TA soldiers face riot training for posting

The intense pressure of controlling a violent riot was recreated at an exercise to give part-time soldiers from Shropshire a taste of what to expect as they prepare for six months in Cyprus on a peacekeeping mission.

A mock village was built in a hangar at Cosford to help 58 reservist troops from 4th Battalion the Mercian Regiment get ready to support Operation Tosca 18, from April.

The soldiers, who all have regular day jobs, faced a baying mob hurling firebombs and lumps of wood during the 30-minute session. The rioters, played by members of the unit that have not been chosen to go abroad, jumped on the bonnets of armoured trucks and charged at a wall of shields.

Army chiefs said they wanted the practice sessions to be as realistic as possible and show the troops how quickly trouble could flare when they head to Cyprus at the end of the month.

The unit, which is the Mercian Regiment’s Territorial Army element, features soldiers from Shropshire, the West Midlands and Staffordshire.

The soldiers will form part of a Mobile Force Reserve that will be used to bring order on the lines that separate Greek and Turkish controlled territory on the Mediterranean island.

Lieutenant Colonel Dominic Wilford, commanding officer of 4 Mercian, said: “Everything these soldiers do is the same as a regular soldier. The way reserves might have been viewed 20 years ago is a thing of the past now. They have been an integral part of work in places like the Gulf and Kosovo.

“There is every possibility that a situation like we have created at this exercise will not happen but they have to be prepared and get used to the challenges they will face.”

Former tree surgeon Pte Charlie Parsons, of Hagley, Bromsgrove, says his time in Cyprus will be a stark contrast to his previous six-month mission in Afghanistan in 2011. The 21-year-old, who now works full-time in the army’s regimental support team encouraging people to sign up, said: “Afghanistan was really rough.

“I don’t expect Cyprus to be as harsh as this exercise but we need to be prepared.”