For the brief period during which I served my Queen and Country I was in the RAF. Part of that choice was family links. My great grandfather had been a founder member of the Royal Flying Corp and my father was in the RAF during World War II. My passion was flying.
The other aspect of the RAF was that nobody expected you to be any good at drill. The present day air force is very different to the one I joined but there was a casualness and rakishness about the Brylcreme Boys which didn’t apply to the other services.
Just as well as my sad attempts at drill were carried out well inside the perimeter fence at RAF St Mawgen. It was suggested I should take part in the Royal Albert Hall Remembrance Day ceremony and also a parade by the RAF Memorial near Whitehall. Sadly I pulled a leg muscle on both occasions.
So it was with some interest that I watched the Royal Gibraltar Regiment going through its paces on the war memorial side of the runway in recent weeks. What struck me as odd at the time was they were there in the morning and then in the afternoon. Well changing the guard outside the Convent, parades for the Governor and firing off gun salutes are meat and drink to these soldiers – so why the intensive training?
Well now we know. They have honoured Gibraltar by their precision and professionalism on the large parade ground outside Buckingham Palace with the world watching. However whilst we should be proud, we shouldn’t be surprised. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment was simply doing its job.
The RGR isn’t a Dad’s Army troop made up of local people who are prepared to defend the Rock if need be. They are as much a key part of the modern, highly professional British Army as any other regiment or unit.
The modern history of the then Gibraltar Regiment started in 1971 when conscription ended on the Rock. The Regiment was a Territorial Army unit supported by a small permanent cadre and was made up of a rifle company, an artillery battery and an air defence troop.
With the withdrawal of the British Army’s regular infantry battalion 20 years later the Regiment was reformed as an infantry unit and it assumed the role of the major army unit in Gibraltar.
Moving on to 1999 and the Queen conferred the ‘Royal’ prefix to the Regiment’s title. By this time the Regiment was a regular light infantry battalion with a TA element and it regularly undertook exercises around the world. Members of the Regiment frequently deployed on operations in support of the UK’s interests and the Regiment formed an excellent working relationship with the Moroccan Brigade d’Infanterie Parachutiste.
Whilst the RGR still has responsibility for defending the Rock is also has an important bomb disposal capability: the only British Army infantry regiment to do so. It sends training teams to African countries; its troops have been involved in the invasion of Iraq and on operations in Afghanistan.
In short the regiment may punch above its weight but it is as much a part of the modern British Army as any other regiment. Hence it is as capable of mounting an impressive guard at Buckingham Palace as it is of disposing of a bomb in Gibraltar or going on patrol in Afghanistan. It’s what the boys and girls of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment do. They made Gibraltar proud in London but in all honesty we should be equally proud of them all the time.