Regimental Update: May 2017

The last time I wrote to you, it was from a windowless room in Camp Crowfoot, BATUS, contemplating the major test of readiness for the QRH BG. This time it is from my office in Regimental Headquarters, with spring in the air, awaiting the festivities of St Patrick’s Day tomorrow. In my last article, I reported that the omens suggested a strong showing from the Regimental Battlegroup (BG) in BATUS and it is with great pride that I can confirm that The QRH BG were tested, and not found wanting. Described as the best BG of the year, and one of the best seen for many years, this rounded off a successful training season for the Regiment as a whole and put us in an excellent place for the year ahead. The last six months have seen the Regiment mostly at home in Athlone Barracks, and if not in camp, then at least in the surrounding area. It has been a time for us all to reflect upon what we have achieved, but not to rest on our laurels, as all squadrons are committed to a variety of tasks during the High Readiness year.

The autumn saw all squadrons conducting Troop level CT1 exercises in the local training area. Although low level compared with the challenge of BATUS, it was a chance to stretch our legs and give the tanks a runout. For those who had recently joined up from Phase 2 training in Bovington, it was a chance for their first taste of life on a tank. Alongside the day-to-day rhythm of the Regiment, ‘D’ Squadron deployed to Salisbury Plain to conduct the Land Component Power Visit. Hidden behind a slightly dry title is an all-singing and dancing display of all the Army has to offer in firepower. Imagine a cross between a high-budget war film, with the underlying concern of not wanting to upset the many endangered plants and newts that now seem to take precedence on the Plain.

Concurrently, DofE Squadron was busy frightening the Russians by taking part in Ex VENERABLE GAUNTLET. As part of the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (Land) (VJTF(L)), the Squadron sits at ‘very high readiness’ with an 18-tank squadron available to deploy anywhere in the world. The Exercise saw the deployment of several thousand troops from across NATO, demonstrating what they have to offer. The exercise piqued international media interest and had the desired effect of ruffling the feathers of the Russians.

Of course, it was not all work. The annual Birmingham Remembrance Weekend was, as usual, a highlight of the calendar. As ever, It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends, and the parade on a Sunday was well attended by both Old Comrades and the serving Regiment. The football and rugby matches against the West Midlands Police were hard fought, but it is of course the taking part, not the winning that counts. As Christmas approached, all three Messes celebrated with individual events, with the squadrons using their Common Rooms for parties as well.

As usual, the run-up to Christmas and the weeks after New Year were busy preparing for the annual gunnery camp at Bergen-Hohne. The build-up to ranges was as busy as ever, with the simulators running red hot, and the gunnery staff, not far behind. Following a successful CO’s tank inspection, the Regiment deployed en masse several hours North to the delights of Bergen Hohne Camp.

With the closure of all British camps in the area, ranges had to be seen as more of an expeditionary task, than in previous years, with no support available from other units. While the infrastructure still looks the same, there is an eeriness to the area without the frantic hustle and bustle that we are used to. In some ways, the isolated nature of this year’s ranges brought the Regiment closer together, with Squadron ‘common rooms’ firmly placed as the social hubs. Overall it was an exceptionally successful range period with Recce Tp operating in front of tank troops during the Annual Troop Assessment and completing data handoff over targets (in essence highlighting the location of the enemy on a computer map between vehicles. The gunnery was of an exceptional standard with 95.4% (showing accuracy both on the range and my calculator) passing their Annual Crew Tests (ACTs) the first time. For the second year running, it was Lt Spink with 3rd Troop, ‘D’ Squadron who won the Churchill Cup for best Troop with the Recce Troop Shield going to Cpls Davies and Clegg.

In the sporting world, the Regiment continues to build upon success. The rugby team has played a number of league matches, with individuals being called upon to play for the RAC. They also entered a team into the Tivorno Snow Rugby tournament in Italy, pushing through to reach the semi-finals. The football team have been no less active with numerous BA(G) fixtures played and the Cavalry Cup Quarter Final versus The King’s Royal Hussars imminent. Balls aside, both the uphill and downhill ski teams performed to a high standard. The Nordics, under the tutelage of Lt Col Charles Bromley-Gardner, came in the top third of the Divisional championships; whilst the Alpine team almost had to hire another minibus to haul their silver back to Athlone. Finally, Capt Matt Campbell-Wild organised an extremely successful Boxing Night; especially successful for the RSM who beat the Adjutant in a very close bout.

Finally, it would be remiss not to mention the handover of the Commanding Officer with Lt Col Alex Porter handing over to Lt Col Nick Cowley MBE at the beginning of March. Looking back over the last two and a half years it is hard to quantify the totality of the impact that Lt Col Porter has had but it is clear that the Regiment has gone from strength to strength during his tenure. We wish him, Vic and Florence all the very best wishes for their next challenge in SHAPE where he becomes Military Assistant to the Supreme Allied Commander.

Looking ahead, the Squadrons are back on the local training area as we speak, completing their CT2 Squadron level training. For BGHQ and ‘A’ Squadron, the opportunity has arisen to take part in Ex SABRE JUNCTION. This is a brigade-level NATO exercise to test the Alliance’s ability to deploy and counter a threat from the East. No doubt working with our multi-national partners will be a challenge, but it will represent an extremely realistic scenario with all of the friction that this will create.

Major Charlie Haines, Regimental Second in Command

Related topics

  1. A Short History of The Queen’s Royal Hussars