New march to be gifted at Larne ceremony

THE Royal Irish Regiment are today expected to parade to the offices of Larne Borough Council, where councillors will confer the freedom of the borough.

The Regiment are then expected to exercise their new freedom in a parade with Colours from both the 1st and 2nd Battalion.

A special feature of the conferral will be the gifting of a new march to the Royal Irish called Musa Qala in memory of a notorious battle involving the regiment in 2006.

During the battle, when under heavy and prolonged Taliban attack, there were three fatalities and a number of injuries.

Today's parade is expected to consist of around 200 personnel from both 1st and 2nd Battalions The Royal Irish Regiment in desert combats.

It will be headed by the regimental mascot Brian Boru XIII and the band of the Royal Irish Regiment (TA) under Director of Music Captain Mike Smith.

The regimental colours from both battalions will be carried.

The march commissioned by Larne Borough Council was composed by Chris Attrill.

In 2006 the remote hamlet of Musa Qala was deep in Taliban territory.

A platoon from the Parachute Regiment went to recce and was surrounded and besieged by a large and heavily armed insurgency.

For 52 days the paratroopers were – despite all the odds stacked against them – able to hold off their attackers. Although none were killed in Musa Qala several lost their lives trying to get through Taliban lines for help.

That help was to come from Danish soldiers who braved face to face fighting to relieve them. At times the relief column was under attack from three sides at once. Roads were blocked with barrels and as the soldiers tried to clear a route they would come under machine gun fire from hills on one side and from rocket-propelled grenades on the other.

Eventually two platoons from the Royal Irish Regiment were able to replace the paratroopers. The Taliban onslaught continued. On the third day that they took over the base two soldiers from Somme platoon were airlifted out of the base with gunshot wounds.

When a Taliban attack destroyed one of their heavy machine guns, the Irishmen made a dummy gun and put it on the "Alamo" position on top of the district centre.

In four weeks of fighting, the Royal Irish fired a quarter of all the 7.62mm machine gun rounds used by British troops in Afghanistan in the whole of 2006. Inevitably there were casualties. Lance Corporal Jonathan Hetherington was killed on August 27. Four days later Ranger Anare Draiva was killed and a dozen soldiers seriously wounded in a Taliban assault.

The local people, anxious to restore normality, approached with an unusual offer: if the British would stop fighting the Taliban in the town, they would force the insurgents to leave. It worked, at least for a while. On October 17 four months of fighting came to an end.