The 1st East Anglian Regiment was active from the 29th August 1959 – 1st September 1964. Competing against nearly 300 years of Regimental and military history, this 5 year period has not gained the same recognition as the remainder of the Regiment. (Editors note: You try and get hold of an East Anglian Regiment Cap Badge!)
As a result of defence cuts implemented in the late 1950s, the 1st Battalion, The Royal Norfolk Regiment and the 1st Battalion, The Suffolk Regiment were to be amalgamated in August 1959 to form the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk), one of the new concept ‘large’ Regiments.
The inauguration parade was held in Iserlohn on the 19th September 1959. The colours of both the Royal Norfolk Regiment and the Suffolk Regiment were on parade. The new Commanding Officer, Lt Col CR Murray Brown DSO joined the parade and the Battalion marched off as the fully amalgamated 1st Battalion The East Anglian Regiment.
The Battalion moved to Berlin early in 1960 and for the first time as a new Regiment, Minden Day was celebrated in true fashion, festivities included a splendid replica of a Viking Ship.
There was an extensive recruiting drive during the early 60’s and the Battalion conducted a KAPE Tour in East Anglia and surrounding regions.
In December 1960 Lt Col Murray Brown handed over command of the Battalion to Lt Col AF Campbell MC.
In the March edition of the Britannia and Castle magazine, the use of the nickname “The Vikings” was officially announced.
The Battalion took part in the Trooping of the Colour on the Queens Birthday Parade in Berlin on the 8th June 1961, and the Battalion moved to Dovercourt Camp in Harwich in July 1961.
Editors note: It would appear that they waited for the Vikings to leave before they put the Berlin Wall up!
On 15th February 1962 half of the Battalion were in a transit camp in Ogbourne St George in Wiltshire, ready to fly to Northern Ireland for an exercise, when the Commanding Officer received a message from the War Office informing him that the Battalion were to deploy to British Guyana the following day. It is a credit to the Battalion and an example of their readiness to deploy that, A Company and B Company arrived at Atkinson Field some 24 miles from Georgetown on the 17th February 1962.
Back in the UK in August 1962 the Rear party started the move from Harwich to a former RAF Seaplane base at Felixstowe. The move would be completed at the latter part of the year when the bulk of the Battalion returned from leave.
The Battalion exited British Guyana in October 1962 having handed over to the Coldstream Guards.
New Colours were presented to the Battalion by HRH The Princess Margaret in June 63. Also in 1963 the 1st East Anglian Regiment was granted the Honorary Freedom of the Borough of Bury St Edmunds to continue the strong local links.
By the end of January 1964 the Regiment arrived in Aden as part of the Aden Brigade, seeing active service in the Radfan on the border with South Yemen as part of Radforce, fighting Egyptian-supported guerillas and losing a number of its soldiers in the process.
The Regiments time in Aden saw them take part in two clearly defined campaign’s.
Radfan The Radfan Mountains are located 60 miles north of Aden. The emirates and sheikhdoms in Aden had accepted British protection since the 1870 Turkish invasion of Yemen and its surrounding territories.
By 1964 the situation had turned for the worse. The new republican government in adjacent Yemen, backed by Egypt’s President Nasser, was actively fermenting trouble in the Sultanate of Upper Yafa, which was one of the Western Aden Protectorate states that was refusing to join the Federation of Saudi Arabia.
It became clear that a campaign was being waged against the Federation of Saudi Arabia, mainly by the Yemen and Egyptian-backed Radfan tribesmen. Their main objective was to attempt to close the main road from Aden to Yemen’s frontier town of Dhala.
However, the campaign mounted by British personnel, with Federation troops, quickly and effectively defeated the tribesmen.
Aden (South Arabia) This campaign is related to the Radfan Campaign, because both were attempts by Egyptian-inspired insurgents to end the British presence in Aden and destabilise the embryonic Federation of Saudi Arabia.
The terrorist campaign of 1964 to 1967 was a rival affair between two groups attempting to gain control of the area, and ensure that the British did not retain a military presence after the planned independence of the Federation of Saudi Arabia which was scheduled for no later that 1968. This 3 year long campaign saw numerous terrorist attacks on both civilian and military targets. In both Radfan and Aden, the British Army suffered 90 personnel killed and 510 wounded.
In September 1964, while still based there, the Regiment amalgamated with the three other remaining regiments of the East Anglian Brigade on 1 September to form one of the new ‘large’ regiments, of the Royal Anglian Regiment; the 1st East Anglians became the 1st Battalion (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk) The Royal Anglian Regiment.
The qualifying period for the GSM with clasp South Arabia was 30 days service in the Federation of South Arabia between 1st August 1964 and 30th November 1967.
For those doing War Service or National Service, 5 years (the life span of the East Anglian Regiment) probably appeared to be a lifetime. Hopefully, this page will grow with contributions from those who were part of that era, and their families.
Today the soldiers serving in the ‘Vikings’ who are totally integrated under that title, will find it hard to imagine the situation that emerged when the cream of Norfolk and Suffolk amalgamated. The rivalry between Ipswich Town FC and Norwich City FC, Greene King Breweries and Tolly Cobbold Breweries, all to be acted out on ‘the Battlefield of BAOR’. As late as the 70’s the Regimental plaques in the Sergeant’s Mess were still being unofficially moved around to give priority to one’s favoured side.
The 1st East Anglian Regiment rapid deployment to British Guyana serves as a benchmark for all, and it certainly provides some justification for all the Spearhead inspections and ‘Quick Train’ practice alerts.