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1 MERCIAN Foreword


by the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel A N Hadfield


During the last year, the Battalion has returned from Iraq, has moved barracks within Catterick Garrison deployed to both New Zealand for a Battalion Headquarters led command post exercise and the Falkland Islands to provide the Roulement Infantry Company (RIC) - and there have been a number of “stuff in between” activities to both improve our individual skills and gain increased recognition around Cheshire. I hope very much that the net effect has been not to exhaust the Battalion but to build on the success which they achieved in the previous year and to set us up well for the next.


As many will remember, the Battalion was broken up for Op Telic 11 to provide Companies to guard the Divisional Internment Facility (DIF), security for senior officers in Baghdad (PROFOR) and assist with the security of the port at Umm Qasr. Many of the Battalion’s staff officers found themselves supporting the Brigade and Divisional effort inside the Contingency Operating Base (COB). In terms of what we would have wanted to do, this was far from ideal but the praise the Battalion received for its professionalism and stoicism in the face of this far from ideal situation was impressive - especially for me as I was preparing to take over command. I heard much unsolicited praise from a number of sources and this confirmed what I knew in my heart – that this Battalion rises to any challenge, however unpleasant, and completes the task to the very best of its ability. Whilst always difficult to single out individuals, it should be noted with pride that Lieutenant Colonel (now Colonel) Cave received a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service, Pte New was Mentioned in Dispatches, Captain Brunskill and WO2 Morley received Joint Commanders’ Commendations and LCpl Dunbar and Pte Badley received General Officer Commanding’s Commendations.


On return from Iraq, the move from Alma Barracks to Marne Barracks was carried out efficiently and effectively and so quietly that some didn’t even realise that we had moved. Marne Barracks is now our new home and we hope will remain so for many years to come. Whilst it does have some shortcomings, they are now our


10 October 2009


shortcomings and we are working hard to rectify them. Needless to say, the soldiers’ accommodation is up to the new “Z scale” and is proving to be a big hit. We have our own aircraft hangar and runway but, as yet, no aircraft. We share our Camp and Messes with 5th Regiment Royal Artillery but, whilst this brings the odd niggle, we are better for being able to share guards and duties. Already, we are starting to see soldiers and their families laying roots in the area and this will continue. Our proximity to the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) means that the primary posting opportunity for NCOs is just 15 minutes away – another bonus.


By September, we were settled for the first time in twelve months so we deployed to New Zealand to celebrate. Once Ex Suman Warrior was completed, all ranks who took part enjoyed a first class adventure training package. This Exercise was the swansong for Lt Col Cave who moved on to the Commitments Desk in Headquarters Land Forces and the Higher Command and Staff Course (HCSC). As the CO who took the Battalion to Belize, completed preparation for a marching season, closed the mighty Bessbrook Mill, moved us from Northern Ireland to Catterick and then led the Battalion through the training for Iraq - only to be placed into Divisional Headquarters once there - HCSC is a right and proper reward. Everyone wishes him and his family well for the future.


I took the chair in October and the Companies worked themselves up to the required start state for deployment to the Falklands. By now, the prospect of receiving a Gurkha Reinforcement Company was looming large and preparations had to be made to integrate them successfully. It is regrettable that, to achieve this, it was necessary to suspend one of the existing Companies. B Company was selected and its manpower was shared between the other two Rifle Companies or posted out. I understand how difficult this was for those men and we must work together to make sure that this situation is as temporary as possible. With this in mind, the Falklands order of march was confirmed as A Company, C Company, G Company. Regrettably, some of the A Company team


missed their second Christmas away because of the vagaries of air transport but, once again, they proved that, however unpalatable, we meet the challenge and deliver the goods. Later pages will describe in more detail what was achieved in the Falklands but, needless to say, it took a lot of men down memory lane and allowed the troops to complete some first class training, supported by warships, helicopters and fast jets as well as by our own mortars and machine guns.


I must publicly welcome G Company to our Orbat. They arrived over Christmas time and became fully operational on 31 January 2009. At a stroke, they brought the Battalion to full manning and we now reap the benefits which that brings to us all. They are drawn from 1 RGR, itself recruited from the west of Nepal, and are a means of managing Gurkha overmanning at a time when we needed a short term shot in the arm. They have settled in remarkably well and those who visit the Battalion should expect to see them around - in all messes. It is customary for Gurkha Companies to assume a battle honour into their full title and they have selected “Tobruk” as a battle fought with honour by both Cheshires and Gurkhas.


Looking to the future, we have been warned for deployment to Afghanistan in March/ April 2010 to form the core of Battlegroup (North West) centred on the town of Musa Qaleh in Helmand Province. Even the most rudimentary incident analysis demonstrates that this will not be an easy tour but, once again, we remain ready to face the challenge and achieve all that is set before us. As we embark on our preparation and training, our recruiting is healthy and our manning is improving on an almost daily basis. In September 2009 we deploy to Kenya for our collective training and, once back home, will embark on specialist training for Afghanistan. That won’t make us too busy to continue supporting the recruiting effort and the efforts of our supporters in the County who are tireless in publicising the Regiment. For those who still wonder what we are doing or where we are going, be assured that we will remain “Ever Glorious”.


The Mercian Eagle


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