Wednesday, May 12, 2010
By Deborah Linton - Manchester Evening News
The 'Lions of England' are taking the fight to the Taliban – with the north west's biggest ever deployment of troops to Afghanistan's front line.
Some 1,000 soldiers who hail from the region are among 9,500 British servicemen and women currently on duty in the war zone.
For the first time, all three battalions from the north west's infantry, the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment – known as the 'Lions of England' - are serving there, making up the biggest deployment of soldiers from the north west since the start of the war in Afghanistan. Soldiers from Cheshire unit, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (1 Mercian), are fighting alongside them. The Mercians lost 22-year-old Corporal Harvey Alex Holmes, from Hyde, on Sunday, when he was killed in a home-made bomb blast in the dangerous Sangin area of Helmand province while providing protection for his patrol.
Soldiers from the Duke of Lancaster's 2nd battalion, who also fought one of British force's toughest tours in Iraq in 2006/07, have been flying out to the war zone from their base in Cyprus – where they are the 'theatre reserve battalion' on constant notice to deploy - since last summer.
The unit's Chindit Company lost Kingsman Sean Dawson, 19, from Stalybridge, in a firefight in February, during a three-month deployment in Musa Qa'leh. Troops from 2 Lancs are now joined by the regiment's 1st Battalion (1 Lancs) who deployed last month for a six month tour based in Helmand Province, at Forward Operating Base Shawqat. They are supported there by the regiment's battalion of army reservists, 4 Lancs - based at Ardwick Green, Manchester - who are among hundreds of Territorial Army troops who have been sent to provide reinforcements in Afghanistan over the next six months.