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17 P&M Regt RLC

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17 Port & Maritime Regt RLC is based at McMullen Barracks in Marchwood near Southampton Hants.

The role of the Regiment is to provide a port operating capability both in UK where the regt runs the Marchwood Sea Mounting Centre and on deployed operations. As part of normal port operations loading and unloading ships, 17 P&M also train and deploy seaman navigator trade personnel who man 6 Ramped Craft Logistic vessels, Landing Craft, workboats and Mexeflotes ship to shore (powered lighters).

On deployed operations 17 P&M work closely with RFA vessels and the Royal Marine Landing Craft Branch.In addition there is a permanent Port and Maritime detachment in the Falkland Islands which is manned on a rotational basis from members of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment.

The regiment also provides the British Army's railway operations nucleus through 79 Port Clearance Squadron.

History

In 1977 the organisation at Marchwood underwent one of its periodic major changes. Immediately prior to that time the administration of the civilian element of the Port and its maintenance had been the responsibility of the Port (later Marchwood) Administrative Squadron RCT (MAS). This was not under the direct command of the Regiment, but was an offshoot of HQ South East District at Aldershot; an arrangement causing some obvious command complications. At the same time HQ 3 Transport Group RCT (L of C) was formed as part of a larger reorganisation of the Corps, to command both 17 Port Regiment and 20 Maritime Regiment RLC at Gosport. 53 was reformed as a Port & Maritime Support Squadron RCT directly under command of 3 Transport Group (L of C) RCT, not the Regiment. In the process it absorbed most of the Regimental RHQ, taking on board the Regimental and Technical Quartermaster and staffs and stores, the Documents Section, MT drivers and chefs. It also gained the six Ships Warrant Officers(SWOs) who were attached to the Landing Ships Logistic (LSLs). Its strength included approximately 14 Warrant Officers.

In 1981 the Squadron came under the command of 17 Port Regiment RCT and the organisation has remained more or less unchanged since. In Dec 1999 the Regiment deployed on Operation Upminster a NATO operation involving British, French, Italian, Norwegian, Belgian and Canadian forces. The British ground force contribution involved deployment of the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment (KORBR) and divisional support elements through the Port of Thessaloniki (Greece), to the Macedonian city of Skopji and onto the Petrovac airfield only 6km from the Serbian border, in order to demonstrate NATO resolve and capability in response to Serbian aggression and acts of genocide against the Albanian population in Kosovo. 53 Port Sp Sqn together with elements of 79 Railway Sqn and 51 Port Sqn, conducted operations in all regards from loading of cargoes at Marchwood Military Port to their discharge at the Sea Point of Disembarkation (SPOD) to the theatre reception of troops at the Air Point of Disembarkation (APOD), dealing with troops in excess of 4000 in number, whose arrival was timed to coincide with the discharge of the fully stowed Ships Taken Up From Trade (STUFT). Little did we know that during Op Agricola those numbers would swell in excess of 10,000, arriving usually 800 at a time over 3 day periods, but that’s another story for inclusion later. The movement of equipment and personnel from the APOD to SPOD and from SPOD through Greece and Macedonia fell to 53 Port Sp Sqn and 79 Railway Sqn assets, much equipment departed in convoy by road under Greek police escort as far as the Greece Macedonia border. Convoys of trucks were 50 strong. Many mission vital equipment from tanks to communications, clothing to rations departed Thessaloniki (after many recce’s by 79 Sqn) by rail to their final destination of the Skopje railhead, approximately 10 km from Petrovac airfield. Skopje rail head was an experience one had to go through to appreciate, operational imperatives had no influence over the heavy communist atmosphere and attitude of the civilians who worked there (allegedly). The train and rail head guard of 53 Port Sp Sqn experienced the sounds of regular small arms fire in the surrounding urban area, a legacy of a community well aquainted to the sound of gunfire due to old customs and living on the edge of a country experiencing a civil war. The risk of equipment and stores being attacked or broken into was real which only added to the dark dusty 1940’s time capsule of an environment the men and women of the Sqn found themselves working in. The fact the force had been hastily organised and deployed meant that no form of rules of engagement had been issued or even prepared, a fact heavily criticised during Prime Ministers question time in the House. Deployment duration was thus for 3 weeks. Once deployed on Petrovac airfield (a UN manned facility) the experience changed, though none the less challenging they became much more familiar by way of previous training experience during large Regimental deployments under scrim nets and the familiar surroundings and operations of the SQMS, Chefs and G1098. Support from the Sqn to Op Agricola continued until 2002 when planning commenced for the Sqn’s deployment in support of the Regiment on Op Telic (Iraq) in early 2003.

After initially being based in Kuwait, the Sqn moved by road with the Regiment to the port of Umn Quasr in southern Iraq, where in addition to it’s normal support role it provided the force protection for the port. During this deployment the Sqn also provided the rear party command and control of the Sea mounting Centre in Marchwood, working in close liaison with the mobilised 165 Port Regiment RLC (V). The Sqn continues to provide support elements to this Operation.