Soldiers start Germany farewell

Lancaster And Morecambe Citizen: Trooper Tony Gibbs, of Yeovil (right), paints the barrel of a Challenger 2 tank alongside Trooper Scott Smith from Nottingham Trooper Tony Gibbs, of Yeovil (right), paints the barrel of a Challenger 2 tank alongside Trooper Scott Smith from Nottingham

British soldiers in Germany will take part in a major parade to mark the renaming of the army's only armoured division, and the start of its "farewell" after more than 50 years in the country.

Soldiers from 1st (United Kingdom) Armoured Division will parade at the Hammersmith barracks in Herford, Germany, today to mark its change from an armoured division to a new title of 1st (United Kingdom) Division.

Part of reforms to the armed forces under Army 2020, the move is among changes that will see UK troops leave Germany after decades.

Events in Herford will mark 1 (UK) Armoured Div's headquarters' formal "farewell" to Germany after 54 years, as it moves to York, with the majority of its soldiers due to return to the UK over the coming years. Today is the start of major change for the division, which transforms from an armoured division to a light-roled "Adaptable Force".

The adaptable force, created as part of Army 2020, will provide a division of regular and reserve forces capable of undertaking war fighting and stabilisation tasks while meeting standing commitments like Cyprus and Brunei, and will work alongside reaction forces who undertake short-notice, intervention tasks.

Changes to the army, announced by former Defence Secretary Philip Hammond in 2011, will see more than 11,000 troops currently based in Germany return to the UK.

Guests at the historic parade will include serving and retired former heads of the division, along with the head of the army General Sir Peter Wall, Chief of the General Staff; an equivalent from the German army; and representatives from the British Embassy in Berlin.

Councillor Ian Gillies, the Lord Mayor of York - the new home of the division in 2015 - will also attend the parade, which will see the division presented by the German Authorities with a prestigious 'fahnenband' in recognition of its services in Germany.

Command Sergeant Major Rab Loudon, who is leading the event, said: "The division has held the armoured title since 1976 when it was redesignated from the 1st Division to the 1st Armoured Division.

"Since 1976 this division has always been the armoured division for the British army and it's the only divison that has held the armoured title.

"Where we are now is that we're in the process of restructuring within the army as part of Army 2020, and we are restructuring for the new era that is ahead of us in the army.

"This parade is to mark the importance of everything that went before us.

"It's also the turning point and the clear line in the sand to say, 'we remember everything that went before, we're very proud of our history, but we get where we are and now we're going to go forward'."

Comd Sgt Maj Loudon, 38, from Motherwell in Lanarkshire, said the parade will involve 14 "guards" from units within the division, as well as from the Royal British Legion - with some 475 people on parade before a large number of dignitaries.

The celebration will also include a display of various vehicles reflecting the division's historical armoured capabilities, with music from the Royal Armoured Corps Band, as well as a parachute display to close the parade.

Comd Sgt Maj Loudon said the move of the headquarters of the division - which affectionately calls itself "Team Rhino" and has the animal as its emblem - to York would be a new challenge.

"It's the farewell from Germany, but York will be a fantastic location for the headquarters," he added.

"It will be much the same as here, even though we've moving to an established camp we'll be striving to achieve the Team Rhino effect."

Lance Corporal Amit Chowdhury, 30, from Huddersfield, Yorkshire, who served in Afghanistan in 2009, said he would look back fondly on his time based in Germany.

He said: "The bonding between each squadron and every individual section and unit is really tight.

"At the weekend people go out together and spend time together. When we go on operations people already know each other."

The division was formed in 1809 and has served in various forms in the Crimean War, the Opium Wars, the Zulu Wars and the Boer War, as well as the First and Second World Wars.

In 1978 in recognition of its armoured capabilities it was redesignated the 1st Armoured Division, and led the UK's land forces' response to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.

It moved to its current home in Herford in 1993 and was redesignated as 1st (United Kingdom) Armoured Division, with its soldiers serving in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan since then.

The headquarters of the newly-named division will return to York in 2015 where it will be responsible for the eight brigades which form the army's Adaptable Force.

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