Army Reservists made history by mobilising for the British Army’s largest ever deployment of the Army Reserve in a single, formed unit under its own command.

Blue Beret worn by UN soldiersApproximately 240 Reservists from 7 RIFLES and 5 FUSILIERS have been mobilised for the British Army’s contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping mission on Cyprus.  Their first parade as a formed battlegroup saw them swap their regimental berets for the light blue headdress of UN peacekeepers.  The 7 RIFLES-led unit will be based at Thetford, in Norfolk, for around two months of arduous pre-deployment training (PDT), which will see them learn and practice the skills they need to keep the peace on Cyprus’ Green Line.

Lieutenant Colonel Steve Burton MBE, the Commanding Officer of 5 FUSILIERS, said: “The British Army runs on a “one army” philosophy: Regular or Reserve, we wear the same uniform and are all expected to meet the same standards.

“The British Army is used to sending troops to Cyprus as part of our commitment to building peace and stability, but this is the first time that the unit tasked with doing so has been entirely raised from Reservists.  Most of the Regular soldiers who will deploy are only there because their specific jobs do not exist in the Reserve.

“Our 112 x Fusiliers (47% of those deploying) and their comrades from 7 RIFLES – have made a noble choice to take almost a year out of their busy civilian lives to serve their country.  It proves what the Army Reserve can do. Yesterday they were builders, bankers, policemen, nurses and actors. From today, and for the next nine months, they are full-time, professional soldiers, playing an equal role in the British Army’s deployments and commitments.”

After PDT, the 7 RIFLES-led battlegroup will fly out to Cyprus and take over responsibility for the sensitive Sector Two of the Green Line: the area in and around the island’s disputed capital, Nicosia.  Cyprus became a divided island in 1974 following an extended period of tension and violence between the Greek and Turkish communities that culminated in the hostilities of 1974.  The British soldiers’ mission will see them patrol the no-man’s-land between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish north to ensure that both sides continue to abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement.

Corporal Tse, an Army Reserve Combat Medial Technician from Newcastle, said: “Our training in Norfolk will focus on developing us as tactical diplomats: we are not going out there to fight, but to keep the peace.  I am really looking forward to going to Cyprus. Of course I will miss my family but I am excited to go overseas and do something unique.  My career is protected by law and I will come back having gained new skills as part of what will be a great experience.”

The 7 RIFLES battlegroup will take over from 27 Regiment RLC (Royal Logistics Corps) and will spend six months in country before returning in late October and ending the tour with a medal parade.