D-Day role remembered as Royal Irish reservists study battlefields

A group of local Royal Irish Army Reservists have just returned from Normandy where they were conducting a battlefield study.

During their visit they took time to revisit the battlefields and commemorate the part played by The Royal Ulster Rifles 70 years ago.

The Royal Ulster Rifles had the distinction of being the only British Army Regiment to have a battalion land on the beaches, and another battalion land by air using gliders.

The Army Reservists from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment (2 Royal Irish) were joined by Regular Army soldiers from their sister battalion, 1 Royal Irish, based at Ternhill, Shropshire. The Royal Ulster Rifles is an antecedent regiment of The Royal Irish Regiment, and two of the current 2 Royal Irish Army Reserve companies can trace their heritage back to 6th Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles (TA) detachments in Belfast, Ballymena, Lisburn and Newtownabbey.

Lisburn based Commanding Officer of 2 Royal Irish, Lieutenant Colonel Owen Lyttle explained the background behind the visit.

“The Normandy battlefield study has allowed personnel to research and consider some of the battles that took place in Normandy during D-Day and after,” he said.

“Personnel have been able stand on the same ground as their predecessors, and think about the challenges. By comparing current tactics and training, they have been able to draw out useful lessons for future conflicts.

“During the visit we have had a focus on The Royal Ulster Rifles involvement in D-Day, in particular the battles by 1 RUR at Longueval and 2 RUR at Cambes. We also took the opportunity to lay wreaths and hold short commemoration services at the RUR memorials at each site.

“We have also used the study as an opportunity to integrate more with our paired Regular battalion, 1 Royal Irish. What better way than to retrace the steps of the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Royal Ulster Rifles during the Normandy landings.”

Regular officer Major Paul James, from Aghalee and serving with 1 Royal Irish, found the visit an informative but at times moving experience,

“There has been a good practical reason for visiting Normandy to study the battles and tactics,” said Major James. “It has been a superb opportunity to close with our Reservist colleagues and share experiences. However it has been important to remember those who have gone before us and fought courageously for the cause of freedom. Remembrance is an act we must not forget.”

Lisburn officer, Major Gareth Semple, was honoured to have laid the wreath at Longueval. “It has been an honour to have been able to lay the wreath at the Longueval memorial in this the 70th anniversary of D-Day,” said Major Semple. “Our visit to the Normandy battlefields has left all of us in no doubt as to the hardship, suffering and outstanding bravery and courage shown by those who have served before us, and especially those from the 1st and 2nd Battalions The Royal Ulster Rifles.”

If you are interested in finding out more about the Army Reserve Infantry and the 2nd Battalion The Royal Irish Regiment then telephone 028 92260042, or text INFO to 07920 232380.