Friday, April 16, 2010

G'bye mates - it been great knowing you

General Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman presenting Op Herrick Medal to Bombardier Byron Bushell

Australian soldiers from Darwin-based 8/12 Medium Regiment, the Royal Australian Artillery, have completed a six-month tour of Afghanistan manning guns alongside British soldiers from 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (1 RHA).

The 15 men formed the ‘Brumby’ troop – named after the wild Australian horse from the Snowy Mountains – and were responsible for two 105 mm Light Guns working out of Forward Operating Base Armadillo in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan. They were the fourth Australian Artillery unit to deploy with the British Army.

On Friday 16 April a special open-air breakfast, remembrance church service and a medal parade was held at 1 RHA’s base in Tidworth, Wiltshire, to bid farewell and God-speed to the Aussie soldiers who had become so much a part of the Regiment during the 14 months they served together.

They were presented with their Operation Herrick medals by General Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman, the Honorary Colonel of 1 RHA and the British Army’s Master Gunner. After the ceremony he told them:

“You have been part of something very big. When the pages of history are written about Afghanistan, these last six months will prove to have been the turning point of the campaign. You have seen remarkable and pioneering achievements on the ground and have taken part in a scale of operations not seen since the 2nd World War. You have done spectacularly well and I congratulate you.”

Before deploying last October they trained for six months in the United Kingdom with 1 RHA on training areas such as Otterburn and Salisbury Plain. Captain Scott Calvert, the Contingent Commander, explained:

“The training included converting from the 155 mm Medium Guns to the British digitalized Light Guns and that prepared the boys really well, reinforcing the training we had back home.”

“When we arrived we were all looking forward to an English summer so it was a bit of a shock when we got up to Otterburn and had freezing rain coming in sideways at us – but we survived.”

While Brumby Troop was working out on the ground in Afghanistan Captain Calvert was playing a key role in the planning of Operation Moshtarak in Camp Bastion, working alongside British, Estonian, French, American and Afghan commanders.

“To be at the forefront of that planning and shaping the operation with the Battle Group was definitely the high point of my career, and an amazing and professionally challenging experience,” he said.

“It was also good to get out with the boys working as a Forward Observation Officer – we took part in aviation assault operations going into compounds and clearing them of the enemy.”
Captain Scott and Megan Calvert, Scott is the Contingent Commander.

Captain Calvert, 35, was greeted by his wife Megan, when he arrived back in England after the deployment. She had flown from Darwin, leaving their two children Amelia, 5, and William, 3, in the care of their grandparents, in time to join her husband to celebrate their 7th wedding anniversary in Paris.
Bombardier Byron Bushell, 25, second-in-command of one of the gun teams, said,

“It has been the trip of a lifetime – absolutely fantastic. Our two regiments are very similar so there was no real change in the way we had to behave. We all got along fine and made some really good friends – although there was quite a bit of banter over the Ashes.”

Two of the soldiers, Lance Bombardier Brad Stapleton and Lance Bombardier Adam Ratcliffe, have played cricket for the Australian Army, and were delighted when the troop was invited to the hallowed cricket ground of Lords to watch the one day international between England and Australia just before they deployed.

Lance Bombardier Stapleton will have other priorities when he arrives back in Darwin however – his six-month-old son Jack was born whilst he was in Afghanistan.

“I managed to see him at Christmas when I went home on leave and it was the hardest thing in the world to leave him and my wife Louise at the end. But I’m very pleased I did the tour, it’s been an amazing experience.”

The Australian soldiers are due to fly back to Darwin on Sunday 18 April (but may be delayed due to the grounding of aeroplanes because of volcanic ash over the UK) and will then take a well-deserved five weeks leave.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for being our 'Partners in Arms'- hope you get off OK on Sunday.