Latest from Néry Battery(September 13, 2009)
Dear Mr Foster
It is with a large degree of humility and trepidation that I write this letter, wholly due to the inexcusable lack of contact that I have made with the Old Comrades of L (Néry) Battery. Perhaps if I tell you that the last three months of last year were spent entirely on exercise and we have just embarked on the uphill journey to Afghanistan which sees us away constantly on exercise from May until August when we go on leave and then deploy on Op HERRICK 11 with 11 (Light) Brigade in September you may be sufficiently understanding to grant me some forgiveness.
Last year was somewhat frustrating for me as the Battery Commander in that I was piecing the Battery back together after Op TELIC 10 where we were used to backfill the other Battery’s in the Regiment. Therefore last year was spent mainly trying to raise the manning levels and training both individually and collectively in our primary role.
The key training events were all with our Battle Group in 1 (Mechanised) Brigade, the Coldstream Guards. Thus November saw us tabbing around a wet and cold Salisbury Plain on Ex DRUIDS DANCE. We also managed to conduct some live firing up in a cold wet and hilly Otterburn with the rest of the regiment. Away from the ‘green’ work we have managed to get away for some adventurous training in Fremington, which included a civilian version of the ‘trainasium’ and kite surfing. Needless to say the Battery enjoyed themselves thoroughly.
This year is proving to be much more fruitful since I actually have three Captains, three fully manned Fire Support Teams (FOO parties with Forward Air Controllers and Mortar Fire Controllers integrated) and a fully functioning Fire Planning Cell. Now that we have been chopped across to 11 (Light) Brigade for the tour we are supporting the Household Cavalry Regiment. The early part of the year has been spent participating in the various build-up planning exercises, culminating in Ex DRUIDS DANCE/WESSEX WARRIOR which was a ‘test’ to determine whether as a Battle Group we were ready to deploy. I am pleased to say that the Battle Group passed with flying colours. The relationship with the HCR is developing very well and the Battery is integrated at all levels and very much looking forward to the tour.
As an aside 11 (Light) Brigade has been reformed specifically for the tour. The constituent parts are 2 YORKS (formerly the Green Howards), a Warrior Company from 2 ROYAL WELSH (formerly the Royal Welch Fusiliers), 1 GRENADIER GUARDS, 3 RIFLES (formerly the Royal Green Jackets), the HCR, 1 RHA, 28 ENGINEER REGIMENT, the QUEEENS’ OWN GURKHA LOGISTIC REGIMENT and other various ‘enablers’ such as TACPs (Tactical Air Control Parties) from around the Division. As you can see, a rich and diverse assembly of units.
The training programme for the Regiment is largely made up of sub-unit exercises with affiliated Battle Groups but the Gun Group also has a heavy schedule. Conversion to Light Gun has been completed and the Australian Detachment who are assisting us have undergone their training as well. As usual it seems as if the Tac Groups are the busiest with a schedule which turns a 6 month tour into nearer 12 months when all the various commitments are added up. However we will undoubtedly be the best prepares Brigade to have deployed thus far and I believe that the training is absolutely necessary to ensure that we are ready for the intense and demanding environment that Afghanistan has proved to be.
On a personal note I am currently handing over the Battery to Major Gareth Barber who will be taking the Battery to Afghanistan. The original plan was for me to hand over the Battery slightly early in order to allow Gareth to train with the Battery whilst I was due to be posted to a Staff job. However as with all things in the Army, things have changed and I will now be deploying with the Battle Group HQ staff in charge of the ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaisance). From my perspective this is good news since I can maintain the links with both the Battery and also the HCR – it will certainly be great to be on the tour with some familiar faces!
A few words about the serving members of the Battery – Bdr Chris Sweeney has just become a father for the third time – a third girl to add to his twin girls! Bdr ‘Reg’ Holsworth has moved onto pastures new at 3 Division, Bdr Binks has returned from an external posting at DST Leconfield, Sgt Jones and Sgt McKusker have moved across form B Bty to become BCs Ack and FPC (now known as the Joint Fires Cell) SNCO respectively. Major Jonny Longbottom has mobilised from the Honourable Artillery Company to deploy as Joint Fires Cell Commander and Major Gareth Barber has come from the Gunnery Training Team to become the new Battery Commander. The TSM is WO2 Colin Wymbs who will be remaining in Tidworth for the duration of the tour to assist with the Rear Party, an area which is often overlooked but which it is vital to get right in order to provide smooth support to both those in theatre and also the families and members of the regiment who are not deploying.
The Battery Captain, Captain Rod Atkins, has some L/N merchandise for sale if there are any former members who would like mementos. These include sweatshirts, T-shirts and stickers.
In summary, the Battery is in fine fettle – fully manned with quality officers and soldiers, and training hard to get ready for the tour. It has been an absolute privilege and honour to command the Battery, and it has without doubt been the highlight of my career thus far.
Please accept my apology for the breakdown in links between the Old comrades and the serving members – it is a black mark against me and a source of regret to me.
I hope this finds you, and the rest of the Old Comrades in good health.