2 Rifles to change base and prepare for final Afghan tour

It is set to be a busy year for the soldiers of 2 Rifles at Ballykinler as they prepare for a move to a new base, as well as what will probably be their final tour of Afghanistan.

The move to a base in Lisburn will leave the Ballykinler site in Co Down without a resident battalion for the first time in a century.

Abercorn Barracks at Ballykinler

Abercorn Barracks at Ballykinler

Back in 2009 there was speculation Ballykinler Army barracks would be closed entirely by 2016.

The camp is a training area for both regular and reserve forces as well as a base for the NI Recruits Training Centre.

In addition, the next few months will also see the battalion ready themselves for a tour to Afghanistan as the Army prepares to move out of the country following Government plans to hand over to Afghan forces.

The battalion will be based both in the capital Kabul as well as Camp Bastion, as UK troops draw down from operations.

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Gidlow-Jackson, 2 Rifles Commanding Officer, said there are things they will miss about Ballykinler, but he added there are many advantages to moving to the new site.

Lt Col Gidlow-Jackson said the move came after a review of long-term costs.

“The decision was never going to be universally popular because there are a lot of attractions for living and working in Ballykinler,” he said. “There is the local training environment, the beauty of the countryside, community and education support.

“But then there are also advantages in the move to Lisburn including proximity to a wide range of facilities as well as transport links.

“For the most part, the community will be sad to see us go and it would be sad to lose some of the relationships established here over many years. But the reality is that Lisburn is not really that far away and there is no reason why the many firm friendships here can’t endure.

“Ballykinler remains, in my mind, the best training area in Northern Ireland and 2 Rifles will be among the many regular users,” he added.

Earlier this month an MoD spokesman said the move, due for late summer, does not mean the defence footprint in the Province will be lessened.