Defence Secretary Grant Shapps has praised hundreds of UK troops for their contribution to an important NATO peacekeeping effort in Kosovo at a medal parade.
Speaking to soldiers from 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1 PWRR) at the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich on Friday (26 Jan), the Defence Secretary thanked personnel for their role in the NATO mission, and presented them with Operational Service Medals, watched by their families and friends.
The parade and medals presentation marks the end of a demanding but successful deployment as part of the NATO task force to Kosovo (KFOR) for 1 PWRR, with this year marking the 25th anniversary of NATO peacekeeping operations in country.
Defence Secretary, Grant Shapps said:
Our brave men and women of the 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment have done us proud, and it was a great privilege for me to present them with a medal for their role in this crucial NATO peacekeeping mission.
The UK continues to be a leading member of the Alliance, and 2024 is an important year. We mark 75 years of NATO, prepare for the largest exercise in decades – Steadfast Defender, and it is the 25th anniversary of NATO peacekeeping in Kosovo.
And by deploying last year to boost the NATO Kosovo Force, our world class Armed Forces have shown once more their readiness to provide support wherever it is needed.
Nearly 400 soldiers from 1 PWRR, nicknamed the ‘Tigers’ from the historic Bengal tiger insignia worn on their right arm, formed up for the parade to receive their medal for supporting Operation ELGIN – the UK operational name for the deployment.
Following a request from Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) to bolster the NATO peacekeeping efforts in Kosovo, and approval by the North Atlantic Council, in October last year the UK deployed around 200 soldiers from 1 PWRR to support the 400-strong British contingent that were already in Kosovo taking part in an annual exercise.
The rapid deployment of the full battlegroup meant the transport of 200+ troops and the shipment of 117 vehicles to Kosovo in less than a fortnight.
The bulk of the troops flew into Kosovo from RAF Brize Norton, while their equipment and vehicles were delivered by sea aboard the vessel MV Hurst Point, from Marchwood.
The vessel unloaded its cargo at the Albanian port of Durres, the closest available seaport to their final destination of Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. What followed was an eight-hour convoy drive in packets of 20 vehicles through the mountains and across the border.
As part of NATO’s aims for sending the Strategic Reserve Force, personnel conducted patrols alongside the Administrative Boundary Lines of Kosovo and Serbia to deter illegal activity and reassure the local population. The group was also adequately equipped to help KFOR if there were more serious and dangerous incidents.
Further to the strategic aims, personnel also helped clear out a snake infestation at a local school, making the local area safer for children to enjoy.
The battalion returned from their deployment in mid-December, and were given post-deployment leave over Christmas.