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2 MERCIAN Foreword


by the Commanding Officer 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Worcesters and Foresters) Lt Col S J Banton


This year has brought fundamental change to the way that the Infantry, including 2 MERCIAN (Worcesters and Foresters), conducts business. The Infantry Arms Plot, the routine movement of Battalions to different stations and rôles, has finished and the Battalion moved in April 2008 to its permanent home station, Palace Barracks, Hollywood, Belfast. Many of you will be familiar with the barracks following 1 WFR’s tours in Northern Ireland during the troubles and The Sherwood Foresters called it home in the 1960s. It is an excellent barracks with a comprehensive range of high quality facilities. The Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes are very fine and plans are afoot to provide a Corporals’ Mess of the same standard. Accommodation for married and single soldiers is among the best available in the Army and a funded plan to provide single rooms with ensuite bathrooms for all single soldiers is already in progress. Belfast is a transformed city and you would be hard pressed to recognise it from as little as a decade ago. It compares very favourably in opportunities, facilities and style to the great northern cities of Leeds, Manchester or Glasgow. There are still some dissident terrorists and the terrible murders a few weeks ago were a reminder that not all parties are reconciled. However, condemnation of their actions was swift and unified across the whole community and arrests have been made. It is likely that their actions were an aberration on a continuing path to peace.


The Battalion is now an integral part of 19 Light Brigade alongside our infantry brothers in 3 SCOTS and 2 RIFLES. Our Brigade Headquarters is in Lisburn and the entire Brigade is available for worldwide deployment and I am writing this foreword in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. We anticipated and trained for this swift redeployment to Afghanistan following our


32 October 2009


return in 2007 (a mere 20 months ago!) and all the soldiers are in good heart. The majority of 2 MERCIAN are employed in the Operational Mentoring and Liaison rôle. MERCIAN soldiers, joined by others from different parts of the Army, are working alongside the Afghan National Army Brigade in Helmand. Typically, a team of eight MERCIAN soldiers is embedded with a Company, 100 strong, of Afghan soldiers to lead by example. The detachments are spread across Helmand Province and, wherever British and Afghan soldiers are based, you can be assured that MERCIAN teams are with them. In this rôle, our soldiers live and fight shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan Warriors who are brave and loyal and miss no opportunity to kill the enemy: they are fine allies. As you would expect, the MERCIAN soldiers are revelling in the freedom of action and additional responsibilities this rôle entails.


Not all MERCIAN soldiers are committed to mentoring and liaison. The soldiers of A and B Companies have deployed as Infantry Companies in the light rôle to the town of Garmsir, the scene of very heavy fighting where Sergeant Brelsford and Private Botha fell in 2007. Handpicked soldiers, following an exhaustive selection cadre, are fighting in the Brigade Reconnaissance Force. Most impressively, the Officer Commanding and Company Sergeant Major of this elite Company are both 2 MERCIAN, Maj Neil Grant and WO2 (CSM) Martin Chatterley. Cpl Weaver and Cpl Coombes trained and deployed as Forward Air Controllers with LCpl Thornton and Private Atkinson as their signallers. A single Platoon, Ava Platoon - Lt Jack Bellfield with Sgt Andrew McNulty - is seconded to 19 CSS Regiment RLC to provide force protection to logisitic convoys across the desert. Lt Bellfield was the first MERCIAN to open fire on the enemy on this tour using a 40 mm grenade launcher! To give an idea of how the Battalion has been split, here are


some figures: • AVA Platoon, 19 CSS: 30 personnel • BJSU, Bastion JOB: 6 personnel • BRF, 19 Bde: 18 Personnel • FAC, 40 Regt: 4 Personnel • A Coy, LD: approx 110 • B Coy, LD: approx 110 • 2 MERCIAN OMLT comprises:


• 332 Personnel • 153 non-2 MERCIAN personnel • Representation from 33 different units


Before closing I must comment on the manning situation. There are many reports in the media of Army manning shortfalls but I am pleased to tell you that 2 MERCIAN is bucking the trend. At the moment, we are the only Infantry Battalion at full strength, the first time we have been 100% recruited for a decade. Last year 170 recruits enlisted into training and Palace Barracks has helped to retain soldiers who were previously discontented. I salute the recruiters and soldiers of the Regimental Support Team (commanded by WO2 Ted Johnson) for their efforts and success. This is not the end of recruiting operations - we intend to sustain our efforts and be overmanned before the end of the year.


The next six months promise to be challenging and exciting but we are very likely to face our share of heartache. I know that you stand with us every step of the way. As in 2007, the 2nd Battalion will celebrate its return home by attending Church Services and exercising our Freedom in the Cities of Worcester, Derby and Nottingham; we hope that Association Branches (including the RBL) and Cadet Detachments will march with us. RHQ has already been in touch with City Elders and we shall march in Worcester on 3rd December, Derby on 4th December and Nottingham on 5th December. We look forward to seeing you there.


The Mercian Eagle


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