Royal Welsh soldiers see progress in Basra

First published 12th Nov 2007 on Ministry of Defence website.

As Armed Forces personnel around the world were preparing to remember their fallen comrades on Remembrance Sunday, soldiers from the 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh were out on patrol in Basra Province looking for ways to help local people prepare for the winter.

C Company deployed to the Al Qurna district in the north of Basra Province, visiting projects set up by the British Army in neighbouring villages. The convoy carried a JCB digger, which was used to dig irrigation ditches for date palm plantations in one village and excavate land for a new school in a neighbouring settlement.

Major Richard Crow, who oversees the projects on behalf of the Multi-National Division (South East), explained the importance of such visits:

“We’ve come to the village and, following advice from the last time, we’ve brought a light-wheeled tractor. We’ve been digging some irrigation ditches so they can grow some cash crops and crops for feeding themselves.

“The reaction has been very positive, we’ve been welcomed in and seen lots of smiling faces. We’ve been able to discuss with the leaders what we can do to help them.”

The 2 Royal Welsh soldiers endured a difficult first few months of their tour in Iraq. Having the opportunity to meet ordinary Iraqis and see the difference they have made to their living conditions and prospects gave the soldiers a considerable boost in morale as they near the end of their operational tour.

Private Read, from C Company, who was mobilised from the Territorial Army to join the Royal Welsh on tour, said:

“This operation has been really good. I’ve been here before on other tours and it’s very different now; we can actually talk to the locals, where we couldn’t before. We actually feel as if we’re achieving something so it feels brilliant. We’ve really moved on.”

2 Royal Welsh returned to their base in time for their Remembrance Sunday memorial service. They were planning to remember, in particular, the three friends and colleagues they have lost during this operational tour. Having now seen the positive result their efforts have had on the ground, many of the men from 2 Royal Welsh will go home feeling the last six months’ sacrifices may not have been in vain.

My first Husky ride…

 

I had always associated huskies with snow, adventurous treks across arctic landscapes and echos of ‘mush’ and enthusiastic yelps bouncing of walls of icy ravines.

From now on, they’ll have entirely different connotations.

My partner in crime Cath and I were having a bit of ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ moment on one of our recent trips outside the wire, being bundled from one form of transport to another en route to a remote patrol base…

A bumpy ride to the HLS (well, technically two, since our first was aborted due to a total lack of available helicopters anywhere in the vicinity) was followed by the now-familiar swerving around the skies in darkness in a Merlin helicopter.

Next I had a moment of dusty and very noisy nostalgia, with a road move in a Warrior courtesy of the boys from 2 Royal Welsh – nostalgic because I spent quite some time on Telic 10 with the same soldiers racing across another dusty desert in the same rumbling armoured vehicles.

But then came the piece de resistance. My first experience in a Husky. It’s one of the newer armoured vehicles in theatre and very comfortable it is too. Properly cushioned seats with racing-driver-type seatbelts (which are a bit of a challenge when one is attempting to do them up while bumping along an Afghan road plunged in darkness). The set-up inside reminds me a bit of a Humvee, but with a bit more head and leg room (not that I really need much of that if I’m honest) and less noisy. As we trundled along the roads from Lash to an encampment surrounded by ‘Hesco’ protective barriers somewhere, erm…else (it was dark, we debussed and re-bussed, it was a blur of Afghan countryside), I felt snug in our Husky, was offered in-‘flight’ beverages by the ‘top cover’ chap (bottle of chilled water), and was entertained by the 1 Scots Guards banter.

So I no longer think of Huskies as furry, blue-eyed canines, but as safe, friendly hunks of metal to travel around in.

Where can I get one?