Soldiers from the Mercian Regiment are celebrating their move ‘home’ to Chester.
The regiment recruits from Cheshire, Wirral and Manchester and this week transferred its 2nd Battalion (2 Mercian) from Northern Ireland to Dale Barracks on the outskirts of the city as part of the Army 2020 Future Structures plan.
Dale was formerly occupied by the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh which has in turn moved to Tidworth, Wiltshire. Around 500 Mercian soldiers today paraded at the barracks to mark the ‘homecoming’.
Moving to Dale Barracks will allow the soldiers of 2 Mercian to be close to their recruiting area, nearer to their families and to take more of a role in their home communities.
It also allows the battalion to train more closely with the reservists of 4 Mercian as the Army Reserve takes on a greater role; training more frequently with the regular army and deploying with them as combined units on operations.
Lieutenant Colonel Shov Gilby, commanding officer of 2 Mercian, said: “The move has taken a lot planning so it’s really exciting to now be in Chester – particularly because we are back in our recruiting heartland. Being based here will allow us not only to be closer to our families but it also permits us to work more closely with our reservist battalion 4 Mercian which recruits from here too.”
Private Adam Dulieu, 22, originally from London, but who went to school at St Theresa’s Catholic Primary School in Blacon and Chester Catholic High School in Handbridge, had previously based in Catterick, North Yorkshire, with 1 Mercian.
He said: “I’m over the moon that I’m here now because it’s so close to home, rather than being so far away. With the army you can be based anywhere, so I’m quite lucky to be based where I’m from.”
Private Dulieu, who will live with fiancée Charlene Malloy, went on a tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2010. “It was a bit of a rough tour,” recalled the soldier, whose mum also lives locally. In October he and his comrades will go on peacekeeping duties in Cyprus.
Summing up life in the army, he said: “It’s good. You have loads of banter and you get to make new friends and go to places you never thought you would be going. It’s an experience of a lifetime.”
Private Richard Blackburn, 26, from nearby Runcorn has a nine month-old daughter with girlfriend Gemma. He was also previously based at Catterick, but requested the transfer to 2 Mercian to be closer to home. He said: “It is brilliant to be here in Chester. For me personally, I now have more opportunities be with my family but the work we expect to be doing here will be very different to what we have been used to. It’s an exciting move.”
As part of the restructure three Mercian battalions have been formed from the previous four. There are now two regular battalions: 1 Mercian is an armoured infantry unit which will soon be based in Tidworth, Wiltshire, and 2 Mercian is a ‘light role’ infantry now in Chester. The Army Reserve battalion ‘4 Mercian’ continues to recruit from across Cheshire and the Midlands.