With 200 officers and men recently returned from Afghanistan
Soldiers from a tank regiment with deep-seated roots in the borough are to stage a homecoming parade through Clapham Junction next week.
The 2nd Royal Tank Regiment (2RTR), which was awarded the Freedom of the Borough in 2011 in recognition of its historic links to the area, will parade through Clapham Junction on Thursday, February 13.
Around 200 officers and men from 2RTR, who have recently returned from their latest deployment in Afghanistan, will set off at noon from Northcote Library, accompanied by the band of the Prince of Wales Division before proceeding along Northcote Road, into St John’s Road and through to St John’s Hill, finishing at the headquarters of the London Regiment territorial army unit opposite Clapham Junction station.
The borough’s links with 2RTR go back to 1916 when tanks were first deployed by the British Army during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme. In the very first attack in which they were used, on the strategic French hamlet of Flers, the supporting infantry was the 10th Battalion, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment – a so-called ‘Pals battalion’ made up of men from Battersea.
Following this, men of the 13th (Wandsworth) Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment, provided close support to tank units in the first mass armoured attack at the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917.
In the days leading up to the outbreak of World War Two, the 7th (TA) Battalion East Surrey Regiment (23rd London Regiment) - an infantry unit based at Clapham Junction - were formed into two tank battalions of the Royal Tank Regiment regiment, the 42nd Battalion (42RTR) and the 48th Battalion (48RTR).
Both units served with distinction, in particular in the desert campaign in North Africa. Elements of 42RTR took part in the decisive battle of El Alamein while 48RTR took part in Operation Vulcan - the final decisive push to eject the enemy from north Africa.
Equipped with Churchill tanks, half-tracks and armoured reconnaissance cars, 48RTR played a leading role in the bitter fighting that forced the surrender of all Axis forces in North Africa. More than 250,000 German and Italian troops were taken prisoner – twice the number captured by the Russians at Stalingrad. The battle colours of 48RTR are now preserved at St Mary's Church in Battersea.
After the war, both units were re-formed to create 2RTR, which has since seen active service in Cyprus, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and more recently Afghanistan.
Its historical ties with the borough mean that the regiment continues to actively recruit its officers and men from the borough of Wandsworth.
Council leader Ravi Govindia said the borough was “looking forward enormously to welcoming the regiment home”.
He added: “I am quite sure that many local people will wish to line the parade, wave flags and salute the safe return of these troops from service overseas.
“We are immensely proud to be associated with this regiment. Our decision to award it the Freedom of the Borough in 2011 was our way of paying tribute to the bravery and sacrifices that have been made over many years by the soldiers who have served in this famous local army unit.”
On the day of the parade, the Metropolitan Police will be putting in place temporary traffic closures on the roads that feed onto the route of the parade from approximately 11.50am until its conclusion. It will also be necessary to suspend parking bays along Northcote Road from 6am to 1pm.
The regiment will not be accompanied by any of their tanks or armoured vehicles.