Full steam ahead for Royal Irish

Mortars in action
Mortars in action

Reserve soldiers with the B Company, 2nd Battalion, The Royal Irish Regiment in County Antrim - Newtownabbey and Ballymena – in particular, have been reflecting on a busy year past and preparing for just as busy one ahead (writes Major Gordie Mahood – Officer Commanding)

With Company HQ in Abbottscroft, Newtownabbey and a Mortar Platoon Detachment in Lowfield Camp, Ballymena the soldiers can be proud in holding a strength of over 100 and being in the enviable position of being one of the few fully manned Army Reserve Companies within Northern Ireland.

A notable change of personalities in the middle of the year saw the Officer Commanding (OC) Major Gareth Semple a Ballyclare man who led the Company for the past 3 years move to Gibraltar to take up a post with British Forces Gibraltar.

This allowed the new OC Major Gordie Mahood, himself a Newtownabbey man take up the challenge and now leads the Company to new heights.

During the past year the Coy has continued to lead in the support of Battalion activities across the world with the company supporting the enduring ‘Short Term Training Teams’ (STTT) to Uganda and Burundi with a number of our Reserve Platoon Sergeants leading on the instruction and helping develop the Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in their preparation for their future deployment as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia.

Members also served in France and Germany with the Band, Bugles, Pipes and Drums on a tour with British Forces Germany (BFG).

The company took part in one of the largest Army Reserves Exercises for over two decades in South Scotland; Ex SCARTHA DARE where over 400 reservist from the Battalion supported by Engineers, Field Hospital and Ulster Transport Regiment conducted contingency building training in order to ensure operational readiness for deployments.

The Mortar Platoon based in Ballymena, continued to develop the junior members with a cadre conducted over a two week period in September. The cadre, supported by members of Mortar Platoon 1 R IRISH, culminated in the young Rangers conducting day and night time Live Firing. The Platoon’s capability will be further enhanced in 2015, with more senior members attending their executive courses at the school of Land Warfare Centre in Warminster.

The Company also leads on the sporting field with the core of the Battalion football team being made up from members of both Abbottscroft and Ballymena reserve soldiers. They also have a strong representation on the Battalion orienteering team competing in the local league and have excelled at Army level in Tri Services competitions winning the UK Army Reserve championships. The Company continues to promote orienteering to our new recruits with attendance at the mid-week orienteering development events.

Boxing within the Coy, is now a signature event with the now annual R IRISH vs PSNI ‘Battle of the Badges - Fight Night’. As we continue to develop our sporting ethos It is hoped to organise a Community Engagement ‘Fight Night’ in Lowfield Camp, Ballymena in 2015.

This year’s our highlight was the St Patricks Day celebrations held in March were the Company participated in a Battalion led event where almost 1500 soldiers, veterans and families attended Thiepval Barracks Lisburn. There was a strong representation from the Coy, forming No 2 Guard as they were joined by B (RUR) Coy Old Comrades Association and Whitehouse ACF detachment who are based in Abbotscroft ARC while marching with the Regimental and Queens Colours on parade.

In early November members of the Coy travelled to Clive Barracks in Ternhill, the home of the 1st Battalion to take part in the Resubordination parade marking the change of command from the Rapid Response 16 Air Assault Brigade to 160 Infantry Brigade whose focus is on Eastern Europe.

On Remembrance Day the Coy provided a Cenotaph guard and a marching contingent in Ballymena. The Coy was also represented in Ballyclare, Ballymoney and Larne by wreath laying parties and sees us reaching further into the communities from which we recruit.

As B Coy bids farewell to 2014, they look forward to 2015 when they will continue to play their part all aspects of Battalion life from recruiting new members to developing our soldiers’ skills through career courses and training deployments in Cyprus and Germany with our sister Battalion1 R IRISH and an operational deployment in support of the UN in Cyprus.

 If you are interested in finding out more about the Army Reserve Infantry and the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment then telephone 028 92260042, or text INFO to 07920 232380. Alternatively come along any Thursday evening to Abbottscroft ARC, in Newtownabbey or Lowfield Camp, Ballymena between 7pm and 9pm.