As The Royal Wessex Yeomanry gears up for a vital new role in supplying whole crews for the Challenger 2 battle tank, many of its younger Reservists will be looking to self-employed hairdresser Jeff Timmins for advice and inspiration.
Jeff, a veteran of four operational tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, is a gunner and loader on the Challenger 2 tank and is also qualified to train recruits on the Army’s tank simulator – the Precision Gunnery System (PGS).
The 42 year-old, who lives in Bulford with his wife, Ruth, and seven-month-old son, George, is a Sergeant in the Reserves with B (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) Squadron, based at Old Sarum TA Centre, near Salisbury.
The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, which has other Squadrons in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Devon, is to become the only Armoured Reinforcement unit in Britain, working closely with the Army’s three Regular armoured units.
For the last 15 years, the role of the Regiment has been to supply the Regulars with individual gunners and loaders on the 62-tonne Challenger 2 battle tank. Under the new Future Reserves 2020 proposals, it will be providing full four-man crews, including the tank commander.
It means that it will be one of only a handful of Reserve units to be part of the British Army Reactive Forces, which are held at a state of higher readiness, prepared to deploy anywhere around the world.
As part of that integration, The Royal Wessex Yeomanry borrowed eight tanks from one of its paired Regular units, The King’s Royal Hussars, for its recent annual regimental exercises on Salisbury Plain.
“There’s a lot to know, a lot to learn,” said Jeff, who has been a Sergeant for five years. “The only way to do that is to train regularly – keeping our skills up to date but also gaining new ones. That’s why it’s so important for us to get our hands on a tank.
“The way the TA is changing – and the role we are taking on – it’s important to have people who have the experience to help develop the younger guys, so they are fully aware and know what to expect. They need the best training we can give them to fulfil the new role.
I’ve been lucky. In the last ten years I’ve spent in the TA I’ve managed to do a lot of things. I’ve got a fair bit of operational experience and I like to think I can pass on as much as I can to the younger guys.”
Jeff added: “I’ve been very lucky to enjoy such a varied career, with opportunities for overseas travel and adventurous training in addition to the tremendous experience of working with the Regular Army while on deployment.
“Afghanistan was definitely the busiest tour – I was based in Sangin Province in 2010 with the Royal Marines, in the thick of the action.”
As part of the Government’s £1.2bn investment to revitalise the Army Reserve, as the Territorial Army is now to be become known, The Royal Wessex Yeomanry also trains on a recently delivered fleet of Wolf Scout Land Rover vehicles.
B (Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry) Squadron, The Royal Wessex Yeomanry, continues to attract new recruits. For more information call 01722 438343, or to find out about opportunities as an Army Reservist visit www.army.mod.uk/join/20237.aspx .