'I miss my family and my friends but also the pubs': Northamptonshire soldiers far from home train in Egyptian desert

Soldiers from Northamptonshire have spent the last month in the sweltering heat of the African desert where they've been 'fighting' alongside Egyptian troops.

By Tim Redigolo
Thursday, 4th April 2019, 7:00 am
Updated Thursday, 4th April 2019, 10:17 am
Privates Jack Barrett (left) and Harry Dennis
Privates Jack Barrett (left) and Harry Dennis

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment are in north Africa not on special, covert or full-blown military operations but on exercise alongside Egypt's 112 Infantry Brigade.

The 'Poachers' are taking part in the month-long assignment - called Ahmose 1 - which involves more than 150 British military personnel.

The exercise is taking place south-west of Alexandria and is putting soldiers through their paces in a variety of scenarios including urban operations, close quarter battle and live firing.

Privates Jack Barrett (left) and Harry Dennis

Northamptonshire Privates Jack Barrett and Harry Dennis are in the Egyptian desert with their regiment.

"We have been going through urban operations showing how we would fight through a town, buildings and rooms, and showing them different drills," explained 21-year-old Private Barrett, who hails from Duston and now lives in Pitsford.

"Harry and I didn’t know each other before but we clicked when he first arrived."

"Being from Northamptonshire, it was something to talk about," said Private Dennis, who grew up in Brixworth.

"He knew a few people who I knew."

The Northamptonshire privates were back home last Christmas, but as the Poachers are usually based in Dhekelia in Cyprus they have spent months at a time away from their friends and families.

"I miss the little things that Cyprus doesn’t have," said Private Dennis, 19.

"Obviously I miss my family and my friends but also the pubs and - it sounds silly - but things like the currency and even English roads.

"When I next get home I’ll have a Chinese and go to the pub."

The exercise will culminate in a company live fire attack, involving over 100 infantry soldiers supported by mortars, machine guns and snipers.

As a sharpshooter, Private Barrett has been training with his opposite numbers in the Egyptian Army, as has Private Dennis, who is a rifleman.

Once the exercise is over, the troops will get some R&R time during which they'll visit the Pyramids and some of the historic battlefields won by the British Army in years gone.

The broaching of the subject of history provided an opportunity to ask how the Armed Forces have changed over time.

"What people think the Army is is very different," said Private Barrett.

"There have been news articles about how it works and what goes on but it’s much more accepting than people think.

"It’s not just violence and screaming.

"The Army is working hard to be inclusive. Females are allowed to join the infantry and there’s an LGBT rep in each battalion.

"There’s also a battalion champion who we can all go to with various issues.”

The battalion has been in Cyprus since August 2017 and will return to Cottesmore in August 2019.