News story

Defence 2011: A Year in Pictures

A different image will be posted here each day until 24 December 2011. Most of the featured photographs were taken by Service or MOD photographers…

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

A different image will be posted here each day until 24 December 2011.

Most of the featured photographs were taken by Service or MOD photographers between November 2010 and November 2011, and relate to events and activities involving UK Armed Forces or the Ministry of Defence during the year.

Picture 24: After completing more than 8,000 hours of flying and almost 1,500 sorties to help free Libya and protect the civilian population from attack, the Tornado Force personnel from RAF Marham began returning home in November after successfully completing their mission . The Tornados first launched on Operation ELLAMY on 19 March 2011 and, almost eight months later, they left Gioia del Colle, the Italian air base from where they had been operating, as NATO formally announced the end of Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR. Officer Commanding 9 (Bomber) Squadron, Wing Commander Andy Turk, had been there from the beginning. He led 9 (B) Squadron out to Libya when the campaign first kicked off.

See the Gallery at Related News for all of the previous pictures
To see more pictures, and a video review of the year in defence, see the slide show at Related Links.

Picture 23: HMS Edinburgh spent six months in the South Atlantic this year, her first deployment after emerging from a £17.5m refit, providing reassurance to the people of the Falkland Islands and flying the flag for the UK in this remote part of the world. She returned home to Portsmouth in early December, in time for Christmas.

Picture 22: 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles spent six months this year as the International Security Assistance Force’s Police Mentoring and Advisory Group in Helmand. Part of this role involved living and working alongside members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in patrol bases and check points. The ALP were introduced in order to bring outlying rural areas some semblance of self-defence. The deal is that where a village can provide enough men, the Government will pay for a week’s training and supply them with small arms weapons to keep the peace. It is hoped that in time, in addition to providing security to more remote areas, if successful, this local police force will prove to be a recruiting sergeant for the more established Afghan National Police. The Gurkhas were mentoring all levels of policing in Helmand from the Afghan Uniformed Police to the elite Afghan National Civil Order Policeman.

Picture 21: A barbecue for over 160 British and American Service personnel and their partners was hosted at Downing Street in May, as part of US President Barack Obama’s state visit to the UK. The event was hosted by the Prime Minister’s wife, Samantha Cameron, and the US’s First Lady, Michelle Obama, while their husbands held meetings inside Number 10; although Mr Cameron and Mr Obama did help to serve lunch - meeting and paying tribute to the men and women in uniform from both sides of the Atlantic. In addition to the 47 US Service personnel attending the barbecue, there were also 45 UK Service and civilian personnel representing the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, British Army, Royal Air Force, and the Ministry of Defence. All have served in operational theatres on joint US-UK deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, or both.

Picture 20: Earlier this year, the Royal Navy’s Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester assisted the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in South Georgia, to assess the effects of climate change. The ‘Fighting G’ was deployed for seven months to the South Atlantic and made her way through the turquoise waters of Drygalski Fjord to the BAS on South Georgia after rounding off her Falklands patrol. The ship deployed her Lynx helicopter to help the conservation work by taking aerial photographic surveys of eight glaciers which allowed the BAS to compare these with previous images and determine if the glaciers are retreating and at what rate. HMS Gloucester’s visit came at the height of the southern summer which meant that the sailors were also treated to visits from inquisitive fur seal pups and penguins on the island.

See the Gallery at Related News for all of the previous pictures

Picture 19: Parties were thrown by British troops serving in Afghanistan to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton in April. At Headquarters Task Force Helmand in Lashkar Gah, where 3 Commando Brigade’s HQ was located for their deployment this year, along with more than a thousand personnel, troops on a break from their work were able to catch a glimpse of the bride and groom on a large TV that was sheltered from the blazing Helmand sun by a sea of Union Jacks. And Soldiers from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment hosted a barbecue at their base, Camp Tombstone, within Camp Bastion, inviting along members of the Afghan National Army who they were mentoring, as well as their American and Danish colleagues. They watched the wedding coverage on two widescreen televisions while tucking into steaks and drinking non-alcoholic beer.

Picture 18: The town of Wootton Bassett formally received ‘Letters Patent’ in October from Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen, to become Royal Wootton Bassett, in recognition of the dedication the town’s inhabitants have shown in honouring members of the Armed Forces killed on operations in recent years. The renaming, agreed to by the Queen in response to a petition from the Prime Minister, was formally confirmed in a ceremony on Sunday 16 October 2011. Receiving the Princess Royal were the Lord-Lieutenant of Wiltshire, Mr John Bush, and the town’s mayor, Councillor Paul Heaphy. Also present were Prime Minister David Cameron and the new Secretary of State for Defence, Philip Hammond. The Princess Royal took the stand as a Royal Air Force C-17 transport aircraft performed an honorary flypast before a minute’s silence was observed. The tradition of lining the streets to show respect for the fallen began in 2007 when Percy Miles, then the town’s mayor, decided to stand in silence in his mayoral robes when the first two bodies to be repatriated through RAF Lyneham, those of Rifleman Aaron Lincoln, aged 18, and Kingsman Danny Wilson, 28, who were both killed in Basra, Iraq, passed through the town. The town has borne witness to a total of 167 repatriation ceremonies since then. The last repatriation in the town, that of Lieutenant Daniel Clack of 1st Battalion The Rifles, took place on 18 August 2011, before all RAF transport operations, including repatriations, were transferred to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.

Picture 17: British military personnel deployed to Helmand in the UK’s Brigade Advisory Group are responsible for partnering and supporting the Afghan National Army (ANA) in training and developing their troops. Having completed their eight weeks’ basic training in Kabul, up to 1,400 ANA recruits’ next stop is Camp Shorabak, where they learn the techniques, tactics and practices employed specifically in Helmand. Here they become familiar with NATO weapons, how to use a radio, and learn basic medical skills and the fundamentals of counter-IED techniques. All the training is Afghan-led, with Brigade Advisory Group (BAG) mentors giving advice on course tempo, content and training methods. Teams of between 15 and 20 BAG personnel also embed with the ANA in forward operating bases, acting as a link between the British battle groups and their ANA partners.

Picture 16: Soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh returned to their base in Tidworth, Wiltshire, in February, where they were met by their loved ones after a successful six-month deployment to Afghanistan. They played a key front line role as the Armoured Infantry Battle Group. Initially based in Helmand, they were deployed in a ground-holding role near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah. Around Christmas time they were retasked and provided security for the rebuilding of Highway 1 in their Warrior armoured vehicles. Highway 1 links the key economic and political hubs of both Helmand and Kandahar and in recent months had been significantly repaired and rejuvenated. B Company played an integral part in providing the security for this joint Afghan, UK and US project.

Picture 15: During Operation ELLAMY this year, more than 600 RAF and Army personnel were deployed to the Italian air base of Gioia del Colle to help keep the RAF Tornados and Typhoons flying over Libya. The vast majority of these were employed in tasks like servicing the aircraft, organising the armaments, communications and intelligence.

Picture 14: Service personnel based at Headquarters Task Force Helmand (HQ TFH) in Lashkar Gah ran a half-marathon relay race around their base in March. Those involved included members of HQ TFH, the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, the United States Marines Corps and the Afghan National Security Forces. HQ TFH’s role is to provide co-ordination and assistance for the deployed units throughout the TFH area of operations in Helmand province. The race involved each individual running over three miles (five kilometres) in teams of four to raise money for Help for Heroes.

Picture 13: At the end of May HMS Ocean sailed to the coast of Libya where she joined the NATO-led Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR to protect the country’s citizens. As Libyan rebels fought pro-Gaddafi forces, HMS Ocean launched Britain’s first seaborne British Army Apache helicopter raid. Over the course of their deployment the Apache crews from 656 Squadron Army Air Corps carried out highly effective missions inside Libya, hitting military vehicles, installations and communications equipment. Ocean’s sailors, marines and soldiers remained alert until the fall of Gaddafi. The ship arrived home in early December.

Picture 12: Soldiers from 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) deployed to Helmand for six months this year, undertaking a variety of roles including training and mentoring the Afghan security forces and helping them provide security for local people in the Lashkar Gah district of Helmand province. Throughout their deployment 4 SCOTS undertook daily patrols and held numerous shuras with locals to discuss concerns they may have had about security or other issues affecting them. In July, 4 SCOTS handed over responsibility for security in the town of Lashkar Gah to the Afghan National Security Forces, since when no coalition troops have been involved in the day-to-day security of the bustling town, and 4 SCOTS, for the remainder of their deployment, focused more on providing security to the areas surrounding the provincial capital.

Picture 11: Royal Navy submarine HMS Triumph returned to HM Naval Base Devonport in April from the Mediterranean after supporting international efforts to protect civilians in Libya. The Trafalgar Class submarine fired Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles as part of the coalition cruise missile strikes designed to defeat Colonel Gaddafi’s air defence system. Flying the Jolly Roger is a Royal Navy Submarine Service tradition which celebrates the completion of a successful combat mission where action has taken place, using the stealth and bravado for which the ‘Silent Service’ is renowned.

Picture 10: By mid-August more than 700 missiles had been dropped by the RAF over Libya during Op ELLAMY. Ground crews played a vital role in the success of the operations. Pictured here are armourers crouching near the wing of a 3 (Fighter) Squadron Typhoon as they remove the ground safety pins to arm the aircraft’s weapons system.

Picture 9: 102 Military Working Dog Squadron took over the vital role of commanding the Theatre Military Working Dog Support Unit in Afghanistan in October. The squadron’s 80 military working dogs provide security at operating bases and help with the detection of improvised explosive devices, allowing troops the freedom of movement to conduct counter-insurgency operations. The dogs’ needs have been well catered for in Helmand, with an uplift of conditioned ISO (freight container) kennels and the procurement of tactical field and ‘forward operating base’ kennels specifically designed to maximise dog comfort, cleanliness and safety. The operational kennels ensure the dogs have the best possible environment to rest and recuperate in between patrols. The dogs are procured from all over the world and are of various breeds including Cocker and Springer spaniels, German and Belgian Shepherds (Malinois), and labrador retrievers.

Picture 8: The Royal Navy supported NATO’s Operation UNIFIED PROTECTOR, to protect Libyan civilians at risk of attack, from February to October this year. Sixteen vessels of the fleet, both surface and submarine, as well as Navy helicopters, helped maintain the no-fly zone and choke off the supply of arms to pro-Gaddafi forces from the sea. HMS Sutherland was deployed off the coast of Libya from July to August and bombarded rocket batteries and military checkpoints ashore as well as firing illumination rounds to light up targets for NATO aircraft to destroy.

Picture 7: Civilian Defence Support Group (DSG) personnel deployed to Helmand province, Afghanistan, are responsible for the essential maintenance and repairs at Camp Bastion’s Equipment Support Solution Regeneration Capability. This huge, £12m, purpose-built, air-conditioned and well-ordered state-of-the-art workshop officially opened in January. It allows for vehicles to now be maintained and repaired in theatre, closer to the guys that use them. And this saves the Treasury an estimated £15m a year. The 97 DSG mechanics and support staff currently working at Camp Bastion overhaul all manner of vehicles and equipment in the military fleet - from the front line Jackals, Ridgbacks, Huskys and quad bikes, and the logistic fleet of MAN trucks, tankers and loaders, to plant equipment such as excavators, bulldozers and generators. While in the UK, DSG employees work in garrisons providing in-barracks equipment support.

Picture 6: In the September Operational Honours List, Flight Sergeant Mark Lean from the RAF was awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for his actions during the dramatic rescue of a group of climbers who became stranded on Ben Nevis in December 2010. In perilous weather conditions, Flight Sergeant Lean led his Search and Rescue team to recover the climbers from the ice-covered mountainside in the pitch-dark.

Picture 5: Type 23 frigate HMS Somerset hosted a families day at sea in July ahead of the ship’s deployment on operations off the Horn of Africa. The action-packed day off the south west coast of England included a thrilling Lynx helicopter display, and the ship turned up the volume by firing a salvo from her main gun. In fine weather, families and loved ones packed the frigate’s upper deck to make the most of her departure from the historic dockyard of Devonport. HMS Somerset’s subsequent deployment has seen her conduct a range of operations off the Horn of Africa and in the Middle East, providing reassurance and reinforcing freedom of navigation. She remains at readiness to respond to any tasking, ranging from humanitarian aid to conflict, and is due to return to the UK in the New Year.

Picture 4 : RAF aircraft, crews and other personnel provided vital support to May’s Operation OMID HAFT (Hope Seven), an Afghan-led campaign to rid the area around Nahr-e Saraj of insurgent activity. Elements of Task Force Helmand built around 3 Commando Brigade worked closely with 6th Kandak (Battalion), 3rd Brigade, 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA), to co-ordinate an operation to rid the Kopak, Malgir and Loy Mandeh areas of Nahr-e Saraj of insurgent activity and extend the safe, protected community up to the Nahr-e Bughra canal. To ensure this was possible, the full range of RAF assets in theatre was used to prepare the battlespace for the operation, with sorties being flown by 617 Squadron’s Tornado GR4s and 39 Squadron’s Reapers from Kandahar. Equipped with a multitude of key information provided by 617 Squadron and the Tactical Imagery-Intelligence Wing, the operation began with nearly 300 ANA soldiers and Riflemen from 1st Battalion The Rifles taking part in one of the largest partnered air assaults in Afghanistan since operations began.

Picture 3: While on anti-piracy patrol in August, Royal Navy frigate HMS Monmouth came to the aid of merchant ship MV (Motor Vessel) Caravos Horizon, which while in the Red Sea had been boarded by six armed men. The crew members took shelter in the ship’s citadel - a secure room within the ship. HMS Monmouth, a Type 23 frigate known as the Black Duke, was patrolling 90 miles (145km) to the south when alerted to the situation. The warship immediately diverted to intercept the vessel in distress. She launched her Lynx helicopter from 60 miles (95km) away to assess the situation, assisted by the helicopter from a nearby United States Navy warship, the USS Bataan. A team of Royal Marines Commandos, backed up by a Royal Navy boarding team, then embarked the MV Caravos Horizon by helicopter and boats. They systematically worked their way through the vessel ensuring it was clear of intruders. HMS Monmouth was part of Combined Maritime Forces which conduct counter-piracy operations alongside the European Union Naval Force, which conducts World Food Programme escorts, and NATO, who conduct counter-piracy duties under Operation OCEAN SHIELD.

Picture 2: Deployed to Afghanistan from April to September this year, soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles formed the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group and trainined new, elite teams of Afghan Uniform Police in Helmand province. They are seen here in a Husky protected support vehicle transiting around their Nad ‘Ali area of responsibility on a stretch of road provided under the provincial reconstruction mission. In November it was announced by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Nad ‘Ali district will be among the second tranche of areas across the country to begin formal transfer to Afghan security control.

Picture 1 : When security deteriorated in Libya in February British Armed Forces supported the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in safely evacuating British and other foreign nationals from Libya. Amongst the UK military assets involved in the evacuation were RAF C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, which airlifted people from Tripoli and other locations in the country, and Royal Navy ship HMS Cumberland which evacuated people from the Libyan port of Benghazi.

Published 23 December 2011