The Macedonian Tendency: More on British Troops in Macedonia

Friday, July 13, 2007

More on British Troops in Macedonia

Smells like team spirit...12 July 2007
KAREN BURKE
Ilford Recorder

NEW RECRUIT: The Recorder’s Karen Burke
with members of the TA’s Seven Rifles battalion

AFTER surviving a gruelling joint training exercise with the Macedonian Army, Territorial Army soldiers from Redbridge and Barking and Dagenham were ready to win hearts and minds - by refurbishing a dilapidated village pre-school. Reporter KAREN BURKE joined them.

THE BEAMING faces of children peering into a box of donated toys saw hours of hard work and planning pay off in an instant.

For Corporal Francis Mahendra and his colleagues in the TA's Seven Rifles battalion - part of G Company based in West Ham Park - the youngsters' smiles were more than adequate reward.

The 55-year-old, who lived in Seven Kings until recently, admitted that the team had been taken aback when they first saw the school in the village of Pepeliste near Negotino, Macedonia.

"It was really bad," he said. "The furniture wasn't very good, the windows were smashed and the lights weren't working.

"We have been painting the walls, putting in new carpets and repairing everything we can."

Corporal Mahendra's colleague, Lance Corporal Derek Bennett, agreed the transformation had been dramatic.

He said: "The windows were shattered and there were things falling off the floor. Only one of the toilets worked.

"You couldn't really use it as a classroom because it was that bad."

The scale of the project saw the team of 15 soldiers work from 8am to 10pm to get as much of the necessary work done as possible.

It was on the fifth and final day that their efforts were rewarded when the children filed in and they were able to present them with toys, clothes and computers donated by people back home

Captain Stephen Haywood-Smith, a 47-year-old civil servant from Chadwell Heath, has been working on the European Union's G5 project in Macedonia - an eastern European nation that is bidding to join Nato and the EU.

"This is the first foreign project like this I have worked in my 26 years of being in the TA," he said when the work had been completed. "I have never had the opportunity in the past.

"It has been rewarding, challenging and fulfilling. It is about getting to know the community and improving the school.

"The country is not as poor as Romania. But when you consider the average wage is 200 Euros a month, the standard of living isn't that bad.

"The poorest here are the gipsies. We have seen them around the village at night trying to sell stuff."

Colonel Damian Griffin, commanding officer for the Rifles regiment, told teachers and pupils at the school that British soldiers were grateful to have had the opportunity to train in Macedonia for the first time.

FOR MORE PICTURES OF KAREN'S TRIP SEE THIS WEEK'S RECORDER

1 comment:

  1. Petros HouhoulisSaturday, July 28, 2007

    Oh, dear, why don't you tell us of the Greek troops in "Macedonia". No, I am not talking about the "Aegean" part, but your very own fiefdom where Greek troops are next to the British troops in the same mission. I have a close friend serving with the Greek army in Kossovo, and I had a major who was working us to death and ended up servibg in Kossovo, constructing things as usual. I am sure that they are doing a great job...

    P.S.

    Can you confirm to me that the heart surgery wing of the military hospital in Skopje is a Greek donation? You know Lakoons' words: Beware of the Greeks' gifts e.t.c. Yes, beware, but don't hide them if you accepted them anyway...

    ReplyDelete