The men and women of one of Britain’s most iconic infantry brigades are “good to go when the call comes” if a Nato country is attacked, according to a British Army Warrant Officer.
Troops from the 7th Light Mechanised Brigade Combat Team, the ‘Desert Rats’, have been practising their new role within Nato as the Spearhead Battlegroup lead while the biggest war games for a generation commence.
The brigade, which was nicknamed during the Africa campaign of the Second World War and is currently based at Kendrew Barracks in Cottesmore, took leadership of Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) on January 1st.
The multi-national VJTF can be deployed anywhere in the world within two days in response to an attack.
Troops from the 7th Light Mechanised Brigade Combat Team, the ‘Desert Rats’ took part in the exercise
In Rutland, the 501 soldiers plus 100 vehicles of 2nd Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment were ordered to prepare to move as part of the alert exercise.
The Battalion, known as “The Poachers”, conducted a ‘road manoeuvre’ in a Foxhound armoured vehicle along the A1 in response.
Warrant Officer Class 2, Jack Chapman said: “I’m really proud of all our soldiers. Today’s exercise brought a lot of separate strands together. It was great to crash out the entire Battalion, for everyone to be able to look to their left and right and know that we are good to go when the call comes.”
The Royal Anglians previously served on Op HERRICK in Afghanistan and Op TELIC in Iraq.
In Rutland, the 501 soldiers were ordered to prepare to move as part of the alert exercise.
Maj Frank Atkins, Battalion Second in Command of the 2nd Royal Anglians, said: “Today’s alert exercise simulated being called out as Nato’s Spearhead Battlegroup to deploy anywhere we are needed. The Battalion has been preparing for this role for a long time, and to call all out all our vehicles, people and equipment rapidly like this shows us that we are ready.”
Nato countries alternate leadership of the task force annually with Britain taking command from Germany at the beginning of 2024. The VJTF was created in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and was first mobilised after the invasion in February 2022.
It comes as the alliance begins Steadfast Defender, the largest drills since the end of the Cold War. More than 90,000 soldiers from 31 countries, including Sweden, will take part in eleven exercises over 2024 and 2025.
Most of the drills are in former Soviet states along eastern Europe which are the most likely targets for a Russian invasion. Nato, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is baring its teeth in the face of Russian aggression after years of relative calm.
The soldiers who took part in the exercise
In a speech on January 15 at Lancaster House, Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “Today our adversaries are busily rebuilding their barriers. Old enemies are reanimated.
“Battle lines are being redrawn. The tanks are literally on Ukraine’s lawn. And the foundations of the world order are being shaken to their core. We stand at a crossroads.”
Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022 triggering Finland and Sweden to apply for membership. Sweden will be accepted within weeks while Finland is already a member.
Article Five of the treaty states a principle of collective defence, meaning an attack on one country is deemed an attack on all.