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A successful year for military force
THE last year has been one of change, success and continued operational pressure for our local forces.
Afghanistan dominated the year with the deployment of 12 Mechanised Brigade in the late spring taking many local units including 19 and 32 Regt RA, 26 Engr Regt, King’s Royal Hussars, 1 Royal Anglian, 3 YORKS, 2 Royal Welsh and 4 Bn REME.
Progress was made in the transition to Afghan National forces taking over, but as usual it came at a price, with 28 members of the brigade being killed, including nine from 3 YORKS and one from 1 Royal Anglian.
Future Force 2020 was announced, with changes to locally based units being unveiled.
1 Royal Welsh will merge with 2 Royal Welsh and be based at Tidworth, as will 1 and 2 Royal Tank Regiment.
19 Regiment changed from the Highland Gunners to become the Scottish Gunners. The deployment of a third brigade headquarters to the Plain was also announced.
The Salisbury Plain Military Wives Choir was formed, performing its first concert in the spring shortly followed by singing in front of the Queen during her visit to Salisbury in May and then six members performed on the Diamond Jubilee record and a further nine sang at the Buckingham Palace Jubilee concert.
The Olympics showed just how resilient our troops are as they were deployed at short notice to carry out security duties.
They were regarded in high esteem for their actions. The public warmed to them when they met them face to face at the Olympic venues and they further increased their reputation.
January saw Brigadier Rupert Jones, former commanding officer of 4 RIFLES returning to Tidworth as Commander of 1 Mechanised Brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Chris Barry took over as Commanding Officer of 2 Royal Welsh.
February saw the formation of a combined cadet force unit at Wellington Academy, the army marched out of Netheravon Airfield Camp after 100 years of occupation, and The Princess Royal visited KRH as they continued to work towards their Afghan deployment.
In March work began on a new Tidworth Garrison Theatre and Emperor Joseph Bonaparte’s chamber pot, captured by the KRH’s predecessors, was returned to Spain to be exhibited.
12 Brigade held its pre-deployment exercise on the Plain, visited by Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond. However, the visit was overshadowed by the death of six soldiers serving with 3 YORKS.
April saw 12 Mech bde take over in Helmand while the Chancellor announced a £100million investment in service families’ accommodation and a doubling of the welfare grant for the families of servicemen deployed on operations.
In May, 4 RIFLES won the 3 Div GOC’s Award for their high standard of sport, adventurous training and general fitness.
The Central Flying School celebrated the 100th anniversary of its formation at Upavon and 1 RHA won the RA boxing Championships.
The Jubilee celebrations dominated June with medal parades across the garrison and Olympic torch relays saw Corporal Ricky Harrison from 4 RIFLES carrying the torch in Broseley.
July saw the annual Rundle Cup Army v Navy polo match and the retirement of Brigadier (Retd) John Wright from his role as ‘Mr Polo’ at Tidworth.
In August, Captain Heather Stanning from 32 Regt won gold in the rowing, soldiers from 1 RRF helped out in London and men and women from 43 Bde ran security at the Olympic Sailing events.
The first troops from 12 Mech Bde returned from Afghanistan in September, cuts in the number of senior MoD officers were announced and while visiting the 4 Bde predeployment exercise on the Plain, Peter Luff MP announced the purchase of a further 25 Foxhound vehicles.
In October the closure of 43 Wessex Brigade was announced, the RIFLES archaeology project for wounded soldiers, Operation Nightingale, was awarded for its work, and H4H held an open day to celebrate its five years of progress.
We saw the delight on the faces of families as soldiers from 12 Mech Brigade were awarded their Afghan Operational medals in November, and the close of the year saw most units going on well deserved early leave.
My comments on the annual Christmas cake competition in December caused anxiety among the civil servants who control the purse strings at Aldershot.
2013 will again be dominated by Afghanistan as 1 Mech Bde prepares to deploy in the spring as some of the last troops to be sent.
Let us take this opportunity to thank the men and women of our armed services for an amazing year of achievements.