Commanding officer bids farewell

Emma Knights In the past two-and-a-half years he has commanded his regiment in Afghanistan while also forging strong links with local communities near the Light Dragoons' Norfolk home.

Emma Knights

In the past two-and-a-half years he has commanded his regiment in Afghanistan while also forging strong links with local communities near the Light Dragoons' Norfolk home.

But commanding officer Lt Col Angus Watson will soon be bidding farewell to the Swanton Morley-based regiment.

Lt Col Watson, 41, said today it had been a “privilege and honour” to command the Light Dragoons just as his father, Maj Gen Stuart Watson, had commanded the 13th/18th Royal Hussars 44 years before him. The 13th/18th Royal Hussars amalgamated with the 15th/19th The King's Royal Hussars in 1992 to form the Light Dragoons.

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And he said the amazing welcome home for his regiment as the soldiers marched through Dereham in November last year was among his most treasured memories of Norfolk.

“That I will remember for a long time because that sort of outpouring of affection from Breckland, Dereham and all the nearby villages is so important. Even the soldier with the hardest of hearts felt something pretty amazing that day - to see the thousands of people turn out to say thank you was fabulous,” he said.

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“There is a real sense of partnership between the Light Dragoons and Breckland, Dereham and Swanton Morley, which is wonderful because soldiers do a difficult job on behalf of the nation and it is so important they feel valued. I would like to say thank you to everyone for their support.”

He said commanding the Light Dragoons has been the pinnacle of his 21-year military career.

“I took command in September 2006 and my first 14 months was taken up with Afghanistan. It was the most challenging period of my military career - commanding soldiers in battle is the most demanding thing a leader can do because one is putting soldiers in the firing line. But it was also the most rewarding time, especially because we brought everyone back home safely.”

The regiment has been on two tours of Afghanistan - C Squadron was there from October 2006 to May 2007 while the B and HQ Squadrons were there last year from April to October.

Lt Col Watson said he was encouraged by the progress being made in Afghanistan but said there was still much work to be done.

Lt Col Watson hands over role of the Light Dragoons' commanding officer to Lt Col Gus Fair in January, when he starts work setting up the Army Inspectorate in Wiltshire.

He said: “The Army Inspectorate is brand new. Its focus is on making sure we look after our most valuable resource - people - in the best possible way.”

When asked if he had any advice for the incoming commanding officer, he said: “Just to enjoy every moment, because it is brilliant.

“It is a huge honour and privilege to be instructed with the responsibility of commanding soldiers. I look back on the past two-and-a-half years with extreme fondness for the regiment and the local area.”

Lt Col Watson joined the army in 1987 and became part of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars (Queen Mary's Own) in April 1990, after gaining a degree in Geography from Newcastle University.

Having served as a troop leader in the UK, Norway and Germany and on operations with the United Nations Force in Cyprus, he was then an adjutant before moving to the Ministry of Defence. He later returned to regimental duty to command a squadron in Bosnia and Canada. In August 2002 Lt Col Watson was posted to Headquarters Land Command and was involved in the deployment of forces to Iraq. For this work, he was made an MBE in October 2003.

Lt Col Watson is married to Carrie, 41, and they have three children, Georgia, eight, Francesca, six, and James, four.

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