Friday, 19 September 2014

1914 Sikh Troop at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst Friday 12th September 2014 – WO1 (RSM) Davies RLC

The second commemoration of the Saragarhi took place at Royal Military Academy Sandhurt RMAS.  The battle of Sargaarhi took place in 1987 on the North-West Frontier in what is now the tribal region of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan.  On 12th Sep 1897 more than 10,000 enemy tribesmen descended on their positions, however they did not reckon upon the Sikh spirit of fighting for victory.  During the conflict 21 Sikh soldiers were cut off by the enemy at the small outpost of Saragarhi but rather than surrender they fought on for nearly ten hours with limited supplies and ammunition until the bitter end.  More information on teh battle can be found here:

 In 1900 the British recognised the importance of Saragarhi with a battle honour and regimental holiday still maintained by 4 Sikh of the Indian Army.  In the modern era, a troop of civilians have formed a memorial troop, the “1914 Sikh Troop”.  This troop have been mentored by 159 Regiment RLC and on Friday 12th September 2014 their first parade was held on the prestigious parade square at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

The new Commanding Officer (CO), Lieutenant Colonel (Mark) Comer and the new Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM), WO1 (Lee) Davies attended the first Parade 1914 Sikh Tp would conduct over next four years and were impressed by the quality of the drill on show and the fabulous turnout.  On our arrival there were refreshments provided by the UK's oldest North Indian Restaurant Punjab, both the CO and RSM enjoyed the nibbles on display!  

WO2 English and Cpl Gilbert, both of 237 West Bromich Squadron, first started to mentor 1914 Sikh Troop in July 2013; bringing together the civilians from across the West Midlands who wished to participate in the prestigious troop.  Many hours on the weekends and evenings were spent teaching personnel foot drill and weapon drill in preparation for the magnificent day at Sandhurst.

The first part of day was spent receiving briefs in the Indian Army Memorial room on the events of the Saragarhi.  We joined by well over 100 friends and family of 1914 Sikh Tp and media from across the nation, including  the BBC news team.  


At around 1430 the Rifles band took to the Parade Square with 1914 Sikh Troop close behind, poised as they would have been many years ago with the same types of weapons used at Saragarhi.  The Drill display was first class and was a credit to everyone's hard work.  The Parade even made national news:

Of note General Niche, Brigadier Wheeler, the Director of the Anglo Sikh Heritage trail Mr Harbinder Singh inspected Sikh Troop and again noted that the dress was immaculate.

The British Armed Forces Sikh Association (BAFSA) has now formed which primarily seeks to support and mentor Sikh Service personnel, serving or veterans. The first chairman of BAFSA  is Captain (Mak) Singh MBE of 159 Regiment RLC (he's teh one below on BBC breakfast!).  More information on BAFSA can be found here:

Anyone in the West Midlands who is interested in finding our more about the Regiment and our work with the local community can contact us through the details available here:

Friday, 4 July 2014


Welcome to the fifth edition of Barbarian Blog – and my final contribution as Commanding Officer.  This edition will focus on the changes being undertaken across the unit, which will be implemented by the end of the year, as well as a recap on some of the fantastic achievements we have enjoyed in the last few months.

The theme for the last twelve months has been change, both in the Regiment and the wider British Army.  We have spent almost a year preparing the Regiment for the imminent changes and June saw the first of the Future Reserves 2020 changes implemented – the cessation of training in 125 Squadron in Glasgow.  Having known their fate for some time, the Officer Commanding Major Gary Wallace, Captain Bill Forsyth, the Permanent Staff Administration Officer, and all of their team, have worked tirelessly to provide transfer opportunities for all of the Squadron’s personnel.  On 1st June they stopped training and by the end of the month, all Reservist personnel had been transferred out into new units.  The loss of the Squadron in Glasgow will be painful for all concerned, but Gary, Bill and the team can be proud of the professional and diligent manner in which they have carried out their work.  Whilst the Squadron may have stopped training, it doesn’t mean the Regular staff have yet either; as Bill and his permanent staff prepare to assist in supporting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer.

The other two key changes are less painful but nevertheless seismic – the re-subordination out of the Regiment of 216 Squadron, back to 150 Regiment, and 381 Squadron, to 156 Regiment.  Both Squadrons have supported the Regiment’s commitment to operations doggedly and been at the forefront of the Army’s recruiting efforts under Operation FORTIFY.  We will get a chance to say goodbye to Majors Harry Drennan and Derek Morton – and their Squadrons – over the weekend 26-27 July in Swynerton.  The Quartermaster is leading with the “Regimental Farewell Parade” and I hope that as many of you as possible will join me over that weekend for some sports, a BBQ and it will culminate with an inter-Squadron tug-of-war competition.

The other confirmed major change to the Regiment is the addition of 294 Squadron in Grantham.  294 will be joining us from 160 (National) Regiment and will be transforming to a Regional footprint over the summer.  I welcome their new Officer Commanding, Major Paul Ashton, to the unit and hope that as a Regular Officer, he will be able to provide the absolute dedication required to grow the Squadron to a competent and effective unit in the next two years.

The changes we face at home must be balanced by our commitment to operations and the requirement for us to keep one eye on Afghanistan at all times.  We have, after a few individuals have returned, 23 of our ‘Barbarian’s still in Camp Bastion with 1 Theatre Logistic Regiment who are currently completing their rest and recuperation in anticipation of a theatre drawdown this year. 

Owing to the success of this contingent and the wider Army efforts in Helmand over the last year, the commitment to Afghanistan for our paired Regular unit, 6 Regiment RLC, was significantly reduced at the end of May.  As a result the cohort we had trained and selected were stood down.  This was a very disappointing time for all of the individuals and their families, as plans had been made and subsequently dashed.  We all knew that there was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the tour and volunteers were advised to not make concrete plans, so as to avoid disappointment, but that doesn’t counter the disappointment we all feel to have not contributed to the final iteration in Afghanistan.  I know that opportunities for Reserve units, this one in particular, for overseas exercises and short term deployments are increasing; from April next year we hope to see legislative changes made which will allow Reservists to deploy to Canada, Kenya and the Falkland Islands in the same manner as a Regular.
On the training front, it would be remiss of me not to highlight the huge success of this year’s Annual Deployment Exercise (ADE) in Sennelager.  Masterfully coordinated by the Training Major, Andy Masters, and Regimental Technical Officer, Captain Andy Wilmot, this year’s exercise was just as challenging and rewarding as last year’s.  This year saw the addition of a sailing package in Kiel (read Corporal Gibbs’ blog on her experiences here:, an enhanced and more challenging technical trade focussed package for the Supplier contingent and move to a different site in Sennelager – with better accommodation, gymnasium and canteen.  The 140 plus Reservists who deployed to learn, teach, administer and command all fed back useful improvements for next year and gave their thanks for an exercise which was overall a resounding success.  The training team have set the benchmark high and as the two Andys leave the Regiment in the next few months, I’m sure their handover notes will include plenty of tips on planning a good ADE!

The other key changes in the Regiment will be well known to all of you.  Major Marvin Bargrove has stepped aside as Regimental Administration Officer and handed the baton over to Captain Paul Blythe, who joins us from 37 Signal Regiment.  Marvin remains in the unit as a Reservist and will be focussing on “special projects” in the HQ.  We also welcome WO1 Davies in from 17 Regiment RLC as the new Regimental Sergeant Major, taking over from WO1 Smith RLC who leaves the Army this summer after 24 years’ service.  WO1 Smith was dined out in style in April and I believe is still being dined out until mid-September; such is his popularity and impact across the Corps!  WO1 Davies follows in the footsteps of two other WOs joining the Regiment from 17 Regiment RLC and he has already made the position – and office – his own.  Welcome to Paul and the RSM.

A final note form me, I have had a fantastic and privileged time as your Commanding Officer.  Not a week passed without one being inspired in some way by your commitment, dedication and achievements.  All I ask is that you continue to drive the development of this fine Regiment and remain as positive and productive as you have been during the last two and a half years.  To each and every one of you it has been a real pleasure to know you and I hope that our paths cross again in the future.


Colin Francis

Monday, 30 June 2014

Royal Garden Party Attendance by SSgt Standley RLC (237 Squadron in West Bromwich)

When you arrive back to work after your Christmas and New Year break it can seem a very long time to the summer and those lazy hazy days drinking Pimm’s (other drinks are available). So, as in previous years one of the first emails which arrives, comes courtesy of the adjutant, this year on the 6th January which gives individuals the opportunity to apply to attend the Queen’s Garden Party.  Being in my 40th year of service either as a Regular, Reservist or in my current guise a Non-Regular Permanent Staff employee, I figured that this year it must be my turn!  So I filled in my application and applied for myself and my good lady to attend one of the dates available. Then as in previous years forgotten about…. until!!!!

ER2 envelop cover sent to SSgt Standley of 159 Supply Regiment inviting him to Buckingham Palace

 Lets fast forward now to the 23rd April, many celebrations in the Standley house as it is our 26th Wedding Anniversary so as I departed for work with the words “Thought you could at least have had the day off to be with me as I’ve taken time off” (whoops).  Then I receive a call mid-morning asking what I have done wrong as there appears to be a letter which has arrived from the Palace, I think I may know what it is, and sure enough we had been fortunate enough to receive an invite to this year’s Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

So off we set to attend on the 3rd June on a lovely sunny day.  We arrived in London in good time to check into our hotel and got dressed into our outfits for the day – with the wife looking pretty good in a spotty number with various matching items and if I have to say so myself, I looked pretty cool too.

Buck Palace aerial view
We left in good time to arrive at the palace for about 3.15pm and on arrival we joined the queue with other attendees.  We spent about 15 minutes in the queue, then we were into the main gate after the first security check had taken place, then you get to walk under ‘THE BALCONY’ and through the courtyard and the inner quadrangle and finally through the rear part of the Palace for the final security check and on into the garden.

The garden was laid out with two long marquees and two military band areas and the Royal Tea Tent (for invited guests only) along with numerous tables and chairs dotted around the garden’s grassed area.  It is indeed a sight with about 6000 guests present and to be fair it is a very, very big garden.  At approximately 15.55hrs (5 minutes early) this due to the weather I think, more on that later, the Royal Party arrives headed by the Queen with various family members which this year included The Duke of Edinburgh, Charles and Camilla, Edward and Sophie and also many of the younger members. 

Crowds forming in back of palace
The event started with the National Anthem, then this year it was followed by what can only be described as a downpour of biblical proportions which then changed all the plans for the day so instead of four different Royal groups mingling and talking to as many people as possible the Royal family are ushered as fast as possible, to the Royal Tea Tent with attendants producing brollies as if by magic!!! 

With all the other guests all trying to squeeze into a marquee that is probably large enough for about a third of the invited guests.  It was at this time we realised that the expensive matching brolly was indeed not that much use ….as it was still in the hotel room!!!!

Storm clouds over Buckingham Palace 

Then as suddenly as the rain started out came the sun, so time to leave the marquee and explore the gardens and take a few pictures.  Whilst blatant photography up-close of the Palace itself was frowned upon, the advent of camera phones meant we were safe taking a few of the grounds. 

Buckingham Palace Gardens

The gardens and the lake at Buckingham Palace are huge and it took around an hour to walk round, soaking up the atmosphere of the day and people watching (especially some poor ladies whose heels sunk deep into the grass!).  The afternoon was finished off with the National Anthem again as the Royal Party disappear inside; we, guests, then become the tourist attraction as we leave the Palace to much public interest and camera snapping.

The history bit now, the Queen’s Garden Party, albeit originally a breakfast party, primarily for debutants and the likes, started in the 1860s by Queen Victoria and took place twice a year.  By the 1950s there were three a year and took the form of an afternoon tea party between the hours of 4 and 6pm and, along with the Royals, there are also present the Yeoman of the Guard, Gentleman at Arms and Gentleman Ushers.  At the garden party, you will see and meet many members of the public and service personnel from around the Commonwealth, there are also numerous attendees from across all religious divides, classes and race.  With people attending in National costume, or Service personnel in uniform (albeit not required), lounge suits or morning suits; and ladies in a whole variety of outfits and hats (Dress as if you were attending a wedding being the best advice).

SSgt Stabdley and spouse at the Queen's Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

It is an event to be part of and savoured.  Both my wife and I feel privileged to have received an invite and to be able to attend an event which is part of British history.  So next January do not forget fill in your application, as you too could be partying at the palace later in the year.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Sailing Course in Germany - By Corporal D Gibbs AGC (SPS) (243 HQ Squadron RLC)

A party of 12 soldiers from different squadrons of 159 Regiment RLC arrived at Kiel Yachting Club early in the afternoon of Friday 16th May.  It was a beautiful place with views from the harbour looking across the Baltic ocean to the coastline of the rugged landscape of the northern fjords in Germany.  

Once all the logistics of accommodation had been organised we were introduced to the instructors and split into two groups, one for sailing the other for powerboating.  After collecting our prospective wet weather gear for the following four days, the rest of the day was ours and we took the time to explore the local town and surrounding harbour area.

Saturday morning began at 5am with beautiful clear skies but by breakfast fog had come in from the ocean reducing visibility to about 500 metres.  However by 10am, beautiful blue skies again, a sharp warning of how quickly the weather could change in this area.  The day began with a lesson in the classroom regarding safety and the aims of the course.  We then all piled out to our various boats.  Myself, WO2 Williams (243 Coventry Squadron) and Sgt Johnson (123 Telford Squadron) made up a three man crew for our powerboat with instructor Nigel.

We spent the morning learning basic navigation in the harbour.  At a speed of 2 knots we learnt how to steer, moor and leave a jetty and how to keep a boat motionless. After lunch we left the harbour area and Nigel demonstrated controlled faster moves, at 7 knots, which we all had a go at.  Below is Sgt Johnson practising steering with Nigel and WO2 Williams looking on.

159 Supply Regiment Reservists sailing in Germany

Sunday morning was spent consolidating low speed manoeuvers, learning how to turn the boat 180 degrees on the spot followed by some slalom navigating. We crossed the bay to Laboe for lunch and  visited the German submarine.  It was fascinating to see where so many men lived underwater in exceptionally cramped conditions, even the officers.  Below, sleeping quarters for seven men and a torpedo!

After lunch we ventured further out into the ocean where we could travel up to 20 knots and learnt high speed turning and emergency stopping. ‘Bob’ was used for man overboard drills, which came in very handy as I was thrown overboard the next day, just hours after we were awarded our personal certificates for power-boating- enough said!

Monday morning we took our test, which we all passed.  To celebrate we returned to Laboe for their famous fish and chips.  We spent the final hour of the afternoon speeding around the open ocean doing amazing figures of eight and just generally having fun.  

Our course only lasted three days, so all six of us who were on the power-boats had a spare day on Tuesday.  We were allowed to take a yacht out (with an instructor) to learn some basic yachting skills.  This was a completely different experience from power-boating, a much slower but definitely more difficult skill to acquire.  Below, myself and Sgt Johnson are raising the sails.

159 Supply Regiment Reservist Corporal Dawn Gibbs sailing a yacht in Germany

With beautiful weather, we again crossed the bay to Laboe.  We visited the War Museum and climbed the Naval War Memorial which stands a staggering 279 feet above sea level.

The whole adventurous training package was a truly remarkable and amazing experience.

For more information on sailing and other adventurous training opportunities, all paid for, visit your local Army Reserve Centre or search for Army Reserve careers.