Re-united Royal Anglian veterans’ advice for Afghan-bound soldiers

Army veterans from the region's infantry regiment were reunited this weekend – with some wise words for their battalion's new generation as they prepare for action in Afghanistan.

Former soldiers of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment gathered at The Murderers pub on Norwich's Timberhill on Saturday night to swap war stories, catch up on banter and remember fallen comrades.

They included veterans from past conflicts in Bosnia, Northern Ireland and Iraq.

But thoughts also turned to the modern-day conflict facing today's Vikings, who will be deployed to Helmand province within the next few weeks.

Retired warrant officer Ron Mortimer became a founder member of the Royal Anglian regiment when it was founded in 1964 and fought as a teenager during the army's campaign in Aden.

He said: 'Those young soldiers going out to Afghanistan for the first time will be apprehensive. The same things will go through their minds as went through mine in Aden. I wondered how I would react as an 18-year-old, but as soon as the first bullet is fired all the fear is gone.

'When that situation comes, the reaction will be automatic because of the extensive training they have done. The leadership they are going to experience will help them through that, and every day they will gain more confidence.

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'There is no weak Viking soldier going out there. They have all got fire in their belly, because the weak links were sorted out in basic training.'

Mr Mortimer, 67, from Tawny Sedge in King's Lynn, left the army in 1986 after 22 years.

'The Viking battalion is a very, very close-knit family,' he said. 'When you finish your military service you don't just drift over a hilltop and say: 'That's it.''

The annual reunion has been co-organised since 2005 by Brian Freeman, who served with the battalion for three years in the 1980s, including 18 months in Northern Ireland.

Mr Freeman, 50, who now works as a self-employed pipe fitter and lives on Thacker Way in Three Score, Norwich, said: 'I know 'band of brothers' sounds a bit corny, but that is what it is like. That's why these guys going out in the battalion now are in the best of hands.

'It is just like a family coming together. It is just mates who meet up – some you see from year to year, and some you have not seen for 20 years, but there is still that kinship. I just met Ron tonight, even though we both left the battalion in the same year. That's lovely, and its a really good example of what it's all about.'

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