Nickname adopted with a certain perverse pride by the British 7th Armoured Division, stationed in Egypt and Libya in 1940, and later taken up by the entire Eighth Army fighting in the Western Desert campaign (against the Desert Fox, of course), and more recently by the 7th Armoured Brigade fighting in the Gulf War. The 7th Armoured's formation symbol is in fact a picture of a jerboa.

Another unfashionably short factual writeup from the "there's not that much to say but the gap needed filling" clique

On January 20, 2003, U.K. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced deployment of 26,000 British troops to the Gulf, including the 7th Armoured Brigade 1, a/k/a the "Desert Rats".

The "Desert Rats" are currently part of the 1st Armoured Division and based in Bergen-Hohne, Germany. The brigade takes its name from an armoured division formed in February 1940, which fought against Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps.The brigade includes several distinguished regiments, including 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 consists of two armoured regiments, equipped with around 100 Challenger 2 Main Battle Tanks and Scimitar reconnaissance vehicles, and two armoured infantry battalions, equipped with Warrior armoured infantry fighting vehicles, Scimitars and Milan anti-tank missiles.

The 7th Armoured Brigade is designed for rapid reaction operations, and its equipment has now been fully "desertised" for use in the Gulf, a process which includes covering or filling in every gap to prevent sandstorms causing damage to the equipment and putting guns out of action.

In the spring of 1940, the 7th Armoured Division was deployed in North Africa. The Division adopted the nickname the "Desert Rats" after a shoulder badge depicting a desert creature called a jerboa. The Division's finest hour was the (Second) 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." The Desert Rats also saw action in India, Burma, Syria, Italy, France and Belgium. After the war the 7th Armoured Division was disbanded. In 1981 the 7th Armoured Brigade was formed and assigned the prestigious jerboa emblem. In October 1990 it was deployed to the Persian Gulf and took part in Operation Desert Sabre in February 1991, which liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. The Desert Rats have since been deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1994 and 1997, and in 2000 and 2001, the Brigade did peacekeeping tours of Kosovo.


1 It's a British unit, so I use British spelling.

Sources:

BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2676525.stm

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