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Gulf beckons town's troops

ALDERSHOT troops are being sent to the Gulf in preparation for a possible war against Iraq, it was announced this week.

In a statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon said about 26,000 British ground troops would be stationed in Kuwait by mid-February.

An army spokeswoman later confirmed Aldershot’s 9(Para) Squadron, Royal Engineers and 7(Para) Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery will be deployed as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade.

New arrivals 10 Transport Regiment will also travel to the Gulf, along with 4 General Support Medical Regiment and 101 Dog Unit, Royal Army Veterinary Corps, as part of 102 Logistics Brigade.

Troops are due to start pre-deployment training in the next two weeks and equipment is already being moved out.

Aldershot MP and shadow defence minister Gerald Howarth said he supported the government’s decision to send troops to the Gulf as the only way to make Saddam Hussein see sense.

He said: “Obviously this is a major deployment of British troops. It represents over a quarter of the strength of the British Army on one operation and it demonstrates a major commitment by the govern-ment to the Gulf region.

“At this stage, we hope they won’t be called upon to go into action and that the diplomatic endeavours will make that unnecessary, but clearly they may be called upon.

“Obviously 7(Para) RHA and 9(Para) Sqn will be going as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade and they’re light troops and very experienced, and will undoubtedly acquit themselves brilliantly.

“We wish them all good luck and I, for one, will have them in my thoughts and prayers, as I’m sure everyone in Aldershot will.”

The news came amid concerns that kit issued by the Ministry of Defence is sub-standard, with soldiers buying additional equipment themselves.

A survey carried out by the MoD revealed 55% of soldiers and 42% of officers were buying items, including jackets, boots and torches, to add to that supplied by the army.

Failings in equipment were highlighted in 2001, during the Saif Sareea exercise in Oman, in which Aldershot-based 22 Field Ambulance and 4 General Support Medical Regiment took part when troops reported their boots were melting in the heat.

A spokesman for the MoD denied the claims. He said: “All members of the armed forces are issued with standard kit. They are issued with kit good enough to do the job and they are not forced into buying their own equipment.”

It’s the second time Aldershot soldiers have been called to the Gulf.

Based at Thornhill Barracks, the Royal Army Military Corps Field Hospital were involved in the original Gulf War in August 1990. The men and women of 22 Field Hospital were responsible for establishing military hospitals in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia during the 1990 conflict with Iraq.

After the ceasefire, 22 Field Hospital remained in the desert until it returned home in March 1991.

Major-General Chris Ticehurst, the Medical Commander of United Kingdom Land Forces, presented the medics with campaign medals at a parade at the Royal Army Medical Corps Depot at Keogh Barracks, Mytchett.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
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