THE HISTORY OF THE LIGHT INFANTRY

THE ORIGINS OF THE LIGHT INFANTRY

FORMATION OF THE NEW REGIMENT

THE EARLY YEARS

THE YEARS OF CONSOLIDATION 1979-1989

OPTIONS FOR CHANGE AND AFTER

LIGHT INFANTRY DRESS REGULATIONS

THE REGIMENTS

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3 SECT 6 PLT B COY 3LI, FALKLANDS 1988

THE YEARS OF CONSOLIDATION 1979-1989

Over the next ten years the Regiment was to consolidate both its structure and its reputation. Headquarters The Light Division was to play an increasingly important part in manpower and training matters, and the Light Division ethos was to develop rapidly as cross-posting between the two regiments increased. Although Northern Ireland continued to place a heavy burden on the Infantry, the initial impact and the knock-on effect on postings, training and leave had been largely contained.

From October 1979 to May 1980 1LI undertook a six month tour in Cyprus as part of UNFICYP, returning to Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth just in time to take part in a major home defence exercise. As a resident battalion in Northern Ireland 2LI was fully stretched, and it was with some relief that the Battalion moved to Gibraltar in July 1979. Training facilities on 'The Rock' were somewhat limited, but there were excellent opportunities for adventure training, and a battalion exercise was held annually on Salisbury Plain.

In May 1979 3LI returned to Catterick from Cyprus and, by November, was heavily involved in a reciprocal exercise with the Jamaica Defence Force before moving to Cyprus for a two year tour in the spring of 1980. On 26th October 1979 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother presented new Colours to 6LI(V) in Bath; a marvellous regency setting for the parade and a very memorable occasion. During 1978 a formal association was established between the Regiment and the carrier HMS INVINCIBLE which was to prove an enduring and rewarding friendship.

In March 1981 1LI moved to Buller Barracks, Munster to join 5 Field Force which had responsibility for rear area defence. In Gibraltar 2LI, having taken part in Exercise 'WINTEX' in the Spring, moved to Weeton Camp near Blackpool. Against a background of 'Spearhead' duty the Battalion became heavily involved in preparations to meet a strike by tanker drivers and the provision of an ambulance service following flooding. For 3LI in Cyprus the increased threat of terrorism was adding significantly to the burden of garrison duties. In any event thoughts were already turning to the return to England and the forthcoming tour in Northern Ireland.

In Germany 1LI were experiencing a busy training season in the newly redesignated 24 Infantry Brigade, and companies went in turn to train in the Santa Margarida area of Portugal. In November the Battalion was subjected to the NATO 'Operational Readiness Test' procedure, emerging with great credit.

In 1982 2LI saw very little of their camp at Weeton, having to prepare for and undertake a tour in South Armagh from April to September. Northern Ireland operations also dominated life in 3LI, now stationed in Tidworth as part of the United Kingdom Mobile Force (UKMF), but deployed to Fermanagh in October 1982 for four months. January 1983 was important for 1LI and the Regiment because the Battalion joined 6 Airmobile Brigade and so began the Regiment's long association with airmobility - a role for which the Light Infantry is particularly suited. However, airmobility was soon set aside for a tour in West Belfast from May to September 1982. There was also a change of role for 2LI in Weeton, which became a BAOR reinforcement battalion under the command of 24 Infantry Brigade. One company was detached to join the garrison on the Falkland Islands the balance of the Battalion taking part in Exercise 'GRAND PRIX'.

On return from Fermanagh in early 1983 3LI concentrated on their primary role in the UKMF, taking part in major exercises in Denmark during the late summer and autumn and, in the latter part of the year, being deployed to RAF Greenham Common where the 'Greenham Women' had established a camp. In January 1983 training of the junior entry for the Light Division was concentrated at the Light Infantry Depot Division Depot (Shrewsbury)'; adult training was concentrated at the Rifle Depot, now retitled the 'Light Division Depot (Winchester)'.

It had long been planned that 1984 would feature a major reinforcement and field training exercise in Germany, Exercise 'LIONHEART'. This exercise took place in September and October with elements of 1LI, 2LI, 5LI(V) and 7LI(V) involved. A period of Public Duties in London, the second in the history of the Regiment, was undertaken by 3LI, in January and February 1984. However, ceremonial was not confined to 3LI and 1LI had the honour of finding the ceremonial guard of honour for Her Majesty The Queen at a ceremony held at Utah Beach, Normandy, to mark the anniversary of D Day.

In January 1985 3LI moved to Omagh for a two year tour as a resident battalion; a busy and very successful tour. The techniques of airmobility were being developed by 1LI; a role which was taken up by 2LI when, at the end of 1984, there was a straight swap - 1LI moving to Weeton Camp and 2LI moving to Peninsula Barracks, Deilinghofen. Having returned to England 1LI spent most of 1985 as garrison battalion in the Falkland Islands. In the summer of 1986 1LI exercised in Canada before relieving 3LI as the Omagh resident battalion in November 1986. In April 1985theLight Division was reduced from six to four regular bands. This resulted in the formation of two 'large bands' in each regiment - the Light Infantry forming the 'Corunna' and 'Salamanca' Bands. On 28th June 1985 the Regiment celebrated its tercentenary, marking the three hundred years since the founding of the Earl of Huntingdon's Regiment. Festivities were centred largely on the West Country, Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra attending a parade and service of thanksgiving at Wells .

In January 1986 the 8th Battalion The Light Infantry (Volunteers) (8LI(V)) was formed in Yorkshire - the final link in the re-establishment of the Regiment in the counties. The regimental flag was finally lowered at Sir John Moore Barracks, Shrewsbury on 3rd October 1986, to be raised again at the new Sir John Moore Barracks, the newly built Light Division Depot at Winchester. The new Depot, which included the Regimental Headquarters of both regiments, was opened formally by Her Majesty The Queen and Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra on 27th November 1986, and was to be the centre for the training of all Light Division recruits.

In Omagh 1LI found that, in addition to the demands of the security situation, the Battalion was to be heavily engaged on flood relief duties following severe flooding in the winter. Following a period of training in Portugal for each of the rifle companies in turn, 2LI moved to Northern Ireland for its tenth tour since the emergency began and was deployed in West Belfast from July to December 1987. For 3LI, an intensive period of training with the 'SAXON' wheeled troop carrying vehicle was necessary before the Battalion could take its place on brigade exercises. This training was interrupted in February by a deployment to Salisbury Plain to cover an exercise by the Ground Launched Cruise Missiles (GLCMS) of the US Air Force. A strong detachment from 3LI was required to support the Cardiff Tattoo in July and August, but by October the Battalion was ready to move to Germany with its 'SAXONs' for Exercise 'KEYSTONE'.

On 20th August 1988 a coach carrying a party from A Company 1LI from Aldergrove to Omagh was blown up by a roadside bomb near Ballygawley. Eight men were killed and a further 27 wounded. In Germany 2LI rapidly assembled Salamanca Platoon, a reinforcement platoon of volunteers, to join 1LI in order that, in spite of the losses, the pace and scale of operations could be sustained. In Germany 2LI had become the leading airmobile battalion, having been fundamental in the development of airmobile tactics and procedures.

In March 1988 one company from 3LI was deployed to the Falkland Islands to join the garrison; the balance of the Battalion followed shortly thereafter on a reinforcement exercise, Exercise 'FIRE FOCUS'. In July 3LI was task to provide security for the newly opened temporary prison at Rollestone Camp on Salisbury Plain and subsequently, with some relief, moved to Kenya for the long awaited Exercise 'GRAND PRIX'.

In February 1989 1LI moved to Berlin and had nearly a full year of duties in the allied garrison before the Berlin wall was breached on 9th November 1989. This momentous event was to signal the subsequent collapse of communism and end of the Warsaw Pact as an effective military alliance. In January 1989 2LI moved to Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth and joined the UKMF as a 'SAXON' battalion, exercising in Canada in July and August. For 3LI the early part of 1989 was filled with a host of commitments arising from the Regular Army Assistance Table, but the Battalion did escape to take part in Exercise 'KEY FLIGHT' in Germany in September. All the Volunteer battalions had been engaged in a series of exercises known as 'EXECUTIVE STRETCH' designed to stimulate leadership and interest in the Army among young executives from commerce and industry.

THE REGIMENTS

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