Commanding Officer: Lt Col A R McKay, MBE
Adjutant: Capt H C Cartwright
Regimental Sergeant Major: WO1 (RSM) M Howlin
Station: Lille Barracks, Aldershot
Major Andrew Seddon, the Senior Major
The 1st Battalion has had an exceptionally busy 3 month summer period with not much time spent in Aldershot to enjoy the fine weather. During April and May, having returned from various overseas exercises, the battalion’s focus was on providing the State Ceremonial role in support to London District including Trooping the Colour. In preparation for the impending deployment to Kenya, the Battalion deployed, en masse to Sennybridge Training area to conduct Operational Fitness Test (OFT) 6. OFT 6 involves two 3 hour heavy weight marches covering 12 miles each time. This culminated in a battalion attack and represented a realistic test of what would lie ahead in Kenya. The greatest challenge proved to be weather as torrential rain and strong winds severely tested everyone’s resolve throughout. The stamina and determination displayed by all were qualities that would prove vital later in the year. Soon after returning from Wales, in what was to become a familiar rapid turnaround, the Battalion were providing Numbers 1 to 10 half companies for the State Opening of Parliament.
With the deployment to Kenya fast approaching, the Grenadier Guards Battlegroup met at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to conduct an All Ranks Briefing. The remarkable fact was that this briefing day, a mere 3 weeks prior to deploying was the first time that many of the Battle Group met for the first time. Before flying to sunnier climes the Battalion had to maintain its focus on State Ceremonial for the provision of street liners for the Queen’s Birthday Parade. It was a pleasure to support 1st Battalion Welsh Guards as they trooped their colour during their centenary year.
Monday 15 June saw 6 half companies line the route for the Order of the Garter Procession and service. The majority of those who were on parade returned to Lille Barracks that afternoon, handed in their bearskin caps and tunics, finished packing and flew the very next day to Kenya.
Kenya was to prove an exceptionally challenging yet rewarding exercise. It was a 6 week deployment that saw over 700 members of the Grenadier Guards Battle Group refining their infantry skills and combined arms tactics. The exercise is now called ASKARI STORM and has a similar scale of resourcing to that only previously seen at BATUS in Canada. British Army Training Unit Kenya over four times the size it was in the days of Ex GRAND PRIX and is supported by 45 range staff and enemy force of up to 105. The battalion was based out of a large transit camp next door to the Kenyan Air Force’s Laikipia Airbase on the outskirts of Nanyuki, a sprawling typically African town that has continued to expand exponentially with each passing year of the British Army’s presence in the country. Located in the shadow of Mount Kenya, the views are fantastic and the weather slightly erratic if predictable; one can almost guarantee rain in the afternoon as the dramatic clouds form off the beautiful peak of Mount Kenya. Exercise ASKARI STORM was broken down into 4 separate phases that saw progressive training from individual drills right up to a battle group attack. The exercises were conducted on various different areas ranging from private farms to a huge plain. Although the temperature and vegetation varied the one constant was the wildlife. There are numerous stories of close encounters with elephants, lions and hyenas to name but a few. It was a welcome if surprising change from encountering the hardened sheep in Brecon! The exercise culminated in an arduous final attack that saw the companies ascending sheer slopes in order to clear enemy positions. With no moon the Battalion’s ten hour night insertion proved a challenge and despite inevitable difficulties linking up with the reconnaissance platoon managed to meet its H-Hr in reasonable order. Our ability to rescue a situation, which for many Battalions would have apparently resulted in defeat or delay, was highly commended by BATUK staff. The fitness and robustness of the companies was indicative of the speed of assault and no reported lower limb injury. Before flying home a large proportion of the battalion were fortunate enough to take part in various adventure training activities at some uniquely African locations; the highlight of which was Exercise COCKNEY LENANA, a 6 day expedition to climb Mount Kenya in preparation for a planned month long expedition to Nepal at some stage in the near future.
The Battalion is now back into the routine of State Ceremonial Public Duties and conducting these with the usual aplomb. Currently The Queen’s Company is back out in Kenya running the ranges for 3 Para before returning in October. The Battalion has a busy and exciting next two years to look forward to; Number Two Company, with support from the Inkerman and Support Companies deploy to the Falkland Islands over Christmas as the Roulement Infantry Company; when they return the Battalion’s focus then switches to preparing to become the spearhead battlegroup for the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) for NATO. This will see the Battalion deploy back to Kenya in June and July to be validated for the role. The Battalion will then go onto conduct exercises in Germany, Poland and Latvia throughout the rest of the year. The Grenadier Guards Battle Group will be truly multi-national with a rifle company from Holland, Albania and Latvia. This will be a unique challenge and an exciting time for all.