On display in the Officers’ Mess of 2nd Battalion the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, this large oil on canvas was commissioned to mark the Battalion’s tours of Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009. Painted in the classical style the picture depicts a group of soldiers firing in support of an operation to clear a collection of compounds.
The picture recounts the most recent history of the 2nd Battalion. During the period, groups of up to 130 men were cycled from their base in Cyprus through some of the most demanding fighting experienced in the latest intervention in Afghanistan. In areas with a heavy Taliban presence, these ‘Company Groups’ seized and held ground, without suffering significant casualties, and affirmed the Regiment’s rightful reputation, and proud history, as a force to be reckoned with.
Closer inspection of the picture reveals several key historical references woven in to this contemporary piece, which help to give it a more personal and celebratory feel. The four main figures in the foreground are representations of officers who served on the tours and who actively commissioned the painting. On the right thigh of the figure with the radio in the front left is the Paschal Lamb; the emblem of the Queen’s Royal Regiment, dating from the 17th Century as a core forebear regiment of the PWRR. In the middle ground, just visible between two parts of a low wall on the far edge of a corn field, is the image of a feline beast in reference to the tiger insignia now worn on the right sleeve of all PWRR soldiers and officers. This dates from an award given to the Royal Hampshire Regiment by King Edward III upon its return from India after 21 years unbroken service in 1826.
Finally, depicted at the rear left of the picture is a telephone mast atop a hill. This acknowledges the action at Roshan Tower in the summer of 2008, where, from high ground alongside a disused telephone mast, a platoon of just 30 men withstood a protracted barrage over a number of days from around 400 Taliban fighters. This ferocious action is testament to the fighting spirit of the Regiment that continues to this day.