusilier inside and out, and the cleaning of other equipment.
With our bags packed, we returned back to camp.
The Jordanian Honeymoon
When the Ops Officer is on the phone to you 2 hours after you land back in the country from your honeymoon you know that, despite his initial pleasantries, he isn't calling to find out how it went. There was a last minute trawl to conduct armoured ranges in Jordan leaving in 3 days and I was the man for the job (only fair since I had missed out on BATUS due to the wedding). With a quick re-packing of the bags and a hasty explanation to the new Mrs Phillips I was heading out to meet 21 Armoured Engineer Squadron on their confirmatory exercise prior to deployment on Op HERRICK 17.
Two flights and an 8 hour stopover in Amman found me arriving in Aqaba and being told that I had plenty of time to prepare the ranges as the first one wasn't until the following morning. I was to be conducting the confirmatory shoots for the Squadron's .50 calibre Remote Weapon Systems that are mounted on their Mastiff Armoured Vehicles none of which I had ever seen before. But thanks to the help of my 2IC, SSgt "Lovely Jubbly" Lovesey from 2RTR, I was quickly up to speed and looking forward to the chance to conduct training in a landscape that looked like an Indiana Jones film set .
We set to work constructing as many targets as possible from the HESCO and piles of industrial scrap that we had been given for the job and quickly learnt that bored engineers can be especially artistic behind the wheels of 10 ton armoured tractors. In Jordan even clearing the range danger area becomes an adventure when faced with 200 ft canyons and wandering bands of Bedouins not to mention the slightly unpredictable nature of the brakes on our Landrover.
It was our job to attempt to instruct the newly qualified gunners within the Squadron and put the crews through the most realistic training that we could, given the resources. Thankfully these resources consisted of an exceptionally large amount of ammunition and a healthy supply of high explosives which we were told would make effective simulated IEDs and battle simulations (which they most definitely did!). The initial ranges began by being extremely basic but as the gunners started to hit their stride we quickly bought in a number of additions including simulated road side bombs, close air support and enemy RPGs. It also became clear that SSgt Lovesey and myself weren't going to be allowed to enjoy the delights of Aqaba (Jordan's only seaside resort - within spitting distance of Israel) when we volunteered to run dismounted ranges when on our downtime.
Whilst there we even attempted to learn a little of the local culture when being hosted by the local unit of the Jordanian Defence Force, but the requests from the newly qualified military translator, that we should be trying as much of the local cuisine as possible, fell om deaf ears when he was bedded down with a severe case of D and V after only being in country for 3 days!
The ranges culminated in a 2 km long, Troop level, field firing range with battle simulations being provided by the very enthusiastic Squadron 2IC and integrated dismounted fire support groups. The Squadron was pleased and SSgt Lovesey and I returned home a little wiser and a great deal more sunburnt!
Field Marshal, HRH The Duke of Kent KG Visits the Battalion
On 19 Sep 12 the Battalion was visited by the Regiment's
Colonel-in-Chief, Field Marshal, HRH The Duke of Kent KG. He came to visit
the Battalion during preparation for the forthcoming tour of Afghanistan.
Hosted by the Colonel of the Regiment and the Commanding Officer, the
Colonel in Chief visited the Companies conducting training with the new
Combat Shotgun and the Sig Sauer pistol. As a keen shot The Colonel in
Chief couldn't resist trying his hand at the shotgun and Brigadier Paterson
was not about to pass up the opportunity either.
Photo 29: HRH The Duke of Kent
in action with the Combat Shotgun
With the gauntlet having been thrown down at the shotgun range the air of competition continued at the pistol range. After the first round of firing was declared a victory for Brigadier Paterson The Colonel in Chief called upon his aide to fire for him during the second round and cries of a 'fix' were heard from the Fusilier spectators. Undaunted, however, Brigadier Paterson took the second round also after scouring both targets to ensure that every shot was counted.
W Company then showed the Colonel in Chief the man portability of the Grenade Machine Gun and the C-IED skills that are being taught as a part of the pre-deployment training as they put their new gunners through their paces. He was intrigued to hear that the GMG could be carried by a three man team, but it was highly demanding physically and should only be attempted over a maximum of 400m.
Lunch was hosted by the Officers' Mess and then it was the turn of Z Company to show the capabilities of the Warrior and its mounted Section with the new Op HERRICK equipment. Finally the Colonel in Chief was invited into the Sergeants' Mess to present 7 Long Service and Good Conduct medals. The recipients were CSgt Ian Walker, CSgt Billy Hills, Cpl Steven Clough, Fusilier Paul Dodds, Cpl Kevin Haywood, Cpl Jason Rose and CSgt Craig Wright.
Before leaving he took the opportunity to talk to the wives of those receiving the award and the other mess members about their thoughts on the upcoming tour. No one could quite hear what was being discussed with CSgt Matt Gough but from the photo captured by the Battalion photographer it was obviously something that he felt very strongly about.
The Welfare Office
This year has been very busy but extremely rewarding from a welfare perspective providing the needed support to the soldiers and their families. The Office has said goodbye to Capt Dean Goldsmith (Goldie) who has moved on after 2 years of being the welfare officer to his new post as MTO. A sad farewell to the welfare SNCO Sgt Dave Kelly, who has now settled into civilian life after completing 24 years of loyal service in the Fusiliers. They are both thanked for their hard work in delivering welfare support and they are wished success in the future.
Capt Darren Robinson (Robbo) assumed the appointment of UWO in March followed shortly after by Sgt Micky Wade as the welfare SNCO and Cpl Dave Buckley as the welfare JNCO. The welfare team have worked hard to deliver a number of successful events over the year, most of which felt the effect of the Great British Summer! They included: an Easter egg hunt in the rain, Sunday lunches (with bingo!), A Queen's Diamond Jubilee tea party in the rain, Minden families' day (which was the first and last sunny day of the year), more bingo, children's Halloween and Christmas party and as I write this the preparations are well in hand and a boy band has been booked for the scariest event of the year the wives' Christmas party. What was I thinking?!
One of the highlights of the year was the first wives' exercise in over 6 years. Tewnty one of our Fusilier Wives deployed on a 36 hour exercise onto Salisbury plain and are now highly proficient in Drill (which was taken by Capt Del Snelling - he did after all have the female platoon at RMAS!) and CQB skills which were put to the test with paintball guns and some interesting versions of pairs fire and manoeuvre. The final day culminated in the transport not turning up - obviously! This could only mean one thing A 3 mile fitness competition with rifles and kit which included a hill, tyres, stretcher and a 50kg dummy! The ladies got round in good Fusilier style and were met by their families for a BBQ in Mooltan Barracks.
The lessons I have learned quickly in the role of UWO are: firstly, never include the word competition where women are concerned and most importantly never give them alcohol after midnight!
Since the last edition we have had a bit of a baby boom in the Battalion with 11 new arrivals. Keep them coming, they are all future Fusiliers in one way or another. Congratulations to the 16 officers and soldiers who have tied the knot over the year and a warm welcome to our new wives. I must take the opportunity to thank all of the members of the Wives' Committee, in particular Stacey Law-Williams, Miriam Swift, Marie Robinson, Libby Walker, Vicki Gallagher, Ange Wilkinson, Tracey Clough, Louise Keith and Lessa Ford. Finally, we now look forward to a challenging year with preparations well under way for H18. The welfare team will be well set to deliver the very best welfare package to all Fusiliers and their families. We will pull together in true Fusilier spirit and support each other.
Parachuting in 2012
CSgt Paul Ellis
During 2011 parachuting had been re-introduced as a regular Adventurous Training (AT) activity. It was not an unusual pursuit for the First Fusiliers, however, the move from Bad Fallingbostel to Tidworth had put it on hold for a while. Being located so close to the Joint Services Parachuting Centre, Netheravon (JSPC(N)) was something to be taken advantage of. The success of Ex FALLING FUSILIER 1, 2 and 3, 2011 had introduced 24 Fusiliers to the challenges of sports parachuting. 2012 was set to be a year to live up to. That said, we still managed to allocate time to the sport at intervals during the busy period of Hybrid Foundation Training (HFT) and Mission Specific Training (MST). It has been a year of successful jumps, refusal to jump and even parachute malfunctions!
EX FALLING FUSILIER 2012 kicked off this year's parachuting. In March six Fusiliers attended the Basic Freefall Parachuting (BFP) Course at JSPC (N). This is run as part of the Joint Services Adventurous Training (JSAT) Scheme. JSPC(N) is the home of the Army Parachute Association (APA) and has world class military parachute instructors. They have many years of experience in parachuting and have also competed at national and international level. That coupled with highly maintained equipment meant that the Fusiliers were in safe hands. However, this was the first jump for all 6 and the natural concerns about jumping from a perfectly serviceable aircraft began to manifest themselves. The BFP course uses the Ram Air Progression System (RAPS) as a syllabus where students are subjected to a minimum of 6 hours ground training followed by theory and practical testing on the first day. This is a mandatory requirement to confirm they are ready to conduct jumps that progress from jumping on a static line to freefall. Lastly there are manoeuvres to master before attaining the first qualification; the Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) Category A licence. It is highly unlikely that this can be achieved on one course but there is certainly opportunity to advance to freefall and that has been achieved by some this year. The group was lead by LCpl Hodson from X Company (Coy) who was nominated in my absence. He described his experience on the course as a buzz. LCpl Hodson plus Fus Francis and Fus Sarahs, both from Y Coy, all managed to progress off the static line to successfully complete the 5 second freefall. We had one Fusilier who discovered parachuting was not for him. He does not need naming but he knew before his first jump he didn't want to do it. He then conducted another jump just to make sure. Then just to be actually 100% absolutely sure he did another one. Parachuting requires courage and composure, and in my opinion, he had to dig deeper than the others. He has definitely earned his bragging rights. Well done that man. Apart from him, everyone else managed to conduct 10 jumps and it was reported that all Fusiliers thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.
At JSPC(N) members of the Armed forces pay reduced rates to pursue parachuting as a personal interest. After EX FALLING FUSILIER 2012 Fus Sarahs developed a keen interest and planned to act on this after the BATUS commitment. He conducted his refresher training, he checked his kit and put it on, he got on the aircraft, he exited the aircraft in a text book fashion when prompted, he did his count, deployed his chute and looked up to ask himself those all important questions, is it big? Is it rectangular? Unlucky for him, the answer was no! One of the parachute lines was wrapped over the top of his parachute causing a malfunction. He was honest with me, he was terrified. He also said that was what he enjoyed about it the most! He had no choice but to conduct his reserve drills which would cut his parachute away and deploy the reserve. He did this and got himself out of that pickle successfully. The incident did not faze him and he is still continuing to jump in his own time.
In the second quarter we deployed as a Battle Group (BG) to BATUS to conduct EX PRAIRIE THUNDER 1. While we were there various AT activities had been organised and participation was open to available members across the BG. Parachuting was one of these activities conducted out of Trails End Camp. There were a few courses that ran over 3 days where a total of 30 members of 1RRF got to complete 3 jumps each. There is a slight difference in the equipment and procedures for exiting the aircraft at this drop zone. The airbus is not fitted for static line jumping so the student has to climb out onto the fixed wing prior to jumping. The instructor will then deploy the pilot chute as you release from the aircraft. For most this was the most challenging part as it added to the fear factor. It was here we had another member of the Battalion experience a malfunction. Pte Daniels (AGC) the HQ Coy Clerk was the first to jump, on the first course. He describes the situation; 'Everything was going perfectly. I was confident and ready for the first jump. I climbed out onto the wing, jumped off and my parachute opened. When I released the brake lines (used to steer and flare) the left one snapped. It was loose, I pulled on it and there was nothing. The right brake line then snapped. I thought to myself, this is a shambles, my parachute is a shambles! Everything was now going wrong. Could it get any worse?' He decided not to carry out his reserve drills as he wasn't confident the reserve would deploy. This left him under a canopy that could not be controlled and the wind dictated his course. He had no ability to slow for landing. When asked how the landing went he said 'Hard'. He is now recovering from a broken leg and is keen to have another go at parachuting when he is fully fit. He says this shouldn't discourage anyone!
Prior to summer stand down there was time to squeeze in Ex FALLING FUSILIER 2 2012. I managed to free some time up away from my store and travelled down to JSPC(N) with 5 other Fusiliers to take part in another BFP course. Unfortunately the weather conditions were not ideal for descents and only 2 jumps took place. Everyone had previous experience. Regardless, we all experienced the emotions you go through as you sit in the open door at 3500ft, fighting against the wind to maintain the correct position and when you finally push away from the aircraft, carrying out the drills like your life depends on it.
2012 has been another triumphant year for parachuting. Many Fusiliers have been taken out of their comfort zone and exposed to risk where they have had to suppress their fears and rely on critical drills and procedures in order to succeed. The aim of AT has been achieved. The members of 1 RRF that took part have had the chance to exercise their courage and maintain composure which is valuable experience prior to the upcoming OP HERRICK 18 tour. And, if there is one lesson to be learned from this year's experience, it is to have confidence in the skills and drills you get taught. They work, and if applied correctly can keep you from potential harm.
The Inter Corps Championship is designed to bring together the best carp anglers from around the world who serve in the Army to compete against each other. I have been in the Infantry team for the past 4 years and have been the overall champion for the past 2 years. This meant that the pressure was really on this year to achieve a hat-trick. The 2012 event was held at Walthamstow Reservoirs in London and with the weather being very hot the fishing was always going to be very different. It was also decided this year that the best angler from the Infantry Team would be presented with an individual trophy. Despite the extremely hard work of all competitors the fish just weren't playing ball! My luck was in however and my perseverance paid off! My catch earned me the Infantry 2012 Carp Champion and the coveted trophy.
The Mercers Company Visit
In March this year the Battalion hosted a visit by 6 members of the Worshipful Company of Mercers', which has had a long and highly valued connection with the Regiment. The Master, Mr Tom Sheldon and 5 other members of the Company came for 2 days in order to gain a greater understanding about how the Battalion operates and what it is like to be a member of the British Armed forces.
The visit was off to a rapid start with a visit to the Battalion OBUA concentration with Y Company. The Mercers quickly realised that they would have a lot of opportunity to get to grips with what was happening and take a very active role in the training. Their first opportunity came under the guidance of the room clearance demonstration troops who ensured that they could see first hand what was required to clear a room and engage a hostile force in a confined space. Under the supervision of the Fusiliers who were playing the role of the enemy for the exercise's final attack they were then shown, first hand, what it is like to be on the receiving end of a Company level assault. A few of the Mercers got so involved in the situation that they were found fighting to the death in the last room of the final objective and had to be subdued with overwhelming force before playing dead. Shell-shocked but smiling they were transported back to the Battalion for a slightly more relaxing dinner night in the Officers' Mess.
The next day it was the turn of the other companies to show off some of the most recent operational equipment held within the Battalion. Particular interest was shown in the Automatic Grenade Launcher with many of the visitors muttering that they would pay a great deal to be allowed to play with it on the range. It was quickly pointed out that the same was felt by most of the Officers' Mess. They were then given the opportunity to test out their gunnery skills in the simulated Turret trainer with varying degrees of success.
The visit was concluded with an excellent Curry lunch at the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess. All of the visitors said how much clearer their knowledge of the Infantry and Regiment was and how surprised they were at just how close knit the Battalion is as a whole.
Fus Andy Barlow GM has had a fantastic first season as a member of the Combined Services Disabled Ski Team. He braved sub-zero conditions in Meribel for the 2012 Inter-Services Ski and Snowboard Championships (ISSSC). The team is made up of serving soldiers and veterans who have been injured on operations or in accidents. This was Andy's first season and he competed in the 3 track skiing events, Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super G. He lost his leg in Afghanistan whilst rescuing a colleague from a minefield in 2006. Outside the Ski season he is the Skipper of the Fusilier Yacht but he is looking forward to returning to the skiing next year to build upon his success.
1RRF Orienteering Team
This year the 1RRF orienteering team were crowned the 2012 Infantry Champions. The 6 man team competed in a series of races culminating in 3 events at the championship including an extremely challenging night event. They emerged the victors by a considerable margin beating 1 and 3 PARA, both R ANGLIAN Battalions, the LANCS, R IRISH and RGR amongst many others.
Photo 42: L to R. Rear: CSgt Matt Curran, Capt Matt Clarke, WO1 Steve John REME. Front: CSgt Andy Birtles, Sgt Mark Horsfall REME, CSgt Mick Alcock.
The Falkland Islands -
Capt Simon Pearce
Onb 11 March 2012, I boarded a plane destined for the South Atlantic. I was heading towards the Falkland Islands, a place I had heard very little about (Ed: we might do better teaching more about the last war the British Army was involved in). I was on my way to take up my new post as ADC to Commander British Forces South Atlantic Islands (CBFSAI). I would be working directly for Brigadier Aldridge CBE, late RRF and Group Captain Craig RAF. As my plane came into land at Mount Pleasant after an 18 hour flight, from my window the terrain looked harsh and very wind swept, but I was looking forward to time my time on the Islands.
After my initial few manic days of hand over- take over I managed to settle into the job and find my feet. 2012 saw the 30th anniversary celebrations of the Falkland Islanders liberation from Argentinean forces by the British Taskforce so I knew my deployment would be busier than most due to it being the most politically sensitive period since 1982.
Having never worked outside of regimental duty I was slightly apprehensive of working directly for a Brigadier, although after a few weeks I found my feet and slotted into the battle rhythm. As ADC it was my responsibility to ensure that the outer office ran smoothly, organising 1* and above visits and ensuring that all work passed to the commander was of a high standard, allowing timely and effective decisions. As a junior Captain I would fully recommend an ADC post to any of my peer group, it has given me experience in a tri-service environment, allowed me to understand the complexities of a joint headquarters and the challenges it presents.
Mount Pleasant Complex (MPC), just below Pleasant Peak has been my home for the past 7 or so months. My time here has been fantastic most of which can be attributed to a tight knit officers mess, a strong sense of community and the challenging and varied workload. As mentioned it has been a very busy period celebrating the Queens Birthday, Falkland Island Liberation and preparing for Remembrance Sunday. The Officers' Mess provided an opportunity to enjoy some of the great food cooked by the chefs, chill out and enjoy a well stocked bar. Even though BFSAI work a 6 day week, you do manage to chisel out some free time. In my down time I took advantage of the superb gym, it has plenty of CV kit and a variety of free weights, but most importantly the use of the 33 metre swimming pool and sauna have been great on Sunday mornings!
Apart from MPC, there is also a considerable life outside
the confines of camp, all you have to do is get out there and experience
it. Through a few phone calls you can keep OC heli-tasking happy and get
on a trip to a local land mark or wildlife hotspot. I was lucky to have
the opportunity to visit a variety of places, for me the highlight was
Sea Lion Island where I was able to stand within touching distance of
wild penguins and a 2 tonne elephant seal. Apart from seeing the variety
of wildlife, I have been privileged to walk the same ground as many of
the brave servicemen who fought in the 1982 conflict. Walking through
Goose Green and seeing the POW shed still standing, visiting the graves
at San Carlos, paying respects at Campito Hill and standing where the
first British Forces landed in 1982 have all be humbling experiences.
Not much has changed in 30 years, the terrain is still just as inhospitable,
combined with the wind and snow of the South Atlantic winter would have
made their job extremely difficult but through sheer determination and
the will to win the British Task Force was successful. (Ed; they also
had poor personal equipment, no troop lift vehicles, hardly any Close
Air Support, limited amounts of ammunition, circumvented AP minefields
without mine detectors and defeated a dug in enemy which was numerically
stronger. Perhaps we need to look back at how this was achieved without
reliance on technology and without the body armour of today which would
not look out of place on the French Knights at Agincourt who were, incidentally,
defeated by agile English light infantry wearing lightweight armour).
On the 14 June 1982, British troops liberated East
Falkland. 30 years on I polished my brown shoes and put on my service
dress to support CBF in remembering all those who gave their lives. Liberation
day was orchestrated by the Falkland Island Defence Force (FIDF) with
His Excellency the Governor Mr Nigel Haywood CVO accepting the salute
on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. A tri service march and fly
past ended the Liberation Parade with the day closing with a few celebratory
drinks at FIDF hall. 15 June saw Brigadier, Mrs Aldridge and I fly to
West Falkland to celebrate liberation of the West. Supporting both parades
were the Salamanca Band of 6 Rifles and the Falkland Island fisheries
protection vessel HMS Clyde. The band performed with gusto in the face
of adverse weather conditions on both days and HMS Clyde continued to
develop key influence links with the local community. Through all of the
celebrations and remembrance the Falkland Islanders were very welcoming
and they are fully supportive of the military as we support their right
to self determination.
Working in the Falkland Islands has been tough, I have learnt a great deal about the tri service environment and working through the South Atlantic winter presented its own challenges. Finally I must thank Brigadier and Mrs William Aldridge, the house staff including Sgt Steve Bristol, Cpl Andy Vickers and all the staff of BFSAI for making my tour challenging but very rewarding. I will miss looking after Archie, Finn, Flexi and Millie and hunting for eggs in Peckingham Palace!
A brilliant 7 months and I will endeavour to return
for a visit in the future to add to my fish catch!