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These people going out fighting giving their lives for us;
They do it selflessly and they never get thanked enough.

click here for AV's Roman stuff
They give it all, put their heart and soul into what they do
To make this world a better, safer place for me and you.

[lyrics: Paul Andreas]
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In Memoriam: Aaron McClure, Robert Foster & John Thrumble [23/08/11]

Private Aaron McClure, Private Robert Foster and Private John Thrumble all from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, were killed while on a fighting patrol near Kajaki, Afghanistan on Thursday 23rd August 2007.

Of Pte Aaron McClure his CO said: "At 19 years old, Private Aaron McClure was already a veteran of over forty engagements with the enemy. It is tragic that where the Taliban had failed, it was an accident that has taken him from us. Loyal, hard working and highly professional, he constantly surpassed the standards expected, and his loss is a bitter blow to the whole Battalion." His friend Pte Barker said: "McClure known to most of his mates as 'Troy' was a hard working and very determined member of 7 Platoon who would 'work his socks off' to achieve the best results he could. 'Troy' had a lot of ambition and would have gone far in the Army. He will be missed very much by all of us in 7 Platoon and the Company. Rest in peace mate and my thoughts are with your family."

Pte Robert Foster's CO said: "As a junior soldier, Private Robert Foster settled in remarkably quickly and was a highly respected Viking. Fiercely loyal to his friends, he had seemingly limitless reserves of courage and strength of character way beyond his years. He had a rare quality of always seeing the bright side of any situation and a mischievous sense of humour which made him hugely popular." His Section Commander said: "Fozzy as he was known by all will be remembered for never turning a dare down. He was up for anything and kept the comedy value of the section up when it was most needed. He was a model for the British Army. It was a privilege to serve with him and we will never forget him."

About Pte John Thrumble the Battalion Commander said: "Private John Thrumble was one of the mainstays and leading characters within the Battalion. An inspirational model to others and a caring and compassionate friend to many, he will be sorely missed. Proven in combat on countless occasions – his raw courage and ability to raise a smile were invaluable in these testing times. He joins the ranks of his fellow fallen Vikings but his reputation will live on and he will never be forgotten." And Private Barker said: "John was the joker of the platoon and even the Company, and always managed to make you laugh whatever the circumstances. Although he was hard as nails, he had a soft side to him which most people did not know. He had some ambition and wanted to stay in the Army and work his way up through the ranks."

"These people going out fighting giving their lives for us;
They do it selflessly and they never get thanked enough.
They give it all, put their heart and soul into what they do
To make this world a better, safer place for me and you.

Never forgotten

MoD Defence News

Smiles Across The Miles [25/03/11]

Although I haven't been writting much on my blog recently, I don't want you thinking I haven't been doing stuff to support the guys out in Afghan. So I think I'll tell you about a little side line of mine.

I work with a group of people ("Smiles Across the Miles") out in Estuaryland who send welfare parcels out to the guys on the frontline in Afghanistan.

We're just a small team but we work hard and are very committed. We've been going for a couple of years and have sent out about 3,000 parcels so far. When I say a small team, there's really just three of us - though we do organise packing sessions with local groups, like the scouts, when we can. We're always on the look out for volunteers but, whilst people are very generous with donations (especially when it comes to "our boys"), they seem to lead such busy lives these days that they have little spare time to give.

Anyway, we three do alright. In fact we do so well that the MoD asked us to suspend our operations over the Christmas period so as not to overload "logistics". So we shut down between October and February.

The team is made up of:
The Company Sergeant Major: she's ex-WI, is the inspiration behind the organisation, set it up in 2008 and has been the driving force behind it ever since. Always out looking for ways of raising cash and drumming up support. Knows an awful lot of people. Formidable, I think you'd say.

The Lance-Corporal: that's me. I do the "heavy" work; solid and reliable. I joined up on St George's Day 2009 when I came across the Stall (more about that later) in Basildon Shopping Centre. I just said "hello" and before I knew it I was signed up for 22 years. Anyway, I love it.

The Squaddie: that's our young lad. He's been involved with the group since it started. Amazingly reliable and always ready to help if he can. Eats, lives and breathes the Army. Knows every unit out in Afghan.... indeed, anywhere. From the minute he arrives to the minute he leaves, he's talking Army. You'd think it would drive you crazy but it doesn't somehow, in fact it helps the job along.

We also have a Quartermaster who looks after the money.

We're all very patriotic of course. The CSM is very much for "Great Britain", I'm a Little Englander and the Squaddie is of course for "Queen and Country". I've had to fight to ensure that our stall (see below) will be festooned with England flags on St George's Day, rather than the usual Union Flag.

I'll tell you a bit about how we operate. Take this week as an example. We first agreed that we would do packing on Thursday; we are very lucky because we have a local hall where we are able to do our packing.

So, we're going to pack on Thursday. First thing Monday morning, I telephone a couple of local shoeshops who I know will very kindly save the day's old shoe boxes for us. At 1700 I drive into town with the Squaddie, park in Sainsbury's carpark and collect the shoeboxes from the shops. We normally hope to get about 30 (if we're short, I've always got Tuesday to fall back on - thinking ahead, see). Anyway, this Monday we pick up 32 boxes which we take back to Sainsbury's. We go into the shop and spend £5 so we can reclaim our parking fee.

On Wednesday afternoon we - the CSM, the Squaddie and me that is - go to the local cash-and-carry to buy the stuff to fill the 32 boxes. We know exactly what to buy though we are always tempted to pick up the occasional "special" item - this time it was Cadbury's cream eggs (we don't normally send chocolate but, it being Easter and all, we thought we would (we actually sent some out a few weeks ago and got a letter back saying the eggs had caused a riot - good eh?!))

Thursday 1100 we arrive at the hall, put up the tables and lay out the goodies we bought. We're also donated stuff, usually toiletries, and bring these out of the stores. We're very organised, very "Army" with everything in order of size and weight with empty boxes at one end and the scales at the other (we can send 2kg for free). It takes about half-an-hour to set up. We all have different roles. The CSM is the "packer" and fills the boxes, the L-Cpl is the wrapper (brown paper and parcel tape) and the Squaddie mixes the sweets (having thoroughly washed his hands), bundles up teabags and puts the labels on the boxes. So the packer picks up an empty box, walks down the line filling it with goodies, weighs it, adds/subtracts to get the weight right and passes it to the rapper, sorry, wrapper. I put in a "bluey" and one of our greetings postcards, wrap the parcel in our unique SATM way and pass it over to be labelled(to, from and customs labels). A slick operation, I can hear you saying. All the time the CSM and the Squaddie are chattering away (on different subjects). Me? Well Im just trying to keep up with the conveyor belt and don't have time to chat.... until the tea break that is.

Thursday 1430 and we've packed 32 parcels and it's time to start clearing up - we always aim to leave the hall spick and span. 1500 load up my car and we're off to the local post office. Fortunately they know us there and are always very helpful. People joining the queue after us look very depressed when they see our bags of parcels - they think we're eBayers and everything's got to be weighed. Their spirits lift when they hear that we're simply going to leave the stuff and they positively smile when we tell them it's all going to BFPO 758.

And that's it really...... till the next time.

You might want to know what we put in the parcels - all quality stuff..... only the best for our boys and girls! I'll run along the table: a packet of jammie dodgers, fruit bars, a pack of playing cards, Colegate toothpaste & toothbrush, little tin of vaseline, baby wipes, individual packets of hot chocolate and coffee, cup-a-soups, instant noodles, Wriggleys chewing gum, crisps, mini-chedders, HP sauce sachets, Pot Noodles, individual marmalade, jam and honey potlets, fruit pastilles, Haribo mix, OXO cubes, tea, sherbert dips..... all good, healthy stuff and all with memories of home.

We send the parcels to welfare officers who, we hope, will distribute them to the guys who need them most: those who, perhaps, haven't got families back home to send them stuff. (We're always on the look out for more welfare officers, so if you know one, get 'em to send me their address!)

I said I'd mention the stall. We have a stall which we put up at local events to raise money to buy the stuff for the parcels, We have lucky dips for kids - one for boys (mini-model-cars, keyrings, etc) and one for girls (mini-dolls, bangles, etc) - and we also sell things which we have been given but can't send in the parcels (aerosols, glass, big/heavy things). We raise quite a bit of cash. We also use the event for PR - telling people what we do, showing sample parcels and we have a display board with photos and letters we've received back from Afghan. We get a lot of interest and people are very supportive. The occasional squaddie on home leave also comes over to thank us and we always ask for suggestions for the parcels.

So far this year we're booked for St George's Day in Basildon, the Southend Airshow and Armed Forces Day. We also put the stall up in local supermarkets and, really, wherever we can.

It's great to get letters back from Afghan. We don't want the thanks, it's just to know that the parcels are getting through and that we're sending the right stuff. By doing what we do we hope we're rasing morale; when we get a letter back it raises our morale too.

So there you have it, just a few of us doing our bit to let the guys know that the work they do for us is appreciated and that people back home are thinking of them and supporting them.

Oh, and I'll try to write some more on my blog.

RIP Aaron James McClure - Fallen Soldier [03/02/11]

Victory at Stalingrad - 12:00 February 2nd 1943 [02/02/11]

"The sudden silence was overwhelming and some of our soldiers, habituated to the constant din of fighting, couldn't stand it. The only time there was silence was just before an enemy attack. Men were shooting rifles, letting off grenades, just to relieve the tension." (Lieutenant A. Mereshko, 62nd Army).
"Then all our soldiers began to sing. We sang the Russian songs which helped to sustain us when all seemed hopeless." (Mark Slavin, 45th Division)

The German surrender at Stalingrad in February 1943 was the strategic turning point of WW2. After Stalingrad, the Germans had no hope of winning on the eastern front and that meant inevitable defeat in the wider conflict for WW2 was primarily a Soviet-German war.

When Germany launched Operation Barbarossa on June 22nd 1941 and invaded the Soviet Union, they launched a war of annihilation, a war to destroy ’judeobolshevism’ by the mass murder of Soviet citizens. Over the next four years more than 26 million Soviet citizens were killed, almost 11 million from the Armed Forces - at Stalingrad alone a million Russian people lost their lives.

In remembering the battle of Stalingrad we pay homage to the immense heroism of the soldiers of the Red Army. Despite Antony Beevor's attempt to denigrate, contemporary evidence is overwhelming: it was the sheer valour and guts of the soldiers of the 62nd Army, particularly the 13th Guards, which turned what was a militarily hopeless position into final victory.

"For us, it was life and death which met on the Volga. And it was life which won the fight." (Marshal K. Rokossovsky)

The French military: they're there when they need you [02/09/10]

That an I'm feeling lucky Google search for 'french military victories' comes up with no matches and asks: Did you mean 'french military defeats', may be just an American joke. But when you think about it, it's hard to come up with a war in which La France has been notably victorious - no, hang on, there was their victory over Greenpeace in 1985 when their navy sneakily sank Rainbow Warrior when she was tied up in Auckland harbour.

That Britain's Armed Forces should be merged with any foreign military is bad enough, but that there should currently be talk of a merger with a country with such a dismal military track record is as alarming as it is ludicrous. Yes, there should be strong military alliances with foreign powers, there always have been. But Britain must never have to seek permission from such a bunch of losers and 'surrender monkeys' in order that she can carry out her foreign policy - because we know what their answer would be: "Non".

Some other comments on French military prowess:

The question for any country silly enough to count on the French should not be "Can we count on the French?" but rather "How long until France collapses?"

"Going to war without France is like going deer hunting without an accordion. All you do is leave behind a lot of noisy baggage."

Or, better still, the quote from the Wall Street Journal: "They're there when they need you."

Living memorial for L/Cpl Scott Hardy - fallen Viking [02/09/10]

Lance Corporal Scott Hardy, from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment, was killed in action in Afghanistan on 16th March this year.

On Saturday last his family and friends dedicated a hornbeam tree to his memory in the cathedral grounds in Chelmsford, his home town.

The plaque at the foot of the tree, which reads "In memory of our hero, Lance Corporal Scott Hardy 06/06/83 - 16/03/2010", will serve as a reminder to all those who pass by of the sacrifice made by Lance Corporal Hardy for his country.


Chelmsford Weekly News: Living memorial to hero soldier Scott
MoD: Lance Corporal Scott Hardy and Private James Grigg killed in Afghanistan

Royal Anglian Regiment: Formation Day [01/09/10]

The Regiment was formed on 1st September 1964 from the three Regiments of the East Anglian Brigade (The Royal Norfolk & Suffolk, The Duchess of Gloucester's Own Royal Lincolnshire & Northamptonshire and The 16th/44th Foot) and The Royal Leicestershire Regiment.

Happy Formation Day!

The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum: Family Tree
The Royal Anglian Regiment: Formation and History

Latest figures show Army at full strength    [26/08/10]
Apr '05
Apr '06
Apr '07
Apr '08
Apr 09
Apr '10 Jul '10
102,160 102,170
102,200 102,500

The latest figures published by the Defence Analytical Services and Advice (DASA) wing of the MoD show that the improvement in manning levels, which began in the late 2008, has been maintained and that the Army has actually been operating at full strength over the last quarter.

The MoD reports that the (markedly) reduced intake requirement reflects the fact that the Army is currently fully manned and can therefore cut back on new entrants.

The continued drop in the number of those leaving is also an encouraging sign as it implies that the Army is retaining more of its experienced personnel.

That the country is in the midst of the worst recession since the 1930s may also be influencing the situation.

Starters and Leavers
Year to...
Apr '08 Apr '09 Jun '09 Jun '10  
Intake 14,540 14,510 14,540 11,560  
Outflow 15,330 13,140 12,160 11,900  

The issue for the immediate future is of course whether the Army will be permitted to continue to operate at the 102,000 mark. Defence Secretary Liam Fox has already hinted that the Strategic Defence Review is going to hit military spending hard; he's quoted as saying that the Goverment will act "ruthlessly and without sentiment" in finding savings in the defence budget. Indeed it's already been rumoured that even Britain's elite 23 SAS Regiment is in line to be culled.

Liam Fox is hoping to play the magician: although he will be overseeing radical reductions (15% is the current consensus) in military expenditure, he also insists that eventually Britain's security would end up "stronger".

The UK is not alone in seeking significant cuts in defence expenditure: across Europe governments have started to slash their military procurement projects. One way that Dr Fox may seek to square the circle of delivering more with less is through closer co-operation within Europe. Integrated procurement programmes, shared hardware, split operational responsibilities - indeed European Military Union itself - may start to look like attractive options to a Coalition desparate to make ends meet. God help us.

MoD: Latest UK Armed Forces manning figures released

Civic Dinner at Havering in honour of the Royal Anglians [26/08/10]

The history and achievements of the Royal Anglian Regiment will be honoured and celebrated at a special Civic Dinner hosted by Councillor Pam Light, Mayor of Havering, and Councillor Michael White, Leader of the Council on Friday 24th September.

The dinner will be held at the Territorial Army Centre, 312 London Road, Romford starting at 7pm. The evening will include a Guard of Honour from the Royal Anglian Regiment Cadets; a champagne drinks reception and raffle; live entertainment from the Royal British Legion Band; and a three course dinner. The guest speaker will be Lt. Lenthall, Officer Commanding 10 Platoon C (Essex) Company, RAR.

Sounds alright.

Well done, Havering!

LB of Havering Council: Royal Anglian Regiment Civic Dinner

Exmoor 30:30 - the ultimate endurance challenge [26/08/10]

Hot on the heels of the PARA'S 10 UER (see below) comes The Royal British Legion's Exmoor 30:30 Ultimate Endurance Challenge. Now, Exmoor 30:30 is for the seriously fit: not a mere 10 miles for them, oh no, this is a 30 mile race across tough terrain carrying a 30lb rucksack.

The team race takes place on Saturday 9th October in Exmoor National Park, and with competitors each being asked to raise at least £1,000 for charity, it's a major fundraiser for The Legion and other service charities as well as a personal and a team challenge for those taking part.

The Legion, which provides financial, practical and emotional support to service people past and present and their dependants, is recruiting everyone from office workers to armed forces personnel to take part.

The Exmoor Explorers, who competed on behalf of The Legion, won the inaugural event last year. Team member Peter Govier described the nine hours it took them to complete the route as like “going to hell and back". "It was tough, mentally and physically. We were all fairly fit and knew the area, but the weather was atrocious. The race may be called Exmoor 30:30, but due to circumstances you inevitably end up going further. The Explorers ended up doing 36 miles.”

Russell Thompson OBE, Director of National Events and Fundraising says: “Exmoor 30:30 really is the ultimate challenge and will give civilian participants a taste for the sort of training armed services personnel go through before being sent off to Afghanistan and Iraq. ”

For those wanting to take part, details of the event can be found on their website:

Royal Anglian Neil Thomas: Simply The Best! [25/08/10]

Private Neil Thomas from 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment won the Best Recruit award after successfully completing the 26 week Combat Infantryman's Course at Catterick.

Pte Thomas's platoon commander Colour Sergeant Michael Butcher said: "Private Thomas simply excelled on the course. He has been an enthusiastic trainee who is also very mature and this is shown when he helps others along or gets a grip of them. This is a really well-deserved award for someone who already has shown the basics of leadership."

Well done, Neil!

This is Lincolnshire: Town soldier proves it's not easy to be the best

Bring in stiffer penalties for those who desecrate Britain's war memorials [25/08/10]

Britain's war memorials - of which there are about 60,000 in total - are increasingly becoming the target of vandals, yobs and scrap metal thieves.

Some examples of this have received national press coverage:

Sadly these incidents are only the tip of the iceberg since at least one memorial a week is being defiled in some way. Sadly also the law as it stands affords little protection as the penalties for those actually arrested are derisory: nominal fines, cautions, a few hours community service and, as you would expect in the Muslim case, conditional discharge.

Now a group of MPs, lead by Tory MP David Burrowes, is calling on the Government to bring in stiffer penalties for those who desecrate the nation's war memorials and insult the memory of those who died in the service of their country fighting for our freedom. The MPs are urging the Government to create a separate crime of "desecrating the memories of this country" which will help to deter the yobs and punish the transgressors more appropriately.

The proposal has already received the backing of a number of prominent former military chiefs. The campaign should also have the backing of the Defence Secretary Liam Fox for it was he who last November compiled a list of desecrated memorials and said: "At a time when we are honouring those who have sacrificed themselves for our security, this sick and despicable trend is a miserable commentary on contemporary Britain. War memorials should be sacred places, respected by each and every person in every corner of the UK."

But it is not just the military who should be signing up for this campaign; protecting and honouring the memory of Britain's war dead is the duty of all her citizens. The general public need to be galvanised behind the campaign and public pressure brought to bear on David Cameron and Kenneth Clarke to bring in the necessary changes to the law.

The Telegraph: Military chiefs back call for law to protect war memorials
The Mail: Revealed: How one war memorial is desecrated in Britain every week
The Mail: 'Britain's most disgusting woman' who urinated on war memorial escapes jail

UK National Inventory of War Memorials

UK orders more Desert Hawks [24/08/10]

The MoD has today placed a $5.1million order with Lockheed Martin for additional Desert Hawk III UAVs. Having already supplied around 100 systems to UK forces as part of a UOR for Afghanistan in 2007, this additional tranche is scheduled for delivery by the end of the year.

Although operating Desert Hawk looks similar to playing Call of Duty, this is a mean piece of kit which, according to Staff Sergeant Dan Gardner from 47 Regiment Royal Artillery,"has become indispensable to troops on the ground in Afghanistan".

Used in a variety of roles, including reconnaissance and surveillance of troops and patrols, Desert Hawk provides situational awareness to commanders of troops in contact with the enemy. One particularly valuable use to which it has been put has been spotting the Taliban as they lay IEDs. Desert Hawk is one of several systems which make up ISTAR, the tri-service intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance infrastructure.

As well as providing improved surveillance capability and all-weather operation, the latest variant will also include a 'more refined target position' system olr as the MoD spokesman said: "Desert Hawk's latest enhancements allow it to operate more effectively in difficult conditions and provide our soldiers with greater situational awareness in a very timely manner."

MoD: Upgraded surveillance aircraft arrive in Afghanistan
Lockheed Martin: Desert Hawk III

Paras' 10 - Roger Micklethwaite takes up the challenge [23/08/10]

The annual PARA'S 10 event will be taking place this year on Sunday 12th September at Catterick.

Resurrected in 2008 after a 15 year hibernation, this 'ultimate endurance race' will once again be hosted by Pegasus Company, The Parachute Regiment's training and selection wing, and is open to anyone who's up for it and can cough up the £25 entrance fee (there is £250 for the fastest entrant).

Not only is the event a chance for those outside the Regiment to prove how fit they are and to find out what the Paras keep harping on about, it is also an ideal fundraising opportunity.

Last year 2,500 runners took part raising over £100,000 for service charities.

This year Roger Micklethwaite and associates will be taking up the challenge and raising money for The Royal Anglian Regiment Benevolent Charity Fund. The Fund helps serving and former members of the Regiment and their families who find themselves in need, hardship or distress.

If you would like to support Roger & Co. and help them raise some money for the Royal Anglians, visit his webpage at

JustGiving: Vikings4ever

Good luck, Roger (you'll need it)!

Operational Welfare Fund fails to capture the public's imagination [23/08/10]

It was back in the autumn of 2008 that the then Labour government started to clamp down on the public's wish to send parcels of goodies out to the guys fighting on the frontline.

The reason given for discouraging this very personal and direct show of support for Britain's Armed Forces was that 'unsolicited' parcels "clog up the supply chain and delay parcels from service families getting to their loved ones".

That there is an inadequate transport infrastructure supporting UK forces abroad is due to years of neglect and under-funding by government; it is not the fault of the general public.

The MoD should also bear in mind that a very large percentage (reportedly as high as 20%) of the troops out in Afghanistan do not have family to send them welfare parcels and these guys also need and deserve the morale boost that receiving a parcel from back home can bring. Many small community groups across the country send parcels (not at Christmas but throughout the year) to welfare officers who distribute them to those individuals they know would benefit most.

However, back in 2008 the government was caught in a bit of a dilemma: on the one hand it wanted to engage the public in support for the Armed Forces (cf National Recognition Study) but on the other hand it needed to dampen down any support that was proving inconvenient. The MoD came up with a solution: the Operational Welfare Fund.

Instead of sending parcels of goodies, the public would be instructed to donate money to a central fund. The Fund would be administered jointly by the MoD and SSAFA and the money raised would be used by 'commanders' to purchase items for the troops - solar-powered chargers, boxing kit, wind-up radios, etc. In this way the MoD would be able to manage and direct the flow of public goodwill and perhaps also use some of the money raised to buy equipment it would otherwise have to fund itself.

That the Operational Welfare Fund has failed to capture the public's imagination is clear: only a small number of online donations have made (less than 200) and only a relatively small amount of money has been raised (£37,050) since the Fund's launch in November 2008.

Cameron's Government should recognise that giving the people the right to express their regard, support and thanks to Britain's Armed Forces by making up a parcel and sending it out to someone serving their country abroad is perfectly consistent with the idea of the 'Big Society'.

Perhaps the MoD should consider laying on a couple of extra helicopters.

MoD: Operational Welfare Fund
SSAFA: Operational Welfare Fund
Bmycharity: SSAFA Operational Welfare Fund

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