New Vikings recruits go on exercise

A new generation of Royal Anglian heroes has been deployed on exercise for the first time since the regiment's famous return from Afghanistan last year.

The 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment - nicknamed the Vikings - has new equipment, new soldiers and a new commanding officer. They have begun training for their next challenge following last summer efforts which saw the battalion face some of the fiercest fighting in its history.

This resulted in both tragedy and success: Nine men were killed in action and 120 wounded - but troops also won an array of medals and bravery awards in recognition of one of their toughest ever deployments.

About half of the privates currently on exercise at Salisbury Plain have been recruited since the Anglians served in the Helmand province as their predecessors have been promoted or moved on to new roles.

Recently appointed commanding officer Lt Col James Woodham, the son of a Norfolk vicar, said the battalion would never forget the sacrifices made but added the impact the troops had on the war would serve has inspiration for newcomers as they look to move on to a new era.

He said: “There is no doubt that we will be returning to theatre in the foreseeable future. Where and when that will be will be dictated by events.

“Last summer was the most intense operation we have taken part in in living memory. Certainly in terms of the sacrifices we made it was the most prominent.

“The battalion has moved on and we are now training to make sure we have the right soldiers for the next job.

“Our recruitment rates remain among the best in the army. That is because we focus on recruitment and because of the strong relationship we have with our counties.

“The public has seen what happened last summer and seen the positive role we were able to play in Helmand - that in turn has had a positive impact on recruitment.”

One of the major changes the battalion has undergone is the conversion of Saxon vehicles into the Bulldog infantry troop carrier. The new vehicle is more mobile than its predecessor as well as carrying heavier armour to protect against small arms and artillery fire.

This means the carriers can transport troops to closer quarters with the enemy, ensuring they spend less time exposed in open terrain during their approach. It can drop infantry within yards of enemy positions and provide firepower in support.

The Bulldog - which is already in use in Iraq - can also cover a wider range of terrain, allowing troops to take the most direct cross country route possible to the enemy.

Major Chris Davies said: “In simple terms it means we can get in the enemy's face quicker and with fewer risks. This will transform the way we fight and we are currently testing the Bulldog in the field to work out how we can make best use of it.”

The battalion is spending three weeks at Salisbury Plain using an array of military vehicles, including Warrior tanks and reconnaissance vehicles. Later in the exercise they will undergo “force on force”

training to best simulate the conditions of war.

Lt Col Woodham also moved to praise the East Anglian public for their support since the battalion's return from Afghanistan. The Royal Anglian Afghanistan Memorial Fund has raised £328,000 to help injured soldiers and the families of all killed. Lt Col Woodham said this exceeded all expectations.

He said: “The East Anglian public has always been very supportive but this has been especially true since our return from Afghanistan.

“This is very important to us because it lets the men and their families know that their efforts are valued.”

Lt Col Woodham began as a cadet at the North Walsham Detachment in the mid-1980s. He was famously awarded the Military Cross, one of the highest honours in the armed forces, in 2006 after leading negotiations to secure the release of British soldiers held in a Basra police station.

Pte Gareth Waghorne had joined the Royal Anglians just a month before they were deployed to Afghanistan - and had no idea the Vikings would go one to be dubbed the Heroes of Helmand.

The 20-year-old from North Walsham, currently on exercise on Salisbury Plain, said: “You prepare for these things but in reality I had no idea what to expect.

“When I got out there it was a lot more intense than anybody could have predicted. It was a complete shock to the system.

“I don't think we will ever be involved in such fierce fighting ever again.”

He said the entire battalion was acutely aware of the fatalities and injuries, but these could not distract from the job at hand.

“We always know that there's a likelihood of it happening but you have to put it to the back of your mind,” Mr Waghorne added. “There were times when you would deal with a casualty and then return to fighting almost immediately.”

Pte Matthew Dodds, 18, from Essex, is on exercise after joining the Anglians a month ago. He said: “We are aware of what happened and I think we can draw inspiration from that.

“The experience seems to have made the battalion closer and because of that new recruits like me are welcomed in and looked after.

“Everyone's aware that the current situation means we will see action in the near future. We have to be prepared and everybody is focused on that.”

Source; Oct 2008 21:45:31:300
One the vikings stole my nice new gucci fleece in NI......pikeys the lot of them!
Quote- This means the carriers can transport troops to closer quarters with the enemy, ensuring they spend less time exposed in open terrain during their approach. It can drop infantry within yards of enemy positions and provide firepower in support.

Its also quite good at completely fckucking wrecking the Pirbright/Deepcut inner gate :oops:

However, good luck young warriors!! :D
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