Exactly six years ago, Lieutenant Colonel Edward Chamberlain, Commanding Officer of 5 RIFLES, was leading a company of soldiers across the Kuwaiti border into southern Iraq as part of the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.
Now his servicemen and women are part of the final rotation of British troops deployed in Iraq, where their work is much less hostile. Daily tasks include securing the British base at Basra airport, training elements of the Iraqi security forces and preparing to transport all their kit home -- a big change from battling enemy forces.
In their free time, soldiers have managed to collect more than 25,000 pounds for Project 65, which backs a number of long-standing military charities that support soldiers and their families.
Among various fund-raising events at the Basra base were a fun run and a ‘Premiership’ football tournament. Twenty teams from the British and Iraqi Armed Forces staged the tournament earlier this month, with each team playing in a strip of a current Premiership squad. The final was between Wigan (Iraqi police) and Sunderland (Royal Air Force). 'Wigan' kicked its way to a 2-0 victory.
An auction was held after the match to sell the football kits, raising 4,300 pounds. The Premier League matched the sum to bring the total to 8,600 pounds for Project 65.
The 5 RIFLES are due to start returning to Britain in the coming months, hopefully in time for three teams of soldiers to take part in a 65-mile money-raising run organised by Project 65 from Dorset to Normandy, an event due to take place between June 4 to 6.
“The aim of the run is two fold: To replicate the Pegasus Bridge operation of D-Day 'man-for-man' and to raise 500,000 pounds for the care and support of wounded armed forces veterans,” according to the web site http://www.project65.net/.
If you fancy sponsoring the 5 Rifles on their latest mission you can go to: http://www.justgiving.com/5rifles.In addition to the run, wives will be jumping out of an aeroplane to represent the gliders who took part on June 6th 1944, by doing tandem freefall jumps.
[Picture by Peter Nicholls: Lieutenant Colonel Edward Chamberlain, Commanding Officer, 5th Battalion, The Rifles.]