Northern Ireland featured significantly in the Regiment’s first fifteen years, as it did in the Queen’s and Royal Hampshire Regiments before amalgamation. The Regiment’s deployments to the Province were as follows:
1993 to 1995 – Omagh.
1996 – Two short deployments as the UK Standby Battalion, including West Belfast and Armagh.
1997 to 1998 – West Belfast, followed by one composite company deployed with 1st Battalion The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons).
The campaign in Northern Ireland dominated the Regiment’s life from 1969 to 1992; The Queen’s Regiment deployed on a total of thirty-six tours in the Province and Royal Hampshire Regiment were to clock up nine. The majority of the deployments were of four to six months duration; however the total includes seven resident eighteen months to two-year tours. The latest round of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland broke out in 1968, as the enmity between the nationalist and loyalist populations came to a head.
Though the recent significant British involvement in Afghanistan began in 2006, forebears of the PWRR fought in all three of the previous Afghan Wars (1838-1842, 1878-1881 and 1919). In December 2001, The 2nd Battalion was on standby as part of the ‘SPEARHEAD’ Battlegroup, though rather like The Buffs in 1838, they did not deploy at that stage. This was in the wake of the dramatic terrorist actions against the United States of America on the 11th September 2001 when a number of passenger aircraft were highjacked and flown into high value targets such as the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.
The 2nd Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment has been based in Cyprus twice. The Tigers are currently the Regional Standby Battalion on Very High Readiness for potential deployments in the Middle East and North Africa. However, the Battalion has had significant operational commitments in Afghanistan. Cyprus has also been the venue for regular and reserve exercises, but in addition, there is a long standing United Nations peace-keeping commitment.
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.
The British Army has a policy of deploying troops to work alongside the armed forces of other countries. This helps train them in the global fight against terrorism. The 3rd Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment has been given Defence Engagement operational tasks, which has included providing a Short Term Training Team to Uganda in both 2010 and 2012 with a thirty-man team. These type of deployments help improve foreign army capabilities in their fight against terrorism and again illustrate the new flexibility within the Army Reserve.
The origin of the Regiment can be traced to the 1st May 1572, when 3,000 men of the Trained Bands of London paraded before Queen Elizabeth I at Greenwich. Three hundred of them volunteered to go to the aid of the Dutch in their revolt against Spain, as a formed company under the command of Captain Thomas Morgan. The force expanded to four English regiments and in 1665, half of them returned to England, rather than swear allegiance to the then liberated Dutch and formed Our Holland Regiment. Despite their Tudor origin, they were numbered the 4th Foot, raised to the 3rd Foot in 1689.
A campaign of unique interest, which involved the East Surreys, Royal Sussex, Hampshires and The Middlesex Regiment was in Russia in the period 1918/1919. During this period the Regiment was to gain the battle honours of Murmansk, Archangel, Dukhovskaya and Siberia. This was part of an unsuccessful international effort at the end of the Great War to save the ‘White’ Russians from the ‘Red’ Bolsheviks.
The period between the Napoleonic Wars and the Crimean War was dominated by ‘small’ wars throughout the Empire. The Queen’s and the 31st (Huntingdonshire) served in the 1st Afghan War of 1839-1842, whilst the Buffs (East Kent) and the 50th (‘Queens Own’ Regiment from 1831) escorted prisoners to Australia and took part in the Gwalior campaign of 1843. The 35th served in the West Indies, Ireland and Mauritius, becoming The 35th ‘Royal’ Sussex Regiment in 1832. The 57th (West Middlesex) went to Australia and India, whilst the 77th (East Middlesex) served in Ireland, Jamaica, Malta and Canada.
There were no battle honours awarded to the Regiments forebears for their involvement in the American War of lndependence. Although the regiments fought with distinction and achieved many victories against the rebel forces, the colonies successfully rebelled against the rule of King George Ill with the support of France, Spain and the Netherlands. The Buffs, 31st, 35th, 37th and 57th Foot were all to take part in the War and the 50th participated in a naval battle against the French off Ushant in 1778, serving as marines.