The last overseas action of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Light Infantry saw it carry out a six-month tour in Afghanistan.
The Battalion were warned for an operational tour to Bosnia in January 2005. However, in April this was changed to Afghanistan. Despite the new operational focus, the Battalion continued to perform Public Duties in London until relieved in June 2005.
An intense training period followed during the summer as they completed a rapid move to Chester. The Battalion conducted a considerable amount of advanced training for the tour, with every soldier being capable of calling in aircraft on Close Air Support (CAS). In preparation for the planned tour of Afghanistan, many received language training to speak in Dari, Farsi or even Pashtun. They were also intensively trained in modern first aid techniques.
The Battalion also had a most successful sporting year, the ‘Blue Ribbon’ event being in Rugby Football when they won the Army Cup by defeating the Royal Scots.
The RGBWLI was deployed to Afghanistan from mid- September as the UK Afghanistan Roulement Infantry Battalion, itself part of the 10,000 strong International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF). RGBWLI rapidly began to assert themselves on all operational fronts: patrolling where no one else could or would, engaging robustly with the warlords; and actively seeking the enemy insurgents.
Sadly one of the special 6-man patrols was ambushed resulting in the death of Lance-Corporal Steven Sherwood and the serious wounding of Captain Cay and Corporal Dickens. The quick thinking and bravery of the patrol second-in-command and the remainder of the patrol in getting their comrades to the Battalion Aid Post, despite being wounded themselves, ultimately saved life that day. Also during the tour, Lance-Corporal Peter Craddock was killed in a road traffic accident.
In Kabul the Battalion’s soldiers were again in the front line, most notably in dealing with a double suicide bombing which saw their professionalism and training come to the fore. The Battalion’s actions that day allowed command and control to be brought to a chaotic situation; this won much admiration from their multi-national partners and the local Afghan community.
Picture: RGBW patrol.