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advance party and main body. Normandy Company is now complete in theatre with 104 soldiers, the MERCIAN flag is now flying and the soldiers are on patrol.

4 MERCIAN Warrant Officers’, Colour Sergeants’ and Sergeants’ Mess by WO1 (RSM) M

Whillock Since taking over as Regimental Sergeant Major from WO1 Stewart in November 2008, it has been full on with various events keeping the Mess very busy. Starting my time with the Battalion at The Shady Oak where I was not only introduced to the SNCOs both regular and TA but also got to see the vast amount of experience being put to the test on the seven questions in line with the young Officers. The other big test was surviving the arctic conditions at night and nipping to the portaloos in my combat pants.

On a serious note, we have SNCOs who have deployed to Op Herrick 10 and SNCOs attached to 2 MERCIAN. This will put the Battalion in good stead and develop the management and leadership skills of those soldiers under conditions far more stressful than a Tuesday evening sorting out the training programme. This is the development during operations which is required to take 4 MERCIAN to the coal face of any exercise or future operation. As Regulars, we are here to mentor the TA soldier at whatever rank but, as Mess members, we are here to set the example and ensure that when an Officer makes a plan, we, the SNCOs, make it happen.

On the social side of the Mess, we had the Christmas Ball at Stockport which was a great success and an excuse to spoil our wives with a decent hotel. Also, I had my first Regimental Dinner where WO1 Stewart was dined out and I was dined in: it was a great night with the MERCIAN Band playing music for the evening setting the tone. We also said farewell to Sgt Shepherd and Sgt Wain who are both leaving the Army to go on to greater things. The Mess is looking forward to the Summer Ball where we are going with the theme of Mods and Rockers; some Mess Members I have seen socially will not have to look far in their wardrobe.

We had a good Freedom March in Kidderminster in May and Naming Ceremony in June where I was able to

96 October 2009

conduct some drill with the Battalion showing off the Mercian cap badge to the local community. We will continue working at a rapid pace with training and various exercises for the rest of the year and look forward to Normandy Company arriving back safely. Being in the Mess is no mean feat and we are the backbone of the Battalion however, it comes at a cost and Members will work harder and longer hours to ensure that the soldiers below have the best package. Keep up the good work.

Ex Balaclava Macaw by Capt S R Hayes

assault. The World War II phase was concluded with a visit to Limvadia where the Yalta conference was held; it was quite a privilege to stand in the room where much of today’s political and physical geography was decided and it served as a very fitting location to draw a close to the first half of the Battlefield tour. As a convenient stopgap and to satisfy the teenage boy in all of the Battlefield tour contingent, a visit to the Black Sea submarine fleet underground pens was organised. All of the inevitable James Bond baddie lines were quoted and the quickly hashed plans of sabotage if the signal should come from MI6 were quietly discussed. The pens were remarkable not only for their purpose but also for their sheer scale - a real “you will never guess where I have been today” moment.

As part of a 143 Brigade-led Battlefield tour, the Commanding Officer and the Adjutant of the 4th Battalion and the Regimental Adjutant had the rare opportunity to visit the Crimea to study the Barbarossa campaign of World War II and the original Crimea campaign of 1854/55. The tour guide was Maj John Cotterill and, therefore, the contingent had a strong MERCIAN flavour which was fitting in the light of the antecedent regiments’ involvement in the Crimea.

As with all military excursions, the week started very early, the various layers of fudge factor resulting in a bleary-eyed trio meeting at Heathrow airport on Friday morning ready to take the flight to Simferopol via Istanbul. Lt Col Forgrave won the initial prize for the most sparsely packed luggage, fuelling speculation that the bag was picked on its capacity for carrying bottles of vodka rather than to facilitate a luxurious stay in the Ukraine. The journey passed without incident despite extra special interest from the former Soviet border control and, on a balmy Friday evening, the weary travellers booked into Hotel Sevastopol.

On days one and two, we retraced the progress and subsequent withdrawal of Mannstein’s 11th Army. As was to be expected from our tour guide, the visits on the first two and a half days were made without the modern distractions of the coach and, by the time the group had reached the lofty location of Mannstein’s observation post, the visitors started to appreciate the mammoth task that faced the comparatively small German force. The range of the first two days was very varied and the missions covered varied from Company defence to Battalion amphibious

The second half of the tour centred on the Crimea campaign of 1854/55. The tour began with the Battle of the Alma, one of 2 MERCIAN’s celebrated Battle Honours. Adjutant 4 MERCIAN was particularly eager to see if the papier maché model of the Battlefield he had made as part of his introductory lecture to the Mess in South Armagh in any way represented the ground: he claims that it was an almost perfect match. The second half of the tour not only tested the ability of the Adjutant to shoe horn the 95th into every conversation but also the CO’s ability to recount the intentions, political shenanigans and motives of the Russian forces during the campaign. As Prince Menshekov, Lt Col Forgrave was a formidable double act with Maj (Lord Raglan) Cotterill. An impressively fluid and assured brief from Maj Cotterill preceded retracing the steps of the 95th from the crossing of the Alma to the taking of the great Redoubt. The group also visited the Valley of Death and it was interesting to notice the quiet reservation of the Infantry victories in the Crimea compared to the wild renown and celebration of the military catastrophe that was the Charge of the Light Brigade. The tour concluded with a visit to the final battlegrounds of the Crimea, Redan and Malakov, where thousands of British infantry lost their lives. To the great relief of the Commanding Officer and the Regimental Adjutant, much was made of the contribution of Pennyfather, a forebear of the 22nd, whose profligate swearing and mantra of “feed the fight” made him a favourite of the troops. The Battlefield tour of the Crimea was a superb opportunity to visit a far off Battlefield where so many harsh lessons of Battle were learned at great price. The experience was enriched by the knowledge and verve of Maj Cotterill and it confirms the value of modern soldiers revisiting the

The Mercian Eagle

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