191 Troop Diary Week 10
Week ten saw 191 Troop have their first taste of Dartmoor and undoubtedly their toughest challenge yet, exercise Hunters Moon. The aim of the exercise was to hone and finalise our map reading and navigation skills both during the day and at night, and also to put into practice the survival skills we had learned a few weeks previously for the final two days of the exercise. The whole exercise was to last five days, also the longest amount of time we had spent in the field.
Hunters Moon started with an hour long coach journey to Princetown on Dartmoor, which was good as the men got a quick kip on the way. Getting off of the coach 191 Troop had its first proper experience of training in the rain, and a small realisation of what the week would be like … wet. The Troop set off on a 6 km insertion yomp (walking with full kit) to a scout hut, the vicinity of which would be our harbour location for the next three days. The yomp was split into 5 legs and each section saw a recruit navigate his way to the end of the leg. After a few hours the whole Troop had found its way to the scout hut and all collected in a barn, briefly out of the rain before moving into the harbour area. Wet and dry routine was needed after what was definitely a wet walk in. Later that evening the Troop went out on its first night navigation exercise in Sections, watched closely by the Section Corporals. Again the route was split into legs and a lot of recruits soon realised that navigating at night was a lot harder and relied on the ones with the confidence to follow their bearings.
On Tuesday morning the Troop awoke, finished morning routine then began the first evolution of the day which was to practice our pacing while moving through adverse terrain, which included moving up and down steep slopes and through boggy terrain. After this they moved out in Sections to start the day navigation exercise that we had prepared for the night before. The weather was surprisingly good which kept a smile on the men’s faces. Each recruit got several chances to navigate a leg on the route that took most of the day. Whilst having lunch the recruits had a static map stance looking out over the city of Plymouth, the sun was still shining which made for good conditions for map resections. The Troop then returned to the scout hut to have dinner (rations) and prepare for the night navigation exercise. This was split into syndicates of four men from different sections. Different to the night before this was to be done without the training team’s supervision, which tested every recruits confidence and ability and resulted in two syndicates missing the cut off time, and having to undertake the lost procedure, which involved marking your position by firing flares into the night such that the team can locate the missing syndicates.
Wednesday morning began in a similar fashion to Tuesday, with morning routine, collapsing the harbour area and a full kit muster. After this the first evolution was to practice moving stealthily over ground which included the monkey crawl (hands and knees) and the leopard crawl (belt buckle to the ground). This was all in preparation for the stalk that morning. The weather was in our favour for the stalk. High winds and heavy rain which would make it harder for the training team to spot us moving in for our shots. Every recruit enjoyed the stalk as it’s always a chance to get some shots off. Whilst half the Troop were taking part in the stalk the other half were on top of a tor doing another map stance. This stance was a lot different to the previous day as the wind and rain made it particularly difficult to work accurately. Later when both were finished, the recruits packed all equipment away and prepared for the yomp to Gidleigh wood which was of unknown distance. We then set off in relatively good weather, a lot different to that morning. After walking for about an hour the recruits soon realised that this wasn’t going to be a short trip. We yomped back to Princetown were we were picked up by the SV’s (trucks) and taken again to an unknown location and carried on walking, this was approximately 6pm. Six hours later, wet hungry and tired the Troop arrived at the wood block that we would be using as our survival area on Thursday and Friday.
After a wet night’s sleep in an impromptu harbour we awoke after hastily collapsing our ponchos and were relieved of all our field equipment apart from the clothes we were wearing, clasp knife, whistle and survival tins we had prepared before the exercise. This was to start the survival part of the exercise. This involved making appropriate shelter, finding food and making a fire. Around mid-day (we thought as we had no watches!) the recruits were met by the Mountain Leaders and received a practical demonstration on preparing food in the field, chicken and fish were on the menu. Returning from the lecture the recruits in there syndicates finalised their shelters and prepared for what was to be a long cold night, especially for the lesser prepared shelters.
On the Friday morning and final day of the exercise the recruits awoke (if they were asleep!) and dismantled the shelters, packed up and returned to their field equipment. After putting their bergens on their backs for what they hoped would be the last time this exercise, the Troop embarked on the extraction yomp of unknown distance. After what seemed like hours we stopped in a small car park and much to the relief of the Troop transport arrived to collect us. This marked the end of Hunters Moon; all the recruits had to look forward to now, was a night of de servicing very wet and muddy kit.
Overall Hunters Moon was a hard yet enjoyable week, and will definitely strengthen the bond between the recruits as we move closer to the end of phase one.
191 Troop Diary Week 10