Black History Month
Black History Month 2018 coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Armistice; a fitting time to reflect on the contribution of the heroic and inspirational deeds of Afro-Caribbean soldiers to Britain.
As Armed Forces we champion recognition of the service of black servicemen and women and people from the Commonwealth and ethnic minorities. These examples are select but highlight the contribution of Afro-Caribbeans, underlining our shared heritage. They exemplify determination, professionalism, commitment and loyalty.
The Victoria Cross (VC), the Armed Forces’ highest award for valour, has been awarded to four Afro-Caribbean service personnel. First in 1857, William Hall of the Navy, most recently Sergeant Johnson Beharry, from Grenada, in 2004.
The first black soldier to win a VC was Samuel Hodge from the British Virgin Islands in 1866. Under fierce enemy fire, he hacked his way into a stockade where Hodge and his Commanding Officer, Colonel D’Arcy, forced the gates, allowing its capture. D’Arcy cited Hodge “the bravest soldier in the Regiment.”
Hodge was seriously wounded in the action. Our medics who apply life-saving treatment to the injured, often under fire, are the embodiment of courage and selfless commitment. In this mould were Major James Africanus Beale Horton and Mary Seacole.
Horton, born to freed slaves in Sierra Leone in 1835, qualified as a doctor in Britain. He joined the Army as an Assistant Surgeon, one of the first Africans in the Officer Corps, participating in several wars. Army service helped him develop important medical theories, earning him acclaim and promotion. He is held as the Father of modern African political thought writing, pioneering works to rebut ideas of scientific racism.
Seacole supported the Army during the Crimean War from a sense of service to the wounded. Born in Jamaica in 1805 she achieved much before following the Army to Crimea in 1854. Here she set up an establishment caring for wounded soldiers, travelling to battlefields on several occasions to tend casualties and was nicknamed ‘Mother Seacole’ by soldiers for her compassion. Seacole is commemorated by a statue outside St Thomas’ Hospital.
Walter Tull, a true role model, demonstrated patience, humility, fortitude and bravery, enduring racism and hardship but came out on top. A professional football player before World War One he joined the Army in 1914. Despite prevailing attitudes, his ability and strength of example saw him selected as an officer, the first black man to lead white troops. He was mentioned in dispatches for bravery but was killed on the 8 March 1918.
These examples illustrate the valuable contribution of Caribbean and African people to the Army, even more remarkable considering the barriers they faced. The modern Army aspires to represent the society it serves. Diversity is a strength in today’s complex world and closely aligns to two of the Army’s core values: Respect for Others and Integrity. Serving today are people from many different ethnicities and colours who can be proud of their illustrious forebears, who would be immensely proud of them.
New physical fitness standards for combat roles
The Army has been demonstrating its new In-Service Physical Employment Standards (PES) for all ground close combat roles which will come into effect from 2019.
urrent policy on physical employment standards hadn’t been changed for 20 years and needed updating. These new physical fitness standards are objective, measurable, role-related and gender-free to ensure Army personnel have the physical capability to meet the necessary force preparation and operational requirements.
PES will be incorporated into a new structured suite of Army Role Fitness Tests – a series of tests to assess whether personnel are fit for a specific role. Tests will include casualty extraction from a vehicle, repeated lift and carry and fire and manoeuvre. The standards are based on detailed analysis of roles, with the scientific research being conducted by the University of Chichester.
British paratroopers take on Public Order Training in Bosnia
The troops from C Company, 3 PARA, are in Bosnia Herzegovina taking part in Exercise QUICK RESPONSE 2018 as part of EUFOR’s Multinational Battalion, deepening and strengthening working relationships with international partners, and helping ensure a safe and secure environment for the people of the country, in support of local authorities and the Armed Forces.
British paratroopers clad in fire-retardant overalls and bearing riot shields are subjected to an ordeal by fire during realistic public order training at Camp Butmir in Sarajevo.
Soldiers of C Company, 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment (3 PARA), hone their crowd control skills during a simulated disturbance at Camp Butmir, Sarajevo, as part of Ex QUICK RESPONSE 2018, a major multinational readiness exercise seeing the British paratroopers train alongside their Austrian, Hungarian and Turkish partners in @EUFOR’s Multinational Battalion. The Paras will conduct a number of challenging and realistic training serials at locations across Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the exercise, enhancing their ability to work alongside international allies and helping EUFOR ensure safety and security in this key strategic region.
As part of the realistic and challenging training package, soldiers wearing fire retardant overalls, balaclavas and helmets, and bearing protective shields, faced petrol bomb-wielding instructors posing as rioters, testing both their public order skills and their ability to apply them under pressure. The men of C Company are in Bosnia Herzegovina helping to ensure a safe and secure environment for the people of the country, in support of local authorities and the Armed Forces, working closely with their Austrian, Hungarian and Turkish counterparts.
Private Tamas Borzak, of 8 Platoon, C Company, 3 PARA, talks about undergoing “fire inoculation” during public order training at Camp Butmir, Sarajevo. “The fire inoculation, I can imagine civvies back home if they were to do it they’d probably take some baby steps backwards as the Molotovs were coming at you. But it’s good to see the blokes standing firm, going straight through it, seeing the petrol bomb come at you, and “bang!” it’s on your feet, and everyone just does the drills and gets their head like that, ‘cos you can see that they’re really trying to concentrate and get the drills correct, otherwise you will get hurt. But we’re Reg, we do the job right, we’re professional soldiers.”
The Parachute Regiment is the airborne infantry regiment of the British Army. Paratroopers are trained to conduct a range of missions, from prevention and pre-emption tasks, to complex, high intensity war fighting. Watchwords are professionalism, resilience, discipline, versatility, courage and self-reliance.