ONE of the nation’s top military chiefs has hailed a Portsmouth-based army unit as a shining example of how reserve troops can bolster the nation’s defences.
Brigadier Tom Bewick said he was blown away by the men and women of the 4th Battalion, Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (4 PWRR) after seeing them on exercise for the first time.
The unit was only formed a year ago but has already managed to muster about 120 soldiers for the two-week deployment to Denmark.
It was the first time all four companies of Britain's newest infantry unit had come together to train and was seen a major milestone in the fledgling battalion’s development into a credible fighting force.
Speaking exclusively to The News from the Oksboel training base on the east coast of Denmark. Brig Bewick said it was a big moment for the army and for the nation.
The officer – who is commander of the 7th Infantry Brigade, also known as the Desert Rats – said: ‘I’m very proud of them, they have been absolutely brilliant.
‘4 PWRR is a new battalion and only formed up a year ago. But from a standing start they have achieved so much.
‘It’s a great news story seeing the expansion of the reserves in an area that they have traditionally recruited from.’
The soldiers arrived home at the weekend after the intensive training overseas and are today returning to their day jobs.
Their training saw the battalion – which has a company based at Tudor Crescent, in Cosham – working on essential soldiering skills, practising outdoor assaults and urban operations.
During the deployment – known as Exercise Viking Star – reservists worked alongside comrades from the other battalions in the regiment, with regulars from 1 PWRR joining the exercise to provide mortar training.
And troops have been honing their urban skills in a purpose-built ‘shoot house’ – a facility normally only used by special forces troops – tacking room clearance drills as well as section attacks and hostage rescue scenarios.
Army top brass has admitted that they are putting a greater emphasis on urban warfare, following conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the war against Islamic State in Syria.
Brig Bewick said this was the right strategy to take and admitted that reserves would be vital in supporting future operations across the globe.
He added: ‘Reserves always have been critical to the army and that hasn’t changed. Any of the major conflicts that the British Army have been involved in, no matter how long you go back, reserves have always been a hugely important component of it.
‘That’s important now and it will be into the future as well.’
The troops come from all walks of life, with many living in the Portsmouth area.
As part of the series of special features, The News will this week be shining a light on their stories, and what they have been doing while overseas.
Lance Corporal Kevin Morrison is among one of 4 PWRR’s most experienced reservists.
The 51-year-old, who is part of the Portsmouth-based C Company has been in the infantry reserves since 2007 and has helped train recruits – from private soldiers to officers – for a decade.
He has also seen combat, serving in Afghanistan from September 2011 to March 2012 with 1 PWRR.
Asked why he joined the reserves, he said: ‘I simply wanted to give something back and by giving my time and going on tours I was able to do this.’
He added the deployment to Denmark would probably be his last. Asked about the exercise, he said: ‘It’s been a great experience, it’s awesome that we have finally been able to come together as a battalion, get to know our new members and work together in our companies. The Danish soldiers are so friendly as well, it’s been a fantastic integration opportunity.’
Lieutenant Colonel Ben Baker, commanding officer of 4 PWRR, said he was incredibly proud of his team’s hard work over the past year.
Speaking of his battalion’s milestone overseas mission, Lt Col Baker said: ‘This has been a fantastic opportunity for us as our first overseas activity, we are only one of two new Infantry battalions created in recent years and the fact that in one year we’re able to deploy on an overseas exercise is hugely significant.’