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Royal Regiment of Wales in GV

By Lt. ystein Paulsen
First published in

SFOR Informer #76

Gornji Vakuf/ Bugojno - Eighteen months ago, the men of 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Wales (1RRW) were guarding Queen Elizabeth's Buckingham Palace in London. Now based in Gornji Vakuf in Multinational Division South West (MND-SW), 1RRW has just taken over the responsibility of the Vrbas Valley as UK Battle Group South from the Royal Highland Fusiliers. "Our mission is to continue to encourage a safe and secure environment, and the stability of peace in the Vrbas Valley. To do that, we are doing patrols day and night, we continue to conduct Operation Harvest, we do village surveys where we consult with the locals to find out about the situation in specific areas, and we just maintain the presence," said Lt. Col. Iain Cholerton, commanding officer (CO) 1RRW and UK Battle Group South.

According to Cholerton, there is very little unrest in the Vrbas Valley at the moment. "We have a very good relationship with the local population, and they are very pleased that we are here. When we do patrols it is without armour. We don't feel threatened at all, and therefore there is no need for armoured vehicles," Cholterton said.

UK Battle Group South currently consists of one RRW company based in Gornji Vakuf, equipped with the "Warrior" armoured fighting vehicle, and one Household Cavalry Regiment (HCR) Squadron based in Jajce, equipped with "Scimitar," an armoured reconnaissance vehicle. That is going to change when 1RRW takes over the UK Battle Group North from the HCR and becomes responsible for the whole British sector within the Division.

In December, the 1RRW BG HQ will move from Gornij Vakuf to Mrkonjic Grad. "At the moment I have one of my companies attached to the HCR in Mrkonjic Grad. When the HCR leaves BiH in December, I will take over the command of my company in Mrkonjic Grad, plus a light infantry company based in Banja Luka, and the 9/12th Lancers Squadron of armoured reconnaissance , which will take over for the Household Cavalry Squadron in Banja Luka. So in effect, from what is currently controlled by six sub-units and two BGs, will be controlled by four sub-units and one BG in December," explained Cholterton.

After their tour in London, they moved on to Germany and went straight to Northern Ireland on a six month tour of operations. "We went back to Germany in December last year. This year we have learned how to use the armoured vehicles and the Warriors. Then we came to BiH. So it is only 10 months between being operational in Northern Ireland and being operational in BiH," said Cholerton.

In Northern Ireland the soldiers experienced a much bigger threat towards their security than they do in BiH. "There was a lot more of violence, and a more dangerous environment in Northern Ireland. Now, the soldiers have just begun to get used to the fact that they don't need to walk around being ready to shoot. They have their weapons on their backs, which is uncomfortable for them. But they will adapt very quickly," he said.

The Battalion, which primarily consists of soldiers from Wales, can trace its history back to 1689. "We are a fanatical rugby playing regiment. We have a very good rugby team, and we will be delighted if anyone in SFOR would like to play us. So if anyone reading the SFOR Informer feels tempted, please give us a ring," added Cholerton with a smile.

Related Link: United Kingdom