THE TERRITORIAL Army soldiers based at Fort Charlotte in Lerwick recently took part in their first field firing opportunity for over 40 years.
The local TA became an infantry battalion in 1967 when the Royal Artillery left Shetland. Two years ago they converted back to artillery and last month firmly established themselves during their annual camp in Otterburn, Yorkshire.
Gunners from G Troop 212 Bty, Royal Artillery, were under the command of Lt Roger Mackay, 33, from Lerwick, who gave the order to fire the 105mm L118 light gun. The order originated from the observation party where Gnr Stuart Bell, 33, from Weisdale, was on the lookout for suitable targets.
This information arrived at the sharp end and Gnrs Jarad Deeny, 24, from Sandwick, and James Layfield, 28, from Lerwick, raced to action and trained the gun as directed, and on command fire assisted in engaging targets at a range of up to 17km.
The professionalism and skill of the Shetland gunners proved to be second to none and they helped 105th Regiment win against all the TA artillery regiments in the UK, quite an achievement considering G Troop only reconverted to gunnery in December 2006.
The troop also augmented the battery in other vital roles. Gnr Helen Tait, 33, from Lerwick, provided essential logistic tasks and Pt Liam MacCormack, 33, Lerwick, newly qualified as an army chef, gave them a well earned hot meal at the end of firing.
G Troop’s very own combat medical technician Cpl Gary Irvine, 21, from Gilberwick, was on hand in case of any need for medical assistance.
Lt Mackay said: “The troop has reached a standard of which they can be justifiably proud. It has been challenging but it’s the spirit that Shetlanders have that has brought this troop through all the difficulties and allowed it to perform so highly on such a complicated stage.
“These guys and girls are competing with other units who are proving this during operations in the Middle East day to day.”
All ranks where sent a letter of congratulations from Brigadier H David Allfrey, Commander 51 (Scottish) Brigade, who is no stranger to Shetland as he led the Pipers’ Trail celebrations last year for the TA’s 100 anniversary. His letter complimented the local regiment on their “very fine performance this year”.
G Troop is moving from strength to strength and has this year enabled its soldiers the opportunity to take part in many different activities and pursuits.
Soldiers enjoyed a free fall parachute course where a good head for heights was required as well as a firm stomach.
Gnr Chris Kidd, 32, from Lerwick, attended the BSAC dive leader course at Poole, Dorset. Newly qualified, he can now work towards becoming the unit’s on-island diving instructor.
The training for G Troop is exactly that which is required for the regular army. The wide variety of trades and courses available to members of the troop are staggering, from storekeeping, mechanics, clerks and drivers. The troop is actively seeking applicants in all these roles as well as the gunnery trade.
The troop members are keenly aware that they cannot rest on their laurels and will be working hard to build on their solid foundations from this year. Among things to look forward to is the two-week annual camp which next year is in Romania.
Anyone who would like further information on joining the troop can contact the staff instructor by dropping in on any weekday or Wednesday’s training night at Fort Charlotte in Lerwick or by telephoning (01595) 693109.