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MERCIAN REGIMENT QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER - Q2 2019

COLONEL OF THE REGIMENT

Major General Ian Cave

Major General Ian Cave commissioned into The Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1988. His initial appointment was as a rifle platoon commander in Northern Ireland, then OC Recce Platoon in Berlin (1989-1992). Other early appointments included: six months with BMATT Zimbabwe (1993); Adjutant; then Ops Officer 1 RWF (1995 UNPROFOR Bosnia). On return from Bosnia he was assigned to the US Army Joint Readiness Training Centre Fort Polk, Louisiana for two years (1996-1997) as an observer/controller. He then returned to 1 RWF as Officer Commanding Fire Support Company to prepare for a further tour to NI. He then attended RMCS Shrivenham to study for a Masters in Defence Administration (1999) prior to a year at JSCSC for the Advanced Command and Staff Course, after which he served at PJHQ in J5 Plans.

He commanded a rifle company in The 22nd (Cheshire) Regiment in 2002 and completed an operational tour in NI; then a tour to Iraq in 2004. On promotion to Lieutenant Colonel in 2005 he served in the MOD working on the Iraq Information Strategy. He assumed command of 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment in 2006, with the Battalion on operations in NI. Time in command included a second tour to Iraq and the formation of The Mercian Regiment. On promotion to Colonel in 2008, he assumed the appointment of Assistant Director Commitments at HQ Land Forces and completed the Higher Command and Staff Course in 2009. On promotion to Brigadier, he assumed command of the Initial Training Group in 2011 where he was responsible for units which conducted Army recruit training. He then spent 2013 in Kabul as Chief CJ5, HQ ISAF prior to, in April 2014, becoming Director Training, Army HQ. On promotion to Major General, he assumed appointment as DCOS Plans at HQ JFC Naples in July 2015. He started his current appointment as COS Field Army in April 2018.

Major General Cave is Colonel of The Mercian Regiment. He is president of Army Cycling. He is married to Caroline and has two daughters.

FOREWORD

Capt T Skelding

The pace of life continues to push ever onwards at 1st Battalion. Throughout the last three months 1 MERCIAN has continued to provide troops to two operations, CABRIT in Estonia and ORBITAL in Ukraine. Whilst back in the UK, the Battalion have spent time in Castlemartin, Wales conducting both dismounted and mounted live fire; as well as running exercises, adventure training and supporting normal running in Bulford.

Looking forward to July sees 1 MERCIAN acting as the framework unit delivering Armed Forces Day in Salisbury. Troops will be marching through Salisbury Town Centre and demonstrating an Armoured Infantry attack to the public on Hudson’s Field on the outskirts of the city. Following on the Battalion will stand down for some much deserved summer leave in August.

MORTARS PLATOON CADRE

WO2 MOITT

The Mortar Platoon has gone from strength to strength, with the Senior and Junior non-commissioned officers diversifying their employability within and out of the battalion with various courses. We now have; three newly qualified Alphas and Bravo MFC’s, three mortar 2IC’s, five new junior non-commissioned officers and our fleet management capability has grown with new drivers and commanders. Qualifications for the platoon in MATTS and promotional courses continues to grow, we now have 2 regimental signals trained soldiers, eight various MATTS instructors, three All Arms Skill at Arms Instructors (AASAA) as well as a 95% pass rate on Lvl 1 & 2 on education.

The mortar platoon has conducted its annual mortar cadre this year at Sennybridge. Before its deployment, it received a new intake of soldiers from the Infantry Training Centre (ITC) and from the Rifle Companies. Once deployed, the soldiers were put through their paces on unforgiving, gruelling and demanding ground completing a TAB over the Pen-y-Fan with 35lb of kit and two sets of mortar kit. Overall the platoon excelled with a new soldier from ITC being judged to have been the top student; congratulations to Pte Benton.

1 MERCIAN

Our drive has also been towards Adventure training with most of the soldiers deploying around the UK and selected overseas locations to conduct their various activities. The next few months will see the platoon conduct low level training within camp gearing up to a Battlecraft exercise, ready for next year’s training cycle.

1 MERCIAN D Coy

SHOOTING TEAM

2Lt L B Davies

Recently, 1 MERCIAN Shooting Team competed in the 3rd Division Operational Shooting Competition at Bulford Ranges. A competition which sees 8 of the best shots from multiple Regiments and Battalions, complete a series of technical and challenging shoots to gain the opportunity to compete in the Defence Operational Shooting Competition (DefOSC), held at Bisley.

1 MERCIAN Shooting Team

Throughout the week, the team went through a wide array of different ranges, from Pistol CQM and moving targets, to a range starting with a best effort 100m sprint, over multiple obstacles against the clock. All aspects of operational shooting and marksmanship were tested. Over the course of the 5-day event, the scores and performances of each team were recorded to eventually decide the placing. This year the team finished 15th out of 19.

Unfortunately, this meant that the team did not qualify for DefOSC at Bisley. However, due to the relatively minimal time spent preparing, this was a great result compared to teams who on average had been training and preparing around 4 to 5 times longer than our own team. This illustrates the sheer level of talent within the team, and certainly with increased practice, and the experience gained from this year’s competition, the result will vastly improve at next year’s competition.

1 MERCIAN Shooting Team

C (Kohima) Coy Adventure Training

2Lt L B Davies

In May of this year, C Company departed Bulford on a Company adventure training trip to Weymouth, Dorset. C Coy has recently taken the Battalion lead on injury rehabilitation and recovery, with several injured soldiers from across 1 MERCIAN temporarily moving to C Coy to focus on their individual rehabilitation. Therefore, the weeks adventurous training package was an excellent opportunity for the soldiers to push their limits and begin to regain confidence in their own ability and fitness.

The Company’s activities ranged from mountain biking and hill walking in and around the beautiful scenery Dorset has to offer, to coasteering along the Dorset shores, swimming and climbing in and around the cliffs at the sea edge. An excellent week for all, the soldiers of C Company returned to Bulford knowing that the week had not only given an opportunity to exercise and strengthen their respective injuries but regain any confidence they had lost due to the restrictive nature of their injuries. An opportunity to conduct training such as this is rarely turned down. An amazing opportunity for the soldiers to learn, push themselves, and ultimately have a lot of fun doing so!

1 MERCIAN C Coy AT

A (Grenadier) Coy

Lt S Richards

This month saw the Coy deploy on Ex SPRING STORM, Ex URBAN GRENADIER and take part in HRH Princess Anne’s visit to Tapa. SPRING STORM was a hectic and valuable weeks training for the Coy, seeing us paired with a troop of tanks working a relentless delay action against the Estonians. The Coy proved the primacy of Infantry when working in FIWAF environments, working hard to fight through an OpFor experienced in the terrain but ultimately coming out on top. This was many in the Coys first experience working in a Brigade context and was a valuable for all involved, with everyone coming away having learnt something about the partners we are working with in the eFP.

Not long after the dust had settled post SPRING STORM we deployed as a Coy along with KRH Recce and a handful of RE to Nursipalu training area in the south of Estonia. 3 Platoon ran an engaging week helping the Coy brush up on skills in complex environments. The week was hugely successful with live trench clearing, simunition house and an Engineers breaching demonstration. Those involved benefited from the chance to integrate with other elements of the BG and gain a greater understanding of a combined arms approach to urban Ops.

The Coy rounded of the month playing a part in HRH Princess Anne’s visit. The coy provided an example of defensive positions in wooded areas along with an anti-tank detachment from the French. The day was a resounding success, with the Coy representing both the BG and the Mercian Regiment to the highest standard.

AGC(SPS) DETACHMENT

Capt Cooke

As the temperature in Cyprus steadily increased, so did the events calendar for the 2 MERCIAN AGC(SPS) Detachment. The second quarter of 2019 saw Head of Branch, Col Sykes, and Corps Sergeant Major, WO1 Christopher, visit the island for the Detachment’s first involvement in the Cyprus Triple Crown Challenge as well as a number of promotions throughout the Det and also the annual G1 Audit where all areas of the Battalion’s G1 practices are rigorously dissected to ensure they are legally compliant and operating within regulations.

As well as the continuing mandated MATTs training, the Det has undertaken numerous other professional, technical, military and physical training as part of Det training which has varied from SJAR raising to correct voice procedures (VP), to ‘lessons learned’ presentations. PT sessions are now engineered towards the new Physical Employment Standards (PES) whilst members of the Det have represented HQ Company as the competition to be named Champion Company builds up to an interesting conclusion.

2 MERCIAN AGC

Weekly training for the Cyprus Triple Crown Competition involved plenty of speed marches and track sessions as the competitive spirit within the RAWO, WO2 Katie Ward, was brought to the fore as she was determined to retain the trophy she won whilst competing with her pervious Det, 2 LANCS. The event consisted of a timed 8 mile weighted March, a pistol shoot and numerous military skills stands which involved all AGC personnel from around the island, including military police, educators and legal professionals.

2 MERCIAN’s Det made up the majority of those in attendance, entering four of the nine fire teams, which clearly demonstrated the importance placed on fitness and team cohesion within the Det. Despite their hardest efforts they managed to grasp second place with all Det members thoroughly enjoying the competition, experience and BBQ which followed the event.

2 MERCIAN AGC

In spite of a demanding period, members of the Det have been able to attend a plethora of sporting pursuits such as Ex White Lion (Sgt Morrissey, LCpls Gurung, Holden and Roberts), an annual AGC Alpine Skiing competition held in Austria. The Det Commander, Capt James Cooke, has headed up the Bn volleyball team in numerous competitions around the island (with little success so far) and the Regimental Accountant, Sgt K Jones, has seen success as part of the Army Offshore Sailing Regatta. The RAO, Capt Mark Jones, has competed in Ex PROTON SERPENT and an Army paragliding competition in Turkey.

Life as part of the Regional Standby Battalion (RIB) remains challenging, however, the SPS Det consistently make the most of what Cyprus has to offer. From beach excursions and cultural tours of the island to original and refreshing functions organised by the junior ranks, life is never boring with the next challenge merely over the horizon which is expected to continue throughout the summer and well beyond. SFSH.

CIS PLATOON

Sgt Rowley

On 3rd April the Royal Navy invited the CIS Platoon for an Informative tour of HMS Duncan, a Type 45 Destroyer that has appeared on a channel 5 documentary ‘Warship: Life at Sea’. We toured various parts of the ship learning about its offensive and defensive capabilities, tours of duty, how day to day life of a Navy sailor operates whilst on and off duty. We also had a weapons and equipment interest lesson from the Royal Marines attachment on how they conduct their anti-piracy duties whilst at sea. It was a great experience for the platoon, being able to gain an insight into how other services conduct day to day business and operations.

During the same month CIS platoon prepared for Exercise ATOS FURY, a CT2 level exercise for A Company. CIS platoon deployed from the 21st until 25th April as BG Main to act as exercise control and safety. Due to manning shortfalls, the junior CIS platoon soldiers were required to act as enemy forces throughout the duration of the exercise phase. Throughout the exercise, we encountered various challenges and issues, including vehicles that became untaskworthy. As a result, we had to deploy the contingency plan of using VHF manpack to maintain voice services.

2 MERCIAN CIS Pl

Post Exercise ATOS FURY, it was a quick turnaround for the platoon as we deployed straight out the door on Exercise JOINT HORIZON, a 2* level exercise . The exercise started on the 29th April and ran until the 10th May. The platoon facilitated the exercise by setting up BG Main and offering CIS support to the HQ staff throughout their planning cycle, enabling them to produce their product.

During Ex Joint Horizon we deployed a Detachment of signallers to Canada to facilitate in Ex Maple Resolve. After this heavy period, we went away to conduct, adventure training and platoon days out.

MERCIAN RECRUITING

Maj Johnston MBE

The Mercian Regiment is the Heart of England’s Infantry recruiting for Regular and Reserve across five counties which form the ancient kingdom of Mercia; Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottingham Staffordshire and Worcestershire, we also cover the Black Country and the Wirral. We are doing this with an RST based in the RHQ of 3 teams and Reserve Recruiting teams based across the whole Recruiting area working with the RST and the Outreach teams that gets us into Schools and Colleges with good effect.

The Spirit of the Regimental system is maintained in the names, titles and traditions of this great Regiment.

It is time now to assess all the information gathered over the last six months and identify ways we could progress as a Regiment, including how to further increase our capabilities to improve the Regimental brand. This will be critical as we roll into September; we hope to get constant invites into schools and collages which have not seen the MERCIAN cap badge before. With the teams all working together we will make an impact amongst the wider community.

While all this hard work and Recruiting activity is going on I believe we need to reflect upon the Regiment’s structure to ensure we can both honour the past and be prepared for the future. I believe that the time has come for us to have a good look at ourselves, and work toward ways of gathering our officers, soldiers and associations together, instead of continuing the multiple and largely separate gatherings that occur today. The is to make it easier to connect the generations, so that we come closer together, so that all the antecedent regiments are remembered and understood as a valuable part of the serving regiments history, and do not disappear with the passing of time.

We can all contribute to this Regiment knowing that each small part that we play adds colour to the rich tapestry of MERCIAN soldier history. I am also clear that this is a regiment for us all, and that it is built on the service and traditions of each of the regiments that make up its history. We all need to be recruiters if everyone pulls together and work as a team, whether they are straight out of Catterick or an old soldier and if no one shirks their responsibilities we will have a future, but we must never let ourselves become arrogant, get complacency or let our standards slip. We have a very good platform on which to build.

If you feel like you would like to join our team and have what it takes to be part of the Regimental Recruiting team for a period please click here to get in touch.

RAO DEPARTMENT

This has been another busy Quarter for the RAO Department of 4 Mercian. We have just had our G1 Audit Advisory visit and we are definitely heading in the right direction, which is a credit to all staff.

We continue to try and grow the Reservist SPS Detachment and have recently competed in our first Ex Triple Crown which is a 12-mile march and shoot competition for AGC personnel. 4 Mercian SPS Det were the only Army Reserve Det to enter, so we are very proud of entering and completing the course. We are already preparing for next year, to go faster and shoot better. The team consisted of Maj Jason Mantle, WO2 Russ Macdonald-Barber, Cpl Sarah Horne and Pte Ross Dawson. With little to no training, everyone did very well with the RAWO keeping everyone's spirits high all the way round. Lt Col Cuttle MBE (CO) also joined us for part of the march too, which was great support.

ADVENTURE TRAINING

4 MERCIAN conducted a Winter Adventurous Training expedition in the Harz Mountains of Germany, based at the Army’s Sonnerberg Lodge from 2-10 March 2019. 27 members of the expedition were from 4 MERCIAN. Three external ski instructors also participated.

Snow conditions were poor throughout the exped as a warm weather front had been present over Europe for the previous two weeks prior to our arrival. On the night of 3 March and the following day the Harz received a downfall of snow enough to make skiing a viable activity.

It was hoped that the main ski areas would be open, however this was frustratingly not the case as high winds prevent lift and cable car operations. This remained the case throughout the remainder of the exped.

The bottom of the very short ‘Red-Black’ run on the Sonnerberg ski slope

The snowfall did result in the 400m Sonnerberg ski slope immediately adjacent to the lodge opening for business with one drag lift operating. This provided sufficient facilities to fully complete the SF1 syllabus, but this was a case of making the best of a bad situation.

It is a credit to the commitment and professionalism of the four ski instructors that the expedition was able to achieve its aims for the Ski Foundation1 award given such limited resources. That said the Sonnerberg slope did afford a platform to learn and develop skiing skills and it was evident that those participants who were prepared to mentally commit themselves achieved the most improvement and best results. This after all is the aim of military adventurous training.

C (KOHIMA) COY

Another extremely busy quarter for the soldiers of C (Kohima) Company. On top of committing to our own Battalion training (building towards the Battalion Patrol competition); we’ve been supporting 7 Infantry Brigade’s ‘Desert Rat Challenge’, where members of the public get a chance to be put through their paces, and also supporting East Midland’s Universities OTC training the next generation of Reserve officers.

Glorious First of June Community and Family’s Day

As promised in the last edition of the Mercian Quarterly, we had our Community and Family’s day on the 1st June this year. With the Paintball range being manned by the Regimental Support Team, the Army’s Recruiting Group Climbing Wall and an inflatable Gladiator challenge, amongst others, the scene was set for a great day. We had a fantastic attendance, with lots of families from the Community coming, along with our own soldier’s families, where the food provided by Cpl Etches proved to be a great hit and helped sustain everyone throughout – some even went back for seconds and thirds! The weather, which was specially arranged, certainly helped bringing in everyone. We certainly cemented ourselves in the Community, with a number of recruits coming forward for both our Regular Battalions and ourselves; truly the icing on the cake!

Glorious First of June Community and Family’s Day

Mercian Eagles Charity Match

On what turned out to be a very wet and windy June day (the weather had certainly not been booked!), a composite team of Mercian Regulars, Reserves and Cadet Instructors stepped out against the Combined Services Barbarians. These Barbarians are a team of retired service personnel, who tour the country, raising money for any number of military charitable trusts. What ensued can only said to be a titanic struggle for dominance. Despite an early lead from the Eagles, the introduction of a couple of ringers from the Barbarians gave them an unassailable lead early in the second half. Regardless, breakouts from our lines into the Barbarians half continued with a literal last-minute try. Our very own LCpl Tweneboa managed to put down a hat-trick of tries, playing out on the wing – a fantastic achievement for only his second ever match.

A huge thanks to Andy ‘Topsy’ Topham (ex-RM), Dan Topping and Yvette Hastings from the Combined Services Barbarians, who made this a great day. And a special thanks the Maj Mark Woodward (RAMC) and Lichfield RUFC, who without their help, we’d still be looking for a pitch.

Looking Forward

As we look forward to the Summer, we have our Company Adventurous Training Multi-Activity weekend in August; rock climbing, mountain biking and falling out of perfectly good planes, otherwise known as parachuting.

We will also continue to be out and about in your area, showing who we are and where we go; look out for us at the Chatsworth House show for one!

D (DRAGON) COY

Following on from a busy period in March when most of D Coy deployed on Ex WAR HAMMER (a Field Firing Exercise at Warcop) we had a relatively quiet April. This had been anticipated due to the strong attendances in March and the fact that the civilian work, family and Army Reserve life balances needed to be stabilised. May saw the start of preparations for the Battalion Patrols Competition was held over the weekend of 07 – 09 Jun on Leek Training Area. Horizontal rain and poor conditions, even for Leek, made it an interesting event which was won by D Coy Machine Gun Platoon (Burton), with the Stoke Platoon coming 4th.

Recruiting Progress

Following the frustrations of long delays in the Recruiting chain we are now starting to see real progress. In June D Coy attested two Ex-Regular Soldiers and attested a further two recruits. A further 4 recruits have attended Phase 1 Alpha or Bravo Courses and Pte Jack Eckersley completed Phase 2 Training (the Combat Infantryman's Course).

Adventure Training

Pte Luke Gathercole continues to gain AT qualifications and takes every opportunity to get ‘Quality Mountain Time’. Luke recently participated in a 4 Day Climbing Exercise with 3 R WELSH and he will also be involved with D Coy’s AT package in August. A weekend package in the Yorkshire Dales is being planned where the Coy will complete the Yorkshire 3 Peak Challenge as well as completing Rock Climbing, abseiling and Mountain Biking. There will also be a weeklong AT package in September which will be held in Ballykinlar, Northern Ireland.

Congratulations to...

WO2 (CSM) Simon Coulson for receiving his Queens Volunteer Reserve Medal from HRH Prince Charles in May.

Farewells to:

  • Lt Sam Russon who has left to join the Regular Army. Sam is now enjoying life as an Officer Cadet in his first term at RMA Sandhurst.
  • Sgt ‘Crommers’ Cromwell (PSI) who is returning to 1MERC on promotion to CSgt.
  • Pte Tom Millman who has left to join the Royal Navy. We always knew he was more of a sailor!

All at D Coy wish them all good luck for the future and thank them for the contribution they have made to the Company.

HQ (EAGLE) Coy

Our focus in HQ (Eagle) Coy during this quarter has been the personal development of our Private soldiers as they begin their journey on the promotional ladder. ITC Catterick ran two PJNOC courses in May and Jun respectively which both had HQ Coy students attending. Ptes Burbeck, Sealeaf, Wilbourne-Kay and Gummery attended the two-week course aimed at confirming their potential to become rifle section 2ICs and promote to LCpl.

Having already displayed their leadership potential on Bn training weekends and during training nights, the Potential JNCOs were put through their paces during a day of pre-course training delivered by WO2 (CSM) Paul Bywater and Cpl Fradgley.

MERCIAN BAND

In May, The Band of the Mercian Regiment were joined by many other groups to perform at Stoke on Trent Military Tattoo in aid of the ABF. The event was opened by The Band of the Mercian Regiment in Concert, playing a selection of music ranging from ‘Fanfare and Soliloquy’ to ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. This was inter-spaced with showcases of pipers, drums, bugles, and a traditional Gurkha battle display with their signature kukri knives. In fact, there was a full selection of virtually every aspect of Military Music and performance that you could possibly squeeze into the Kings Hall! The evening was rounded off in the traditional way, with all the performers being joined in the arena by the Standards of the British Legion to play Evening Hymn and Last Post, The National Anthem, and of course there was plenty of arm linking, flag waving and singing during Auld Lang Syne.

On the ‘Glorious 1st June’, the City of Tamworth came together with the Mercian Regiment to put on a spectacular community carnival in the grounds of Tamworth Castle. The Band, along with Private Derby XXXII and Soldiers from 1 Mercian, were proud to lead the parade through the streets of Tamworth, exercising the freedom of the city and in honour of the battle that took place in 1794. Cheering crowds lined the streets in the early Summer sunshine. After arriving at the castle, the Band entertained the carnival goers with a selection of music, before attending the reception where the Saxophone quartet played for the dignitaries.

This quarter has seen the following well deserved awards be presented in recognition for long service. Cpl Brad Robert and Musn Tom Cripps were presented with their Queen's Volunteer Reserves Medals (VRSM) at Stoke Tattoo, whilst L/Cpl Adrian Hardgrave was presented with the second award clasp for his Queen's Volunteer Reserves Medal (VRSM). Well done gentlemen - an impressive service record!

This quarter has also seen two retirements from The Band. Our Director of Music, Captain Anthony Hodgetts, began his music career with the Prince of Wales Division in 1971. After an impressive regular army music career, he joined The Band of the Mercian Regiment in May 2014 as Bandmaster. He was promoted to Captain and the position of Director of Music during The Regimental Pilgrimage at Crich Memorial in 2016. Under his command in 2017, The Band of the Mercian Regiment became the first Reserve Band outside of London District to perform London Duties. Captain Hodgetts led the Band for his last public engagement at Stoke City Football match. As he retires from a long and full career in both Regular and Reserve Forces military music, we are certain he will be sorely missed: a true gentleman of the music world.

Sergeant Nigel Brocklehurst first began his military career by joining the Junior Leaders Regt in 1977. Nigel left regular Army service in 2001 and joined the Reserves in 2002, wearing a cap badge for The West Midlands Regiment. His last public appearance was at Stoke Football Club. He has served many camps with the Army Reserves and will be missed.

Looking forwards, the Band will be performing at:

  • Tamworth AFD 29th June
  • Himley Hall AFD 30th June
  • Buxton Tattoo 6th July
  • Crich Regimental Pilgrimage 7th July
  • Hartlebury Castle 14th September

ROYAL HOSPITAL CHELSEA

Regimental Headquarters has had several personnel getting in touch asking how to become a Chelsea Pensioner. To be eligible for admission as a Chelsea Pensioner, a candidate must be a former non-commissioned officer or soldier of the British Army who is:

  • Over 65 years or of State Pension age (whichever is the greater)
  • Either in receipt of an Army Service Pension or War Disability Pension which you would be required to surrender upon entry to the Royal Hospital OR if you do not receive an Army Pension you would be required to make a weekly financial contribution (payable by Standing Order) towards your living costs. This contribution will be based on an assessment of affordability completed during the application process. Please note, if you are in receipt of an Army Service Pension and/or War Disability Pension you may also be required to make a top-up contribution (also based on an assessment of affordability)
  • Free of any financial obligation to support a spouse or family
  • To be able to live independently in the sheltered accommodation (Long Wards) – the Royal Hospital Chelsea is unable to accept direct entries to the nursing wards
  • More information can be found here.

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