The final parade of 7th Armoured Brigade The Desert Rats was held in the small town of Bergen, north Germany, as they move from their armoured role into an infantry brigade.
Brigadier James Woodham, Commander of 7th Armoured Brigade, led the parade of 640 soldiers. They represented all the current units of the Brigade and those units that currently wear or have worn The Desert Rat on recent operations. He said: “We stand on the brink of some significant changes for 7th Armoured Brigade. We are starting the process of transitioning to 7th Infantry Brigade which will stand up in the UK in early next year.
“Today is an opportunity to celebrate a fantastic history that has been based here in Germany since the end of the Second World War and to thank our German hosts who have been so fantastic at looking after us whilst we’ve been here.”
The Highlanders, 4th battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland march on parade whilst a Guard of Honour is provided by soldiers of 9th/12th Royal Lancers.
The Band and Corps of Drums of The Royal Logistics Corps accompanied the parade as well as the Combined Pipes and Drums of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and The Highlanders, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Taking the salute was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Sir Adrian Bradshaw former commander of 7th Armoured Brigade.
The professionalism of the Headquarters and 207 Signal Squadron, and that of one of its units, was recognised with the presentation of a Fahnenband. This is the highest honour that can be bestowed by the Federal Government of Germany on a NATO force. Headquarters 7th Armoured Brigade and 9th/12th Royal Lancers each received a Fahnenband which was presented by Brigadier Kropf.
Brigadier Kropf attaches the Fahnenband to the Guidon of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers.
In a poignant moment that reinforced the ‘golden thread of history’, that weaves its way through all British Army units, Len Burritt, the first to wear the world renowned Red Rat, took the flag that had been lowered on the armoured brigade and gave it to Brigadier James Woodham who in turn presented it to Brigadier Jonny Bourne, who will raise it early next year as Commander 7th Infantry Brigade.
Len, 96-years old, travelled from Binfield to see the last moments of the armoured brigade that he was a part of at its conception. Reflecting on his part in the parade Len said: “It was very, very emotional and sad really. I was with General O’Moore Creagh when they were named The Desert Rats. It is the end of an era but it is passed on and I hope The Desert Rats keep going.”
Brigadier James Woodham receives the flag of 7th Armoured Brigade from Len Burritt, the first Desert Rat of the 7th Armoured Division.
As custodian of this iconic brand Brigadier Jonny Bourne is under no illusion that this history will continue from strength to strength: “It will be our intention from the outset to take forward this incredibly strong and historical ethos and build it into the new 7th Infantry Brigade. It has been an immense privilege to be here and we feel very honoured to have the responsibility to be the custodians into the future.”