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19 Light Brigade

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The first 19 Brigade was raised in 1892 as a Militia Brigade in the Richmond area of Yorkshire, but in 1900 it was reorganised as a Regular Brigade for the South African war and formed part of the reinforcements following the singular failures of Autumn 1899. (Colenso, Spion Kop and Magersfontein). Colonel Horace Smith-Dorrien was its first Commander and he himself was a remarkable man. As a young officer he had served in the Zulu War of 1879 and was one of the very few survivors from the battle of Isandlwana when 2 Battalions of 24th Regiment of Foot were annihilated. He survived because as a supply officer he wore a blue patrol jacket and Zulus only regarded those in red jackets as a threat. He went on to serve in the Gordon relief expedition of 1884 and later he commanded an Egyptian irregular battalion at Omdurman in 1898. By 1900 Smith-Dorrien was one of the young Turks who were making their reputation in the Boer war. He had already risen to the rank of Major General, Brigades of those days were commanded by Major Generals, at the age of 44. He had already had an exciting 18 months commanding the Brigade as it grappled with the messy and low intensity campaign that followed the battle of Paar de Burg, the last formal battle of the war. But for all this, 19 Brigade was to have a short existence. It was disbanded in 1901 at the conclusion of the war.

It is interesting to note that the Brigade HQ then comprised 3 officers, Bde Comd, BM, SC, 26 ORs and 8 horses.

In 1914 the brigade was reformed once again with regular troops, but as a special independent reserve for the II Corps which was (by October 1914) commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. The Brigade was a large one for this purpose and nearly at Divisional size. It was to play an important part in the crucial Battle of le Cateau during the retreat from Mons.

Thereafter the brigade suffered a similar fate to most others embroiled in the static warfare of the western front and in 1919 once again it was disbanded. It was briefly resurrected in 1938 for Internal Security duties in Palestine. In 1939 the Brigade was again disbanded, apparently to avoid confusion with the Indian Infantry Brigade of the same number. And this time they meant it - it was not raised again until 1950, well after the end of the Second World War.

Now followed what was perhaps 19 Brigade’s most interesting period. Between 1950 and 1977 the Brigade was part, in various guises of the UK Strategic Reserve and during a very colourful twenty-seven years served as a Brigade at Suez, in Cyprus during the EOKA troubles, in Malaya, in Kenya, in Borneo during confrontation and in Cyprus (Turkish invasion). However, after the army restructuring plan of 1976 (devised by an ex-commander 19 Brigade, David Fraser), the Brigade came under the Operational Control of the 1st Armoured Division and found itself defending the already forgotten ‘water sandwich’ of the river Innersite and Hildesheim Canal, in the former West Germany. More recently, the Brigade came under the command of the 4th Armoured Division where it was given the Bockenum area. Shortly afterwards it joined 3 Infantry Division, now 3 (UK) Division in which it has remained until the present day.

On 1 April 1978 the Brigade was renamed 7 Field Force and was increased in size to include 2,000 Territorial Army troops. On 1 January 1982 it reverted to title 19 Infantry Brigade and reduced in size by the loss of two Territorial Army infantry battalions. In 1992 the Brigade was retitled 19 Mechanised Brigade and moved to its present location in Catterick Garrison.

The Brigade insignia was designed in 1957 when it became apparent that it might leave the 3rd Infantry Division. Major F W E Fursdon RE, the DAA & QMG, designed the insignia based on the triangle from the 3rd Infantry Division and superimposing a black panther symbolising alertness. The model for the original panther was Bagheera from Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”.

Recent History

19 Mechanised Brigade deployed to Iraq as the UK Bde of the Multi National Division (South East) between May – October 2003. The Operation titled Op TELIC 2 saw the Brigade consolidate the position of the Coalition Forces in the provinces of Basrah and Maysan in Southern Iraq. The Brigade undertook to begin the recreation and training of the Iraqi Security Forces.

The Brigade Headquarters was located in a former Palace of Saddam Hussein in Southern Basrah City. Troops faced continual attacks from Insurgents loyal to the former Regime and 8 soldiers lost their lives during the tour.

On 1 January 2005 19 Mechanised Brigade became the 19 Light brigade as part of the Future Army Structures package announced by the MOD in 2003.

Future Moves

The Brigade is arms-plotting to Northern Ireland in 2008 before heading off to Afghanistan shortly thereafter.

Brigade Units

The Brigade consists of the following elements. These are not in order of seniority.