Ranger Band deploys on Op GRANBY, Iraq

Saturday, 12 January, 1991
Regimental Band 1 R IRISH on Op GRANBY 1991
The Regimental Band 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers deployed on Operation GRANBY, 12 January 1991, in their war role as Combat Medical Technicians.

On 7 Jan 1991, all nineteen members of the Regimental Band, 1st Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers, led by Bandmaster WO1 Clarke, moved from Battlesbury Barracks, Warminster to Plymouth following receipt of a Warning Order for Op GRANBY, the British element of Operation DESERT STORM. In Plymouth, the Band came under control of Commander Medical Squadron, Royal Marines.

On 12 January they deployed on a Kuwait Airways Boeing 747 to a transit camp in Saudi Arabia where they experienced constant SCUD missile alerts and Nuclear, Biological Chemical (NBC) weapon attack action drills. On 19 January the Band undertook a twelve hour move towards the Iraqi border to reinforce 32 Field Hospital, a unit of some six hundred men and women from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force. The Army element included Reservists and Territorial Army personnel (notably the Regimental Medical Officer of 5 (V) R IRISH, Major Jeremy Rowan*, who was in charge of the Hospital Treatment Department). The Band found themselves allocated across all departments of the hospital. During the first four weeks in the desert everyone concentrated on preparing to receive casualties at the start of Op DESERT STORM. During this period the hospital treated 700 casualties, mostly minor trauma.

On 24 February, known as ‘G Day’, the advance by the ground forces began. Within six hours the first battle casualties began arriving. They were mostly Iraqis; hungry, exhausted and reeling from the ‘shock and awe’ effect of the aerial bombardment. The Bandsmen, as combat medical technicians, had to deal with a variety of terrible wounds including shrapnel, burns and missing limbs. Casualties continued to arrive after the ceasefire, although there was more time to be spent on individual patient care. On 20 March, the last patient, an Iraqi POW, was discharged and over the next ten days the hospital was dismantled. From 20 January - 20 March 1991, 32 Field Hospital treated 1,252 patients and of these 381 were evacuated rearwards and 871 returned to units and POW holdings. There were 105 surgeries, 360 dental procedures and during the 100 hour ground war there were 107 battle casualties, of whom 44 were Allied Forces and 63 Iraqi POWs.

Band Gulf MedalsAs a footnote, the events of St Patrick’s Day 1991 should be remembered. The Bandmaster organized the St Patrick’s Day parade which included all members of the hospital. Regimental Headquarters R IRISH ensured that the Shamrock was delivered on time and the CO 32 Field Hospital, Colonel Peter Lynch, duly presented it with his Second in Command , Major Mitch Allen (a former Royal Ulster Rifleman) once again delighted to be marching with an Irish regiment band. The Bandmaster also arranged concerts to entertain hospital staff, patients and neighbouring American units. Killaloe soon became the most popular regimental march across Saudi Arabia!

Left, The Colonel in Chief, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, presents Gulf War Medals to the Band of 1 R IRISH. 'Bandsman' is the appointment used to describe a soldier with the rank of a 'Private' in the Band and not 'Ranger'.

Major General J F Rowan CB OBE QHS, was appointed Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Health), Queen's Honorary Surgeon and Director General Army Medical Services, relinquishing the latter post on 31 March 2016.