More than 2,500 regular and reserve soldiers from 7th Infantry Brigade (the Desert Rats) are currently deployed on a six-week training exercise on Salisbury Plain, say the British Army.

According to a British Army news release, Exercise Wessex Storm is one of the biggest exercises of its kind in a decade and is designed to test the soldiers on the skills needed to live and fight for long periods of time under harsh conditions.

“Later this year, the Desert Rats will deploy on operations in Mali, Afghanistan and Poland. This Exercise is a key part of ensuring their readiness for those operations.”

Brigadier Tom Bewick, Commander of 7th Infantry Brigade, explained:

“This exercise is about training four British Army battlegroups for war-fighting operations as part of the Light Brigade. The exercise also forms a critical part of the preparations for deployments to Mali, Afghanistan and Poland later this year. It is about Regular and Reserve soldiers integrating, adapting, working together, testing themselves and each other in what is proving to be an especially harsh and demanding environment. The training is as realistic, innovative and exciting as possible, with soldiers deployed for six weeks on the Plain, driving the development of our core soldiering skills.”

The British Army say that the 7th Infantry Brigade is a ‘light’ Brigade meaning it has a mix of infantry on foot, infantry using high mobility light vehicles like Jackal and Foxhound and Light Cavalry soldiers who are reconnaissance experts using vehicles like Jackal and Coyote. This makes the Desert Rats highly deployable, able to move quickly anywhere around the world.

It’s the first time on such an exercise that four distinct battlegroups have come together to tackle a realistic training scenario.

According to a news release, the battlegroups consist of:

· 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, augmented by the Reservists of the Royal Yeomanry;

· 2nd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment augmented by a company of 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment;

· The Light Brigade Support Group, a composite battlegroup of logisticians and medics and equipment support specialists commanded by 6th Regiment Royal Logistics Corps – their role is to ensure the soldiers are fed and hydrated, have the ammunition and fuel that they need to fight and the medical facilities to deal with both simulated and real casualties; and

· A bespoke battlegroup made up of Army Reserves. This is the largest deployment of Army Reserves in 7th Infantry Brigade since the Reserve units came under command of the Desert Rats in 2015. About 450 soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment and the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment will be the Opposing Forces or ‘enemy’ during the realistic for on force scenario. Both sides are fighting to win, and there is a great deal of pride at stake.

Exercise Wessex Storms continues into early March.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
57 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
7 months ago

I love that historical name, so prestigious

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago

Agree. I disagreed with Hammond’s decision to remove the armoured role from 7th Armoured Brigade when it returned from Bergen-Hohne to the UK. It is a famous name.

I cannot imagine the US mucking around with famous identities like 82 Airborne or the 101.

Helions
Helions
7 months ago

Totally agree D… Echos of O’Connor, Wavell, and Montgomery in that title…

Cheers

Dern
Dern
6 months ago
Reply to  Helions

To be fair there also was a 7th Infantry Brigade… fought under Monty in France.

Herodotus
7 months ago

There was a TV programme in the 1960s entitled ‘The Desert Rats. It featured cool looking GIs with Ray Bans…driving Willys Jeeps sporting a fat 0.5in Browning. I remember my father (ex-eighth army) blowing a fuse and shouting “they weren’t the desert rats”. Cultural theft continues without any sense of remorse today!

mikeytee
7 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

I remember the public outcry, the BBC pulled it after 6 episodes.

Herodotus
7 months ago
Reply to  mikeytee

I was only 12 at the time so don’t remember the public response….though my father died the year after….there was no connection!

julian1
julian1
7 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

My grandfather was 8-th army…Tunisia….Italy…via the waters of the med because his troop ship was torpedoed by a U-boat

Herodotus
7 months ago
Reply to  julian1

Some good stories there Julian…wish there was space to discuss all the points. I remember my father saying that Rommel was the best general in any army in WW2. He was in the KRRs from 1922 and was released because of a kidney infection in 1930. He signed up again in 1939 (much to my mothers chagrin) but they wouldn’t allow him to re-join an infantry unit and he had to accept the Pioneer Corps. He made WO1 very quickly and had an amazing war on prison camp duties and escorting high ranking officers back to the UK for interrogation….some… Read more »

julian1
julian1
7 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

sounds like your father had quite a career for himself. my grandfather wrote his memoirs and included a lot of detail of his war experience (to be fair, he was transport and behind the front line.) Prior to being drafted, he stowed away to Australia as a 15 yr old and built the railway to Alice Springs. Quite a character and you could make 3 films about his life! I don’t think they make them like that generation anymore

postpositivist
postpositivist
7 months ago
Reply to  Herodotus

That show was called ‘The Rat Patrol’ in the US. The best part of the show was the Jeep flying over a sand dune in the opening.

Joe16
Joe16
7 months ago

Interesting that we’re deploying ground combat troops to Mali. I’m assuming these are for security purposes (for our RAF aircraft supporting Op Serval), or potentially training assistance?

DaveyB
DaveyB
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe16

Unfortunately as expected, there is mission creep. ISIS and Al Qaeda having been kicked out of Syria have moved to Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Northern Nigeria and Niger, doing what they do best. Mali and Chad are propped up by the French Government. Niger, Nigeria and Burkina Faso aren’t doing to well and I believe have asked for assistance. I have to yet to hear if this is anything more than instructing, but I do know our Chinooks have been ding trips across the border from Mali.

Joe16
Joe16
7 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

That doesn’t surprise me at all. To be honest, it’s a good mission for European forces in particular to be involved in; the destabilisation of these countries is really feeding refugees into Europe via Libya and elsewhere. It would make sense to deal with the problem at source.

Cam
Cam
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe16

Hopefully to Koch isis ass.

Rob
Rob
7 months ago

I very much welcome this opportunity for the Regs & AR to train together. However, reading the above, it seems that formed units need reinforcement from other units to deploy, as per a matter of course. If so the Army is actually half the size it is meant to be in operational terms. For example, why does 2 R Ang need reinforcement from 1 R Ang. These are meant to be regular units that are ‘ready to go.’

Harry Bulpit
Harry Bulpit
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Because unfortunately there not ready to go. Speaking to one bloke supposedly one of his companies where bearley big then a platoon.

Rob
Rob
7 months ago
Reply to  Harry Bulpit

Crazy mate, in my day (I know in my day) a Battalion was 800+ men. What are they now 400 to 500? can’t go on like this.

Harry Bulpit
Harry Bulpit
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

True. It should also be noted a lot of people joining today go in to trades as opposed to the infantry. Since we live in a world where you need qualifications for everything, people don’t want to go in to the infantry when they can learn a skill instead.

Paul Hill
Paul Hill
7 months ago

Curious one historically because 7th Infantry Brigade never served in North Africa. Little bit of historical slight of hand when 7th Armd changed role.

James Fennell
James Fennell
7 months ago
Reply to  Paul Hill

Yeah a lot of Brigades have taken old divisional handlebars (one 16 AAB has taken two!). A few famous brigade numbers are still around e.g. 77th (the original Chindits)

julian1
julian1
7 months ago

To me this shows that the reserve infantry must be making some progress in deployability…albeit a long and slow journey. Good luck to the units in training and deployment.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago

6 Reg RLC are a part of 102 Logistic Brigade, due to disband, and not part of 7th Infantry Brigade. This “Light Brigade” will have trouble “deploying round the world” as the army claim, because as a “Brigade” it has no Royal Signals, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, REME. RAMC, or RMP assigned to it. I suspect they are employing the “golf bag” approach where’s units are snatched from other formations to form a composite brigade, just as what happened in Helmand when the deploying brigades strength was augmented by other units. A sad state of affairs, and the 1st Infantry… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
7 months ago

Most of the said Inf units have only 2 rifle companies instead of 3 so they will them selves need reinforcing, cap badge mafia at its finest.

BV

AndyCee
AndyCee
7 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

Maybe that’s why they are increasing the Gurkha recruitment? A lot of the “Light” infantry battalions could maybe embed a Gurkha inf company in them over time. There is a precedent for doing it, but maybe not in such a big scale

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  AndyCee

As far as I’m aware the current extra Gurkha numbers are for additional Signals and Logistics Corps squadrons, which will be part of other non Gurkha Regiments, as they are currently.

Infantry wise, I recall one company augmented one of the RRS battalions for a time a few years ago?

Dern
Dern
6 months ago

Gotta be said, I served with 7th Infantry Brigade a few years ago, did a wessex storm etc until my battalion re-rolled… we always had 3 Rifle companys. not sure whree the idea of 2 Rifle Coy’s is coming from….

Guhrkas are standing up an new Battalion apparent (3 RGR) though I have no idea of the time line.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

Sad state of affairs.

If there is one reorganisation I would jump at in the SDSR it is sorting 1 ( UK ) Division into a proper Light formation with its brigades having supporting elements to make them deployable.

And correcting my post above, it is 1 ( UK ) Division, not 1st Infantry Division.

John Stevens
John Stevens
7 months ago

I think amongst the Gurkha increase in numbers will include an extra specialist infantry battalion of (300)

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  John Stevens

Correct John.

3 RGR will join the other 4 “Specialist Infantry” battalions in the Specialist Infantry Group, based at Aldershot.

These battalions have been heavily cut and the manpower shifted elsewhere.

The army are calling this a “new” capability. As far as I can tell the only thing that is new about it is that there are dedicated units assigned to the role. Previously other battalions and SF conducted this sort of training, mentoring, and fighting terrorists abroad in partnership with the host nation.

John Stevens
John Stevens
7 months ago

Thanks for the info: Daniele.

James Fennell
James Fennell
7 months ago

Expanded and formalised capability is a better description. In Afghanistan in my time one company was assigned the role, but it did not have a lot of specialist training – was all rather ad hoc. SF worked with irregulars. However it’s now a key part of fighting for the ‘grey zone’ conops of the new hybrid war. And it has been successful in Kurdistan, and perhaps most successfully it stays out of the headlines. IMHO should have been approach in Afghanistan all along. Very useful capability – both cost effective and delivers achievable results, especially when combined with other hybrid… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  James Fennell

Thank you for that much better explanation James.

Dern
Dern
6 months ago

You also won’t hear a lot about what Specialised Infantry does. Period. They are very busy units but rather tight lipped about where they deploy and what they do.

James Fennell
James Fennell
6 months ago

Thank you Danielle. I’m a long term reader of your excellent website. Kudos.

BV Buster
BV Buster
7 months ago

I say sack all of 1 Div, what do they bring to the fight? reinforce 3 Div so it can “Do” strike properly.

BV

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

You know my view, I would happily see Infantry Battalions removed from the ORBAT if that means the manpower is used to form additional artillery, air defence, signals, logistics, and engineer Regiments. All useful things the army is short of due to the blasted cap badge mafia preserving names.

The army is currently unbalanced, and of our 33 Infantry Battalions just 8 will be in its main fighting formation!

Rob
Rob
7 months ago

Daniele, no problems with keeping cap badges but it is the way it is done. So we have a regular army which is infantry heavy (yes in small Battalions) and an army reserve which is support arms heavy (especially in medical services). It’s the wrong way around surely. It takes longer to train a signaller etc than an infantry soldier; have the bulk of the infantry in the army reserve and the bulk of support services in the regs. It doesn’t sound that romantic but it is the way to do it like all other western armies. Oh and I… Read more »

julian1
julian1
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

but the point of having specialists in the reserves is that often they join up already trained/qualified or well on their way from their civvy jobs…

David Barry
David Barry
7 months ago
Reply to  julian1

…and therefore cost less. That is the crux of the problem, unfortunately, with Med they learnt innovative techniques for dealing with trauma, for everyo else, it is a busman’s holiday.

As for infantry, with the plethora of technology they have to learn, I think you need more than a cadre, you need properly formed Bns. Then question becomes whether they train to fight as battlegroups, Bges or Corps in the next peer on peer fight.

Make the decision and fund it.

Trevor
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Fair points. I do not see a problem with having smaller battalions (regiments), 400(?) provided they were formed within a coherent brigade structure. Thus this would be flexible and would give the brigade the role of being the tactical unit. Equally the support arms could be embedded in the brigade or the higher level – a correspondingly smaller “division”. So if a brigade regularly has 4 battalions, say 2 would be active at anyone time with the other 2 training or resting it at readiness. Cap badges and tradition would remain, and reserves part of that and again linked with… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
7 months ago
Reply to  Rob

“It takes longer to train a signaller etc than an infantry soldier” It takes about the same time but once he/she (see what I did there) is at their unit an Inf bod will continue to develop their skill set. So for example, a fire support company will have Jav operators, 81mm mortar, snipers and SF GPMG, all needing a career path. All of these skills are none transferable form civy street whereas a BT fibre optics engineer can slot right in after minimal training at a reserve centre. Then its the quality, OBUA training for example, is expensive and… Read more »

Airborne
Airborne
7 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

Spot on BV, we could both elaborate on the subject a little more, but I know you Chinese kids are busy writing the next Labour Party manifesto…..um, or was that the pesky Russky kids!

BV Buster
BV Buster
7 months ago
Reply to  Airborne

You mean great uncle Jeremy? I have a picture on him on my bedroom wall next to Chairman Mao, Lenin, that chap from Cambodia and Mr Tumble from CBeebies (Clearly a communist, wears a uniform and talks too much about sharing)

BV

Herodotus
7 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

As Margaret Thatcher said in the Commons about Neil Kinnock….’he’s a socialist….a crypto-communist’. She should have read PPE at university rather than Law….might have understood political ideologies a bit better. 🙂

Dern
Dern
6 months ago
Reply to  Rob

Most reservists in the Medical Corps are working in civilian medical services, that is exactly why the RAMC has so many reserve formations: the core of their reserve units simply take their NHS scrubs off and don MTP to go to work.

Joe16
Joe16
7 months ago

I did read somewhere that the general idea of light role infantry is a bit past it; from the persepctive that infantry should at its lightest be in something like MRAPs, as everything moves too fast on the battlefield anyway. The additional equipment that everyone needs to lug around these days beign another reason. Obviously, infantry will still dismount to advance and fight, but the argument was that even bussing them to the front and then having them on fott from there is pointless. I’m not sure how our light infantry are set up, is it 1:1 infantry soldiers to… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  Joe16

Hi Joe. Of 33 Infantry Battalions, currently – 6 have Warrior, 6 have/had Foxhound, 3 on Mastiff. The Rest are light role, of which 2 are Para, 1 SFSG, 5 Defence Engagement, 2 Gurkha, with a third in the DE role. The others being Public Duties, garrison, and so on. Under the A2020 Refine exercise, which are simply cuts – now moving to – 4 Warrior – 4 Boxer. Unsure on the Foxhound units. I’m unsure of the status of the Light Mechanized Foxhound Battalions, as I read that experiment was not successful. I have no idea how many trucks… Read more »

Ron
Ron
7 months ago

Have been reading all of the comments here and it looks like we all agree that the Army is well below the numbers needed, they even fall well short of the limited numbers that the Government say they should have. There are two possibilities to help with the numbers. 1. Create a Commonwealth Division, with the battalions for the diffrent nations, eg the Bengal Battalion, the ANZAC battalion etc. Areas that a Commonwealth Div could be used in would be UN or Commonwealth sanctioned deployments. 2. Have the regular Army Inf Battalions as core units, they would be heavy on… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Ron Your not asking for much are you? I love the idea of a commonwealth division, we used that system well during the war and it turned out some of the units were hard as nails. The problem is where will they be based? the UK would be problematic, 10k young Indian chaps dropped on the street of Warminster would be carnage, as would 10k pi**ed up Australians. Then there is the pay, most of our budget goes on pay and pensions, if we can base them abroad (without sounding like a D**k) we could pay them much less (for… Read more »

Ron
Ron
7 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

BV Buster, thanks for that, they were ideas on how to attempt something within our limited budget. There are a few more ideas but I don’t know how workable they are, for example all three servicies need engineers, communications, logistics etc. These take the longest and cost the most to train and to be honest in some ways their skills are not really used unless they are deployed on active service. Just think of the cost return for the nuclear power engineers on HM Subs, we don’t need many but the training costs a fortune. My training took two and… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron

Ron, I cant believe you admitted to being a scaleyback in public. In regards to your comment about joint training, I think lots of corps train jointly now, I know my medic had a navy section commander during training so that’s all done jointly, I suppose a stinking sailor has the same body as a stinking soldier at the end of the day. I don’t see why this model cant be transferred across defence, electricians, metal smiths can all be trained together. Cheers for the info on sea lift, looking at the numbers, 3 bay classes would struggle with a… Read more »

Dern
Dern
6 months ago
Reply to  BV Buster

*Albion and Bulwark can carry each about 6 Challenger 2 tanks and the LCU’s to land them over a beach as well as a Platoon of Warriors. The 3 RFA Bay class can each carry 24 CR2’s but don’t need a port to unload them: Between it’s LCU and Mexifloats it’s more than capable of unloading CR2’s over a beach. What does need a port is the Point class vessels, not sure how much they can carry, but I believe it’s significantly more vehicles than either a Bay or a Albion (IIRC about 100+ Warrior sized vehicles). So really a… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  Ron

I read back in the 90’s of an idea in MoD of a Sikh Battalion, unsure what happened to it. A Commowealth Division is a great idea, but I believe plenty serve already in regular units. How about toning it down tremendously and having a Commonwealth Regiment instead of a Division? Akin to the French Foreign Legion. I too like the Light Strike concept, and we had that within grasp until the cuts of A2020 Refine. In the Infantry Brigades of 1 ( UK) Division I keep complaining about, 3 each have a Jackal Regiment, and 7th and 51st Brigades… Read more »

Ron
Ron
7 months ago

I agree, it could start of as a Regiment but have the capability to build out to a division. The reason is simple, many of the Commonwealth nations have their own traditions, religions but more importantly within the British Army their history. An example the Bengal Lancers, the Sikh Regiments, ANZACs all have a proud histroy and it is to that that they will feel attachment. As for all the changes in the Army I am also struggling to not only keep up but understand. I remember when I joined the Army, I went to the recruiting office in Shrewsbury,… Read more »

BV Buster
BV Buster
7 months ago

I think we need to be realistic about all this, we wont see any more money in my life time. I think we are at a cross roads in our capability and should just cut our losses. Get rid of all tracked vehicles (except Ajax, paid for) , they cost a huge amount to maintain and swap them out with Boxer. This will enable 4 brigades of strike, able to deploy a division on 3 brigades, lets be outstanding at this and not armature at everything.

BV

Steve
Steve
7 months ago

I realise that the solution to a lot of the arms flexibility /cost problems, might be to make a tracked version of boxer and invest in a fire support module. It would mean that they have the various mission bays to choose from and then can flip between tracked/wheeled as the role requires.