HUNDREDS of miles from their Yorkshire homes soldiers are preparing to say farewell to Germany while thinking of their friends out in combat.
Members of 5th Battalion The Rifles (5 Rifles), currently stationed in Paderborn, Germany, have been polishing their boots and ironing uniforms ahead of a ceremonial parade that will mark the start of the first major movement of British forces from their historic German barracks back to the UK - but their fellow 5 Rifles comrades in Afghanistan remain in their thoughts.
The battalion has been partially deployed to guard Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, while the British Army’s cost-cutting Army 2020 reshuffle begins to take shape back in Europe.
A redesignation parade featuring around 1,000 troops at the Hammersmith Barracks, in Herford, Germany, will see representatives of 18 units from the current 1st UK Armoured Division - one of two main strands of the current British Army - march to signal its renaming to 1st UK Division and its overall restructure tomorrow.
Yeadon father-of-one Corporal Ian Kenyon, of 5 Rifles, has been preparing for the parade during four weeks of drills to perfect The Rifles’ customary 140-pace per minute quick march.
The 31-year-old said: “This parade will be one of those things where you look back when you do leave and say ‘it was a historic point for the army’.”
Despite the practice, Cpl Kenyon’s thoughts are with his deployed friends in Afghanistan. “At the moment it’s 47 or 48C out there and because of the draw down they have taken a lot of the air conditioning units out and so, going back to a tent that’s not air conditioned, they’re finding it hard,” he said.
Fellow soldier Cpl Russell Potter, who is from Worksop but recently arrived in Germany following two years at Catterick, North Yorkshire, added: “They’re always in our thoughts, they are our friends, colleagues and the best men at our weddings.”
The 5 Rifles battalion itself is scheduled to move back to the UK in 2016 as part of the staggered move to bring around 16,000 service personnel from British Army units stationed in Germany back by 2020.
Tomorrow’s landmark parade will take place at 1st UK Armoured Division’s headquarters of 21 years in Herford before around 150 headquarter staff make the move to Imphal Barracks, in York, next summer, bringing with them a significant hub of the reshaped British military.
Major William Bye, 43, from near Stokesley, North Yorkshire, will move to York from Herford in the coming months with the division, his wife and three children. He said: “It’s hugely significant for me, it’s going home.”
Under Army 2020 the regular Army will be cut by 20,000 to 82,000 and part-time reservists increased from 19,000 to 30,000, while the Army’s two divisions will be divided into three parts.
Tomorrow’s parade will feature a display of combat vehicles, the exchanging of ceremonial gifts and will be attended by a range of high profile figures from both the British and German militaries including Head of the British Army General Sir Peter Wall.