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Recruitment a top priority as regiment marks 80 years

Francis Brancatto 240419 { seq} ( Photo John Bugeja) interview on the RGR 80th Anniversary

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment is focused on “recruiting and retaining” personnel as it marks its 80th Anniversary since it was first formed.

Starting with just 50 volunteers in 1939 as the Gibraltar Defence Force, Gibraltarian soldiers helped to man the anti-aircraft guns against the Italian and Vichy French bombers during World War Two.

With a complement of more than 400 personnel 80 years later, the Regiment has gone from “strength to strength” over the years.

The Regiment evolved from artillery to infantry in 1991, a role which it still fulfils today.

To kick start the 80th Anniversary celebrations the Royal Gibraltar Regiment Band and Corps of Drums and the Band of the Irish Guards were joined by Welsh tenor Wynne Evans at a concert in St Michael’s Cave.

This Sunday, the Moorish Castle will be lit up with the Royal Gibraltar Regiment’s emblem.

Next month, there will be a dinner in Grand Battery House for past and present officers.

The Regiment will also be exercising its Freedom of the City of Gibraltar with a march along Main Street on May 18 including those returning from a recent deployment at the UK Naval Base in Bahrain.

Retired soldiers and the “future” cadet force will also join in the parade followed by a barbecue and drinks in Devil’s Tower Camp.

The Chronicle spoke to Honorary Colonel Francis Brancato who said despite the RGR’s history and successes the focus is now being placed on “recruiting and retaining” individuals.

British nationals can apply to join the army as from the age of 17, with women being given the opportunity to join the infantry for the first time.

He said: “We now have more than 400 individuals involved with the Regiment but one of our main challenges is recruiting.”

“Recruiting is difficult in a small place like Gibraltar where we already have a large number of people already in uniform.”

“We have the police, fire services, customs and even prison officers.”

The Royal Gibraltar Regiment recruits British nationals living in Gibraltar, the UK, Spain or even the rest of Europe.

Mr Brancato said the Royal Gibraltar Regiment is looking at working with other British Overseas Territory and has already made contact with the Overseas Territory Council with the help of the Government.

“You want to recruit because you want to keep the lower ranks young and so forth,” Mr Brancato said.

“But you have to retain them because you have expertise there but retention is difficult.”

“We are Gibraltar’s regiment and it is important we not only recruit locally but also represent local values which the regiment stands for which is important.”

“The main rationale for the Regiment is for the defence of the territory of Gibraltar.”

The role in itself is “very challenging”, with overseas deployments in Morocco, Gambia and Bahrain, Mr Brancato said.

However this experience offers the young Gibraltarian “the challenge of doing something out of the ordinary”, Mr Brancato added.

Recruits spend a year in the UK for training and are then sent off to different operational posts in different locations across the world.

“This gives them the chance to learn about themselves, to get fit, play sports, and it is a different aspect of what Gibraltar and other uniformed services has to offer,” Mr Brancato said.

“This is a system where you learn about the army and the army learns about you, and after a while people can sign up for a longer career structure.”

“The camaraderie and friendships formed endure for a very long time and that is why we have a strong association, as well as aftercare for those who have left the Regiment.”

Men and women can apply to join the Royal Gibraltar Regiment from the age of 17 onwards and are being invited to the recruitment office in King’s Bastion Leisure Centre.

Pic by Johnny Bugeja