A patrol of 2 RIFLES awaits pickup by Chinook in Helmand 2009.
THE RIFLES FORGED IN BATTLE - AN OVERVIEW OF THE FIRST THREE YEARS
On the 1st of February 2007, The Rifles were formed out of a merger of four antecedent regiments, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry(RGBWLI), The Devonshire and Dorset Light Infantry (DDLI), The Light Infantry (LI) and The Royal Green Jackets (RGJ).
Recruiting throughout England, The Regiment consists of 5 Regular battalions (1-5 RIFLES), 2 Territorial Army battalions (6&7 RIFLES), 2 Independent Territorial Army companies and over 100 affiliated Cadet Detachments. The regimental strength numbers about 460 Regular Officers, 220 Territorial Army Officers, 4,500 Regular Riflemen, 1,500 Territorial Army Riflemen and in excess of 12,000 affiliated Cadets (Army Cadet Force and Combined Cadet Force). Our private soldiers are known as Riflemen, we call bayonets Swords, we march faster than the rest of the Army at 140 to the minute and we wear Rifle Green on ceremonial occasions.
01 Feb 2007. OC, 2IC, CSM of C Coy 3 RIFLES on
Formation Day in Helmand.
The Regular battalions are stationed in Chepstow (1 RIFLES) on the English/Welsh border; Ballykinler, Northern Ireland (2RIFLES); Edinburgh (3 RIFLES); Bulford Camp, Salisbury (4 RIFLES) and Alanbrooke Barracks Paderborn, Germany (5 RIFLES). The battalions of The Rifles remain in their permanent home base locations and deploy from there on operations.
The Territorial Army battalions are based on Wyvern Barracks, Exeter, Devon (6 RIFLES covering the SW of England) and Brock Barracks, Reading Berkshire (7 RIFLES covering the Home Counties). There are also Independent Companies; D (Rifles) Coy, Bishop Auckland, Durham and E (Rifles) Coy, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, with Y (RIFLES) platoon based in Doncaster.
The size of the regiment and its different operational roles and locations offer soldiers and officers a variety of career opportunities and places to serve, unmatched by any other infantry regiment in the British Army.
In just over 3 years since formation all our battalions have deployed on operations at least once. 2 RIFLES have deployed three times (Iraq, Kosovo and Afghanistan). Because of our size, members of the regiment have been consistently at the critical and most dangerous point of the Army's operations over the last 3 years. Over the next 3 years all battalions expect to deploy again.
Sept 2007. Lt-Col Sanders, CO 4 RIFLES, hands over
Basra Palace to Col Sadi, Iraqi Army
May 2009. A Rifleman of B company 5 RIFLES embarks
in a helicopter in Iraq shortly before the battalion
handed over responsibility for their TAOR to the Iraqi
Army and US Forces.
Iraq – First In Last Out
In Iraq 2, 3 and 4 RIFLES were deployed in Basra during some of the heaviest fighting of the campaign, including covering the withdrawl from Basra Palace. 2 RIFLES and elements of 3 RIFLES were in Iraq at the time of formation in early 2007, so giving the new cap badge a true baptism of fire. They were relieved by 4 RIFLES in April 2007 who continued to defend Basra Palace until its successful handover to the Iraqi security forces in early September 2007. Following this, they were employed on operations in the Iran/Iraq border regions, which made a welcome change from the urban fighting of Basra.
Later, in May 2009, 5 RIFLES handed over the remaining UK ground force presence in Southern Iraq to Iraqi and US Forces, so giving them the distinction of being one of the first British infantry regiments to enter Iraq in 2003 (as 1 LI) and the last to leave on handover.
Afghanistan – Toe To Toe with The Taliban
In Afghanistan, elements of 3 RIFLES saw in the change of cap badge in Helmand Province on 1 February 2007. In Oct 09, The Regiment began a series of back to back tours by RIFLES battalions beginning with 1 RIFLES. They deployed from Oct 08 to Apr 09 on a 6 month tour mentoring the Afghan Army in Helmand as part of 3 Commando Brigade.
Winter 2008/2009 1 RIFLES on mentoring operations in
Battalion headquarters and elements of 4 RIFLES deployed during summer 2009 to provide reinforcement cover for the elections and to take part in Operation Panther's Claw.
Concurrently 2 RIFLES were deployed in Sangin dealing with both the "Pac Man" Improvised Explosive Device challenge and the elections. Although they enjoyed less manpower and resources than have been allocated subsequently to this testing and often deadly area of operations, they made several small steps of progress to build a firm foundation for those who came later.
Their commitment to the mission, courage and fortitude in these circumstances has been exemplary and has been matched by 3 RIFLES who, with A Coy 4 RIFLES, took over from them. Building on 2 RIFLES' success, 3 RIFLES significantly expanded the area denied to the Taliban, opened more schools and increased the levels of legitimate commercial activity in the Sangin Bazaar and elsewhere.
20 August 2009: 2 RIFLES Javelin gunner in action on
Election Day Sangin, Photo: Eros Hoagland
Territorial elements of the regiment have also played a significant part in our Iraq and Afghan deployments in the form of composite companies and many individual reinforcements. Their support has been of a very high standard and they have made their share of the sacrifice in full measure.
Summer 2007. 4 RIFLES sniper Basra
The high operational tempo has forged the identity of the new regiment and brought it close together through shared hardship and experience of battle. Hardly a patrol or convoy, in all the operational theatres, has returned to base without having had some sort of contact or fire fight, often at uncomfortably close quarters and employing every weapon in the armoury including hand-grenades. In one incident a Rifleman, with great coolness, returned a Taliban grenade to sender! Even when back in their bases they have been subject to intense indirect and direct fire attacks.
In the 4 years since formation(as at April 2011) the exploits in battle of The Regiment and individual Riflemen have been recognised with the award of 4 Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses, 10 Distinguished Service Orders, 13 Military Crosses, 1 George Medal and 4 Queens Gallantry Medals.
Summer 2009. The 2 RIFLES Battlegroup Padre Mark
Geraint- Jones after a service in Sangin for one of
our 53 KIA. Photo: Eros Hoagland
The Regiment's operational experiences and achievements, together with the casualties we have suffered and shared, have contributed to a rapid building of a network of proud supporters. This has paid dividends in creating a framework of moral and practical support for the regiment in a time of considerable stress and need.
The wider regimental network extends to the family, friends and supporters of past and present riflemen and all those living in the areas where we are based, recruit and enjoy relationships by virtue of our antecedent regiments and their associations. The Regiment is greatly indebted to this wider family for their moral, practical and financial support, which sadly remains so necessary in a time of continuous operations. Since formation (as at 1 September 2010), 54 Riflemen have been killed in action and 290 wounded, including over 40 with life changing injuries.
To meet the future demands of this casualty toll, The Rifles Charities are running a fundraising campaign, "The Care for Casualties Appeal", which has an initial target of raising £1million in 2010.
On watch the evening before handover of Basra Palace
|For more information about The Rifles see www.The–Rifles.co.uk or contact the Assistant Regimental Secretary Communications on 01962 8285528
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