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WAR ON TERROR: COUNTDOWN TO INVASION: MERSEYSIDERS ON FRONT LINE; THE countdown to war continues and EMMA GUNBY details the regiments with soldiers from Merseyside - ready to go into action.

Byline: EMMA GUNBY

A BRITISH land force of 30,000 soldiers - including more than 4,000 from the north west - was today preparing for imminent invasion of Iraq.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has sent in 26,000 troops,including detachments of Paras and Desert Rats along with 4,000 Commandos.

The massive land force is joining 100,000 US troops waiting for the order to cross the border.

War will start with massive air strikes on strategic targets,but a huge troop movement through the desert is expected to follow almost immediately.

Britain's deployment is in Kuwait preparing to cross the border for the 350-mile race to Baghdad.

The deployment includes Headquarters 1(UK) Armoured Division, with support from 7th Armoured Brigade, better known as the Desert Rats, along with 16 Air Assault Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade.

There are around 6,000 front-line combat troops equipped with 120 Challenger 2 battle tanks,Warrior armoured personnel carriers, AS-90 self-propelled guns and light weapons along with a number of other reconnaissance and other vehicles.

The 7th Armoured Brigade detachment will include battle groups from the Irish Guards, 3rd Royal Horse Artillery, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, 2nd Royal Tank Regiment,1st Battalion The Black Watch and 1st Battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, with support from 1st Battalion Irish Guards,1st Battalion Light Infantry, 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and 32ndArmoured Engineer Regiment.

Forces sent from 16 Air Assault Brigade will include 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment,1st Battalion Parachute Regiment, 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment, 2nd Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, 23 Engineer Regiment, a squadron of the Household Cavalry and 3rd Regiment Army Air Corps, equipped withhelicopters.

Britain's largest naval task force since the Falklands is led by the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal, supported by our adopted warship HMS Liverpool.

Two regiments in the Gulf rely heavily on recruitment from the Merseyside area.

The Irish Guards,based in Munster, Germany, has around 530 troops in the Gulf deployed as part of the Desert Rats 7th Armoured Brigade operating Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles.

The guards were formed on April Fool's Day,1900 by order of Queen Victoria to commemorate the bravery of the Irish who fought in the Boer War. They played a major part in both world wars, winning six Victoria Crosses.

The regimental motto is Quis Separabit - Who Shall Separate Us. The 3rd Royal Horse Artillery. Batteries of the 3rd Regiment Royal Horse Artillery have existed since the Napoleonic Wars but the modern regiment was formed at Abassia Barracks in Cairo, on August 27,1938.

Since that time the regiment has served in the desert campaigns of 1939-1943 and supported the famous 7th Armoured Division ``The Desert Rats'' which led the Allies to victory in one of the most important battles of World War II.

At El Alamein in 1942, the Desert Rats fought off Axis troops led by Rommel and led the Allied victory parade in Berlin in 1945.

The Regiment is made up of three gun batteries C,D and J.

C Battery, formed in 1793,celebrates Balaclava Day on October 25 when in 1854 it fought the Russians. D Battery began its life as F Troop on November 11794. It won a notable victory at Secundra Gunge in 1858 during the Indian Mutiny.

J Battery was formed as the Troop Madras Horse Artillery in 1805 and honoured for its actions in the Western Desert in November 1941 when Lieutenant Ward Gunn was awarded a Victoria Cross.

It operates one of the Army's most advanced weapons, the 155 mm AS90 self- propelled artillery gun.
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 19, 2003
Words:597
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