UK’s 39 Engineer Regiment in South Africa for Ex Northern Otters VC

Thirty soldiers from 39 Engineer Regiment based at Kinloss Barracks, Scotland, are currently in South Africa for Exercise Northern Otters Victoria Cross. 2016 marks 300 years since the UK Corps of Engineers was established, and the exercise will commemorate the Anglo-Boer War and pay tribute to one of the most distinguished historical Royal Engineers figures, Lieutenant Digby Jones RE VC. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross after his death in the Boer War at the age of 23 in 1900. While in South Africa the Sappers will undertake an arduous two week adventure training exercise against the backdrop of the Drakensberg and surrounding areas. This is one of three aims of the exercise with the other two being a cultural experience and a historical military battlefield study. The group will visit Rorke’s Drift, site of a major battle in which the British, under command of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, defended a mission station. The battlefield study will focus on the Zulu and Boer wars. While in South Africa the group of Sappers will also attend a memorial service commemorating those who fell during the Anglo Boer War, particularly Lieutenant Jones. The service will be held on top of Wagon Hill near Ladysmith.

“We are looking forward to the challenge of the exercise itself, which will involve arduous trekking in mountainous conditions. It’s also fitting that as the only Regular Royal Engineers Regiment in Scotland, we take this opportunity to pay tribute to Lt Jones” said Major Gerry McKay, who is leading the exercise. Lieutenant Colonel Jim Webster, Commanding Officer of 39 Engineer Regiment, added: “Royal Engineers have taken part in every major campaign fought by the British Army since 1716. We continue to be deployed on operations all around the world. We’re immensely proud of our history, and with this year’s tercentenary we wanted to do something particularly special. The spectacular Drakensberg location, combined with the link to such a distinguished Scottish Royal Engineer, allows us to do exactly that.”

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