Soldiers gear up to mark St Patrick's Day

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Soldiers gear up to mark St Patrick's Day

Post by Guest on Mon 17 Mar 2008, 1:56 pm

Soldiers with Irish connections serving on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those preparing to deploy to Afghanistan shortly have been honouring the tradition of St Patrick's Day.

(The Green Horse) Squadron of the Royal Dragoon Guards took a well earned break from operations around Basra and, as their Regimental forebears did throughout most of the last century, honoured both the historical memory of Captain Oates, as well as celebrating St Patrick's Day in traditional style.

The Royal Dragoon Guards are the only regiment to commemorate an individual as opposed to a battle honour - Capt Laurence Edward Grace Oates knowingly walked to his death on St Patrick's Day, 17 March 1912, during Captain Scott's ill-fated Antarctic expedition, leaving these immortal words resounding down the years: 'I am going outside and may be some time'.

The events were certainly an unusual Celtic addition to the traditions of 1 SCOTS (The Royal Scots Borderers), to whom the armoured cavalrymen of D Squadron are attached for Op Telic 11. The soldiers of 'The Green Horse' were woken by the officers and Senior NCOs serving early morning 'gunfire' (tea with minimal whisky). The Squadron Leader, Maj BDC Ryan, explained:

"The boys were glad to be woken by the skirl of bagpipes this morning and not the crump of rocket fire."

Following a hearty breakfast the soldiers formed up on parade for a commemoration service for Capt 'Titus' Oates (6th Inniskilling Dragoons) and then it was down to celebrating the Irish heritage of the Royal Dragoon Guards and in particular 'The Green Horse'. Lt Col Charlie Herbert, Commanding Officer of the 1 SCOTS Battle Group, was given the honour of presenting a shamrock to all.

Despite the limitations on the Contingency Operating Base at Basra, including the ever present threat of rocket fire, the soldiers managed to hold a number of sports competitions and host a dinner which included Irish piping.

Royal Irish get a taste of home
In Afghanistan, members of 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment, who recently deployed as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade to Helmand Province in Afghanistan, today celebrated St Patrick's Day. Starting with a short run around Camp Sharabak they went on to have a traditional Irish breakfast which was then followed by a short church service where a Shamrock-emblazoned bookmark was presented to the men.

2 Royal Irish, co-located in Camp Tombstone and Camp Bastion, are currently carrying out their theatre training package to prepare them for the duties that they will take over in a few days time, duties which will include a mixture of force protection at Camp Bastion and mentoring the Afghan National Army in Forward Operating Bases all over Helmand Province.

Major Mark Hudson, Officer Commanding 2 Royal Irish, said:

"We have prepared for months for Operation Herrick 8 and watching my soldiers train they are highly professional and well prepared for what lies ahead. The professionalism and reputation of the Royal Irish in my opinion is second-to-none and I am proud to be in command of such a strong force. This is our first deployment since we were formed in October 2007, made up mainly of part-time soldiers from both the north and the south of Ireland."

Shamrocks flown in for deploying Irish regiment

Meanwhile more than 500 soldiers from The Royal Irish Regiment Battle Group all received box-fresh shamrocks for their St Patrick's Day Parade, thanks to airline Flybe. The precious cargo was loaded onto a plane at Belfast City Airport and collected at Birmingham International Airport by a team from the Regiment, based at Clive Barracks, Tern Hill, near Market Drayton in Shropshire.

Platoon Commander, Lieutenant Peter Gavin, was given the honour of picking up the the shamrocks along with Regimental Mascot, Irish wolfhound 'Brian Brew', and piper Lance Corporal Paul Shaw from the Battalion's Bugles, Pipes and Drums.

The traditional Irish emblems were flown into England on Friday in time for the Battalion's St Patrick's Day Parade held at Clive Barracks the following day.

Battalion spokesman Captain Brian Johnstone said:

"We are delighted Flybe have kindly flown in the shamrocks for our St Patrick's Day Parade again this year. The airline has done this for us a couple of times for our celebrations over the last few years and I know how much everyone in the Battalion appreciates the gesture, especially now as we contemplate our deployment to Afghanistan."
A spokesman for Flybe added:

"As Europe's largest regional airline, Flybe is always pleased to support the local communities which it serves wherever possible and we were delighted to be able to help transport the shamrocks that are so key to St Patrick's Day celebrations."

More than 500 soldiers from The Royal Irish Battle Group spent St Patrick's Day with their families in Shropshire before embarking on a six month tour of Afghanistan. The Regiment is the last remaining Irish Infantry regiment of the line and is made up of soldiers from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. With the Battle Group there are regular soldiers from the 1st Battalion, who are based at Clive Barracks, and reserves from the 2nd Battalion, who are based in Northern Ireland.

Over the following days the Battalions will travel to Helmand Province. 1 Royal Irish will be working to develop conditions and improve security to defeat the Taliban insurgency. 2 Royal Irish will be working towards the same goal alongside their regular counterparts, providing force protection for Camp Bastion and other locations across the province.

The soldiers have spent the last six months preparing for the deployment, including a period of two months training in Kenya throughout September and October 2007.

Provided By: MOD -


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