Vikings ready for Afghan deployment

THE 1ST Battalion of The Royal Anglian Regiment are at a “high level of readiness” for redeployment to Afghanistan.

Jonathan Schofield

THE 1ST Battalion of The Royal Anglian Regiment are at a “high level of readiness” for redeployment to Afghanistan.

Nicknamed the Vikings, the Bury-headquartered regiment was in the Helmand region of the country two years ago in a gruelling tour of duty which resulted in the loss of nine men.

During the deployment, which featured in the TV documentary Ross Kemp in Afghanistan, they suffered more casualties in a single month than any British battalion since the war started. This included the friendly fire incident when a US Air Force F-15E fighter aircraft, based at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, dropped a bomb on a patrol killing three soldiers.

One of those killed was Private Aaron McClure, 19, from Ipswich who died along with comrades Privates John Thrumble, 21, of Chelmsford and Robert Graham Foster, 19, from Harlow.

A spokesman from the MoD said: “They have been on short notice for the last six months and are currently on a high level of readiness - their deployment could take place within days if necessary.”

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If the go-ahead was given she could not say how many of the 600-strong battalion would be deployed. The regiment are part of the Spearhead Lead Element which she said are trained and ready for rapid deployment overseas at any time.

She added: “The 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglians are not currently earmarked to deploy to Afghanistan but are being prepared for deployment as part of prudent contingency planning.”

The news follows the recent surprise visit by Gordon Brown to Afghanistan where he promised more support for UK troops.

British troop numbers in the country were increased from 8,300 to 9,000 for the election period. Despite the polling stations closing 12 days ago a result has still not been announced.

* A SERVICE to hand over the stewardship of the regimental chapel to the Royal Anglian Regiment has taken place in St Mary's Church, Bury St Edmunds, before a congregation of nearly 200 people.

The ceremony on Tuesday marked the official transfer from The Suffolk Regiment - after its 131 year association with the church - to the Royal Anglian Regiment.

Tony Slater, area secretary and a retired Lieutenant-Colonel, said: “It was fifty years ago to the day that the Norfolk regiment amalgamated with the Suffolk regiment so it seemed a fitting time to hand over the stewardship of the chapel to The Royal Anglians.

“It was a very moving ceremony with lots of soldiers, their families, veterans of World War Two and of course some of the widows of soldiers killed in Afghanistan.”

The stewardship was formally handed over by Brigadier Tony Calder, president of The Suffolk Regiment Association, to Colonel James Woodham, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment.