Soldiers from Lisburn have made lasting friends and cemented relationships across Malawi during a training deployment over the last two months.
The soldiers - from 1 SCOTS and 2 RIFLES not only earned enormous respect locally for sharing their skills with Malawian troops facing a difficult deployment to the Democratic Republic Congo to oust rebels, but also shared poignant memories with local veterans.
Both 2 RIFLES and 1 SCOTS have historical links to today’s forces in Malawi which carry on the standards and traditions of the two regiments which are antecedents of the Malawi Armed Forces - the 1st and 2nd Kings African Rifles. Indeed, a close look at the cap badge of 2 Rifles based in Lisburn is the same crest as that of The Kings African Rifles.
And its a significant step for Northern Ireland with 38 (Irish) Brigade having been given responsibility for conducting Defence Engagement in southern Africa.
This is a non-warfighting role that aims to strengthen relationships with international partners through training, provision of advice and expertise on military matters.
As part of this programme the Army’s senior officer in Northern Ireland, Brigadier Ralph Woodisse visited the training programme but also took part in ceremonies in the the two of Zomba to commemorate those from the Kings African Rifles who died in the First World War.
And in a nearby cemetery the NI soldiers found the graves of fallen British soldiers. Captain Oli Illing from 1 SCOTS was shown the grave of Sergeant Lothian of the Gordon Highlanders who had been attached to the Kings African Rifles and who died in December 1918,
“These are people who are so justifiably proud of their military history and with whom we share so many links and allegiances,” said Captain Illing.
Many of the Malawian veterans had served in the Second World War and while language was still a barrier - expressions on faces overcame it all.