News Article

Defence 2009: A Year in Pictures

A People In Defence news article

24 Dec 09

For the run up to Christmas, the MOD online news team has once again picked out the images that best represent our defence news coverage over the past year.

From left: WWI veterans Henry Allingham, Harry Patch and Bill Stone

From left: WWI veterans Henry Allingham, Harry Patch and Bill Stone attending the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War in November 2008
[Picture: Sgt Ian Houlding, Crown Copyright/MOD 2008]

A different image will be posted here each day until 24 December 2009.

Most of the featured photographs were taken by Service or MOD photographers between November 2008 and November 2009, and relate to events and activities involving UK Armed Forces or the Ministry of Defence during the year.

Picture 24: From left: WWI veterans Henry Allingham, Harry Patch and Bill Stone attending the 90th Anniversary of the Armistice of the First World War in November 2008 [Picture: Sgt Ian Houlding, Crown Copyright/MOD 2008]

During 2009 the last three First World War veterans living in the UK died. Two thousand people from across the UK and the Republic of Ireland marked the passing of the World War One generation at London's Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day, Wednesday 11 November 2009.

Click here to see the previous images.

Picture 23: HMS Gloucester approaching Angostura Inglesa [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

HMS Gloucester left Portsmouth in June, arriving home just a few days before Christmas. Predominantly conducting patrols in the South Atlantic, in October she moved into the Pacific for tasks including counter-narcotics operations, search and rescue missions and humanitarian relief. Due to adverse weather around Cape Horn the ship transited through the breathtaking Magellan Straits which comprise a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland Chile and north of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. The straits are the most important natural passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans and Gloucester's journey including navigating the narrow Patagonian Canals, took three days.

Picture 22: A Combat Logistics Patrol in southern Afghanistan [Picture: Ben Park, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

Providing support to frontline British troops in Afghanistan are thousands of logistics troops. One of their key tasks is to provide their colleagues with supplies, often across vast distances. Convoys of vehicles carry out re-supplies of the Forward Operating Bases across Helmand Province via Combat Logistic Patrols to ensure that the soldiers manning these bases are fully supported with essential kit and equipment.

Picture 21:Soldiers from Command Troop, The Light Dragoons, stand guard over their camp on Salisbury Plain [Picture: Cpl Rupert Frere RLC]

Before deploying to Afghanistan for a six month tour in March, over 2000 soldiers from 19 Light Brigade took part in a training exercise on Salisbury Plain where they faced the harsh elements of the British weather. The training exercise allowed the troops to conduct patrols and operations in a 'fictional Afghanistan' where they were tested in a series of scenarios ranging from interacting with the local population to building bridges and finding themselves under fire from enemy forces.

Picture 20: HMS Daring [Picture: Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

HMS Daring, the Royal Navy's newest and most advanced warship, was formally commissioned into the fleet in July in front of the ship's sponsor, Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex. HMS Daring is the first of six Type 45 destroyers which are the largest and most powerful air defence destroyers ever built for the Royal Navy. The prime role of the Type 45 destroyer is air defence - protecting UK national and allied/coalition forces from enemy aircraft and missiles.

Picture 19: A local Afghan resident completes his registration documents at a mobile voter registration unit in advance of the elections in August 2009 [Picture: Sgt Dan Harmer, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

After weeks of tough fighting this summer, British forces began concentrating on holding, stabilising and developing the area that they cleared of Taliban insurgents in the successful Operation PANTHER'S CLAW. The main aim of the operation, which ended in late July, was to clear the area, which is home to 80,000 Helmandis, of Taliban influence so the people could exercise their democratic right in the presidential and provincial elections that took place in August.

Picture 18: The daughters of Gary Thompson, the oldest serviceman to die in Afghanistan - from left: Laurie, Jade, Aimee, Kelly and Jordan [Picture: via MOD]

Senior Aircraftman Gary Thompson of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment was killed in April 2008 in Afghanistan aged 51, making him the oldest serviceman to die in the conflict. A year later, despite the trauma of their loss, his widow and five daughters remembered him with smiles.

Picture 17: A member of Lima Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, and his explosives-detecting dog take a break in Helmand province [Picture: James Elmer, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

42 Commando Royal Marines were deployed to Afghanistan from September 2008 until March 2009 as the Regional Battle Group (South). They deployed to every corner of the deserts and green zones of Kandahar, Oruzgan and Helmand provinces, taking the fight to the Taliban, primarily using Chinook helicopters to drop directly into the heart of the insurgency. Military search dogs are used in Afghanistan for checking routes that convoys and patrols are to pass along for mines, improvised explosive devices, or any other explosive ordnance intended to kill. But they don't go alone - their handlers go with them, interpreting the dogs' reactions.

Picture 16: An Australian Gunner from 4th Field Regiment Royal Australian Artillery fires the 105mm 'Dragon' field gun [Picture: Cpl Dan Bardsley RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

British Gunners began using a 105mm L118 Light Gun to such devastating effect against the Taliban that they dubbed it the 'Dragon' earlier this year. The Gunners put the gun, weighing over 4,000lbs (1,800kg), at the summit of the rocky cliffs near their Forward Operating Base. Manning the gun were four soldiers from 8 (Alma) Commando Battery - two of whom were Australians from 4th Field Regiment Royal Australian Artillery attached to 8 Battery for the duration of the tour.

Picture 15: A female Afghan National Police member carries out small arms training on a firing range in Helmand, southern Afghanistan [Picture: Corporal Steve Wood, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

Isabella McManus, an MOD police officer, deployed to Afghanistan this year to mentor members of the Afghan National Police. While visiting the police headquarters in Helmand province she saw promise in a small group of women and decided to see what she could do to increase their confidence and potential as members of the Afghan National Police. With her guidance and support the women are achieving truly extraordinary things.

Picture 14: Tornado GR4 pilots arrive back at RAF Marham [Picture: SAC Ellie Insley, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The last Tornado GR4s and VC10 tanker aircraft returned to the UK from the Middle East on 3 June 2009, marking the end of 18 years of combat operations for the RAF in the Gulf. RAF squadrons, in various forms, were based in the region from August 1990, when a week after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait the UK sent 50 Tornados and 12 Jaguar aircraft to the area. After the first Gulf War, they patrolled no-fly zones over Iraq and monitored activity on the ground. During the second Iraq conflict, the squadrons supported troops on the ground and bombed enemy installations.

Picture 13 : Fitting-out continues on new attack submarine Astute in Barrow-in-Furness [Picture: Mike Vallance, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

One of the Royal Navy's most technologically-advanced submarines took to the sea for her first trials in November, after which she sailed into her home port of Faslane on the Clyde in Scotland. The submarine, which can manufacture its own oxygen from sea water to replenish the onboard atmosphere, will be able to circumnavigate the entire globe while submerged and advanced nuclear technology means that she will never need to be refuelled.

Picture 12: Private Barry Dougan from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), cautiously approaches a room in a compound searching for narcotics and illegal weapons during a patrol in Afghanistan [Picture: Cpl Rupert Frere, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

3 SCOTS were based at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan for six months this year, operating as the Regional Battle Group (South) with responsibility for supporting a variety of operations across the whole of southern Afghanistan. In a series of night-time helicopter-borne strikes, at the end of May, the battalion and around 100 Afghan Army soldiers found and destroyed a major Taliban drug centre.

Picture 11: A British Army infantryman adopts a firing position alongside a scaled-down soldier [Picture: Harland Quarrington, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

To coincide with the 64th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day in May, a range of toys depicting members of the UK Armed Forces, their kit and clothing, went on sale. Specialist manufacturer Character Options Ltd worked closely with the Ministry of Defence to produce the 'HM Armed Forces' collection, with military advisers ensuring that the figures, kit and clothing were as accurate as possible.

Picture 10 : A 1 (Fighter) Squadron Harrier pilot prepares for take-off [Picture: SAC Neil Chapman, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

After five years of continuous operational flying in Afghanistan the RAF and Royal Navy pilots from the Joint Force Harrier formation came home for the last time in June. Every Harrier pilot from every Harrier squadron took part in the battle against the Taliban. Over the past five years more than 22,000 hours have been flown on more than 8,500 sorties, mainly over Helmand province. The Harriers were replaced in Afghanistan by Tornado GR4 strike jets from 12 Squadron.

Picture 9 : Royal Marines from 539 Assault Squadron take a spin in one of their new armoured raiding craft [Picture: PO(Phot) Sean Clee, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The Royal Navy has a large amphibious fleet and the raiding craft represent the smallest and most manoeuvrable elements of this fleet. Their role is to allow Royal Marines from the fleet to close with the enemy either at sea or on land. This new craft, with improved armour and more firepower, was designed following experiences in Iraq, when Marines came under attack from local insurgents.

Picture 8: A Guardsman shouts information back as the men of 7 Platoon, 2 Company, 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, go through a compound assault in Afghanistan [Picture: Corporal Dan Bardsley RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

As elections in Afghanistan approached, thousands of British, American and Afghan soldiers conducted a joint operation, called Operation PANTHER'S CLAW, to clear the Taliban from an area north of Lashkar Gah and extend security to the area. The second phase of the operation saw the Welsh Guards, supported by their Afghan comrades, taking control of 13 vital crossing points on the Shamalan Canal.

Picture 7 : 20th Armoured Brigade's flag is lowered at Basra's Contingency Operating Base [Picture: Corporal Williams RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The end of British combat operations in Iraq was marked in Basra on 30 April 2009 by the lowering of 20th Armoured Brigade's flag. They were the last British brigade to serve on Operation TELIC and, after a commitment lasting more than six years, British forces began leaving southern Iraq.

Picture 6 : A Merlin helicopter from RAF Benson is loaded onto a C-17 at RAF Brize Norton for delivery to Afghanistan [Picture: Steve Lympany, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

The first RAF Merlin helicopter arrived in Afghanistan in November as part of a move to boost air support on the front line. The full Merlin deployment to Afghanistan will be completed by the end of this year, providing a significant increase in UK military helicopters and flying hours available to commanders on the ground. The Merlin will perform a wide range of military tasks, making it a valuable asset for British forces.

Picture 5 : A captured 'go fast' vessel, which posed a hazard to shipping, is destroyed by HMS Iron Duke's upper deck guns [Picture: LA(Phot) Stuart Hill, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

On patrol in the Caribbean this summer, HMS Iron Duke's primary task was to reassure and assist the UK Overseas Territories during the hurricane season. She also conducted counter-drugs operations as part of a multi-national task force and during the ship's first routine counter-drugs patrol the crew seized three-quarters of a tonne of cocaine, destined for the streets of Europe, from traffickers on a 'go fast' vessel in a night-time operation off the coast of South America.

Picture 4 : A young girl runs into the arms of her soldier mother as the 40th Regiment Royal Artillery return to Lisburn Barracks in Northern Ireland after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan [Picture: Corporal Gabriel Moreno RLC, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

Throughout the summer on Op HERRICK 10, 40th Regiment Royal Artillery co-ordinated the offensive support firepower for Task Force Helmand. Their firepower included 105mm artillery, the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and attack helicopters. During the tour the regiment's Fire Support Teams called for over 1,500 missions, firing quickly, accurately and safely in support of both ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and Afghan troops. The unit returned home to waiting friends and families in October.

Picture 3 : Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore became the first ever female member of the world-famous Red Arrows display team this year [Picture: SAC Ben Stevenson, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

History was made this year when the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows, recruited its first ever female pilot to fly as part of the 2010 display team. Flight Lieutenant Kirsty Moore of Number XIII Squadron, RAF Marham, beat 28 other keen candidates to join the team and in turn became the first woman to fulfil the application criteria to join the world-famous 'Diamond Nine'.

Picture 2 : A flypast of Royal Navy Merlin, Sea King and Lynx helicopters over London for Fly Navy 100 [Picture: LA(Phot) Caroline Davies, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

2009 marked a century of aviation within the Royal Navy and a number of events were held across the UK, not least of which was the service of thanksgiving in St Paul's Cathedral to pay tribute to the courage, selfless commitment and dedication of everyone who has served with the Royal Naval Air Service or Fleet Air Arm over the past 100 years.

Picture 1 : A Royal Air Force Chinook helicopter lands during a resupply of ground forces [Picture: Sgt Dan Harmer, Crown Copyright/MOD 2009]

A Chinook and Apache helicopter assault on the Babaji region of Helmand province by troops from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, and The Light Dragoons formed part of Operation PANCHAI PALANG, or PANTHER'S CLAW, which was a strategic push to flush insurgents out of towns and villages and bring security to the people living in the area prior to Afghanistan's presidential and provincial elections which took place in August 2009.

GALLERY: Defence 2009 - A Year in Pictures
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