Former chief dedicates OBE to Vikings battalion

A former commander of the Vikings who was made an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours has dedicated his accolade to the whole battalion.

Col James Woodham, who was the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglians from July 2008 until December 2010, said: 'It was a genuine shock to be told that I was being made an OBE.

'I think when you are given an award for your time as the commander of a battalion you cannot help but feel that this is a reflection of the whole battalion's performance over the two-and-a-half years rather than something which is done individually by the person.

'I rather hope that the soldiers of 1st Battalion Royal Anglians will all see this as an accolade that is aimed at them and their rather extraordinary performance over a busy and demanding two-and-a-half years which included a short notice and demanding tour in Afghanistan.

'Clearly I am very proud of the award but I just hark back to the idea that we are nothing as an individual but as a team we are strong, and I hope the Vikings will take some pride in this award.

'I think just extending that slightly, it is not just the soldiers in the battalion, it is also the team that stands around them including the families and also the wider support we get from East Anglia, which helps to deliver this really powerful organisation that is able to go out and do extraordinary things.'

Col Woodham, the son of a Norfolk vicar and who was commissioned into the Royal Anglians in 1986, said being the commanding officer of the Vikings, which has such strong connections to his home county, was the highlight of his career to date.

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During his time as commanding officer he led the battalion on a gruelling tour of Afghanistan between October 2009 and spring 2010.

During this time the battalion was based in Helmand province and worked alongside the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police to improve security for people living in Musa Qal'eh.

He said there had been a 'real tangible sense of progress' in the area during the tour and he paid tribute to the five soldiers from the battalion who made the ultimate sacrifice during the tour.

Col Woodham was also famously awarded the Military Cross, one of the highest honours in the armed forces, in 2006 for his part in negotiating the release of two British soldiers held captive in a Basra police station as Iraqi protestors firebombed tanks and troops outside.

Col Woodham, 44, is now based in Germany as the Chief of Staff for the 1 (UK) Armoured Division and involved in preparing troops to be deployed to Afghanistan.

He is married to Gail and has two children, Henry, eight, and Zara, four.

His parents Richard, who was a vicar in Horstead, and Margaret Woodham live in Coltishall, and Col Woodham said that he regularly enjoys returning to Norfolk for visits.

emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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