Call for Afghan units honours move
Battle honours should be awarded to military units that fought in the bloody British campaign in Helmand province, which began exactly five years ago, a decorated soldier has said.
More than 50 Royal Navy ships, Army regiments and RAF squadrons received honours approved by the Queen for their involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
But Captain Doug Beattie said the fighting in Helmand in southern Afghanistan was more worthy of official recognition because, at its worst, it was far fiercer than anything seen in the initial phases of the Iraq war.
The Helmand campaign has claimed the overwhelming majority of the lives of the 364 members of British forces who have died since military operations in Afghanistan began in 2001.
UK commanders formally took control of the war-torn province from the US on May 1 2006, although British engineers and special forces were on the ground for some time before that, preparing for the engagement.
Troops on the frontline in Helmand, a notorious Taliban and drugs-baron stronghold, quickly became engaged in some of the most ferocious fighting UK forces had experienced since the Second World War.
Capt Beattie, 45, has served three tours in the Afghan province with 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment, as well as taking part in the Iraq invasion, for which his regiment received battle honours.
He said: "It's quite strange, to a degree. They don't give out battle honours for things like we're doing in Helmand.
"Should they give out Helmand as a battle honour, particularly for those who served there in 2006? Yes, because it's clearly the hardest fight we've had for the past 30 or 40 years."
Battle honours represent official acknowledgement of the part played by ships, units and squadrons in a successful campaign or engagement, and become part of their historical record. They are separate from the campaign medals awarded to individual servicemen and women who deploy on operations.