The Latest News
by the Commanding Officer
Lt Col M R Butterwick
I predicted last year that 2012 would be a challenging
year for us all and this prediction has proved to be true. Over the
last 12 months we have exercised as a BG in the arduous terrain of Kenya,
conducted Mission Specific Training in preparation for TRB, moved location
to Cyprus and closed Trenchard Barracks, Celle as we left Germany. Any
one of these activities would have tested any organisation but to have
done all 4 in such a short period of time is truly remarkable. Perhaps
what has been most extraordinary of all is that all these activities
have been conducted so well. I have been humbled, as ever, by the dedication,
grit and professionalism of the Fusiliers who have simply got on with
what has been asked of them and delivered such fine results. The news
of disbandment has hit us hard and has provided us with the biggest
challenge of all this year. It is impossible to really understand why
it is us who have to leave the Army's ORBAT. Fully manned, producing
the goods and efficient across the board. I for one struggle to see
our "un-sustainability." However, as a Battalion we must focus
quite simply on the next mission and that is precisely what we are doing
A Company in Kenya
It has been a busy and eventful year for all members
of A Company. The initial main focus was the Battalion's deployment
on Ex ASKARI THUNDER 4 in Kenya, immediately prior to Christmas. Preparation
began in earnest from the end of summer leave 2011. The Company cut
its teeth on some demanding live fire ranges in Sennelager, with a further
weeks training on the smaller area of Achmer. Fus Madatov was clearly
thinking ahead to ASKARI THUNDER when, at the end of the Achmer run
out, he asked Major Murphy; "Sir, what do I do if a baboon steals
my rifle?" This was one of the few occasions in his tenure as Company
Commander that Major Murphy has been left entirely speechless! After
a lot of preparation November finally arrived. With the packing list
distributed, the key decision for many was to weigh up the pro's and
con's of packing a light-weight jungle sleeping bag versus the full
cumbersome 'bouncing bomb'; a decision that we shall revisit later.
Following the Company Training Package, and a short stint back in Turracco Farm, A Company moved up to Archers Post, approximately 200 miles North East. This turned out to be a much hotter experience. Despite a temperature of 40°C, the Company acquitted itself extremely well during a demanding Combat Logistics Patrol Base Defensive Exercise and a Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise. The training was tough, yet all ranks pulled hard to strengthen the reputation of the Company. Of particular note was 3 Platoon and the Recce Platoon's near death experience in a dried up Wadi (or so they thought). After pursuing the enemy during a thunderstorm Lt King used the Wadi for a covered withdrawal: only to find himself going from ankle depth in water to neck depth in the space of minutes - a story the whole platoon likes to recount! Major Murphy also showed the invincibility of a Company Commander: mid attack Major Murphy was stung by a sizable scorpion and merely shrugged it off, refused medical treatment and continued to push his platoons forward, as was his way (Ed; seems like a fisherman's tale to me!).
Following the middle phase in Archers Post, A Company moved South again for the Final Exercise. A Company remained determined and committed to the end. The fact that the weather improved for the Final Exercise was a God send, as the majority of the week long exercise was spent without bergens. A Company showed its resolve by being the lead Company for the final Battalion attack, not faltering during a 23 kilometre over night insertion, which was an experience for all! It was on that insertion, just after dawn with 1 and 2 Platoon forward, that Lt Gilbert encountered a Water Buffalo. With 1 Platoon innocently moving through the scrub a Buffalo came out of the long grass no more than 15 metres from Lt Gilbert, charging straight at him. Needless to say, the noise that escaped Mr Gilbert's mouth, as he dived to one side, sounded very feminine in its origin! As Fus Fick (our South African expert) would later say "Sir, I thought you was a gonner!" The Final Exercise was completed in style and A Company, complete, moved back to Turracco Farm. From there, 15 members of the Company went to Mount Kenya and the remainder went to the Adventure Training site at Lake Naivasha. Once there they climbed a volcano, did some rock climbing and saw lots of hippos (as well as having a few beers and getting a sun tan). All in all Ex ASKARI THUNDER 4 was an unforgettable experience, with both testing and emotional times on a backdrop of incredible wildlife and magnificent scenery.
Ex ASKARI THUNDER 4 - A Fusiliers' Perspective
The outlook of Ex ASKARI THUNDER before it had even begun was ominous due to the nine hours of travelling half way around the world from Germany to Kenya. This was followed by an exhausting three hour bus journey on poorly maintained Kenyan roads in non-existent air-conditioned coaches, especially at a time, when the Kenyan weather was at its most humid and uncomfortable peak. Finally, arriving at Turracco Farm we saw, for the first time, where we would be staying for the next few days; rows of four-man tents which ended up, due to the Battalion and Companies being fully manned, as accommodation for six or seven men. At least there were some additional tents which sold the basic necessities and a hut type tuck shop with a small television. Even though the morale throughout the camp had taken a dent, the Fusiliers did what they do best and got on with the task in hand. Over the next few days we received a series of briefs from SAAB staff about the TES kit we would be using throughout the exercise and a rather interesting brief from a local on wildlife 'actions on' should we encountering any of the more dangerous species.
The next phase involved A Company moving from Turracco Farm to MOB Simba in Archers Post. I'd been hearing stories about Archers Post ever since we arrived. I was led to believe that it was one of the hottest places on earth on account of it being on the equator. In retrospect this phenomenon wasn't met with quite the same level of eagerness with the troops, as it was with the officers. The transit over to MOB Simba seemed to last hours and the trucks transporting us did not offer any comfort, we felt every bump in the roads as we tried to sleep. It was night by the time we reached MOB Simba and everyone was exhausted which meant that the briefing we received seemed more like white noise rather than useful information. The camp was better than that of Turracco Farm and we all appreciated the sleep we had before ops the next day. The following morning we travelled as a convoy to FOB Twiga for the offensive stage of the exercise. The route itself was no more than 15km and we were taken by trucks most of the way. 3 Platoon were at the back of the column so when the convoy came under attack our only job was to do dismount and go firm, conduct 5 & 20m checks, scan our arcs and remain vigilant. By the time we arrived into the FOB it was getting dark so the only thing we had to do; thankfully, was rest.
Throughout the next couple of days we moved onto the defensive stage which consisted of framework patrols around the FOB to reporting any suspicious activity and neutralize the enemy under Card Alpha Rules of Engagement (ROE) whilst the other half of the Company manned sangars. It then followed that 3 Platoon were contacted during an ambush set up on a known enemy MSR. As we left the FOB to conduct the Op the heavens opened and the rain lashed down. Any morale that remained was washed away in the monsoon. To set up the ambush we had to cross a waddy, which, as a result of the rain, was completely filled and dangerous to cross. Our platoon couldn't have been any wetter, so we pushed on through the waddi and up the bank only to walk into an ambush. The only thing I remember is getting into the prone position and crawling to find cover whilst trying to locate muzzle flashes to gain some sort of idea of where the enemy position was. We received several casualties, so much so, that a Corporal ended up as our Platoon Commander and a Lance Corporal filled in as our Platoon Sergeant. We were left with only a section by the time we had defeated the enemy and had to double all the way back to the FOB to prevent more casualties being taken as we knew that if we came under an attack of a similar scale we would be obliterated. The defensive stage proved to be a success on A Company's part and it put us in a good position for the transition to the CALFEX.
The CALFEX, we were told before arriving in Kenya and throughout the exercise, would be the hardest stage of ASKARI THUNDER and as the day arrived 3 Platoon were more than up for the challenge. We expected 18km of hard graft and multiple attacks but because of our position in the patrol the only thing we experienced was the sound of mortar rounds landing and small arms being fired in the far distance. Not one round in the whole of A company was fired until the final stage when we were tasked to conduct a trench clearance, the clearance was swift and we were about to break the record for the fastest time to complete the CALFEX when a tragic event occurred resulting in the sad loss of my friend from training Fus James Wilkinson who was tragically shot. It is the most vivid memory I have of Kenya and will always be the most tragic. The Company were given a brief from the Commanding Officer to try and uplift the troops who were affected by Fus Wilkinson's passing. He reaffirmed the reasons why we had to carry on to the final stage of the exercise which we had worked so hard to get to.
Our initial task as A Company for the final stage of the exercise was to defend Battalion HQ. The enemy attack was pre-empted and the aim was to try and channel the enemy into an ambush. Our job, as a section of 3 Platoon, was to set up the ambush which included digging in from midday into the night. As night approached our efforts for the whole day were spoilt as a pack of hyenas stumbled across our area and would not leave us alone so, reluctantly, we had to move to another ambush location. Our section remained in the ambush area for three days holding back the enemy. 3 Platoon slowly took exercise casualties until only our section remained. As a result of the casualties taken sentry duty became more frequent and everyone, you could see, was becoming increasingly fatigued. Our section managed to hold out until the end of the defensive stage of the final exercise and once we had all moved to a temporary location and administrated ourselves we were given orders for the final attack which would take place the following day. A Company patrolled in the region of 25km the following day due to the transport being unable to reach us and by the time 3 Platoon had finally reached the known enemy positions, 1 & 2 platoon had already cleared them. Shortly after we arrived with aching legs, Endex was called and everyone took a huge sigh of relief as the hard work over the last six weeks had finally come to an end.
At Company level the exercise was a huge success and everything the troops were expected to do, they did to a high standard. As a fusilier, it was sometimes difficult to piece together the various activities to see how it was contributing to the bigger picture. Only looking back is it now more apparent how our hard graft contributed to the overall success that A Company enjoyed. Deploying to Kenya definitely made the training a more interesting and unforgettable experience. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and will always be held as one of the more memorable times in my army career.
Following Kenya, and some well earned Christmas leave, A Company saw a change around and a dive into Mission Specific Training (MST) to ready itself for the Theatre Reserve Role in Cyprus. 3 Platoon saw a complete change, with Mr King moving to Fire Support Company and Sgt Lalley moving to instruct at Sandhurst. In their place came, the fresh faced, Mr Garston and, from C Company, Sgt Cardwell. 1 Platoon also saw change: Sgt 'Windy' Miller moved to Fire Support and Sgt Malin returned from instructing at Catterick. Within Company HQ; CSgt Orange, the CQMS, moved on to instruct the Platoon Commander's Division in Brecon, Sgt Crisp filled the position of CQMS, Major Ged Murphy moved on to command the Junior Division at the Infantry Battle School and in his place, returning to the Battalion, came Major Jim Bird.
On MST the Company's solid performance on Ex PASHTUN PANTHER on STANTA was of particular note. It was Major Bird's first proper exercise in command and it could not have gone better for the Company; putting in a really solid performance, learning a lot of necessary skills and getting the all important 'green light' to move on to the next stage of training.. The ability of the Fusiliers across the Company to pick up words in Pashtun (Ed; the most common language used in Afghanistan) and interact well with the Afghan role players was particularly impressive. As A Company were attached to the 1st Battalion Scots Guards it was fortuitous that the Company were visited by HRH the Duke of Kent who, incidentally, is their Colonel in Chief also. HRH was especially impressed with FSG Alpha's heavy weaponry.
Many individuals within the Company were also sent on the necessary pre-deployment courses, to qualify them to instruct the remainder of the Company. There are too many to mention them all, however, some of the more notable courses included: The Compound Clearance Course held in March at Lydd and completed by Cpl Turnbull and Lt Gilbert, the Ground Sign Awareness Course which was a two week course that took place in Brunei and was completed by Sgt Goddard and finally the Search Advisors Course which was completed by LCpls Longworth and Jones. Furthermore, the 'in camp' courses in CIED training and Ground Sign Awareness have allowed the Junior NCOs to get to grips with the most important Counter-IED skills. These courses set the fundamental basics which allowed A Company to have a successful pre-deployment cycle and has enabled the dissemination of the necessary skills, for all across the Company, to deploy.
Farewell to CELLE
Following a successful CFX, A Company continued to perform to a high standard on the MST. This was coupled with an extremely busy time packing up Trenchard Barracks in Celle and preparing to move to Cyprus. Sgt Crisp and his team put in many 20 hour days and worked extremely hard to ensure that everything went smoothly and, with a few glitches here and there, the Company made it to July 2012 in good order. Both Sgt Crisp and Cpl Rodgers were certainly looking forward to be moving to the Provo team on arrival in Cyprus following their manifesting epic. It was then time for the Abschied or 'farewell to Celle'. The Company led the Battalion through the Streets of Celle, drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed. Every man in A Company stood proudly and put on a real show for the residents of Celle. It was an extremely poignant moment for the Company and for the Battalion, having received news of the Battalion's removal from the ORBAT only 24 hours earlier. The Company's picture actually made it into the Times newspaper, they all looked extremely smart.
A Company's Move to Cyprus
At last, on 7 July, the time for Summer Leave came.
With boxes packed, there was a nostalgic moment: A Company 2RRF's tenure
in Trenchard Barracks had ended and everyone was to leave through the
Barrack gates for the last time. A Company was moving to Cyprus!
It has been an excellent year for the Company with many faces coming and going, receiving promotion or postings. A Company has remained fit and focused throughout and now has its sights set on whatever deployment may come over the next year. Of particular note was farewells to Major Ged Murphy, who will be leaving the army shortly; Sgt Steven McCowliff, who left to take up a career in private security and who is currently deployed in Afghanistan; Cpls Sweetman and Mackie who have both chosen to pursue careers in the security industry, Cpl Hunter who moved to work in the MOD main building London; LCpl Warburton who left the army and finally Fusiliers Page and Fogga who chose to take voluntary redundancy.
A Company is excited about its role as part of the
TRB and is fit and ready to deploy!
Maj B Weston/ Lt M Jonas
"2012? it's been a bit of a lick " to quote Fusilier Winter-Davies or " busy, demanding and challenging " from one of the Platoon Commander's perspectives. So what has B Company Group been doing over the past year? In short; Mission Specific Training (MST), closing a Barracks, saying farewell to Celle and finally moving to Cyprus and assuming the Theatre Reserve Battalion role.
On the back of some well earned Christmas leave following the Battle Group exercise in Kenya, B Company Group set off to the Lydd & Hythe ranges down in sunny Kent for a weeks' live firing package as part of the first MST exercise in February. A week long package organised by 1 LANCS which was extremely well run throughout, gave the Fusiliers time to get the basic drills right and gain confidence in their weapon handling despite the arctic conditions.
The week initially consisted of grouping and zeroing, progressing through to the Individual Battle Shooting Range, Fire Team lane and working up to Section Attacks. There was also a chance to don some paintball masks and endure the 'pain test' for the simunition as part of Close Quarter Battle training. Fortunately one of the platoon commanders had forgotten to remove his softie trousers before being gleefully pummelled with several simunition rounds, thereby managing to successfully hold a 'blue steel' expression throughout! The week concluded with an excellent platoon defence house range, where the entire platoon grimly held off repeated attacks from the determined SAPU forces (electronic targets) and successfully managed to deal with the casualty 'actions-on' incorporated into the range.
A successful yet freezing cold week which proved to be a good platform from which B Company Group could launch themselves into the rest of MST.
The second phase of MST required the Fusiliers to yet again endure the cross-channel coach trip to Knook Camp, Warminster, which would be home for the next two weeks during Ex PASHTUN LION. This exercise was designed to test the Company Ops Room procedures, the passage of info to and from Battalion HQ and get to grips with the type of Base ISTAR (surveillance and intelligence equipment and procedures) the Company would be working with in Afghanistan. Working with us were members of 5 Regiment RA, which included a certain Lance Bombardier Elliott - a former member of B Company.
The first week was spent practising the vehicle commanders and drivers on the CATT simulators, injecting fresh information for the new Company Intelligence Cell, consisting of LCpl Wilke ably assisted by Fusiliers' Silcock and Chimes and for the Ops Room team and signallers to practice their roles with the help of the new equipment. The second week consisted of the exercise proper.
Overall, it was an extremely useful two weeks in which the Company Ops Team familiarised themselves with the layout and equipment, mastered the challenges of working in a kinetic and often non kinetic environment, developing expertise and trust amongst each other that ensured we deployed on the next exercise confident in our ability to deal with a myriad of different situations.
Whilst we paused for breath in between MST events, each Platoon had been set the task of taking their Platoons away for a week in May. The intent was for the Platoon Commanders to organise an activity that engendered fear amongst the Fusiliers to demonstrate how the human body copes and responds in such situations - not necessarily something that can be easily replicated.
The beginning of June saw B Company Group yet again do what successive foreign armies have tried and failed, namely cross the English Channel in good order, and arrive at Thetford in order to conduct what clearly represented the most challenging exercise yet as part of the MST - the Confirmatory Final Exercise (CFX). The week would see B Company Group get the all important green light to indicate the Company would be ready to deploy on operations. The crucial aspect of this exercise, however, was the fact that we would be working with, and supporting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). Not only this, but we would be operating amongst Local Nationals consisting of a mixture of Gurkhas and contracted Afghan Nationals. The need for cohesion through joint planning, ROC drills and rehearsals and the use of interpreters was absolutely crucial in ensuring the success of the exercise.
B Company Group was tasked to support a clearance of a Green Zone in support of the ANSF. We soon realised just how complex joint operations could be after a very short space of time. The passage of information between the ANSF and British commanders was crucial in ensuring boundaries, repor lines and overall command and control was achieved and all too often the platoon commanders would finish delivering a set of Quick Battle Orders to find the Afghan platoon they were supporting had completely disappeared. Nevertheless, despite the challenging terrain and numerous insurgents holed up in compounds strung along the valley, B Company Group successfully supported the clearance, initially assisting the ANSF with Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC) procedures, before echeloning through the Afghan platoons and completing the operation. The following day saw more joint planning with the Afghan National Army (ANA) to plan and execute an ANA led strike into a remote village where several high profile insurgent commanders were said to be hiding. B Company Group initially put in the outer cordon but following a request from the ANA, B Company Group completed the clearance of the village and managed to detain the high profile insurgent commander.
After three days the role changed and B Company Group switched to operating as a ground holding Company, ensuring the security of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) whilst pushing platoons out to remote Patrol Bases (PB) to the south of the Area of Operations and within the local town to support the local Afghan National Police (ANP). This was a fantastic chance for the Platoon Commanders and Sergeants to practice and develop their STAP skills, ensuring patrols were sent out on a regular basis to understand local issues and mentor the ANA and ANP. After several days during which the platoon Patrol Bases (PBs) were constantly tested through small arms fire engagements, in-direct fire, walk-ins and local national activity, the Company assisted the ANSF on a final strike operation into the local town on a known insurgent stronghold. B Company Group put everything they had learned into practice and the operation was a success, proving that the Company Group had not only learned and adapted to the principles and challenges of counter-insurgency, but had also got the measure of working with the ANSF, which will be a crucial factor should the Company Group deploy to Afghanistan.
Immediately following the CFX, B Company Group travelled west towards Castle Martin to conduct the live fire package run in the form of Ex PASHTUN TEMPEST. A brief stop to watch Andy Carroll power in England's first goal against Sweden accompanied by several alarmingly oversized portions of KFC ensured the Company was in high spirits by the time they reached their destination.
Ex PASHTUNN TEMPEST was a relatively short 3 day exercise. The first day consisted of zeroing individual weapons on the range, whilst the second saw the platoons rotate around several different stands such as compound clearance, vehicle recovery and casualty management. On the final day the Company Group was tasked to clear several compounds along a three mile axis in order to secure a prominent insurgent commander in a compound. Once again, the Company Group put in an excellent performance, with 5 Platoon kick starting things off with an exceptional demonstration of compound clearance where the Fusiliers showed excellent C-IED awareness. Although a relatively short exercise, it yet again proved B Company Group was continuing to adapt to the changes posed by the MST package and was approaching the challenges with enthusiasm and competence.
Before the final MST Exercise, B Company had to prepare itself for the long anticipated move to Cyprus. Moving house is often regarded as one of the most stressful experiences in life. So when 600 people do it, complete with a Battalion's worth of equipment, whilst in the midst of a busy MST schedule and preparing to closedown a longstanding British base, it was never going to be a wholly enjoyable experience. That said, the vast majority were relishing the move from Germany to Cyprus.
Although the Battalion had enjoyed being based in Celle (one of the best postings in Germany that will certainly be sorely missed), a change of scenery was eagerly anticipated. The single blokes had exhausted their chat up lines on unimpressed German girls and were looking forward to the promised land of Ayia Napa (the in-bounds part). The families were also looking forward to enjoying all that the holiday Island of Cyprus has to offer. And most were looking forward to getting a tan! Before we could dive head first into our new life in the sun, however, there was just the small task of packing up and closing down Trenchard Barracks. But in between drill preparation for the Freedom Parade and other Abschied Celle events - we managed it.
It would be wrong to say that the heat in Cyprus hits you as soon as you step off the plane. Anybody who says this has not moved iso-containers full of MFO boxes in 40-degree heat. Unpacking freight and establishing ourselves in Alexander Barracks was one of several tasks that had to be juggled during the first few weeks in Cyprus in late July. As we took the camp over from the Poachers (2 RANGLIAN), we also took over the Cyprus Security Duties within our first week. One eye was also being kept firmly on the FTX that would give the Battalion the green light for deployment as the TRB.
The final exercise of MST for the Battalion started in late August after the hectic summer. It would have been easy for us to use the excuse of the unit move, the recent 2 weeks leave and the fact that we had been unable to do any intense COIN training before the exercise began, to put in a rather average shift on Salisbury Plain. However, true to form, B Company Group threw themselves into the exercise with their customary enthusiasm and vigour and used a precious couple of days before the exercise proper began to build ourselves back up to speed with all the TTPs we had learnt during the CFX.
Once again we shared the role of ops and ground holding role, this time with A Company. B Company Group initially deployed as the Ops Company out to the remote PB Kezget from where we operated alongside our ANA counterparts to clear and hold key areas of the AO in order for the engineers to construct police checkpoints. After three days of regular and intense patrolling to ensure the security of the newly established checkpoint, we returned to FOB Eshan where the majority of 2RRF BG was based in order to take over the ground holding role from A Company. After conducting further patrols and generally disrupting the insurgents' freedom of manoeuvre, we concluded the exercise with a helicopter move into an FUP in order to launch a dawn strike onto a high value individual. After a successful strike led by Sgt Sutton's multiple, the key insurgent was extracted via helicopter closely followed by a relieved and happy B Company Group.
The FTX concluded MST for B Company Group and we returned to Cyprus confident that we could be deployed at a moments notice, knowing we were fit and ready to meet the challenges required. MST has been demanding, yet the rewards have been the obvious improvements in the TTPs demonstrated by the Company Group throughout the FTX that will ensure we hit the ground running should we deploy. Our training does not stop here, however, throughout our time in the role of TRB, B Company Group will continue to train and improve on everything we have learnt during the year in order to ensure our Fusiliers keep on top of their skills and drills. At the time of writing the Company Group is preparing to deploy to Jordan in order to support a Royal Engineer Task Force Overseas Exercise in December. Another fantastic opportunity to develop and train as a Company Group.
As ever the 'churn' and promotions within the Company have been high throughout 2012. We sadly bade farewell to Civvy Street to Fusiliers Gregory, Prince, Stratton and McGowran. On posting; LCpl Morris, Corporals Howe, Davey, Graham, Girault and Vaughn, CSgt Daz Hanrahan to BATUK in Kenya, WO2 (CSM) 'Wor Dickie' Halloran to the role of Bn Trg WO and Captain Noel Webb (the Coy 2IC). We welcomed a huge number of new Fusiliers, LCpls Corlett, McNally, Chadderton, Watson and Girling, Corporals O'Connell, Smith, Payne, Bewlay, Waddell and Buinitaria, CSgt Harris back from Brecon, WO2 (CSM) Thompson, 2Lt Richardson and 2Lt Ashton. During 2012 the following were successfully promoted to LCpl; Fus'Ashfield, Janes, Goose, Henderson, Oliver and Thomas, to Corporal; Elliott, Hendricks, Mason and Cole and Cpl Davidson was promoted to Sgt.
And finally, huge congratulations goes to WO2 (CSM) Thompson who received the US Meritorious Service Medal from Lt Gen Caldwell for his outstanding performance as a Team Commander in Mazar E Sharif in Afghanistan whilst training and mentoring new Afghan Recruits in 2009 as a Colour Sergeant.
Ex DIAMOND CONFRONTING HACKLE
Ex DIAMOND CONFRONTING HACKLE was a week-long Adventure Training package conducted in the Harz Mountains, where Fusiliers from 5 and 6 Platoon, B Company 2 RRF took part in a range of activities. The aims were to introduce Fusiliers to the types of fear, the effects of fear and coping with fear through abseiling, climbing, mountain biking and hill walking, with the week culminating in a cultural visit to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Platoons were accommodated at the AT(G) Sonnenberg Lodge, hosted brilliantly throughout by Spot Sinclair and Sgt 'Smudge' Smith RLC who somehow managed to make our CILOR stretch as far as steak!
The most popular activity throughout the week was undoubtedly abseiling and rock climbing, ran by Cpl Sammy McKeown (FSp). Undeterred by the initial rain which greeted our arrival in the Harz, Fusiliers were able to put themselves to the test and experience physical fear hanging over 150ft above the ground before leaning back and hoping for the best. Fus Finn couldn't quite grasp the concept of abseiling however, as he found himself dangling upside down until Cpl McKeown came to the rescue much to the amusement of the remainder of the group. By the end of the week everyone had abseiled without fail despite the slippery conditions and deceptively small overhangs.
Another well subscribed activity was Mountain Biking, led by Spot Sinclair of AT(G). His relaxed approach managed to fool Fusiliers into thinking they were off for a leisurely cycle around the Harz. Four hours later and a red faced Fusilier Queen walking like John Wayne told a rather different story. However, Cpl Rea was un-phased by the intensity as it provided him with another opportunity for quality physical training.
Lt Matt Jonas led hill walking with the distance and terrain able to provide a challenge to the Fusiliers, although some of the difficulty may have been due to an enormous lunch at the local Italian restaurant in Sonnenberg! The walk offered fantastic views around the Harz National Park as well as giving the Fusiliers a chance to put their navigation skills to the test.
The evenings allowed Platoons to relax with a beer or two, giving Lt Paul Richardson the chance to demonstrate his pool-playing ability to brave challengers.
The end of the week was more sombre with a visit to the nearby Bergen-Belsen former concentration camp. It was impressive to see how moving the Fusiliers found the experience and the time they spent viewing each and every horrific exhibit as they tried to comprehend the scale of the atrocities. Many thanks go to Spot Sinclair, Lt Matt Jonas, Sgt 'Smudge' Smith and Cpl Sammy McKeown for their hard work ensuring Exercise Diamond Confronting Hackle was a success throughout.
Since the last edition of The Fusilier, C Coy has deployed to Kenya on Ex ASAKARI THUNDER 4, completed Mission Specific Training for Afghanistan and conducted a Unit Move from Germany to Cyprus. During this period the Coy spent much of its time in the UK on courses and exercise and what seemed an even greater period on the autobahn or M20 either travelling to or from Germany.
In November the Company deployed to Kenya as part of 2nd Fusiliers Battlegroup for Exercise ASKARI THUNDER 4. This exercise was the culmination of the battalion's Hybrid Foundation Training Year and was delivered by the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK). The exercise was designed to test the entire Battlegroup in a physically and mentally demanding environment. Split into a number of phases, the first element saw C Company deploy alone to a Forward Operating Base to conduct 7 days of training, the culmination of which was a series of Platoon Battle Runs conducted with the support of a Tactical Engagement System team. This Company directed training afforded platoons the opportunity to conduct both dry and live fire training within a Company context. The arduous nature of the terrain, testing environment and quality of training, provided an excellent base from which to build upon. A platoon of Kenyan Infantry joined the Company and remained with the Company Group until the final exercise. Overcoming a series of cultural and interoperability issues took patience and a required a subtle change of approach by the Company; however the Kenyans impressed with their speed of movement across ground and ability to pass messages despite not being equipped with radios! The fact that their attachment was designed to prepare them for a deployment to Somalia was not lost on the Company Group earning the Kenyans our respect and admiration. The environment did its best to challenges, heavy rain threatened to wash away roads (and small Fusiliers) and the stifling heat reminded all of the challenges of operating in arid and austere conditions.
Phase 2 of the exercise saw the Company Group tested in a series of 48hr Battle Runs (including live firing) which were designed to exercise every element of the Company across all phases of war. Following a challenging 10 hour road move the Company Group set up home in Archers Post (imaginatively nicknamed Archers Roast by generations of soldiers) and conducted battle procedure. Highlights of the 3 phase exercise included a Company Group live fire attack conducted in temperatures which would cook an egg, sharing harbour areas with a variety of wildlife including elephants and defeating the OPFOR camp attack with a series of ambushes targeted by ISTAR.
The Battlegroup (and final) phase of the exercise tested every element of the battalion in a manner similar to the Company test phase. The Company Group was pleased to conduct an out of area Air Assault, however was less impressed when it transpired that the area around the HLS was occupied by Lions. Long and painful foot and road moves were the hallmark of the exercise, as the BG manoeuvred its sub-units to defeat the OPFOR. Despite this morale remained high, especially when the Company learned that the only bergan to be lost in a complicated series of moves was the OC's. The Company learned many important lessons including the importance of fighting light, the effectiveness of enemy indirect fire and that if the Company 2IC breaks three Land Rovers it is unpleasant to be a member of Company Headquarters! The final BG attacks demonstrated the fitness of the entire Battlegroup with Company Gps assaulting enemy position at 2000 feet above sea-level following an impressive tactical foot move. Our time in Kenya ended with some well deserved Adventure Training. A hardy contingent climbed Mount Kenya, whilst the remainder conducted a combination of climbing, mountain biking and safaris. It has to be said that the safari element was least well received as the Company Group had spent the vast majority of the exercise running away from a varied collection of wildlife all of which was intent on biting, clawing, stinging, trampling or goring Fusiliers.
On return from Christmas leave preparation for Afghanistan began in earnest. Although a number of Afghanistan specific courses had been conducted prior to deployment to Kenya, the mandatory Mission Specific Training serials were conducted in the early stages of 2012. The future role of TRB necessitated mastery of Afghanistan specific skills whilst at the same time remaining generalists rather than prepare for a specific role. C Company Groups MST progression can be seen in a series of separate articles). Throughout this period C Company Group qualified 110 individuals as subject matter experts in theatre specific skills for Afghanistan. The list of skills required is breathtaking at first sight and required the Company 2IC and CSM to balance and manage soldiers and their skills via a spreadsheet. In addition to the enormous training bill the Company provided assistance to 2 LANCS in the form of a range team as they completed their MST range package. As previously mentioned all MST serials were conducted in the UK and as you can imagine this resulted in a series of long and torturous road moves from Germany to the UK and back. These journeys generally took 20hrs to complete, unless you made the mistake of travelling with an un-named 11 Pl Sgt who extended that time somewhat by filling a diesel min-bus with petrol.
Whilst the battalion was conducting MST it was faced also with the small and mutually exclusive activity of closing down Celle Barracks and moving every element of the battalion to Cyprus. Our final weeks in Germany were dominated by the preparation of Trenchard Barracks for handover and the packing of Coy and personal property. This resulted in many late nights and work parades to ensure we could meet the timelines whilst achieving the requirements of MST. The CQMS and his team visibly aged during this very busy period as they packed for exercise, took over operational training equipment, manifested property for a Battalion move and deployed early to Cyprus.
Arriving in Cyprus in early August, the Company was able to fully experience the delights that Cyprus has to offer; sadly this was short lived as the Company took on responsibly for Cyprus Ops 1 Security Duties. During an eight week period each platoon and the FSG (C) were required to provide security to sites at RAF Akrotiri and in the Troodos mountains. Despite fragmentation of the Company and complicated command and control issues, the Platoons enjoyed the autonomy and were able to conduct Platoon level training whilst meeting the security tasks. The vast majority of the training focused on ensuring that the Company Group was ready to conduct Reception Staging and Onwards Integration in Camp Bastion, the final requirement for assumption of the TRB role.
Despite the sometimes frantic pace of life there have been numerous sporting and Adventure Training opportunities for the Company. Several of our number played an important part in the Battalion's successful football team and the Company acquitted itself admirably during Inter-Company sports on St George's day. Most recently 6 members of the company were members of the winning Dhelkelia Dash team. The Harz mountains in Germany once again provided several Fusiliers with the opportunity to learn to ski and since arriving in Cyprus 60 members of the company have participated in week long parachuting, sailing and scuba diving courses. As with most things in life, Adventure Training is better in the sunshine and we expect that we will be able to continue to take advantage of the excellent facilities that are available on island.
A number of C Company personnel have been away on promotion cadres and courses. Fus Corlett, Watson, Annandale, Saville, Watson completed the Fire Team Commander's Cadre and promoted to LCpl. Five have attended and passed the Section Commander's Battle Course with Corporals Mundy, Russell, Wells and Lyall subsequently promoting. Corporal Wright has passed the Platoon Sergeant's Battle Course and Sergeant Yale has rejoined the Company from Catterick, taking over as 9 Platoon Sergeant from Sergeant Henderson who has moved on to the Sniper platoon. Two new officers have joined the Company with Lieutenant Rob Illing and 2nd Lieutenant Harry Cotton joining 9 and 10 platoon respectively. Lt Jay and Lt Chacksfield both left the company to take up positions at ITB Catterick.
The following series of articles describe Mission Specific Training (MST) from the eyes of a participant. C Company Group began MST in Jan 2012 and completed RSOI in Nov 2012. During this 9 month period individuals and groupings were trained in Afghanistan specific skills and were then given the opportunity to first practice them collectively before being tested and advised by the Operational Training Advisory Group (OPTAG). The vast majority of this training was completed in the UK, however elements of the Coy travelled as far afield as Brunei in order to receive training.
All Ranks Brief
Prior to commencing training for Afghanistan a team from OPTAG visited the Battalion to deliver the All Ranks Briefing (ARB) on Afghanistan. This mandatory element of Mission Specific Training is designed to provide soldiers deploying to Afghanistan with an understanding of all things Afghanistan. As the Battalion last deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, it was essential that all heard about the latest developments. In addition to OPTAG instructors and subject matter experts, we also received a briefing from a Pakistani Infantry officer. He spoke at length about his experience in the North West Frontier against a similar enemy to the one faceD in Helmand. It was interesting to hear how much more aggressive their tactics were in comparison to ours, and from a Platoon Sergeants perspective how little kit they carry compared to UK soldiers. The 2 day package ensured that we had sufficient knowledge to begin our training and showed us that we must constantly adapt to the changing environment in Afghanistan.
Tactical Commanders Cadre
The Tactical Commanders Cadre (TCC) was run over three days and was designed to help teach current Afghan Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) to those who are due to deploy in the near future. It is delivered to all commanders from Lance Corporals all the way up to the Commanding Officer and covers a broad range of subjects from safe lane marking in an IED or mine belt to an understanding of local demographics.
There were many good lessons including obstacle crossings, casualty evacuation and the use new Counter-IED equipment. The best part was the lesson on route planning. The instructors had built a detailed model that represented a potential Afghan Area of Operations and asked us to plan the movement of our troops against a set scenario and constraints. It made me think about how important it is to balance the management of risk with maintaining momentum and ensuring initiative is maintained in a potentially dangerous situation. (Ed: surely just the basics of ground appreciation) The cultural awareness training was also an eye opener because it helped everyone understand how the average Afghan civilian might look at me, and what they think about us being in their country.
In Barracks Training- Ex SPARTAN HACKLE.
C Company commenced a phase of In Barracks Training
(IBT) from Celle. The aim of the IBT was to confirm that Afghanistan
Specific TTPs had been learned and understood. In order to facilitate
this, the Company chose to conduct training on a 38 square km area of
private land which was booked utilising the 443 process.
Finally, C Company Group deployed to Bergen-Hohne training area in order to use the small 'Afghan Dorf' and patrol base which has been constructed for the purpose of mission rehearsal training. A rotation was established with a platoon guarding the PB, a platoon conducting patrols, a platoon playing CIVPOP and OPFOR and the FSG providing support to all of the Company's operations. Serials played out included, small arms attacks, IED laying and Key Leader engagements, all of which enabled the platoons to identify gaps in their training to be rectified prior to deploying on the MST test exercises in Norfolk and Pembrokeshire.
Just prior to the Easter break, elements of C Company Group, from HQ personnel to vehicle commanders and drivers, deployed to Warminster in order to conduct a two-week command post exercise. This training was conducted on a computer generated battlefield, which replicated southern Afghanistan. During the exercise Company and Battalion Headquarters was tested in command and staff procedures whilst vehicle commanders and drivers executed missions in a counter-insurgency environment. The training focused on what might be encountered on 'a bad day in Helmand'. Every Patrol commander had to deal with multiple incidents whilst on patrol which had to be relayed back to the Company HQ. Throughout this process multiple layers of command were exercised.
The exercise began with a series of slow paced training opportunities that enabled the various elements of the Company to get to grips with the systems they would be using over the course of the fortnight. For some, this was the TiGR patrol planning and reporting tool, for others, it was the MASTIFF and JACKAL vehicle simulators.
At the end of week one, the Company had its first serials to deal with. These scenarios tested the Company's integration of ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance), Electronic Warfare, aircraft and patrolling. Also tested was how the company's Surveillance and Target Acquisition Plan (STAP) stood up to the probing of the simulated insurgent force. Constant updates to this plan enabled the Company Ops room to react effectively to each test serial. After each days training, a large scale After Action Review was held in the main lecture theatre, during which the Observer/Mentors were able to replay and dissect each scenario and ask the commanders involved what their thought processes were at each stage of the action.
For C Company, a memorable part of this exercise was the banning of the dreaded 'T' word (Taliban) by Major Johnny Austin. The use of this word in place of the correct term (Insurgent) was punishable by 20 press ups. Ironically though, it was the OC himself who pushed out the largest number of these over the two week period!
Week two of exercise saw the test serials increase in complexity, not just testing the reactive capabilities of the Company HQs but also looking at how the Battle Group and Company planners were able to proactively tackle the insurgents and shape the area of operations. A thorough understanding of the Rules of Engagement, principles of patrolling and consequence management were vital to success. Afghan role players added to the realism, with real-time, real-life Shuras taking place between company commanders, village elders and Afghan National Security Forces. The final element of the exercise culminated with an operation to build a new patrol base in the Battle Group AO, throughout which all of the Company Groups played their part to achieve the mission.
After the final After Action Review, the Second Fusiliers departed Warminster for their Easter leave with heads held high. The Battalion had received a glowing report and with it a confidence boost prior to deploying on the MST Confirmation Exercise (CFX) and Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise, which were to follow in quick succession after Easter.
Ex PASHTUN PANTHER was a Rifle Company level confirmatory exercise run by the Operational Training and Advisory Group (OPTAG) near Thetford. In recent years the training area and exercise has received enormous investment and despite its location feels exactly like Afghanistan. Following the mandatory 20 hour coach journey, and prior to beginning the exercise we were fortunate enough to be hosted by the USAF 494th Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath. The Squadron CO had been at Staff College with the OC and was only too willing to show off his 24 pristine F15 Eagles. This was a good opportunity for everyone in C Company to clamber over multi-million dollar fighter aircraft, as well as see how the other half live - unfortunately it turns out that transfers to the USAF are not easily arranged.
Ex PASHTUN PANTHER sought to replicate a Compay level deployment in southern Helmand, with the Company split between a shared Forward Operating Base and a smaller Checkpoint. Over four days we performed a number of missions. A 'Green Zone' style clearance was a particular highlight, as it tested a range of skills including compound clearance, casualty evacuation and incident management with waist deep bogs proving as much an obstacle to movement as simulated insurgent activity! Our performance was closely monitored by mentors from OPTAG at all times, though they did manage to miss a Platoon Sergeant remove the evidence of a talcum powder IED strike by fully submerging the Fusilier involved in a nearby river. The exercise was well resourced, and we witnessed at first hand the realities of company group operations equipped with the latest equipment. The exercise also gave us the opportunity to rehearse working directly with Afghan Security Forces, who were played by a mixture of former Gurkhas and Afghan immigrants. These role players introduced a new level of friction into the exercise and gave an insight into the sort of challenges we may encounter should we deploy on a TRB tasking.
CALFEX - Combined Arms Live Firing Exercise
Our final exercise of Mission Specific Training was Exercise PASHTUN TEMPEST; a three day live firing package in Castlemartin, Wales. With Castlemartin having a reputation for year-round-rain and being located another delightful 22 hour coach journey from Germany, enthusiasm for this event could have been slightly tempered. However, although slightly less immersive than Ex PASHTUN PANTHER, it provided a good opportunity for the Rifle Platoons to practice the TTPs learned over the course of the year with the added challenges that live firing introduces. The exercise culminated in a day long Company clearance operation where we proved that there is no piece of terrain on which a light role Fusilier cannot get a vehicle bogged in.
Overall Ex PASHTUN PANTHER and PASHTUN TEMPEST were well received by the Fusiliers, NCOs and Officers of the Company, all of whom commented favourably on the realism and the thought that had gone into the scenarios. C Company Group also received very favourable reports from OPTAG, which justified the hard work delivered by all elements of the Company whilst training in Germany.
C Coy Group - An attached Platoon's perspective of
Following Ex ASKARI THUNDER 4 and Christmas leave, FSG(C) saw itself attached to C Company in order to begin Mission Specific Training (MST) as part of C Company Group. Not only did this provide an opportunity for some of the old sweats who had begun their career in C Company to spin stories about a better life in FSp Coy, but more importantly this saw a clear change in focus from Hybrid Foundation Training (HFT) to MST for Op HERRICK.
The year began with a two week training cadre in Sennelager designed to further test the newer members of the FSG, and also to train elements from the Rifle platoons to operate as heavy weapons gunners on in Theatre vehicle platforms. Following that the Company Group moved to Lydd and Hythe ranges in order to complete the required OPTAG specified range packages. Whilst the ranges primarily involved individual weapons, the four day package culminated in a defensive day and night range; firing on the GPMG, HMG and GMGs - both dismounted and mounted on the JACKAL vehicle platform. As a result the firers provided by the Rifle Platoons had an excellent opportunity to get more 'hands on' the heavy weapons, and everyone else had a good workout when it came to lifting and shifting several 20kg boxes of ammunition!
With CFX (PAHSTUN PANTHER) getting ever closer, the platoons each began to use the In Barracks Training (IBT) area in order to start to develop the different patrol skills required in the contemporary environment. This saw a big change in attitude for the FSG; not only did it highlight the difficulties in patrolling with both heavy weapons and ECM, it also made the selection and occupation of FSp positions more complex as a result of the IED threat. On the other hand, the overmatch in weapon systems - particularly through JAVELIN - meant that FSp locations can be sited on forward slopes therefore maximising the effective ranges, as opposed to the conventional norm of sighting on reverse and defilade slopes.
The IBT period built up to a three day exercise in
FOB SPARTAN on Hohne Training Area, which saw the Company come together,
allowing the platoons and the FSG to work together for the first time.
This was achieved by showing the Fusiliers in the Rifle Platoon how
heavy weapons may be employed in FOB defence, and also by allowing Junior
Commanders to appreciate the extra support, depth and quality of information
through live feed that can be brought onto targets.
The first of the MST test exercises - CFX (PASHTUN PANTHER) - in STANTA marked the first time the Company Group would work together with the likely support and infrastructure that would be present on Op HERRICK. In addition it was the first time, since crew and driver training, that the members of the FSG and the Rifle Platoons would be able to get hands on the JACKAL, COYOTE and MASTIFF vehicle platforms.
The set-up in STANTA is excellent, and although the landscape does not replicate that in Afghanistan, the facilities there are arguably second to none - the ABDUAL WAHID KALAY (Afghan Village) with purpose built FOBs, fully established ISTAR platforms and the civilian personnel employed as ANSF and Afghan nationals really brought the exercise to life. For the FSG this involved patrolling with the Rifle Platoons and mobility protection as part of larger operations, whilst the reduced ability of TES (the HMG TES fit can only fire out to 500m as opposed to the 2000m effective range of the HMG) to provide the effect that would be had for real, the use of CLU for ISTAR helped to better FIND and track the enemy, and again provide live feeds for situational awareness.
Following on from an excellent performance on CFX, the Company Group moved to Castlemartin Ranges in order conduct the next step of MST: CALFEX. This involved a series of live fire packages ranging from static to moving vehicle shoots. This allowed the FSG to practise the kinetic aspects of their role in the Advance to Contact serial through the use of a mounted FSG screen to FIND and FIX, therefore setting the conditions for battle-handover to the Rifle Platoons to DESTROY. There was also a significant amount of training dedicated to the other threats in theatre - IED, Complex ambush and CASEVAC.
Overall CALFEX provided the resources that are seldom available during other forms of training - HMG and GMG ammunition is scarce, expensive and difficult to obtain, and unfortunately TES does not bring about the same quality of training compared to LFTT: "the live firing package was really good - engaging targets at more realistic ranges meant that we could actually see what the weapons would do for real" (Fus Moore73)
In summary, since joining the Company group, we have conducted a significant amount of training in order to qualify as competent to deploy on Operations. MST as a whole has provided an excellent vehicle through which the FSG has developed to better support the Company Group, and now the move to Cyprus and assumption of the TRB role should only help to further develop and cement the lessons identified from the training. For the FSG there has been a significant amount of give and take in terms of the way that we will conduct operations; on one hand we need to be as proficient as possible in the supporting role - both mounted and dismounted - as part of company operations, while on the other basic patrolling skills have been reinforced to allow the FSG to operate as a normal rifle platoon in the dismounted role.
The challenge is to maintain the standard that has been shown in the last eight months. This will be facilitated in the coming year through further mobility and cross training on heavy weapons, and also through the reintroduction of traditional conventional lessons including anti-armour matrices and the new AFV syllabus - so good news for spotters!
Whilst the Fire Support Group (FSG) concept is not a new concept within 2RRF - in fact 2RRF facilitated one of the first distributed training cadres dedicated to training Fusiliers (referred to as FSG "Gunners") within FSGs in June 2010 - the past year has seen further development towards fully practising the doctrine that has been promulgated by DCOMBAT. In fact for the last two years, all Officers, Senior and Junior NCOs have been attending the FSG Platoon Commanders', Multiple Commanders' and Team Commanders' course, respectively, at the FSG Division of Support Weapon School in Warminster as opposed to the previous Javelin and GPMG (SF) Courses.
For the uninitiated, the FSG represents the grouping of the point (HMG and Javelin) and area (GPMG SF and GMG) weapon systems that were previously employed as separate teams, sections and detachments. They can operate as a formed sub-unit in support of the Battlegroup plan, or as a separate Manoeuvre Operation Group (MOG) - similar in size to Coy(-) strength - or can be separated into platoons and attached to Company Groups in order to directly support the Company plan. (Ed: exactly as it was when I joined 1 RRF in 1974!)
Due to the weight of the weapons and ammunition, the FSG traditionally operates in the mounted role - in vehicles such as WMIK and JACKAL - but still retains the ability to dismount and operate on foot. The FSG itself is split into three platoons, each with two multiples containing four teams, with an additional G4 team to sustain it. Therefore, when mounted each platoon represents a significant concentration of firepower across eight fighting vehicles and one support vehicle.
For the FSG the last years training began with a significant uplift in manpower provided by the rest of the Battalion. This allowed the FSG to split into three separate platoons, and set the conditions for future exercises and operational deployments. FSG (A) grew in size and then split into FSG(A) and FSG(C), whilst FSG(B) retained its personnel in order to allow them to better fulfil their drumming commitments.
This uplift in personnel required a significant amount of training, which was co-ordinated by Capt Musson on Sennelager Training Area. The cadre took place over a seven week period, involving a complete training package on all four of the weapon systems and then progressing to their tactical employment both mounted and dismounted - no easy feat when you consider that each of the previous cadres would have been a similar length for only one weapon system.
Overall, the cadre set the conditions for the Battalion's deployment to Kenya; giving each of the Rifle Companies a dedicated FSG, whilst also affording the Commanding Officer another - and arguably more potent - sub-unit at his disposal.
Prior to deploying on Ex ASKARI THUNDER 4, the FSGs were attached to their respective companies so that they could conduct some combined training, and then it was off to Kenya where Ex ASKARI THUNDER 4 proved to be as challenging as had been warned. It provided a multitude of difficult and demanding training serials in an environment that is impossible to replicate elsewhere. The heat, the wildlife and the terrain were difficult enough on foot, not to mention in R-WMIKs, and it seemed that the slightest moisture turned every open field into a scene that would not have been out of place on the Somme.
Training began with the FSG platoon exercises and LFTT ranges in Archers Post Training area - one of the hottest places on earth - and was aimed at basic vehicle tactics as well as acclimatization.
FSp Coy 2. The FSG takes a break during the build up training on Ex ASKARI THUNDER 4 L -R: Fus Pynaert, Fus Johnson and Sgt Ansell with Drum Major Ward sporting a rather flattering colour of tropics!
This was followed by several Company Group exercises designed to test every element of the Company, and with torrential season rains, vehicle recovery was practiced very well too.
Upon completion of the Company exercise, the Battalion recovered back to Turaco Farm - which looked like a military version of Glastonbury Festival after a daily rain shower - and prepared itself for the final exercise in the Lolldaiga Mountains.
The final exercise had a mix of offensive and defensive serials, with the FSGs still attached to the Company Groups. In the final attack, however, which involved a 20km approach to the FUP, the three separate FSG platoons formed into an FSG sub-unit and provided fire support for the break-in by one of the RifleCompanies. As the light role companies trudged the 20km insertion route, the vehicle mounted FSGs rolled past in a not so subtle recruiting campaign!
After a well deserved R&R period and Christmas leave, the FSGs began the long process that is Mission Specific Training (MST) attached to their Company Groups. The early stages involved a significant period of individual MST including another live firing package in Sennelager to qualify the FSG on the latest weapon systems, and most importantly, the Crew Training School provided the first opportunity to get hands on the JACKAL vehicle platform.
Nine months through the MST and the FSGs with their
Company Groups had completed the Confirmatory Field Exercise (CFX),
the Combined Arms Live Firing Exercise (CALFEX) and the Final Training
Exercise (FTX), that has seen them deploy to the fictional 'Afghan Enclaves'
near Stanford, Castlemartin and Plains Province in Warminster. There
was then the hectic Unit Move from Celle to Cyprus, and the FSGs now
await the assumption of the Theatre Reserve Battalion (TRB) role, and
a possible operational deployment.
HQ Company continues to pull rabbits out of hats, create silk purses from sows ears and turn water into wine (sorry Padre). Why? Because the pace of life for all elements of the Battalion has been hectic and that is what we thrive on.
Over the last six months the Battalion has bounced from commitment to commitment and has been occupied with a number of projects. Not least preparing for operations. If this wasn't enough throw in a complicated Unit Move and the drawdown and closure of Trenchard Barracks. As the Battalionn enablers, members of the Company have been intimately involved in all these activities.
On the operational and training side the BN 2IC Major (now Lt Col) Tony Gawthorpe set out to ensure that all elements of the Battalion were in a strong position to see them through the Op Herrick Mission Specific Training and out the other side of a major obstacle which was the Unit Move. Prior to the Unit Move the Battalion and HQ Company said farewell to Major Gawthorpe. Temporarily, elements of the Bn 2IC's responsibilities were passed to Capt Chris Williams the Ops Offr. The focus now being preparing for the Theatre Reserve Battalion role. Capt Williams saw us safely onto and through the FTX where, with a strong Battle Group HQ team including Capt Alan Williamson (IO) and Capt Jamie Piper (Battle Captain) along with the other BG Staff, we came away having impressed.
I earlier referred to the Unit Move as a major obstacle. It is no small task moving a Battalion, it's families and belongings between two overseas locations. Especially when the new station is Cyprus in the heat of the summer. First to move were Capt Jimmy Greaves, CSgt Paddy Coakley, SSgt Lee Arnold and their team. They arrived in Cyprus in May. By which time months of preparation had already taken place. Their task to try and take the heat out of the move and get over 120 families out of Celle and into Dhekelia. CSgt Roger Daughtry was leading up the Celle end of the operation. To say he had his work cut out would be an understatement.. The fact that the vast majority of our families arrived with positive reports of their departure from Germany is testament to the fantastic work carried out by CSgt Daughtry who has now left the Battalion at the end of his service. After spending much of his career in HQ Coy, Roger was well known and well liked. We wish him and his family all the best in the future and hope all goes well for him in his new home in Spain.
Most of the Battalion left Germany and went on leave prior to moving over to Cyprus. Generally blissfully unaware of the wheels that were in motion in both Germany and Cyprus.
In Germany the QM Major Will Blinco was immersed in not only seeing the Battalion out of Trenchard Barracks but also the close down. Meanwhile the QM(T) Maj Jason Oliver had seized the day and had already handed over the unit equipment to 2 R Anglian who then had the task of moving it over to the UK. With a pretty much empty barracks, the QM along with the RQMS(M) WO2 (Ski) Witkowski and Sgt (George) Richardson stayed on and handed over Trenchard Barracks. They were the last soldiers, from the last unit ever to occupy a barracks which has played a big part in the lives of Fusiliers for the last almost 20 years.
In Cyprus the RQMS(T), WO2 (Aaron) Waddell was flat out with his takeover party which consisted of a large portion of the QM Department as well as all CQMSs. The take over of Alexander Barracks went well. Unlike many of those in the other Companies who move, settle in and then begin work, the Advance Party do not have that luxury. The Advance Party arrived and hit the ground running. Having only left Alexander Barracks less than 5 years ago, many involved fitted seamlessly back in. Major Andy Buxton the 2 R Anglian QM stayed on and is now the 2RRF QM. This provided the Batalion with a period of continuity which was an advantage peculiar to this Unit Move.
Deep breath . concurrent to this, the Unit Welfare Officer who was taking care of the Cyprus end of the families move was receiving families into Dhekelia. Any move can put pressure on a family. Because of distance moved, the anomalies of a Cyprus move and the anxiety for some of living in quite a different environment it is important that as many bumps and frictions as possible are removed. Capt Greaves and his team worked wonders. A plan was put in place which was designed to get our families up and running with the minimum of fuss. The normal challenges when arriving at an overseas posting abounded; where do I get a car? Where can I register my car? How do I get a telephone and WiFi for my home? Where are the shops?, Doctors? How do I register at the doctors?......Pretty much in one fell swoop these questions were answered. Minimum running around was required because as a group of families arrived in Dhekelia, all these agents were centralised at a very relaxed reception. Our families had the opportunity to attend to all these matters that might have taken up a lot of their time and incurred them further expense.
All in all a very well executed Unit Move which was HQ Company led and predominantly delivered.
Since arrival in Dhekelia the Company has changed quite dramatically. In preparation for TRB, the CIS Platoon has moved across to FSp Coy. We have taken on a new Catering Team who has already been involved in supporting Batalion activities but also other training and operations. They have also entered teams into Cyprus and Army wide catering competitions. Hopefully by the time this goes t print the QM will have some trophies on his shelf!
The MT are flat out providing support and driver training. Thankfully a reinforcement of manpower has allowed the Platoon to continue to develop under the new MTO Capt Dave Granfield. The staff in both Messes have done a sterling job in setting up the Messes and looking after Mess members. We say goodbye to Sgt Paul Brady who has left the Bn and joined the MPGS. Our very capable Regimental Admin Office has also settled in well, quickly processing the Battalion into Cyprus only to book very many of them back out to attend the FTX on Salisbury Plain. We say farewell to our awesome RAO Capt Shelley Bates who left in October. Capt Bates has been integral to the effective human resources support to the Battalion over the last few years. We wish her all the best in the future.
There have been too many changes of personalities and appointments to list them all. Welcome all new arrivals and thanks and farewell to those who have left. We have had some promotions. The first rung of the ladder is the toughest to achieve. To that end congratulations to LCpl Bobby Moore who was promoted in October and Ptes Moon and Van Tonder who were selected for promotion to Lance Corporal within their chef trade and will be assigned as NCOs shortly.
In summary, this has been a full on period for all in HQ Coy. Nobody has escaped some heat. For the future we look forward to providing combat service support and service support to the Bn on TRB and making the most of a Cyprus winter which still has plenty to offer.
Abschied Celle 2012
2 RRF, on moving to Cyprus in August 2012, was the final British Army Unit to leave Celle - ending an association with the town that dates back to 1945. Celle has been our home largely for 18+ years as a Regiment. Fusiliers have deployed from Celle to Operations in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq. In 2003 the First Fusiliers deployed to fight in Iraq and the support of the Stadt for the families of the Battalion at that time was sincerely appreciated. The Commanding Officer's intent for the farewell celebration was to ensure that Second Fusiliers left Celle in good order and in style anticipating a really good Regimental occasion. This guidance was issued in September 2011 and planning began. Under the banner Abschied (Farewell) Celle a series of events was planned to commemorate the occasion during the first week of July, 2012. The events included; a Trenchard Barracks Open Day, Cocktail Party, Beating Retreat, Minden Battlefield Tour and Regimental Dinner Night in the fields of Minden, a Celle Freedom Parade, farewell Garden Party for the Commanding Officer's House (9 Halkett Str) and an Officers' Mess Farewell Summer Ball. The remainder of this article will focus on the three key events from the week.
Trenchard Barracks Open Day, Saturday 30th June 2012
Over 2,000 people visited Trenchard Barracks in Celle on Saturday 30 June 12, for an Open Day. The gates of the barracks were opened to the local community as a gesture of goodwill and farewell before the Battalion handed the barracks back to the Garrison upon departure to Cyprus.
To celebrate the historic day, a range of vehicles used by both 7th Armoured Brigade troops and those of the Bundeswehr (German Army) were arranged in static displays for civilians to view, in addition to performances given by the 2 RRF Corps of Drums and the Band of the Parachute Regiment. The afternoon was completed by a win for the Battalion in the Anglo-German football match: although the teams were evenly matched, an early goal by the Germans was disallowed and the Fusiliers side charged to a 2-0 victory. The Open Day went really well and was just what we wanted. The local community knew it was our farewell week, and they were extremely pleased to be given the opportunity to come in and have a look around - so many of them having driven past every day for years. Frau Elke Schulte, a local Celle resident who came to the Open Day with her family, said: "It is sad that the British go. They are here a long time and we are good friends with them." British Veterans from across Germany also visited the open day festivities as part of their visit to Hohne Garrison, which hosted them as part of the annual Armed Forces Day celebrations that took place across the UK and BFG.
Minden Battlefied Tour and Regimental Dinner, Wednesday
4 July 2012
Before being posted to Germany I must confess that, though aware of the significance of the Battle of Minden not just to our Regiment, but across the Queens Division, I didn't know exactly where it was. However, a few red bull fuelled autobahn trips across the continent on the A2 later I realised it was only about an hour from Celle, it occurred to me as the last Fusilier Battalion ever based in Germany we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate one of our most famous Battle honours in style.
The ambition was for the Officers to conduct a battlefield tour focused on the British Infantry involvement followed by a campaign style Regimental 'Dinner in the Field'. Initial recces and consultation with the German authorities were promising and a site for the dinner was chosen which, based on historical evidence, was only 400m from the spot where the French cavalry were defeated at the hands of our forebears.
I gave the good news to the QM's department and once I persuaded the RQMS(M) to put the knife down I really think he got behind the idea. All those involved were extremely helpful. Beate Horn, the area German Liaison Officer, pulled out all the stops and managed to persuade Stadt Minden to grant us permission to use the land. The Prussian Museum in Minden, particularly Director Carsten Reuss and his team, were extremely enthusiastic about re-forging the Anglo-Prussian Alliance and offered not just their building and exhibits, but also their resident expert on the 7 years war, the irrepressible Marcus Stickdorn. The Drums Platoon kindly volunteered to do a display and finally 28 Engineer Regiment in Hameln lent us the tents we needed to facilitate a Regimental Dinner in the field.
On the day itself the admin party left early to set up the dinner site, closely followed by the chefs Sgt Saupe and Sgt Green. The Officers' Mess and members of the Drums Platoon arrived at the Prussian Museum in Minden some hours later to be greeted by Marcus Stickdorn, wearing authentic period dress in the uniform of a Schaumburg-Lippe artillery officer. He took the group through the museum and gave a detailed explanation of the weapons and tactics of the day which gave everyone a good background as to what our predecessors faced on the battlefield. We then moved to the battlefield itself and were taken to the exact spot where the British infantry had their fiercest action. Again, Herr Stickdorn brought it all to life with a hair raising description of the flanking fire which sent cannon balls bouncing through the ranks, decimating the infantry by ripping apart up to 20 men at a time, and the French cavalry charges that were brought to a crashing halt only metres from the front rank by good discipline (and some luck).
With the first phase complete we moved across the battlefield to our dinner location where Cpl (now Sgt) Clinton and his team had carefully recreated the Mess dining table, complete with silver, under two 18x24 tents. Luckily the weather held up and after changing into Mess Kit we enjoyed a glass of champagne and had some time to absorb the days events as the sun began to set over Lower Saxony. With the future of the battalion in the balance, it was a poignant day for all those present, not least of all for Jason Oliver as this was also his dining out, and it was good to see representatives from all three Queens Division regiments present as part of the 2 RRF Officers' Mess. Those lucky few who had yet to eat a Minden rose got to have the privilege of eating their delicious Minden roses on the battlefield of Minden, served up by the Drum Major before he and the rest of the Drums Platoon delivered a typically excellent display.
The day was a hugely enjoyable experience and I believe all those present could not have failed to feel the sense of history attached to Minden, and the link which we have with it. Given the events of the week it seemed as though the past, present and future of the Regiment were colliding. It is unlikely (though hopefully not impossible) that a Fusilier Mess will have the opportunity to do this again and I would like to thank everyone who was involved in making it such a memorable day.
Thousands of British and German spectators lined the streets of Celle on Friday 6 July, as 2 RRF exercised their right to march through the town 'with bayonets fixed, drums beating, and colours flying' for the last time at the Unit's Freedom of Celle Parade - the last time that the Unit would do so before their departure to Cyprus at the end of July. The parade was especially poignant as the Battalion had just received the very bad news that they will be amalgamated into the rest of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers at the end of their current operational commitments in autumn 2014, as part of the Army 2020 announcement. Spirits, however, remained high as the sun poured onto the Stechbahn plaza, and the Anglo-German crowd cheered the soldiers on as they paraded past.
A host of British and German dignitaries attended the parade, including Chief of the General Staff (CGS) General Sir Peter Wall KCB CBE ADC Gen; GOC 1 Div Major General James Bashall CBE; Brigadier James Richardson MBE, Commander Germany Garrisons; Brigadier Paul Nanson MBE, Commander 7th Armoured Brigade; Brigadier David Paterson OBE, Colonel of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers; the Regimental Secretary of The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Brigadier (Retd) Ian Liles OBE; Colonel Paul Eaton, Deputy Commander Bergen-Hohne Garrison; the British Ambassador to Germany, Simon McDonald CMG; Lower Saxony's Minister President, David McAllister; Federal Members of Parliament Herr Henning Otte and Frau Kirsten Lühmann; and the Oberburgermeister (Lord Mayor) of Celle, Herr Dirk-Ulrich Mende. Bundeswehr (German Army) representation came from Brigadier General Karsten Jacobson, Brigadier General Axel Binder, and Brigadier General Wolfgang Brüschke, Deputy District Commander for Military District I.
As symbols of the lasting friendship between the British and German authorities, gifts were exchanged between the Battalion, 7th Armoured Brigade, and the Stadt of Celle, with the Battalion also receiving the Fahnenband of the Federal Republic of Germany from Brigadier Brüschke - a decoration for the colours equivalent to a British battle honour. Herr Mende, the Oberburgermeister (Lord Mayor) of Celle, spoke cordially of the relationship between the two countries, noting how miraculous it was for such a friendship to have developed in the aftermath of World War II. His final words were: "Good luck to you, Auf Wiedersehen, goodbye, God save the Queen." Lower Saxony's Minister President, David McAllister, also praised the Anglo-German relationship, saying: "Today is a day which fills us with sadness, pride and gratitude." Following their inspection by CGS, The Colonel and Minister President McAllister, and led by their Corps of Drums, the Battalion set off marching through the town to the applause of the crowd.
Following the parade, everyone was invited into the grounds of Celle Schloss, where the Stadt held a reception for the soldiers and their families. The children from Mountbatten School charmed the crowd by performing four songs in English and in German, saying their own 'Tschuss!' to Celle. Their concert was followed by a British-style Proms, which began the Schloss' three-day Very British Festival. The grounds were turned into an English garden for the weekend as a fitting farewell to both the Battalion's Freedom of Celle Parade and the British Army's military presence in the town.
Abschied (Farewell) Celle was a tremendous success. Many, many people were intimately involved in the planning, coordination and execution of all of the events. We would probably need a separate Fusilier Journal to list and thank all those individually. From 7th Armoured Brigade HQ and Hohne Garrison, RHQ, HQ 1(UK) Armoured Division, the BFG Service Liaisons Office (Mr Hugh Pearson in particular), the QM's Platoon, MT Platoon, RSM and Provost Staff to the newest Fusilier manning a Sniper Stand at the Open Day, thank you for your efforts and support.
On 24September 2012 members of HQ, A, C and Fsp Companies deployed to RAF Troodos Camp to start pre training for the Cambrian Patrol. This aim of the first week was to establish the Company teams and start to train physically at altitude, all 6401ft of it. The training program was set out with PT and theory lessons all day and revision/admin at night. After a long hard week in Troodos, we headed back to Alexander Barracks. Whilst awaiting our flights to the UK the teams conducted river crossing drills (in the Med) and yet more PT and lessons.
We flew to the UK on 3 of October, and after a long flight with the mandatory hire car dramas and problems with Lt Garston's admin (again !!), we finally arrived and within 12 hours had been over the infantry's favourite mountain . twice!!. This set the pace for the pre training, a pace we continued to keep up (apart from Cpl McKeown).
Cambrian 1. Cpl 'Spud' Russell leading the way on a Cambrian Patrol training tab in some very short shorts!
After the pre training the final team selections were made and due to battalion commitments such as Jordon and TRB plus some injuries, two final teams were selected. These were a joint A+C Company team and a team from FSP Company consisting mainly of Recce and Sniper personnel.
This year the patrol was based around a 45-50km insertion phase, with further stands and tests on phase 2. The stands and tests included the following:
Phase 1 - Kit check, orders and battle procedure, CIS, recce patrol skills, agent meeting and debriefing, patrol reporting, mine clearance, BCDT, helicopter handling, rules of engagement, The Geneva Convention, foreign weapons and mines and river crossing,
Phase 2 - Artillery fire control and targeting, section anti-ambush and section attack drills, burden carrying, sewer crawl, further kit check, patrol debrief.
During the Patrol the weather was extremely challenging and out of the 10 teams to start the event on the same day as the Fusiliers only 5 finished. Both teams from 2RRF not only finished the patrol, bvut went on to gain enough points to receive medals.
Cambrian 2. The Cambrian Patrol teams conducting training in the Troodos Mountains.
The teams were:
A and C Companies
Lt Garston A Coy
LCpl Sainsbury Sniper Pl
LCpl Manuel Recce Pl
The teams would like to thank the following people who were a huge help, without them the teams would not have been able to compete:
WO2 Dave Naylor and all the staff at QDC
A+C Company - Bronze
FSP Company - Gold
With an extremely busy programme for 2 RRF with pre deployment training and the unit move it seemed that opportunities for Adventurous Training in 2012 would be few and far between. Exercise Snowy Hackle was an exercise for eighteen novice skiers to take a week away from training and to hone their abilities on the mountains.
Day one was spent learning the snow plough technique before moving on to the 'real' runs. Many members of the group adopted the typical soldier technique of deciding that turning is for the most part a useless skill and all one needs to do is go as fast as is physically possible on the gradient given. With that in mind it was probably a miracle that there were no significant ski accidents or injuries.
After just a couple of days skiing the majority of the group were really getting to grips with the skills taught. It was impressive to see Fusiliers who had never skied before whizzing down the mountains in at least a semi controlled fashion. Fusiliers Scott and Lockely particularly took to the discipline and were demonstrating near perfect aerial 360s by the end of the week! Whilst other members of the group such as Fus Duddy and LCPL Carter were showing a deep understanding of the snow plough turn.
The evenings were spent enjoying the activities that the local area had to offer. Of particular note was the ice skating ability of Fus Diggle who after showing off one afternoon went back the following evening to partake in a German ice dance disco! I am reliably informed that Fus Diggle performed well on the ice; the same cannot be said for Fus Blacklock who is not exactly a graceful swan. Other evenings were spent using the local spa and enjoying a Weisbier in some of the bars in Braunlage.
It was a really good week and allowed eighteen Fusiliers to ski for the first time. All of them came away from the exercise with excitement about the possibility of skiing in the future. The two instructors commented on how much the group had improved over the week and all the students gained the Basic Ski Proficiency award. The snow was not the greatest the Harz has seen but it allowed the guys to ski every day and it lasted right through till the end of the week. It was a pleasure to take the trip and I hope to do many more in the future.
The first thought that struck most of us on arrival in Cyprus was how physically different the Messes are. Whereas Celle had been rather grand, formal and quite clearly German, the Officers' Mess in Cyprus is more homely, cosy and of course right next to the Mediterranean Sea creating a most stunning back drop. As the MFO boxes, crates and paintings filtered in and were starting to be piled high in every available space the new PMC and new Officers' Mess Manager, Sgt Bruce, repeatedly scratched their heads and wondered how on earth we would shoe horn in all the Mess property into this new compact and bijou building. This thought crisis was temporarily resolved by the QM, Maj Andy Buxton, as he had managed to persuade Sodexo to paint it for us, and therefore all the property was placed in the centre of all the rooms in preparation for the painting. But what colour? After a brief and short Gok Wan esque morning spent with Sarah Barker, Katie Weston and Rosie Bradley-Bunn a decision was made. The Mess was painted and property unpacked. Phew! The Mess Staff; Sgt Bruce, Fusiliers Jordan and Nichols worked their socks off for which all officers are extremely grateful.
After a successful Taverna night (due to the painting) our first official engagement (the 'reveal') following the painting and unpacking (the funnel was found!) was a families Mezze Lunch at the end of September. A vast array of local food was enjoyed by 45 Mess Members and their guests on the Veranda adjacent to the Speakman Room - a fabulous setting and first event. This included children being able to use the Mess Pool. The Pool necessitated the requirement to create a new Mess Committee appointment - The Pool Guy. Captain Chris Shaw, first on the ochre, has superbly filled the tight black speedos that are mandatory Mess attire for this highly prestigious appointment. Other 21st Century Mess innovations have included the purchasing of iPads in lieu of a rather expensive Newspaper Subscription. The sight of Fusilier Officers in the Ante-Room reclining in leather armchairs, being frowned upon by Monty whilst reading a newspaper from an iPad is rather cool. Other areas of change have included the rather isolated and remote public room the other side of the Ante Room being 'handed over' to the Livers-In and designated the Antelope Room. At the time of writing we have not yet had the unveiling, although the Project Officer Captain Rob Jackson assures me it will remain in theme with the rest of the Mess.
Future events include a War of the Roses T20 Cricket Match against 2 YORKS, a Cocktail Party and Christmas Ball.
As a Mess we have warmly welcomed Nick and Pheobe Barley, James and Maria Bird, Andy Buxton and Rosie Bradley-Bunn, Mick and Joan McCarthy, Rev Clare and Frank Callanan, Stan and Jennifer Boardman, The Field Marshall Tony von Bryant (back from ITC), Frosty and Fyona Frost, Janet Johnson (RAO), Dave Chambers (RMO), Stuart Smith (Bn 2IC) and Harry Cotton. Since arrival in Cyprus we have sadly had to say farewell to Andy Buxton and Rosie Bradley-Bunn and Shelley Bates.
Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess
The recent Arms plot has seen the Mess move to its new home in the much sunnier and hotter climate of Cyprus. You may think this would have played havoc with Mess life especially if you also take in to account MST, Kenya, CSTTX, Unit Move, the close down of Trenchard Barracks, FTX (in the UK) and preparation for RSOI but true to form the Warrant Officers' and Sergeants' Mess under the leadership of the Regimental Sergeant Major WO1 Ned Miller being the real movers and shakers of the Battalion, managed several excellent events.
We have had some great functions from the farewell to Celle to the welcome to Cyprus. Stick into the mix the dinning out of WO2 Paul McLoughlin and Sgt Paul Brady and what can only be described as a fantastic summer ball in a local top-of-the-range hotel where thanks must go to CSgt Paddy Coakley and his team (Frau Coakley).
The Battlefield tour of Auschwitz has to go down as one of the most humbling experiences. To see and hear 40 hardened senior figures in the mess not speak and listen intently for a 6 hour tour can only go down as a unforgettable experience. The trip to Krakow afterwards wasn't to be scoffed at either. I would like to thank Sgt Jay Lalley for a great trip. I can unreservedly recommend this tour to anyone reading this article.
Sport in the Mess has blossomed and in particular golf with a monthly trip to Aphrodite Hills being something everyone looks forward to. Big John McCowliff has taken the Cross country team to a different level winning the first race of the season here in Cyprus (The Dekelia Dash). We also have to commend the football team with Sgt Windy Miller and Sgt Mark Radcliffe winning everything possible in BFG and reaching the final of the Army cup where it has to be said Radders didn't get off the bus.
The mess welcomed the following people; Sgt Cardwell, Sgt Malin, Sgt Bain, Sgt Mole, Sgt Goddard, Sgt Whittle, Sgt Davidson, Sgt Macaloon, Sgt Bruce, Sgt Hope, CSgt Shande WO2 Evatt.
The mess said farewell to the following people; WO2 Paul McLoughlin WO2 Stu Hamilton WO2 Dicky Halloran, Sgt Jay Ainsbury, Sgt Dave Yapp, WO2 P enis, CSgt Rodger Daughtry SSgt Stu White, Sgt Paul Humble, Sgt Paul Mann, Sgt Andy Saupe, Sgt Smudge Smith, Sgt Gaz Cunnington, Sgt Jay Lalley
Hamburg Rugby 7s
On Saturday 26 May a team from the Second Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers took part in the Hamburg Exiles International Rugby Sevens competition for the second year running. The team consisting of Maj Weston, Lt Gilbert, Cpl Senikaucava, LCpl Taylor, Fus Masala, Fus Swanepoel, Fus Vuira, Fus Wilshire, Dmr Mullis and Fus Patrice was looking to do one better than the previous year where they were defeated by the First Battalion in the final.
The atmosphere at the club was as good as the previous year and 2 RRF had the honour of opening the tournament. It was a resounding 22-0 win against Hamburger Rugby Club (with a huge final 2 minute defensive stand) proving to the rest of the teams watching that 2 RRF were here to play - and could put in some big hits! Tries were scored by Lt Gilbert, Fus Swanepoel and two for Fus Vuira. The second game was perceived as the toughest we would have in the group stages. Playing against a team called 'The Jokers' (who all had face paint on to look like the Joker from Batman, definitely an odd sight) the Fusiliers really showed what they could do in the tournament. An outstanding 26-0 win saw tries for Dmr Mullis, Fus Patrice, Lt Gilbert and Fus Swanepoel, with three conversions from Fus Vuira.
All 2 RRF had to do now to guarantee a Semi-final berth was win their final game. The Fusilier side had yet to concede a try. The final group game was one of the best performances 2 RRF have put in on the Rugby 7's field. A 61-0 win with a hat-trick for Fus Vuira, a brace for Dmr Mullis and Fus Swanepoel and just the one for Lt Gilbert and LCpl Taylor. With a Semi-final place now confirmed the team could relax a little and watch the remaining group games pan out to see who they would be facing.
Going into the Semi-final with some confidence, having yet to concede a point, 2 RRF went behind early to a very good St Pauli side. Some poor choices and the odd mistake meant the Fusiliers went in at a half-time 12-0 down. After the break the Fusiliers rallied and brought the score to 12-5 before another lapse in concentration (by the referee!) resulted in a further try for St Pauli. With the score at 17-5 with less than 2 minutes left 2 RRF went in search of the two scores to win the game. A mesmerising break by Maj Weston saw him run half the length of the pitch before being caught and from the resulting ruck Lt Gilbert was able to break clean and score and convert under the post. However, time had run out and this turned out to be the final act with 2 RRF going down to a score of 12-17 and missing out on the final. The disappointment was obvious to see and the Fusiliers had to regroup for the 3rd Place playoff only minutes later.
The 3rd Place match saw 2 RRF playing 'The Jokers' once again. A wide open running game resulted in 2 RRF easily winning and ending the tournament on a high with a 34-0 scoreline. Fus Vuira bagging himself two more tries and two more conversions to take his tournament tally to 6 tries and 13 conversions with further tries for Fus Swanepoel (6 tries for the tournament), Lt Gilbert (5 tries for the tournament) and Fus Patrice. 2 RRF could be relatively happy with the overall performance; finishing 3rd to two very good teams in the final and conceding very few points in what could be regarded as a tough tournament.
The final competition of the day saw the annual Boat
Race. Favourites were obviously the team known as 'The Front Row Club'
and they went on to win, followed closely by 2 RRF represented by Fus
Masala, LCpl Taylor, Lt Gilbert and Fus Swanepoel. At the presentation
ceremony 2 RRF were awarded the 3rd place prize (a mounted prismatic
compass, for those budding platoon commanders) and Fus Vuira had the
honour of being named player of the tournament. Overall a brilliant
day was had by all and the Battalion's Fijian contingent were down in
force supporting from the sidelines, along with Lt Taylor. Some
great rugby was played and the future for Battalion rugby in Cyprus
looks very good indeed.