There was a welcome to Lisburn this week for troops of the British army’s largest infantry regiment, as the Second Battalion, The Rifles , was honoured at a civic reception.
Lisburn and Castlereagh City Mayor, Councillor Thomas Beckett, hosted the reception to officially welcome 2 Rifles to its new home at Thiepval barracks; it was initially based at Ballykinler upon first moving to Northern Ireland in 2007.
The reception was marked by tributes to the troops and the families who supported them during deployments across the world.
Those attending included the Lord Lieutenant of Antrim, Mrs Joan Christie; Lt Col Neil Bellamy, Commanding Officer 2 Rifles; Brigadier Andrew Roe, Commander 38 Irish Brigade; elected representatives and freemen of the city.
Delighted, he said, to see so many different ranks represented among the soldiers and officers gathered, Councillor Beckett added: “Since the battalion moved to Lisburn, they have continued to be deployed on operations and exercises throughout the toughest terrains in the world, including Afghanistan, Turkey, Sudan, Malawi, Gabon, Singapore, Kenya, Falkland Islands, Australia, Cyprus, Belize, Somalia, Jordan and Oman.
“We cannot begin to imagine the pressurised and difficult situations that must be faced, risking their lives on a daily basis, in unfamiliar and intimidating territory.
“We applaud the bravery and dedication of each and every officer and soldier.
“We also pay our deepest respects to the families and loved ones left behind, who continue with their day-to-day duties of daily life, waiting for their safe return home.”
There was a welcome too for the Band and Bugles of The Rifles, which in 2007 emerged from the Band and Bugles of The Light Division, dating back more than 200 years and today boasting a fast march speed of 140 paces a minute.
“I was fascinated,” said Mr Beckett, “to learn that the bugles were used instead of drums to communicate orders on the battlefield and as far back as the Napoleonic Wars.”
The mayor made a presentation to Lt Col Bellamy.
He added: “On behalf of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council and its residents, I would like to say how proud we are to have 2 Rifles reside in the city and I hope we can continue to build a positive relationship throughout the community.”