186 Tp Diary Week 7
We, 186 Troop, started the morning of our 7th week by preparing for the eagerly awaited Exercise Marshal Star, having returned from Normandy on a battlefield tour, a hugely informative and enjoyable weekend – more about that later.
Once we had settled into the field, 186 Troop learnt and revised our map navigation skills. We put these into practice on a challenging night navigation exercise over Woodbury Common. I am pleased to say the troop was, as a majority, extremely successful and this left us brimming with confidence.
We moved on to learning new techniques like crossing ground and remaining undetected throughout a stalk. During practices, Rcts Melling and Story proved themselves to be particularly strong. They managed to fire two rounds respectively whilst remaining undetected.
After returning to camp we moved straight into the Normandy battlefield tour. This consisted of visiting landing sights from D-Day – (6/6/44) Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno and Sword. We also visited key towns that where captured by the Allies and were paramount to the invasion. These included St Mare Eglise, Pointe Du Hoc and Caen. St Mare Eglise has made a tribute to the American paratroopers by immortalising their actions in a stained glass window in the town church – they also have model of the famous paratrooper hanging from the church bell tower. The Troops favourite moment was the 360 degree cinema which showed an extremely moving film, and hammered home the brutality of the conflict and the profound contribution of many young men during the liberation of Europe.
One of the stand-out stops was the cemetery at Omaha beach. The enormous size of the cemetery and the consistently young age of those who sacrificed their lives was heartbreaking, but it was very fitting that they should be forever remembered in such grandeur – the importance of their sacrifices should never, and will never, be forgotten.
An estimate of casualties sustained on D-Day alone for the Allies is 9000, 3000 of whom where killed, whilst the Germans stood at 4000-9000. These numbers and scale of the conflict would be almost unimaginable if it where not for the immaculately presented cemeteries and memorials. These gave the Troop some extra motivation to push through the forthcoming challenges and made us realise that we have it very comfortable compared to the young soldiers of D-Day.