7th Armoured Brigade (United Kingdom)
The 7th Armoured Brigade was an armoured brigade formation of the British Army. The brigade is also known as the 'Desert Rats', a nickname formerly held by the 7th Armoured Division, of which the brigade formed a part of during the Second World War until late 1941.
|Light Armoured Brigade (Egypt)|
7th Light Armoured Brigade
7th Armoured Brigade
7th Armoured Brigade formation badge; first (left) and second (right) type.
|Part of||7th Armoured Division|
1st Armoured Division
|Nickname(s)||The Green Rats|
The Desert Rats
|Motto(s)||"All of one company"|
|Engagements||Western Desert Campaign, Burma Campaign, Italian Campaign, Iraq War, War in Afghanistan|
When the Mobile Division became 7th Armoured Division, the Light Armoured Brigade became the 7th Armoured Brigade in February 1940. The 7th Armoured Division had a red jerboa (a nocturnal rodent indigenous to North Africa) as its emblem and became known as 'The Desert Rats'. The 7th Armoured Brigade, meanwhile, had a green jerboa as its emblem. The 7th Brigade became known as the 'Green Rats' or the 'Jungle Rats' after it moved to Burma in 1942.
Second World WarEdit
The Second World War broke out in September 1939, with both Britain and France declaring war on Germany after the German Army invaded Poland. Italy launched an invasion of British-controlled Egypt shortly after entering the war on Germany's side in June 1940. The brigade fought in many of the major battles in North Africa, including Operation Crusader in November, fighting at Sidi Rezegh to try to relieve the Commonwealth forces in the port of Tobruk, besieged by Axis forces.
It moved to fight in the Burma Campaign in early 1942 just as the Imperial Japanese Army were pushing the Allies back. The brigade took part in the fighting retreat to India, successfully completed in May just before the monsoons would have cut them off. The 7th Armoured Brigade returned to the Middle East in 1943, based in Iraq and later Egypt. With Axis forces defeated in North Africa, the brigade's time was a quiet one until it moved to the Italian Front in April 1944 where it remained for the duration of the Second World War; fighting as part of I Canadian Corps, itself part of the British Eighth Army. The brigade, now composed of the 2nd, 6th and 8th Royal Tank Regiments, fought in the final stages of the Battle of Monte Cassino and later the Gothic Line and in Operation Grapeshot, the final offensive in Italy.
Post–Second World WarEdit
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the 7th Armoured Brigade was disbanded and the 22nd Armoured Brigade was re-designated as the 7th Armoured Brigade, based in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR).
After the 7th Armoured Division was disbanded in 1958 the 7th Armoured Brigade adopted its insignia and nickname, perpetuating the history of the famed division. It was one of two "square brigades" assigned to 1st (UK) Armoured Division when this was formed in 1976. After being briefly converted to "Task Force Alpha" in the late 1970s, the brigade was reinstated in 1981, assigned to 1st Armoured Division again and was based at Bournemouth Barracks in Soltau.
Kuwait and IraqEdit
The 7th Armoured Brigade returned to the desert when it arrived in Saudi Arabia in October 1990 as part of Operation Granby, intended to protect Saudi Arabia from invasion by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The brigade, commanded by Brigadier Patrick Cordingley, later took part in the Coalition of the Gulf War ground campaign to liberate Iraqi-occupied Kuwait on 24 February 1991 that began after a sustained air campaign. The Desert Rats, along with the rest of 1st Armoured Division, carried out a left-hook manoeuvre that swung round the Iraqi Republican Guard. The brigade advanced deep into Iraqi territory, encountering some armour of the Republican Guard. The ground campaign formally ended on 28 February with the liberation of Kuwait achieved.
The brigade moved to Campbell Barracks at Hohne in 1993. From there the brigade deployed to Bosnia in May 1994 as part of the NATO IFOR peacekeeping organisation. The brigade returned for another tour-of-duty in April 1997, joining IFOR's NATO replacement known as SFOR. After the Kosovo War in 1999, the 7th Armoured Brigade returned to the Balkans for a tour-of-duty in Kosovo in 2000, based in the capital Pristina.
Just before Operation Telic began (Britain's contribution to the 2003 invasion of Iraq), the brigade, commanded by Brigadier Graham Binns, moved to Kuwait where it undertook extensive training and was "desertised" for service in the Middle East. The brigade, consisting of 112 Challenger 2 tanks, 140 Warriors and 32 AS-90 155 mm self-propelled howitzers, entered Iraq on 21 March. The main objective of the Desert Rats was to advance towards Iraq's second largest city, Basra, and help encircle and isolate it. The brigade, led by the 1st Fusiliers Battlegroup, made a rapid advance towards the city and soon reached its outskirts, securing Basra Airport and the critical bridges across the Shatt al-Arab. The advance by the brigade met sporadic though fierce resistance, with The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars, including an engagement between 14 Challenger 2s of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and 14 Iraqi tanks, all of the Iraqi tanks being destroyed; it was the largest tank engagement by the British Army since World War II. Initially the brigade was faced by very spirited but un-coordinated attacks from Basra and in the town of Az Zubayr. These attacks were initially orchestrated by members of the Iraqi secret police, who used violence and threats against family members to coerce men to attack the Desert Rats and other elements of 1st Armoured Division. As their influence waned, so did the frequency and ferocity of the Iraqi attacks.
The 1st Armoured Division, including 7th Brigade, then undertook a number of raids into the city against specific targets, but in a plan that was very patient bided their time on the outskirts of Basra. On 6 April the Desert Rats, led by Challenger 2s of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, Queen's Royal Lancers and 2nd Royal Tank Regiment with Warriors of the 1st Fusiliers, Irish Guards and Black Watch pushed into the city on 6 April and stayed. They met sporadic resistance from Iraqi soldiers and irregulars known as Fedayeen. Basra was, for the most part, now controlled by 1st Division though further engagements did take place. The war was officially declared over on 1 May. The Desert Rats remained in Iraq after the war, acting as peacekeepers and helping to rebuild the country while based in the British sector in the south of Iraq. The brigade began to leave in late June, being replaced by 19th Mechanised Brigade.
On 5 March 2013, the British Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond, announced that the 7th Armoured Brigade would have its Challenger 2 tanks and heavy armoured battalions removed over the next decade. Although the brigade itself was re-designated as an infantry brigade, it retains its famed 'Desert Rats' insignia. It forms part of the Adaptable Force under Army 2020. The decision was met with regret by former 7th Armoured Brigade commander Patrick Cordingley, who said that the "changes would still dismay veterans and the general public". On 14 November 2014, the brigade formally stepped out of its armour role into that of an infantry brigade as 7th Infantry Brigade.
The composition was as follows:
- 207 Signals Squadron, Royal Corps of Signals
- 9th/12th Royal Lancers
- Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
- 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers
- 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland
- 3rd Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery
- 32 Engineer Regiment, Royal Engineers
- 29 (Armored) Combat Support Medical Squadron, Royal Army Medical Corps
- 2nd Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
- 111 Provost Company, Royal Military Police
Commanders have included:
- 1941–1942 Brigadier John Anstice
- 1943–1945 Brigadier Otho Prior-Palmer
- 1945–1946 Brigadier Kenneth Cooper
- 1964–1965 Brigadier Ian Gill
- 1965–1967 Brigadier Richard Worsley
- 1968–1970 Brigadier Robert Ford
- 1972–1973 Brigadier Ian Baker
- 1973–1975 Brigadier Martin Farndale
- 1976–1977 Brigadier Norman Arthur
- 1977–1980 Brigadier Patrick Palmer
- 1980–1982 Brigadier Anthony Mullens
- 1982–1984 Brigadier Richard Swinburn
- 1984–1986 Brigadier Richard Barron
- 1986–1988 Brigadier Christopher Wallace
- 1990–1991 Brigadier Patrick Cordingley
- 1991–1993 Brigadier Timothy Sulivan
- 1993 Brigadier John Kiszely
- 1993–1994 Brigadier Andrew Ridgway
- 1996–1999 Brigadier Andrew Stewart
- 1998–2000 Brigadier Richard Shirreff
- 2001–2003 Brigadier Graham Binns
- 2003–2005 Brigadier Adrian Bradshaw
- 2005–2007 Brigadier Patrick Marriott
- 2007–2009 Brigadier Sandy Storrie
- 2009–2011 Brigadier Nick Welch
- 2011–2013 Brigadier Paul Nanson
- 2013–2014 Brigadier James Woodham
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- "Campbell Barracks". BAOR Locations. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
- Fact file: 7th Armoured Brigade BBC, 20 January 2003
- British troops move into Basra The Guardian, 7 April 2003
- "7th Armoured Brigade (United Kingdom)" (PDF). Retrieved 20 December 2014.
- "Soldiers' fury at long eight-month 'rat trap' Afghanistan tour". Dailystar.co.uk. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
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- "Desert Rats 'will live on'". Archived from the original on 10 April 2013.
- "Desert Rats lose tanks in defence shake-up: Decision branded 'a disgrace' as unit becomes infantry brigade". Daily Mail. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Desert Rats to lose armoured role". Irish Independent. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Desert Rats lose tanks in cutbacks". Daily Express. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Famed Desert Rats to lose their tanks under Army cuts". The Daily Telegraph. 5 March 2013. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "Desert Rats formally leave armoured role". Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom). 14 November 2014. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
- "7th Armoured Brigade". Ministry of Defence. Archived from the original on 5 April 2008. Retrieved 24 September 2018.
- Army Commands Archived 5 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine
- Watson, Graham (2005). The British Army in Germany: An Organizational History 1947–2004. Tiger Lily. ISBN 978-0972029698.