REGIMENTAL MEMORIAL CRICH 2019
July 2019 saw the 96th Annual Pilgrimage to the Regimental Memorial in Crich. The Pilgrimage saw sunshine and clouds, with an atmosphere of proud soldiers, Civic Dignitaries and many members of the public who came to remember those who have served to protect our country.
After this year's Pilgrimage, Regimental Headquarters decided to create a new Facebook page dedicated to the memorial. Serving personnel and members of the public are invited to head over to the new page for occasional updates on the day-to-day running of the site.
The Crich memorial is a unique lanterne des mortes memorial, in the form of a lighthouse. It stands on a hill above the village of Crich. The memorial is dedicated to the thousands of soldiers from the Sherwood Foresters to the Mercians, who have died between the Great War to the present day.
1 MERCIAN UPDATE
Capt Tom Skelding
Despite continuing to support two operational deployments, Op CABRIT in Estonia and Op ORBITAL in Ukraine; 1 MERCIAN has remained committed to various events throughout the summer. We’ve supported Armed Forces Day in Salisbury as the Framework Unit, sent Officers and SNCOs out to Israel to study their use of Armour in Ex EAGLE SCHOLAR and thrown a hog roast to thank those who support us for our Battalion Families Day.
Alongside all of this the host of day to day activity that enables the Battalion the run has continued; and with an eye to the future we have begun to plan the training that will prepare the Battalion for deployments to Canada for Ex PRIAIRIE STORM next year, and Afghanistan for Op TORAL in 2021. SFSH.
BATTALION PJNCO CADRE – SALISBURY PLAIN
Lt Nick Olive
The August Potential Junior Non-Commissioned Officer Cadre saw private soldiers from across the battalion come together for two weeks of leadership training and assessment on Salisbury Plain.
After a thorough kit inspection, the PJNCO’s blew off any cobwebs lingering from summer leave with an 8 miler on to the back area. On completion of the TAB, students moved to Everleigh farm for a series of lessons on navigation and the responsibilities of a JNCO before each giving a five-minute talk on a chosen subject. Events over the following days included practical navigation by day and by night, moving in to battle drills and patrol skills. After days of individual skills and drills the students were placed in sections to rehearse before undertaking the first section attack on the final day of week one.
Week two began with some very strong performances on the summative navigation exercise, most students covering the 6.5km course well inside the time limit in full CEFO. Students were launched in to two days of section attacks. Students acted as both section commanders and 2ic’s in order to develop their planning, briefing, soldiering skills and physical robustness whilst demonstrating that they had the required knowledge and understanding to assume both roles.
On the final morning the students were greeted by the CO and the RSM. A few words from the CO regarding leadership and expectations gave the course the motivation they needed to conduct an aggressive and well executed final attack, finishing with an arduous casualty evacuation.
The PJNCO cadre was attended by both some of the most senior and most junior privates in the battalion. All of the attendees demonstrated leadership skills and improved their confidence, basic skills and robustness. All of the students now understand what is required of them over the coming months to prepare them for the King’s Division Training Team PJNCO Cadre in January.
BATTALION GUNNERY CAMP AND LIVE FIRE TACTICAL TRAINING – CASTLEMARTIN
Lt Oli Scott
1 MERCIAN deployed to Castlemartin Ranges in South Wales for 5 weeks through May and June to conduct Live Firing and LFTT. After honing their marksmanship skills on the ranges, dismounted troops were practised hard in platoon and section actions during day and night, throwing 160 grenades in the process.
The armoured ranges qualified 26 new 30mm gunners, adding lethal firepower to the battalion. DRAGON and B Company vehicle crews completed their Annual Crew Tests in Warrior, CVR(T) and Bulldog, before moving onto the advanced progression of training into integrated LFTT.
The culmination was a complex armoured infantry exercise – the most complex Live Firing to take place at Castlemartin since Herrick PDT. This continuous exercise first tested soldiers and commanders in mounted defence and hasty integrated attack before a final dismounted platoon assault supported by massed 30mm fire from Warrior Crews.
2 MERCIAN EXERCISE MAPLE RESOLVE
Lt Joshua Bough
In May 2019 C Kohima Coy of 2 Mercian deployed on Exercise Maple Resolve in Canada. Maple Resolve is the biggest exercise in the Canadian Army and is conducted annually. C Coy were to be a part of “Task Force - Pale Rider”, a multinational task force (TF) consisting of French, British, American and Canadian Troops. The TF was to provide a realistic and capable peer level enemy to help facilitate the training of a Canadian Armoured Battlegroup (BG).
The opportunity to take part in this exercise provided the troops and commanders of C Coy an invaluable training opportunity. It highlighted some key learning points as well as enabled the Coy to work as part of a multinational taskforce alongside some of Britain’s closest allies. The most pertinent points brought out during this exercise are both listed and explained below:
- The capability of AT assets within a light role infantry Bn – The Javelin teams on this exercise were invaluable, they provided both a highly effective recce screen and a potent deterrent for enemy armour, outranging the enemy MBT’s by 400m. The effective integration into the Company and deployment of javelin in the field allowed a light role infantry Company to hold key terrain and prevent the advance of an enemy armoured column.
- The advantages of light role troops in an armoured environment – Although the enemy armour was highly effective, able to roll onto positions quickly and lay down a devastating amount of fire there were also some advantages to be had in being a light role Coy. The element of stealth possible from a well-planned insertion and highly disciplined Coy allows that Coy to hold the initiative and strike with an element of surprise. As was evident in the raid carried out by C Coy. The quiet foot insertion at night left the enemy unaware that the Coy was in a position to attack, with enemy sentries expecting to hear any threat, as is the case with armour, before they saw it.
- The devastating use of artillery – Artillery played a huge part in the build up to the enemy’s final attack, causing a high rate of attrition and sapping both morale and manpower. This ultimately resulted in the enemy being able to attack a task force that was under 50% effectiveness and had lost a large amount of its command element.
Overall the exercise was a success and offered great training value to all those involved, with the members of C Coy going on to have some well earned days of R & R in Edmonton.
2 MERCIAN DRAGON Coy LFTT.
The 2 MERCIAN Sp Wpns Coy has the ability to fire a multitude of weapons systems in a variety of settings. As such, the training areas across the globe allow us to Exercise and test our soldiers in a multitude of scenarios which enhance the ISTAR capability we can provide as a Sub Unit.
The past 4 months has seen DRAGON Coy take over 80 individuals through an LFTT package in over 3 different countries. Mortars deployed to Warcop, UK on their annual Live Firing Cadre. Anti Tanks and Asslt Pioneers deployed to Akrotiri, CYPRUS to conduct their build up small arms training in readiness for Op TIMBERN, whilst Recce and Snipers deployed to the ocean ranges of Pyla, CYPRUS to develop their long range firing skills and target acquisition
It has been an exciting time for the soldiers of DRAGON. They have been able to exercise their command style and weapon system focus in order to enhance their individuals skills and drills; something which is both vital and a rarity during this busy Ops cycle whilst based on Island. Look forward to the next quarter which will welcome the Machine Guns Platoon, the completion of our CT2 level Sp Wpns cadres – and a PRT package being deployed to KUWAIT in support of B (MALTA) Coy.
2 MERCIAN EX APHRODITE DIVER
The surface of the wreck was covered with sea life, fish darted in and out of cabin windows and schools of Bream hovered, oblivious to the divers swimming amongst them. Our instructor,Dean, pointed, then shook his finger towards a venomous Lionfish stubbornly sat on the side of the wreck.
We swam onwards, towards the bow of the ship, along the edge of a ‘wall’ where a drop into darkness was made more chilling by a thermocline that penetrated our wetsuits. The six of us reached the accommodation block at the bow and knelt on the Zenobia’s bridge where we unfurled the company flag.
After checking our air levels Dean signalled for us to begin our ascent, as we swam upwards, following the thin line back towards our boat, we looked back as the Zenobia disappeared into the blue.
‘You know Boss, that were epic, reckon I could do it next week?’ said LCpl Hinkley as we sat on the benches that lined the edge of the dive boat.
‘Yeah boss, do you think I could bounce straight onto the next one?’
‘Hmmmm…. Nice try!’
Twenty metres below the surface is not where you would normally find five infanteers and a REME craftsman. However, after a testing few months involving Exercise AETOS FURY, as well as training and recruiting duties, members of A Coy grasped the opportunity to complete the BSAC Ocean Diver course.
Kembali Dive Centre located at RAF Akrotiri took us from zero to nearly hero. Initially testing us in the shallows, Chris, Dean and Dave developed our confidence to dive down to the Zenobia where the team were tested in an unfamiliar environment. It is safe to say, we all caught the diving bug.
4 MERCIAN UPDATE
Maj Brian Johnston MBE
Recruiting is the responsibility of everyone in the Regiment. Key to this is persistent engagement using all means of communication and engagement.
Retention. As important as recruiting is the retention of our personnel. This is a leadership function. Individual development plans must be utilised, and training must be fun and interesting. By valuing every soldier as an individual and delivering a meaningful and inspirational training environment, in line with our recruit’s military aspirations, we will minimise wastage.
NURTURE. This is the handover / takeover point for ATTRACT—a recruiting RST. Humility, care and a genuine personal investment in that applicant’s success at the selection centre must be paramount.
MENTOR. Invest in both Mentees and Mentors. Mentoring will be an extension of the nurturing process. Instructors must know their recruits and commit to delivering highly professional training that is both productive and fun. Delivering this task to the detriment of our Regimental standards exposes a lack of moral courage and imagination, which highlights the critical function of our staff.
RECRUIT RETENTION AND MENTORING TEAM (RRMT) recruit retention, mentoring and nurturing. It will codify the best practice status we have earned throughout the Army Reserve. Retention should be a prime mover in all tasks the RRMT conducts
Pre CIC. OC RRMT is responsible for pre-CIC training. Attendance on a pre-CIC weekend is a pre-requisite for attendance on CIC to ensure that all MERCIAN recruits are fully prepared for Training. For Regular Recruits we can conduct Look at Life in conjunction with the Pre-CIC.
To inspire. We must select the right JNCOs for our instructors in training establishments and our recruiters including RRMTs. These instructors will then instil a spirit of Pride amongst our recruits. Pride in their professional efficiency and pride in their regiment. This will improve morale and act as a supporting effort to retention in our trained strength. Every infantry soldier in our Battalions must be able to integrate on operations, with our paired units.
Future. We are therefore faced with a unique opportunity to shape the future of our Regiment. With diligence, pride and determination we will exploit this and advance our well-renowned Regiment further into its already prestigious history.
The number of applicants we attract are only as good as the trained strength we retain. This is the state of mind we must inculcate across the Battalions to ensure the sustainable growth of our Regiment.
4 MERCIAN B (MALTA) COY UPDATE
This quarter has seen a flurry of activity. The Company welcomed its new OC, Maj M Bowden-Williams from the LANCS. He is a former Regular Officer with the LANCS and as a former Platoon Commander worked with some of our present WOs. June is an important time within the military calendar with the incorporation of Armed Forces week, which includes Reservist highlighting their roles within the Community. We celebrated this by a joint celebration with Greater Manchester Police. The CSM, WO2 John Ward, is a long serving PC and Reservist. He acts as an ambassador for the Army within the police and does a lot of work with veterans and for Ex forces who find themselves in trouble, by trying to get them back into a stable life within the civilian community.
In July we hosted an Insight day into Life within Infantry Reserve on behalf of all the MERCIAN cap badged Cadets with a few of the local RA Det attached. The day was organised to cover varying disciplines such as the basics of drill then giving cadets the chance to become an MFC and having the chance to carry out fire orders. A lesson was given about communications and all-night viewing aids and the cadets had to construct an OP and observe activity in an enemy position and debrief on the activities they had seen. The day was turned into a competition with them all having to go through a small CQB and carrying out a casualty extraction and giving BLS. The day was a huge success and we plan to do this an annual basis.
In between these types of activities, the Company still had its primary role to consider of carrying out training and helping to prepare a few from the Company to deploy in support of 1 MERCIAN on OP CABRIT. Pte Forshaw deployed for a 2-week exercise in July and has not returned! He has slotted in seamlessly and now decided to apply for a full FTRS commitment for 2 years serving with 1 MERCIAN with Pte Ramogotsi who was already in theatre and we wish them well. In addition, Pte Livi has just recently deployed to join A Coy 1 MERCIAN for Exercise Furious Axe.
The Company now is focused on all pre-camp administration for the forthcoming Annual Camp and deployment on Ex Iron Wolf.
4 MERCIAN C (KOHIMA) COY UPDATE
Well Summer definitely arrived for C Coy this year! Things have continued to pick up locally, with us working as close as ever with 7 Infantry Brigade and community around us. We also welcomed another subaltern into the Regiment, 2nd Lieutenant Ben St Clair-Grey in July, after he completed the Reserve Commissioning Course. Over the course of the last 3 months we’ve had soldiers from the Coy away on 3 AT expeditions covering 5 different activities. And this is on top of sending personnel to the Baltics to take part in a number of exercises.
7 INFANTRY BRIGADE STEM DAY
On Tuesday 3rd September the RRMT teamed up with the 7 Brigade Community Engagement Team at the Bulwell Academy in Nottingham, to deliver a Team Building package of various Team/Command tasks to some 30 students from Year 13.
The tasks informed and educated (using principles of balance, cantilevers knots etc) and were designed to assess a student’s ability to work as part of a team and solve problems whilst under time and mental pressure – essential skills in the Army. It gave students a great opportunity to talk with soldiers from the Regiment about how they apply Science, new Technologies, Engineering skills and Maths as Infantry soldiers!
EX SWOOPING EAGLE
The Coy went wholesale to the edges of Salisbury Plain for our annual sub-unit AT expedition. The old staples of Rock Climbing/Abseiling and Mountain Biking were in there, but for this year, we thought to try out static-line parachuting as well – a first for us. The mountain bikers under the able instruction of Sgt Chadbourne got stuck into some serious downhill biking and a few bumps along the way. Meanwhile, the rock climbers had 2 days of outdoor climbing on some interesting sandstone crags and a few abseils back down. And whilst the new Parachutist succeeded in passing the ground course, the British weather scuppered attempts to get airborne – fingers crossed we’ll be able to in the near future.
EX BERSERKER EMU
2Lt Jacob Stone recently went to instruct on Ex Berserker EMU; an 8 day mountaineering expedition across the Hardangervidda plateau, following in the steps of the heroes of Telemark – the operation to destroy the German Heavy water plant in World War 2. Despite some difficult weather, forcing a change to multiple 2 day excursions the group managed to follow the path taken and saw some stunning scenery along the way. The highlight was summitting to the highest point, Gaustatoppen.
EX DRAGON VOYAGE
Over the course of two weeks, 2Lt Tash Scott took 30 Officer Cadets from EMUOTC, sailing in the Solent, from various places on the south coast of England. The expedition was aimed at giving an introduction to sailing and develop the skills required to be ready to attend the RYA Competent Crew course. Over the course of the two weeks, the novices were battered against the strong winds and battled against challenging tides, but by working together and pushing themselves, they succeeded.
ARMY RUGBY LEAGUE
On Friday 6th September, the Women’s Army Rugby League team triumphed over the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. Our newest transfer, (from EMUOTC) Pte Ella Donnelly was firmly in the mix, breaking through the Navy’s strong defensive lines. The Army quickly exploited the cracks in the Navy, scoring try after try, inflicting an impressive 60-0 defeat on the senior service. And later on in the week, the Army went on to smash the RAF in another convincing win!
Roughly a Platoon plus the Company HQ, will be deploying with the remainder of the Battalion on Exercise IRON WOLF, part of the UK’s commitment to NATO’s eFP in the Baltics. Due to this, we will have a much reduced presence at this year’s Remembrance Sunday event in Mansfield town, but we will be there amongst other sites of remembrance across the two counties Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
4 MERCIAN D (DRAGON) COY UPDATE
D (Dragon) Company continues to develop and has enjoyed strong attendances and good retention. Recruitment has improved and recruits are now being processed through Phase 1 and Phase 2 Training. In the last quarter D Company has had 2 x ex-regular re-joins, a Reservist transfer in from 2 R IRISH and 4 recruits have passed Phase 2 (Combat Infantrymans Course (Res)).
Preparations are well underway for the deployment to Lithuania on Ex IRON WOLF in November. A strong contingent of around 40 personnel from D Company will deploy on IRON WOLF. It is very encouraging that such good numbers will be attending.
On Adventure Training we had members of the Coy attend courses at the Joint Services Mountain training Centre (Northern Ireland) at Ballykinler. Foundation qualifications were gained in Kayaking, Rock Climbing and Mountain Biking. This package was extremely popular and has hopefully kick-started interest for some reservists to attend further courses with an aim to gaining instructor qualifications. The Company is now looking forward to completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge in late September.
- LCpl Bridges (promoted from Private)
- LCpl Hulkes (promoted from Private)
BAND OF THE MERCIAN REGIMENT
This quarter has been a busy one for The Band of the Mercian Regiment, with the Band being out in support of Armed Forces events, Regimental events, Buxton Military Tattoo, and the Saxophone group being out to support dinner engagements.
Armed Forces weekend saw the Band out in the sweltering heat on both days. Firstly, we stood firm and melted at the Armed Forces Day in Telford Town Park. It was hot, hot, hot, as we marched through the park to the arena to entertain with a set of music including favourites such as Micheal Buble, Lord of the Dance and Coldplay.
On the Sunday, at Himley Hall near Dudley, the band provided the musical backdrop as part of the ceremony to present the Stourbridge based 63 Military Intelligence Army Reserve Unit with the Freedom of the Borough of Dudley. It was a fantastic atmosphere and beautiful sunshine with thousands of people looking on as the celebrations concluded with a traditional Beating Retreat, in conjunction with bands who had taken part in the National Youth Marching Band Competition earlier in the day.
In July, the Band had an energetic day taking part in 10th Annual Buxton Military Tattoo in the beautiful Devonshire Dome. The Dome is an amazing venue, yet due to the shape of the dome, it challenges even the most skilled of musicians. We are trained to listen to each other for precision and intonation, yet the acoustics of Buxton defy this, and the echoes across the arena make it feel like everyone is out of time when they are actually playing together! For the performances, the Band joined together with The Band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers to create a combined marching display leading into the finale of the show, an intricately skilful display demonstrating how well Bands can work together.
BAND OF THE MERCIAN REGIMENT CONT.
The following day we were back on parade for The 96th Annual Crich Memorial Pilgrimage, along with Derbyshire ACF Band, at Crich Memorial Tower. This year was a hot and dry one, a poignant day for honouring, remembering and celebrating our regimental family.
In August, some of our musicians attended a joint ATX with The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Band, this included intensive rehearsals and concerts at the NMA, the Tower of London, and as part of Shrewsbury Flower Show.
On the recruiting front, Musician Mikey Cooper completed his Phase 1 (A) at Grantham, and we welcomed Musician Kas Kryszczczuk, who has now attested - we believe he is the first musician to join us for whom English is not their first language. Congratulations gentlemen.
Looking forward, the Band will be performing at:
- 14th September Hartlebury Castle
- 21st September 19.30 Market Drayton Festival Centre – Concert “Hearts and Minds”, in aid of the RBL Poppy Appeal - book a ticket for free entry.
- 22nd September Arnhem Anniversary Day
- 27th September Stoke City Football Match
A NEW GARDEN FOR SHERWOOD FORESTER VETERAN JACK PARROT
Following Jack Parrot, a Sherwood Forester veteran, being awarded the Legion d'Honneur in 2018 for his role in Normandy during WW2 a TV show were so impressed that they made him and his wife one of the recipients of a garden makeover.
Alan Titchmarsh and his team renovated Jack and Margaret’s garden, along with a little help from the Mercian Regiment, for Love Your Garden which was aired on Tuesday 24 September (available on Catch Up).
Speaking to RHQ who went along to visit him again recently, Jack said that the make over had made a world of difference to him and that he was always out there pottering and wanted to thank all of those involved in making it happen.
The Centenary Dinner of the Regimental Association
Major (Retd) John Cotterill
In 1907 General Horace Smith-Dorrien proposed that the Sherwood Foresters start an Old Comrades Association (OCA). His motives were to continue the comradeship of service, particularly in the Boer War, when he had commanded the 1st Battalion, and to encourage recruiting in the counties of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. It was agreed that membership of the OCA would be open to all Officers, WOs, SNCOs and Private Soldiers who either had at least 7 years service or had been discharged with wounds. Volunteers, who would become part of the new Territorial Force the following year, could only join the OCA if they had volunteered for the Boer War and served there with the 1st Battalion. Annual subscriptions would be one shilling. The first dinner of the OCA took place in 1908 in the Victoria Station Hotel, Nottingham. Letters were read out from veterans of the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny regretting that they were too old or infirm to attend. There were then 5 more dinners before the Great War, 20 between the wars (1919-1938) and this year’s (2019) was the 74th since 1946, making it the 100th annual dinner of what is now the Regimental Association. The Annual General Meeting was initially held immediately before the Annual Dinner and at the 1919 one , after much discussion , it was agreed to open membership to all men who had served in the Sherwood Foresters , whether regulars , territorials , volunteers or conscripts.
In 1923 the Regiment dedicated its new Memorial on Crich Stand on August Bank Holiday Monday. Many of the crowd could be seen struggling with their wounds to climb the hill. The Crich Pilgrimage was , at first , always on the August Bank Holiday but this was changed to the first Sunday in July to commemorate the day in the Great War that saw the loss of the most Sherwood Foresters : 1st July 1916. When the Pilgrimage was moved to a Sunday it was convenient to move the Annual Dinner of the OCA to the (Saturday) night before. It therefore became colloquially known as the “Crich Supper”. The OCA became the Regimental Association of the Sherwood Foresters and, later, the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters.
The Centenary Dinner, on 6 July 2019, saw 74 members and guests attending. They were greeted on arrival by Pte Derby XXXII. We were entertained before dinner with a display on the River Trent terrace by a combined Corps of Drums of the Mercian Regiment Cadets and the Air Training Corps by permission of Lt Col Dougie Bridges. After an excellent dinner members and guests danced to the wartime tunes of the singer Jayne Darling. The toast was proposed that has been proposed at every one of the one hundred dinners: “The Regiment Past and Present!”