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Afghanistan looms for the Welsh Cavalry

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afghanistan loomsSITTING in the back of the army land rover, I am driven through the rough and rugged terrain at the Castlemartin firing range, which is used frequently for training exercises by various regiments of the British army.

Today however we have been invited to observe over a hundred soldiers from the Queens Dragoon Guards as they take part in a 36-hour operation, which consists of various tasks and exercises. The sheer determination and fitness of the soldiers is evident in their energetic and prompt responses to adverse situations, which have been cleverly elaborated and manufactured to recreate the real life scenarios of modern warfare. The regiment are likely to be deployed to Afghanistan sometime in May for possibly 6 months or longer and will be presented with various obstacles and potentially dangerous and hostile situations, so the necessity to prepare them to deal for the unexpected is paramount for them to complete their tasks safely and effectively. All members of the vehicle crews are expected to make decisions on route selection for the vehicle as well as assisting with target acquisition and the decision on whether to fire or not, which is ultimately down to the vehicle commander.

Wooden cutouts with the painted faces of Middle Eastern men have been placed strategically around the range to prepare the frontline soldiers for ambushes, while small explosives, which produce, loud bangs are hidden in the grass verges to recreate the effect of an I.E.D (improvised explosive device). Once the devices are detonated the countless hours of training comes into play as soldiers retaliate with return fire at the wooden cutout targets, panic stricken faces run towards me in an attempt to restore order and bring the situation under control. Live rounds are fired and the scenario seems very real indeed. Captain Rupert Robinson tells The Herald the aims and objectives of the operation:

“The exercise is progressive, initially confirming soldiers’ ability to fire their personal weapons accurately before progressing to more complicated shoots, culminating in more complex scenarios where soldiers in section, troop and squadron-sized groupings undertake live fire ranges with support from mortars and airborne assets.”

Some of those involved will have previous Afghan experience – in 2008, 2009 and 2011/12 –although for some troops this will be the first time they have trained for an operational tour so the experience is invaluable and potentially lifesaving for them with some soldiers having only joined the Army last year.

For Lieutenant Corporal Scott Roystonhalpin from Carmarthen, this will be his second tour of Afghanistan and is all too aware of the dangers that lay ahead.

“I have been trained to an advanced standard as a gunner which leaves me exposed and vulnerable at the top of a battle tank, but I have been trained by the best army in the world so fully comprehend the risks”

He also explains the physicality requirements of a British Soldier serving in Afghanistan

“I lost three stone on my last tour. The conditions are extreme, from 40 degree heat in the day to freezing temperatures at night it certainly takes it’s toll on your body, both physically and mentally”.

Once the range package is complete the QDG will conduct a second exercise in Thetford the following week. The troops will return to home base in Sennelager, Germany, where they will take part in simulated training prior to returning to the UK to carry out other exercises in preparations for a likely operational tour. Left tenant Colonel William Davies reiterates the importance of the British Military presence in Afghanistan

“We are essentially deployed to restore order to the country, one of our objectives for example is to carry on training the Afghan National Army to operate at a brigade level so we can feel comfortable in the knowledge that they can carry on our work once we leave”

The past 50 years have been busy for the Regiment which has seen active service in Borneo, Aden, Lebanon, the 1991 Gulf War, Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland, the 2003 Iraq War, two further tours of Iraq and, most recently, deployments to Afghanistan in 2008/09 and 2011/12.

QDG was awarded the Freedom of Cardiff in 1985. Hopefully 2014’s tour of Afghan will be a safe and successful tour for the regiment and will allow them to accomplish their tasks and objectives.

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Crime

Pembrokeshire fisherman strangled partner’s mother in front of child

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A PEMBROKESHIRE fisherman, Jake Bowman-Davies, 26, of Lighthouse Drive, Llanstadwell, has been handed a suspended prison sentence after strangling his partner’s mother in a terrifying incident witnessed by a young child, Swansea Crown Court heard on Wednesday (Jul 24).

The court was told that the incident occurred on December 17 last year. The victim had been asleep when she received a frantic phone call from her daughter around 1am. She could hear her daughter shouting and screaming, with Bowman-Davies audibly in the background. Concerned, she went to the nearby property to intervene, only to find the front door ajar and Bowman-Davies in a heated argument with her daughter inside.

Prosecution barrister Georgia Donohue described Bowman-Davies’s behaviour as “erratic and loud.” When the victim asked him to leave, he screamed in her face before grabbing her throat and restricting her ability to breathe. Miss Donohue added that the victim “felt genuine fear that he was not going to let go.”

Bowman-Davies’s partner and a young child were present during the assault. After releasing his grip, Bowman-Davies was ushered out of the house but retaliated by spraying alcohol over the victim and remained outside for another 10 minutes before police arrived and arrested him.

In a statement read in court, the victim expressed fear for her daughter and family following the incident.

Defence barrister David Singh argued that Bowman-Davies, who works at sea and tends to “binge-drink” when off work, is “a young man who clearly needs intervention.”

Judge Huw Rees addressed Bowman-Davies, emphasizing the lasting impact of such violence on children. “No child should see violence between adults of this kind. It’s seared into their subconscious and that could damage them irreparably,” he said. The judge warned Bowman-Davies of severe consequences for any future breaches of court orders.

Bowman-Davies, who pleaded guilty to intentional strangulation, received a 16-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. He is required to complete a 25-day rehabilitation activity and 120 hours of unpaid work. Additionally, he was issued a restraining order, prohibiting contact with his victim for three years.

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Eluned Morgan appointed new Leader of Welsh Labour

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ELUNED MORGAN MS has been appointed the new leader of Welsh Labour.

Morgan has served as Welsh Labour MS for Mid and West Wales since 2016 and has delivered for the people of Wales as both a Welsh Government Minister and Cabinet Secretary since 2017.

She will now go forward as Welsh Labour’s nominee to become the first female First Minister of Wales, and Labour’s first female head of state in the UK.

Born in Cardiff, Morgan was a founding member of the Yes for Wales cross-party group which campaigned for the then Welsh Assembly to be established.

Eluned Morgan MS, Leader of Welsh Labour, said: “I am truly honoured to become the first woman to lead Welsh Labour and to be put forward as our party’s nominee to become the next First Minister of Wales.

“At this pivotal time for our country, strength, stability, and unity will be my guiding principles. I want to ensure that everyone in Wales has the opportunity and ability to fulfil their potential.

“Huw Irranca-Davies and I stood proudly as a partnership, and we are delighted to have received the overwhelming support of Welsh Labour MS’ and support from across Wales and the wider Labour movement.

“When we pledged unity, we meant it – and that is how we will lead. Working with colleagues across the Senedd and standing shoulder to shoulder with Keir Starmer’s UK Labour Government, my focus will be on improving the things that matter most for everyone in our great country.

“Through my leadership, Wales – and what is best for our country – will always come above all else.”

Keir Starmer MP, Prime Minister and Leader of the UK Labour Party, commenting on the election of Eluned Morgan as Welsh Labour Leader, said:

“Eluned’s election as Welsh Labour Leader and candidacy for First Minister is fantastic news for Wales and for the Labour Party. Eluned brings with her a wealth of experience and track-record of delivery, and as the first woman to lead Welsh Labour, she is already making history.

“Just three weeks ago, people across Wales voted overwhelmingly for a changed Labour Party to lead a government in Westminster. We have a been given a strong mandate to deliver change for working people, and I look forward to working hand-in-hand with Eluned to deliver on our promises to Wales and Britain.”

Jo Stevens MP, Labour’s Secretary of State for Wales, said: “Eluned will be a fantastic leader of Welsh Labour and candidate for First Minister, bringing her many years of experience on the front line of politics to the important task of delivering for people across Wales.

“I am particularly pleased that Eluned has been overwhelmingly backed by the Senedd Labour Group.

“I look forward to working closely with Eluned at pace, to implement the UK government’s plans to address the priorities of people across Wales, which received resounding support at the General Election.”

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Crime

Stalking victim in plea for indefinite restraining order

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A STALKING victim has made an impassioned plea before a judge sitting at Haverfordwest magistrates court to impose an indefinite restraining order on the man who has already served a custodial sentence for stalking her.

Despite serving 21 weeks in custody following his conviction for stalking in 2023, Christopher Marsh, 48, continued to breach the court-imposed restraining order which prevented him from contacting the victim.

This week he pleaded guilty to a charge of breaching the restraining order by once again contacting the victim on social media on November 27, 2023 and sending her a friend request.

In a victim impact statement that was read out to District Judge Mark Layton sitting at Haverfordwest magistrates, the woman said that since his release from prison, she has grown increasingly fearful for her safety.

“I find myself going out less, and that night, when I was sitting at home, he sent me a friend request which made me panic that I was still in his thoughts.

“I just want him to leave me alone and get on with his life.”

The victim requested an indefinite restraining order which prevents Marsh, of Grove Court, St Florence, from having any form of contact with her for the rest of his life.

After considering the facts, Judge Layton granted her request. Marsh was also prevented from entering Shrinkle Haven, South Beach in Tenby and Penally Beach between certain times of day. He has also been prevented from approaching the victim’s home address in Tenby and from contacting her via any form of communication device. He was sentenced to 26 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months and was ordered to pay a £154 court surcharge and £85 costs.

“You really have to make every effort to ensure that you don’t come before this court again,” said Judge Mark Layton when imposing sentence.

“Otherwise you’ll end up serving 26 weeks in prison.”

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