August 4th 2015

A new chapter in the history of The Desert Rats

The Desert Rats, more formally known as 7 Infantry Brigade and Headquarters East, have marched proudly onto the parade square to formally recognise reaching Full Operating Capability.

Over 130 soldiers representing the Brigade’s six units were on parade in front of an audience of invited guests and dignitaries. The parade included a Drum Head Service led by the Reverend Philip Bosher, the Brigade Senior Chaplain.  Music was provided by the Band of the Royal Armoured Corps.

Also in attendance were the Chaplains of the Regiments and Civilian Chaplains to the Military representing four of the world’s faiths. These included: Hindu Chaplain Acharya Krishan Kant Attri, Jewish Chaplain Rabbi Reuven Livingstone, Muslim Chaplain Imman Ali Omar and Sikh Chaplain Mandeep Kaur.

The Brigade was formed this year from the merger of 7 Armoured Brigade and 49(East) Brigade as part of the structural changes made under Army 2020. It is one of seven adaptive force infantry Brigades and a logistics brigade tailored to undertake a range of tasks including providing units for operations, standing commitments such as Cyprus and the Falkland Islands, working with partner nations on overseas Defence Engagement and UK civil engagement.

7 Infantry Brigade parade and blessingIn the past six-months, the Brigade has delivered the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment to Afghanistan on Op TORAL, whilst concurrently providing training teams to Mali and Nigeria. Next month will see a Company of soldiers from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment deploy for a three-month tour of the Falkland Islands.

Addressing the soldiers on parade, Brigadier Jonny Bourne, Commander of 7th Infantry Brigade, said: “Our Brigade’s core purpose – our reason for being – is ‘to battle and win in defence of the freedom, rights and aspirations of the British people’.

“We will take this great Brigade, historically renowned for outstanding operational excellence, and establish it as the pre-eminent leader in the 21st Century Operations.

“We will fulfil our non-negotiable contract with the British people to protect the nation and to fight and win its conflicts wherever we are deployed.”

The Brigade HQ, based in Chetwynd Barracks, Chilwell, is in command of six units:

  • The 1st Queens Dragoon Guards that recruits from Wales and the border counties (Shropshire, Herefordshire and Cheshire).
  • The Royal Yeomanry whose reservists are drawn from Squadrons in Nottingham, Leicester, Dudley, Croydon, Telford and Fulham.
  • 3rd Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment is a Reserve Battalion based in the Southeast with Company locations in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.
  • 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment based in Woolwich that recruits from Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire.
  • 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment based at Kendrew Barracks, Cottesmore that recruits from Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
  • 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment has Company locations in Bury St Edmunds, Leicester, Chelmsford and Norwich and platoon locations in Lincoln, Grimsby, Lowestoft and Hertford.

The Brigade is also charged with supporting and commanding regional military contributions to resilience operations, such as flood relief efforts. It is also the Regional Point of Command responsible for a further 3,000 personnel across the East Midlands and East Anglia and has command responsibilities for the Army Cadet Forces in the region.

Members of 7 Infantry Brigade and Headquarters East are easily identifiable by the ‘Desert Rat’ insignia. The Brigade history has direct lineage to 7 Armoured Brigade and 7th Armoured Division who were formed in the deserts of Africa in 1940 and have since served all over the world.

The Desert Rat flash originates from the North African campaign when 7th Armoured Division adopted the insignia and nickname of “The Desert Rats”.

Speaking to the 7th Armoured Division in Berlin in 1945, Winston Churchill summarised the heritage of the Desert Rats when he said: “Dear Desert rats! May your glory ever shine! May your laurel’s never fade! May the memory of this glorious pilgrimage of war which you have made from Alamein, via the Baltic to Berlin, never die!

“May you all feel that in following your great ancestors you have accomplished something which has done good to the whole world; which has raised the honour of your country and which every man has the right to feel proud of.”

Following the parade, the guests were invited to visit the Brigade’s static equipment display. Vehicles on display included the Foxhound Protected Mobility Vehicle and a MAN Support Vehicle (Recovery) (SVR).

“Our Brigade’s core purpose – our reason for being – is ‘to battle and win in defence of the freedom, rights and aspirations of the British people."