Eagle Statue is Reward for Soldiers’ Efforts

A statue of an eagle that soldiers marched more than 300 miles round the clock to raise money for has been unveiled.

Brig Hill, the previous Comd of 16 (Air Asslt) Bde, pulled aside a parachute to unveil the statue, which stands outside the headquarters building at Colchester’s Merville Barracks.

The striking eagle is the symbol of 16 (Air Asslt) Bde. It was adopted from the Special Training Centre in Lochailort, Scotland, which trained paratroopers and commandos during the Second World War.

In July 2012, the Iron Eagle Challenge raised £1,500 to buy the eagle. 36 soldiers from HQ 16 (Air Asslt) Bde shouldered 20kg rucksacks and rifles to tab – a fast march carrying equipment – on three treadmills for 24 hours. Each soldier ran a minimum of eight miles over two hours, with 324 miles covered in total.

The statue has also given soldiers a chance to demonstrate their technical skills. It was refurbished by metalsmiths from Wattisham-based 7 (Air Asslt) Bn REME and Woodbridge-based 23 Engr Regt (Air Asslt) constructed the pedestal it stands on.

Brig Hill said: “The eagle is an extraordinary bird, which is why it is the symbol of 16 Air Assault Brigade. There’s the obvious link that the eagle delivers effect from the air, but also it is the only bird to fly in storms and it uses the pressure to fly higher. It is great that this eagle has been restored to this magnificent state through the physical efforts of our soldiers to stand proudly in front of our headquarters.”

The statue and the fundraising challenge behind it was the idea of Capt Chris Oakes, who found the eagle in a salvage yard. He said: “The eagle was hidden under a tarpaulin and in a sorry state, but it was a perfect match for the eagle on the Brigade badge. I paid a deposit on it straight away and took it from there. It’s fantastic to see the way the Brigade embraced the idea of raising money to buy it and refurbishing it into such a beautiful and prominent position.”

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