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July 1 - 7, 2009
By Olga Craig
SIDE BY side they marched, veterans of the Second World War and serving soldiers of more recent conflicts, age and youth united in the pride of service to their country.
Across Britain last Saturday, thousands of people thronged the streets to celebrate the first Armed Forces Day.
Determined to show their appreciation for the military, high streets were decked in bunting and Union flags as servicemen and women, past and present, paraded.
The national event got under way shortly before 11am at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent – the 80-acre site on the River Medway that has played a vital role in the history of the Royal Navy for 400 years.
In front of a crowd of 50,000 – mostly young families – 200 soldiers, sailors and airmen and women marched through the town, followed by 450 veterans. It was a day when new friendships were forged across generations, between those currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan and those who fought in the Second World War.
Standing proudly together, Albert Bennet, 94, who served in 155 Spitfire squadron of South East Asia command in India and Burma, and L/Cpl
Crowds enjoy the parade of servicemen and women, past and present, at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, last Saturday
Dave Cryle, 25, of the Royal Signals Corps, who was recently on active service in Afghanistan, shook hands. They swapped stories as they saluted the Gurkhas, in their distinctive broadbrimmed
caps, for whom the loudest cheer was reserved.
“The military is really one very big family,’’ said L/Cpl Cryle, while he and Mr Bennet, whose squadron was among the first to liberate
Changi jail in Singapore in 1945, saluted the parade as it passed. “It doesn’t matter where you served or when, I think everyone here appreciates the fact that an Armed Forces Day has been
set up,’’ he said. “Certainly it’s really important to us who are currently serving. It has raised morale considerably.’’
When the parade arrived at the dockyard, the Duke and
FU A T A KY U Z
Duchess of Gloucester; Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, and his wife Sarah; Kevan Jones, the Veterans’ Minister; and Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff, were in place to salute.
Adml Sir Ian Garnett, chairman of the Dockyard Trust, told the gathering that the day “allows all of us to celebrate and commemorate the Services’ achievements both now and in the past”.
His words were echoed by Sir Jock. “The many events that are taking place today and the enthusiasm the British public has shown mean a great deal to those in the military family.
“It is important for them to know that the Armed Forces are at the heart of national life, and that they enjoy the respect and appreciation of the people that they serve.’’
Princes William and Harry also sent a message of support. “Armed Forces Day is a celebration of our fighting men and women and the immeasurable contribution they make to our lives and to the reputation of this country,” they said. “They work selflessly with honour and distinction, in the most challenging circumstances imaginable.”
The Queen paid tribute to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards in a ceremony at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh.
By Thomas Harding Defence Correspondent
SAS TROOPERS have carried out the first major combat parachute operations since the Suez crisis more than 50 years ago.
Special Forces made a series of night jumps on the outskirts of Baghdad in a campaign against insurgent leaders and bomb-making factories. The operations played a significant role in removing “high-value targets” and reducing the ability of insurgents to make bombs.
On at least a dozen occasions, SAS soldiers using highly manoeuvrable parachutes jumped from the back of a Hercules aircraft at medium altitude. After steering for several miles, they landed close to insurgent strongholds.
The troops carried out operations that included setting up an observation post using electronic devices to spy on insurgents.
Dressed in the SAS’s latest combat uniforms, with some carrying the powerful Heckler and Koch 417 rifle mounted with silencers, the men also
assisted SAS helicopter-borne troops or mounted raids themselves.
“It was the surprise factor that we were after,” said a Special Forces soldier.
Using special chest rigs mounted with satellite navigation, radios, altimeters and oxygen masks, the soldiers at first gathered in the sky and then steered towards the ground as a group.
“These jumps took place all over the city but particularly Sadr City on the eastern edge of Baghdad. You would land on the outskirts, on the right side of the Tigris, and then tab in [tab is an Army acronym for tactical advance to battle].
“It gives you the ability of surprise for a hard knock [assault operation] or to get to that point where you have eyes on the target without anyone having a clue that you are in there.”
News of the combat jumps, which were made over the past two years, comes at a time when a shortage of RAF Hercules and pilots has meant that a third of the 2,400 paratroopers in 16 Air Assault Brigade are not qualified to jump.
SILENT WAR ON TERROR
1 SAS soldiers parachute in at night, to land close to insurgent strongholds on the outskirts of Baghdad
2 Trooperscarry satellite navigation equipment, oxygenmask, Diemarco and Heckler & Koch weaponry, and electronic surveillance software
Baghdad areain detail
3 After close target reconnaissance, troopsstorm building to arrest insurgents. They are thenflown out by waiting special forces helicopters
By Paul Stokes
A CAVALRY officer was dragged from his bed, trussed and carried outside naked by three soldiers in a drunken prank three days after returning from Iraq, a court martial has heard.
His hands were bound with a tie, his legs with a dressing gown belt and his boxer shorts ripped off in the struggle, which left him with minor injuries.
The incident happened in May last year after a party at barracks in Germany, when the second-in-command of the squadron, a captain, asked the soldiers to look for officers to keep the party going.
The non-commissioned officers went in to the annexe where the cavalry officer was asleep in his bed in a “drunken stupor”.
They bound him and, as they lifted him, his boxer shorts ripped and he was left naked. He suffered abrasions to his torso, elbow and knee, the court martial at Catterick Garrison was told.
They then took the officer, who cannot be named,
outside and laid him on some steps in front of the officers’ mess where they were met by the captain. They then decided to take the officer back to the bedroom because of his condition.
The captain was arrested and interviewed but never faced disciplinary action. He has since left the service.
Lt Col David Frend, prosecuting, described what happened as “an idea induced by alcohol, a prank”.
Cpl Paul Kingswood, 25, L/Cpl Mark Foster, 24, and L/Cpl Matthew Stenton, 22, admitted conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline. Mark Watson, for Kingswood, said: “This was a prank started in good humour. When it was clear it had gone too far, things stopped.”
Judge Paul Camp, the Assistant Judge Advocate General, said: “It showed a lack of respect to an officer. To behave in this way undermines discipline and respect for the British Army.”
Kingswood was fined £1,000, Foster and Stenton £700 each. telegraph.co.uk/expat
Dispatches For the latest news on serving British soldiers telegraph.co.uk/frontline
July 1 - 7, 2009
By Henry Samuel in Paris
A STAMP licked by a British soldier now lying in a mass grave in northern France could be enough to identify his remains 90 years after he fell in battle, according to DNA experts.
Armed with the latest forensic techniques used in
murder investigations, Britishbased experts have been chosen to attempt to unravel one of the largest genetic conundrums.
They hope to obtain DNA profiles from about 400 bodies that have been buried for nearly a century.
The men were buried in woods shortly after the Battle of Fromelles of July 16, 1916,
which was part of the Somme campaign. At Fromelles, 5,553 Australian and 1,547 British soldiers were mown down by German guns in a catastrophically planned offensive considered the worst 24 hours in Australian military history.
A team of British-based forensic archaeologists and DNA experts will now try to
identify samples of teeth, small bones, hair and even soft tissue and then match these to soldiers’ family members or to objects the dead men touched in their lifetime.
“If DNA is preserved in a dry state it can go back to dinosaurs and mammoths,” said Dr Paul Debenham, a DNA expert with LGC
Forensics, the group chosen to conduct the tests.
“So testing for DNA on the back of a stamp a soldier licked, between the stamp paper and a postcard, would certainly be worth a try.”
The bulk of the detective work will be done by matching the soldiers’ DNA to that of relatives — even distant ones. Anyone who believes a
family member might be among the dead is being asked to come forward and provide DNA from a simple mouth swab for identification.
The British and Australian governments have already published on a dedicated website (www.fromelles.net) the names of soldiers they believe may be buried at the site.
By Thomas Harding and Aislinn Simpson
THE ROYAL Navy’s latest destroyer will enter service without the use of its missile system, in a situation described as “disgraceful” by a committee of MPs.
Failings by the Ministry of Defence will result in the Type 45 becoming operational while unable to fire its Sea Viper air defence missiles, according to the public accounts committee. Its defence systems will not be fully functional until 2011. The destroyer is due to begin work next year, three years late.
“What is disgraceful is that it will enter service with not one of its main anti-air missiles having been fired from the ship,” said Edward Leigh, the committee chairman.
The committee said the situation was “deeply worrying” and had serious implications for Britain’s air defence capabilities.
The 7,350-ton Type 45 is said to be the most sophisticated destroyer in the world and has the Samson radar system, which is able to target a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound.
HMS Daring, the first of six to be built, is due to enter service in November 2010, although the MoD is working to a target date of December 2009. The forecast cost of the project is £6.46billion, an increase of 29 per cent on the original budget.
The delays would result in five veteran Type 42 destroyers being “patched up and kept in service for longer” at a cost of almost £200million.
The report blamed “the department’s unrealistic and over-optimistic assessments”.
Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: “Appalling incompetence has left the Royal Navy having to ‘juggle and hope’ with only
› HOW ‘TYPE 45’ SHAPES UP
Radar can track all take-offs and landings from all major
miles of Portsmouth
Can hit a target the size of a cricket ball travelling at three
times the speed of sound
Aircraft and missiles can be
SAMSON RADAR SYSTEM
half the new ships it was supposed to have, and a fleet of exhausted Type 42s.”
Quentin Davies, the Defence Minister, said when HMS Daring entered service it would have a level of antiair warfare performance “higher than any other ship”.