197 TROOP: RECRUIT TROOP DIARY WEEK 26-27.
1. The official start of the Commando Phase is the completion of the 6 Mile Speed March and that day had finally arrived. With a thorough warm-up 197 headed off at a swift pace for the first few miles smashing through the initial steep hills. Despite being a true test of fitness and strength of mind the entire Troop passed first time. Arriving back at camp the Section Corporals handed out our prestigious cap-comforters and swiftly reminded us training was only going to get even harder.
2. Being an amphibious force one of the issues facing Royal Marines is when going from ship to shore Troops will often be faced with daunting cliffs to scale before they can move on. This is where the Mountain Leaders come in, specialised in everything from arctic warfare to cliff assaults we were off to Foggin Tor on Dartmoor to quite literally learn the ropes. Jumping off the bus we were (very) swiftly running down to the quarry where we would be spending the day. With no time to spare it wasn’t long before we were harnessed up and having races with full bergans attached around our waists using the harness to keep them secure. Next it was onto abseiling, roller hauling (where a team of 8 at the top of the cliff pull equipment and or men from the bottom to the top using a rope and pulley system) and caving ladders – covering all techniques needed to get up and down any obstacle in sight.
3. With more kit than ever to prepare it was down to the bottom field to have a full kit muster and ensure everyone not only had everything but that it was also serviced and ready to go. Fully in the knowledge we had every bit of kit needed it was time to eat big and get one final full nights sleep.
4. With Ex FINAL THRUST finally upon us we began by getting a helo straight from camp and 45 mins later jumping off in the wilds of Bodmin moor. With our bergans arriving later it was a chance to move fast over the terrain and begin our first attack on a nearby building, taking it over allowing us to have some hard cover for the night.
5. Meeting another helo early in the morning we moved on to the next location, Oakhampton Camp. On arrival we were greeted with our bergans and after a swift kit adjustment it was on to the first big yomp. Initially the first climb went straight out of the camp and right up to what can only be described as a ‘gopping’ hill. With hill after hill and then the weather closing in from rain to fog to heavy rain conditions were not ideal but everyone carried on at a solid pace. Finally the yomp came to an end in a small field with some good cover where we set up a harbour. Half the Troop then went out to recce a near by suspected Enemy position.
6. With the recce’s back in we received orders ready for a dawn attack on to a farm complex that the Enemy had occupied. The troop moved quickly and quietly in to position around to Barewalls Farm, using all the knowledge gained from the previous nights recce’s. The assault began and we cleared methodically through the farm section by section, sweeping through quickly and efficiently, securing the area and taking down the enemy. Using the hardcover for a few (all to brief) hours we took the opportunity to re-supply our rations, ammunition and square away any kit that needed attention. However soon reports came in that the relentless enemy had set up another position near by so we re donned our body armour and helmets ready for the next yomp. Carefully moving across ground we made our way deeper into Dartmoor until we were in the vicinity of the Enemy building. Caching our bergans, all 4 sections moved into their positions ready to take the building and any occupants. Heading into the compound we moved fast and completed the objective with minimum fuss allowing us another secure location for the night
7. Preparing for yet another yomp we headed out in the early hours to avoid any hot weather. Today’s terrain was the toughest yet, not as hilly as the first day but the start was very boggy and the awkwardly loose ground of Dartmoor made it hard going. Pushing through we were on the move for around 8 hours but everyone made it and finished together. Finishing at the Scout Hut (a familiar location from the previous Ex Hunters Moon) we got a chance to set our poncho’s up and crack some admin ready for whatever the rest of the exercise would throw at us.
8. The start of week 27 saw the continuation of Ex FINAL THRUST, a culmination of the skills and drills the Troop have acquired over the previous weeks and a chance to prove that we were ready to continue onto a unit once training is over. The day began early with a first light assault upon enemy positions within the surrounding area, the Troop further developing their tactical understanding of advance to contacts, as well as coordination at both Section and Troop level. Following that evolution the Troop moved from Dartmoor to RM Stonehouse in Plymouth where 30 Commando and the Headquarters of 3 Commando Brigade are based. Giving us an insight into the environment from which the Royal Marines is run. After a brief stop at Stonehouse we were again on the move, this time via Landing Craft to RM Tamar at HMS Drake, a base from which we conducted operations over the coming days.
9. The early hours of the morning saw the Troop conducting reconnaissance patrols on littoral (Littoral: coastal sea areas and proportion got the land which is susceptible to influence/support from the sea) area’s surrounding the Plymouth area after first landing upon a beach from a LCVP. Operating in sections, the Troop successfully gained significant amounts of intelligence from their patrol’s, to then enabling future action, this is a skill vital to the Royal Marines. Upon completion the Troop moved back to RM Tamar again via LCVP. The evening saw 197 once again embrace the Royal Marine’s amphibious role moving via LCVP and then IRC (Inshore Raiding Craft, aka small rubber boat) onto the surrounding cliffs where we were met by Mountain Leaders. Acting upon information gathered from the aforementioned recce patrols, the Troop got a taste of the Commando raid’s the Royal Marines are famed for, scaling the cliffs, apprehending the enemy and destroying the intended targets before abseiling back down and onto the Landing Craft. We then extracted back to HMS Brecon an old mine sweeper now used as a training ship, this gave us a good insight into what the environment of being on ship is like.
10. .After a few hours of battle prep and a little sleep the Troop received orders for our next move up the estuary again by LCVP to set up a harbour position in the woods near the enemy’s final strong hold. From the harbour once again recce patrols were send out from which extensive intelligence was gathered on the enemies position, Scrasdon Fort. The remainder of the day saw the Troop correlate information gathered from each patrol and present it in the form of a scale model pit from which the Troop would later receive orders from the Troop Commander upon our final attack.
11. With orders once again in the early hours of the morning the Troop prepared for a ‘blacklight’ attack, one done under the cover of darkness relying solely upon our night vision systems. The Troop moved into position, up seemingly endless flights of stairs in passages so dark that if you turned off your Night vision aids you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, ready for coordinated assault at 03:00. With the fire support going in from an elevated bank the assault began clearing through the position room by room and gradually pushing the enemy back until they were defeated. The assault put into practice the Troops training over all previous exercises, and tested all of our skills. It was a hoofing and morale was on a major high. It also confirmed we were at the standard required and ready to take our place in a Commando Unit at take part in Operation all over the world. Unfortunately our helo extraction was cancelled at the last minuet, so it was on to the coach. Once on the coach, everyone fell asleep for the journey to what we thought was CTCRM. However due to a number of mistakes in our harbour drills and other issues during the exercise we were woken up on arrival at Woodbury Common, the last place we had expected to see. As we stepped off the coach we jumped straight into some remedial phys. We then moved on to a nearby woodblock to set up a troop harbour and ensure that our drills and routine was fully squared away. These were tested regularly through out the night, with us having to relocate the harbour a number of times. Finally the morning arrived packing out kit ready for the yomp back. Heading off at a rapid pace that continued all the way we made it back to camp in no time and got down to de-servicing all our kit.