Veterans organising re-union for the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglians, in King’s Lynn

Hearts of young soldiers swelled with pride when the Colonel told them they were making history.

And now, nearly 50 years after he stood on the parade ground as an 18-year-old private, as the 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglians came into being, an old soldier and two colleagues are organising two reunions.

Warrant Officer (Rtd) Ron Mortimer, Captain (Rtd) Malcolm Dawe and Warrant Officer (Rtd) Cal Callaghan are inviting past and present Warrant Officers and senior NCOs to the 1st Batt, Vikings, combined dinner night at the Duke's Head Hotel in King's Lynn on Saturday, April 28.

On November 17, there will be an all-ranks reunion for veterans of the Aden and Radfan campaigns.

Mr Mortimer rose through the ranks as the newly-formed 1st Battalion of the Anglians - known as the Vikings - served their Queen and country in far-flung lands and closer to home.

By the time he finished his stint, in 1989, he was a Warrant Officer who'd seen service in Aden, Northern Ireland and all points in between.

'I'd do it all again,' said Mr Mortimer, who has just turned 67. 'From 1964 to now, what the 1st Battalion has achieved is second to none of all the regiments in the British Army.'

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Joining the Army Cadets at the then Gaywood Park School in King's Lynn, Mr Mortimer signed up and joined the army in 1964.

'I was a green 18-year-old who didn't know anything about the army, I was new to the system,' he said. Months later, Pte Mortimer was in the thick of battle as the Vikings were shipped off to Aden to fight insurgents during the Radfan and South Arabia campaigns.

'The storming of the rebel fortresses on the final objective, the Jebel Hiriye Mountain, was the first brigade attack which was led by the regiment to take place since the Korean war,' he said, recalling events almost 50 years later.

'The 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglian Regiment, were point battalion - the first to go into the attack.

'It was hard going but a successful attack, there were no casualties.'

As the bullets flew, Mr Mortimer learned something fundamental about the army.

'Being an 18-year-old soldier, you've got professional soldiers around you who've been on a active service before,' he said.

'They give you the confidence in the job you're doing. That happens in Afghanistan today, with the young lads that are going out there and good leadership from commanders.'

While in Aden, the Royal Anglian Regiment was formed.

'We marched onto a square in Waterloo Barracks in the Middle East as the 1st East Anglian Regiment,' said Mr Mortimer. 'And we came off the 1st Battalion, the Royal Anglians.'

He remembers the words of CO Col Jack Dye to this day, as we sat sipping tea in his neat bungalow near Lynnsport.

'He said nobody knows us. It's up to you now to put us on the map,' he said.

'We have done just that from those words that day to this as millions have seen on TV with Ross Kemp in Afghanistan.'

Mr Mortimer spent the late 1960s taking part in NATO exercises in Europe, as the Anglians trained to become a mechanised brigade.

In the early 1970s he was in Northern Ireland, where the Anglians were among the many regiments charged with keeping the peace as the troubles erupted. They lost two young soldiers on the riot-torn streets of Londonderry.

By the late 1970s, Warrant Officer Mortimer was a Platoon Commander, whose patch included the Falls Road.

He followed this with spells in Belize and as an instructor, as well as running the Territorial Army centre in London Road, Ipswich, in the 1980s.

'If I had my time over again I'd do it all over again,' he said. 'The military are the closest family you will ever come across.'

Mr Mortimer and other veterans are organising a reunion for NCOs at the Duke's Head Hotel, in King's Lynn, on Saturday, April 28. It will include a dinner, wine and special guests, with soldiers' wives and partners also invited.

'Although they're not in uniform, they played an important part in the regiment,' said Mr Mortimer.

'We want to say thank you for what they did for the fighting men when they were away.

'They have been too long forgotten in the social calender and deserve to be recognised.'

On November 17, there will be an all-ranks reunion for those who fought in the Aden and radfan campaigns.

For further details, e-mail mortimer_ronald881@btinternet.com.

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