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UK Royal Regiment of Fusliers

by Capt. Fernando Melero

First published in the SFOR Informer #15, July 23, 1997

photo 1T.JPG (9719 bytes)Gornji Vakuf - The soldiers wearing the 'hackle', a distinctive red and white plume in their beret, a battle honour and a privilege earned in the battle in St. Lucia in 1778, are back in Bosnia and Hercegovina. The 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers replaced the 1st Battalion The Green Howards at the end of April in the Vrbas Valley and took over the south-east sector of Multinational Division South West (MND-SW). This is not the first time the Fusiliers have deployed to Bosnia - the 1st Battalion successfully participated in the transition from United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to Implementation Force (IFOR) in December 1995. "There are a number of officers and soldiers here who were in Bosnia in the preceding tour," said Maj. Christopher Claridge, current 2nd Battalion Second in Command and Commanding Officer X Company, 1st Battalion, during the time they were the lead company group for the implementation of the Dayton Agreement on D-Day.

The 706-strong 2nd Battalion Battle Group, have handed over their A Company to the King's Photo 2T.JPG (9355 bytes)Royal Hussars Battle Group and received a recce troop from them. Their Area of Responsibility (AOR) covers 2,500 square kilometres in which all of three ethnic communities are present. Their units are spread throughout their AOR, with locations in Gornji Vakuf, Jajce, Donji Vakuf, Sipovo and a platoon house in Prozor. In addition, artillery and engineer units have been attached to them.

The tasks given to the Battle group include inspecting 27 Weapon Cantonment Sites , monitoring of Entity Armies training and movement, and patrolling. "That's not a difficult challenge for us as we are used to patrolling in very hot areas in Northern Ireland and Cyprus," explained Fusilier Neil Buckley. "It's very different on patrol here. We stop to have a chat with civilians to see what they need, how we can help them. They often invite us for a coffee," stressed Cpl. Christopher Beckett. The patrols are carried out on foot or in Scimitar and Warrior tracked vehicles. "The vehicles give us greater mobility and we can show our presence in a wider area," explained Cpl. Steven Berridge.

Photo 3T.JPG (9376 bytes)In addition to the operational tasks, the Fusiliers take every advantage to train to keep up their basic skills. "We have to be ready even for unexpected missions given to us in the event of non-compliance by the Entity Armies. We are always working on contingency plans," pointed out Maj. Claridge. The Fusiliers have taken part in live-fire exercises on Glamoc Ranges since their arrival and keep one company on 6-hour readiness as an MND-SW reserve ready to deploy whenever and wherever needed.

There is a constant concern in all British units in Bosnia to support the civilian agencies working in the area and the Fusiliers are actively collaborating in the development of new projects. "Our G-5 team meets every week with United Nations High Commissioned for the Refugees (UNHCR) officials to discuss the way we can help them. Likewise, we use patrols to get to know first hand what people need," said Maj. Claridge. Moreover, with the elections approaching, the Fusiliers are supporting the OSCE, first of all with the voter registration process, and later on, with framework support for the elections themselves. As part of this preparation, they have already begun to carry out joint patrols with their neighbours on the other side of the Division boundary, the Ukrainian Battalion, with which they have some municipalities in common. Prepared for whatever it takes to achieve progress towards a lasting peace, the 2nd Battalion is committed to following the successful path their Regimental comrades took last year.

[UK soldiers]