The Coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003 heralded The Tigers involvement in the next significant British military deployment overseas. This was to become an enduring operation with infantry battalions rotating through an established schedule. Combat operations officially ended in 2009. The 1st Battalion was the most affected. A few individuals, including Captain Bob Wallace and members of the battalion’s Mortar Platoon were there at the start, helping to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. Combat operations shifted from the conventional role to counter insurgency and reconstruction over the following years.
The Regiment’s most notable deployment was during Operation TELIC 4 in 2004, with The 1st Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Matt Maer. The Battalion was based in Camp Abu Naji, Al Amarah with B Company detached to 1st Battalion The Cheshire Regiment’s Battlegroup in Basra. In outline, a number of very high profile and dangerous events took place; the Battle of ‘Danny Boy’ and the ‘Siege of CIMIC House’ (Civil Military Cooperation) most noticeable amongst them. In addition, the battalion conducted Operation WATERLOO, clearing insurgents from Al Amarah. Large numbers of gallantry awards were won, including Private Johnson Beharry’s Victoria Cross.
Private Beharry carried out two individual acts of heroism by which he saved the lives of his comrades. Both were directly in the face of the enemy, under intense fire. This was at great personal risk to himself, one leading to him sustaining very serious injuries. He displayed repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour to become the first recipient of the Victoria Cross in The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment and the 57th VC recipient in the annals of the Regiment’s long and prestigious heritage.
The 1st Battalion earned one Victoria Cross, two Conspicuous Gallantry Crosses, two Distinguished Service Orders, one Order of the British Empire, seven Military Crosses, fifteen Mentions in Despatches and one Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service on this extremely challenging tour. It has been said that up until that time 1 PWRR Battlegroup had faced the most constant period of conflict of any British Army unit since the Korean War. 1 Mechanised Brigade, within which the Battalion served, fired more small arms ammunition in six months than the British Army as a whole did in thirty years in Northern Ireland. The Battlegroup in Maysan Province faced over one hundred contacts in one day alone and close to 900 over the tour. Every single man who deployed with the Battalion on this operation was in some form of contact. As the Commanding Officer said, ‘That in itself made a tour like no other’. In addition to the 1st Battalion battlegroup, a composite company from both battalions was attached to The 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s).
The 1st Battalion was to return to Iraq twice more. In the meantime the Battalion moved to Paderborn, Germany in 2005, still in the Armoured Infantry role. The next tour was in 2006, as the Brigade Reserve involved in strike operations and mentoring of Iraqi security forces and the last one in 2008/2009, in Shaiba, where its primary task was mentoring the Iraqi military.
The 2nd Battalion deployed on a six-month Iraq tour in 2006. Again, every member of the Battalion was tested under extremely harsh conditions conditions where the threat was real and ever present. It had a series of tasks, ranging from patrolling the deserts of southern Basra Province, securing key installations and escorting convoys and senior officers in Basra.
Many Tigers were deployed to Iraq as individuals, including Army Reservists attached to various units, and staff officers often working in Basra or Baghdad within multi-national headquarters. One Company of The London Regiment deployed early in the operation to provide Force Protection for the Divisional HQ in Basra.