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Last Updated:  Monday, 20 January, 2003, 14:20 GMT
Fact file: 7th Armoured Brigade
Desert Rats in Kuwait
The Desert Rats' artillery has been prepared for use in the Gulf
It may only be 60 years old, but the 7th Armoured Brigade, better known as the Desert Rats, has one of the proudest histories in the British Army.

Now part of the 1st Armoured Division and based in Bergen-Hohne, Germany, the brigade was formed in February 1940.

Its finest moment was the dogged campaign it fought against Rommel's Afrika Korps in the desert of North Africa.

The brigade, which is equipped with about 100 Challenger II main battle tanks as well as armoured personnel carriers and mobile artillery pieces, is designed for rapid reaction operations.


The artillery has now been fully "desertised" for use in the Gulf.

This process includes covering or filling in every gap to prevent sandstorms causing damage to the equipment and putting guns out of action.


The brigade includes within it the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, the 1st Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and the famous Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment).

The brigade has its own signal squadron, equipped with an array of communications equipment.

They provide radio communications as well as a link into the Army's Ptarmigan tactical communications system.

The history of the Desert Rats begins in the spring of 1940 when the 7th Armoured Division was given the task of stemming the Axis advance in North Africa and protecting the vital Suez Canal.

The troops adopted the nickname the "Desert Rats" after the badge - depicting a desert creature called a jerboa - which they wore on their shoulders.

It was forced to retreat into Egypt and many of its men were surrounded at Tobruk.

Finest moment

But they fought back and beat Rommel's combined German and Italian forces at the battle of El Alamein in October 1942.

As Winston Churchill wrote: "Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat."

Desert Rats in 1990
The brigade was also deployed to the Gulf in 1990
The Desert Rats pushed the Afrika Korps and their Italian allies west across Libya and Tunisia, winning back the strategic port of Tobruk in the process.

The brigade also saw action in India and Burma against the Japanese and in Syria.

In 1943 they returned to Europe and fight up the toe of Italy towards Rome.

After re-training in England the Desert Rats were involved in the D-Day landings.

Their tanks drove across France and Belgium - liberating the city of Ghent - and fought ferocious battles with fanatical German troops, including Hitler Youth.

After the war the 7th Armoured Division was disbanded but in 1981 the Desert Rats re-emerged as the 7th Armoured Brigade, still wearing the jerboa emblem.

In October 1990 it was deployed to the Gulf and took part in Operation Desert Sabre, which liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.

The Desert Rats have also seen action in the Balkans.

They were deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in May 1994 as part of Operation Grapple and in April 1997 they returned there for another peacekeeping tour.

In 2000 and 2001 the unit went on two more peacekeeping tours of Kosovo, based in the capital Pristina.







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