214 Tp Recruit Diary
Weeks 26 & 27
Week 26 began on Sunday evening for 214 Troop. We were told to meet outside the class room in 15 minutes wearing immaculate uniform, with no reason why.
We entered the lecture room and sat down with confusion. Our Troop Commander stood up in front of us all and proceeded to play the film ‘The Cockleshell Heroes’. This film shows the daring Op FRANKTON raid by the commandos of World War 2. Once the film began to play we immediately noticed the importance. They were wearing the ‘cap comforter’, the original field head dress of commandos during the war, which is now only awarded to recruits in Week 26 after completing the 6 mile speed march at the start of the Commando Phase of training. Once the film had finished we had a brief on the importance of our attitude and performance during this vital stage of training. The brief ended with a final wish of good luck for our speed march in the morning.
There were mixed emotions of both nervousness and excitement in the morning of what was to come after the speed march. We set off at 0800 on the 6 mile route at a slightly faster pace as to allow for more time at the end. Around 3 miles into the speed march we heard an unfamiliar voice from behind the Troop. It was the Officer Commanding Chatham Company, along with the new Company Sergeant Major. This was a major morale boost for us and helped keep us going through the nerve ending ‘Killer Hill’ which is as bad as it sounds!
We eventually came in well under time with a 100% pass rate. We formed a hollow square and were presented with our cap comforters. We could now march back into camp knowing that the Commando Phase of training was well underway.
Tuesday was another early start as we had to go to Foggin Tor to meet the Mountain Leaders for a day of cliff assaults and river crossings. We had an introductory safety brief and then began our day of rock climbing and abseiling. We started on the smaller routes and then began to climb with kit on. After a few run-throughs the Mountain Leaders taught us about the ‘Lungathon’. This is where the whole Section had to run around a cliff, abseil down, run to another cliff, climb that, abseil back down and hold a team member above our head. Unfortunately my Section lost. So the Mountain Leaders introduced us to something else called the ‘Long Jump’. As you could have probably guessed, this was not going to be pleasant. We had to jump over a bog as far as we could. The Mountain Leaders claimed that it was possible, but evidently not for 3 Section as all of us ended up at least waist deep!
We dried off and had a bit of time for lunch. After this we were told we were going to do a river crossing. The river was just as cold as we feared but we soon dried off in the sun which Dartmoor usually fails to provide!
Back on camp, we believed that we were deploying into the field on Thursday for the infamous Final Exercise, but we were told that we were now on one hour notice to move, and that we would be contacted by the accommodation telephone phone which now had to be manned 24 hours a day and answered within three rings. During the night we were called and told we had to be outside within an hour. Once we were outside on time we received another phone call to be stood down and carry on sleeping. We were called yet again at 0800 and told to be outside with our kit, Sennybridge maps with full cam cream. These words sent a shiver down our spines as we remembered Sennybridge from Ex VIOLENT ENTRY, which we were still trying to get over the horror of! Once outside our Troop Commander told us to get all the cam cream off of our faces and be outside in phys rig. All of this standing to and standing down is designed to mimic the chaos of war – not knowing exactly what is going on one minute to the next. It is known as ‘dislocation of expectation’, and is meant to teach us to become comfortable with uncertainty.
We were marched over to the gym and then told that we would be running as far as we could in an hour on a treadmill within our Section for charity and the loser would face a punishment! Our Section’s tactic was to do 2 minutes on at one time allowing us to make the most out of sprinting and recover. After the gym we were back on one hour notice to move and began packing stores for the exercise, loading up all of the TCVs (large trucks that carry personnel in the back) for the journey to Dartmoor.
With the TCVs packed and the Troop on board we finally set off for Dartmoor at 1830. There was a mix of emotions within the back of the transport – some lads were really fired up and others were apprehensive for what was in store for us over the next week. However, after about 10 minutes of travel time nod habits kicked in and everyone got their head down. We finally arrived at our insertion point and had a small yomp to set up the harbour. Once this was established 1 Section were sent out on a recce of a farm house that we were due to attack in the morning. With 1 Section on recce it was left to 2 and 3 Sections to man the sentry positions and start on the model pits that would be used in orders. 1 Section returned a few hours later, added to the model pit for more detail and orders were given. Shortly after orders we moved off to the target with 2 Section thinning out to take up fire support positions; 1 and 3 Sections continued to the line of departure (start point for the assault) with 1 Section doing the main assault and 3 Section a tactical bound behind in support. The attack was completed within an hour and new J2 (intelligence) was acquired. At this point the TCVs arrived and we moved off to Okehampton.
We finally reached Okehampton and this was when we were given our ammo resupply and told to be ready to move off in 10 mins. The hike started off following tracks and was good going under foot with a few rest stops. Soon though, the training team led us off the beaten track. Now we aren’t strangers to walking around Dartmoor but with our heaviest bergans (around 120lbs) and Troop weapons (machine guns, etc) things were taken at a steady pace. With the pace set and following on in a line we soon covered the required distance and made it to our pre-designated harbour position with 11km covered over all types of gradient you can imagine. Some of the lads’ feet were starting to hang out and people’s minds started to turn to scran and getting their head down! Later that night 2 Section were sent off to do a recce on a farm house which was believed to have enemy in, which left 1 and 3 Sections to make the model pit and man the sentry. Orders were given for the attack and we set off shortly after to get into position.
The attack commenced at 0430 and with the farm building quickly cleared of all enemy we were given some admin time. We then were told to get our things packed and ready to move as we had another yomp to do. We yomped 5km to another farm house that the enemy were supposedly seen at. Rumours started to fly around with everyone wondering if this was the start of killer yomp! Killer yomp for those that don’t know is notorious amongst nods for being a nod breaker, covering around 24km over Dartmoor with 120lbs of kit on your back. As we approached the farm the Troop Commander informed us that the enemy had moved on (conveniently!) and it finally sank in that we had started killer yomp. With morale high(!) and the weather on our side we spent the next 12 hours yomping over Dartmoor. We finally reached our destination which was the scout hut that we had used for part of Ex HUNTERS MOON. With all the lads completing this there was a sense of accomplishment and relief that we wouldn’t have to do anymore yomping…or so we thought.
The harbour was established and the lads went into the routine getting on board some much needed scran and head down. Morning came and with stand to completed the morale in the Troop was high. New orders came in for the Troop which saw us leave the harbour in our respective Sections to carry out different tasks. 1 and 2 Sections were sent out on patrols and recces and 3 Section deployed to set up an OP (observation post) over the road and a VCP (vehicle check point). With these being completed and new intelligence gathered we made our way back to the harbour.
The next day came with the familiar stand to and breakfast on completion. With new orders coming shortly after this, we set off to perform a Troop advance to contact over multiple enemy positions. After completion of the attacks, every nod’s dream detail followed: a brass sweep of the areas we had been fighting in. This was quite a distance as it turns out; with the brass sweep done we rendezvoused with the rest of the Troop and training team.
To our shock the TCV turned up and we were told to unload our bergans and prepare to yomp to our landing craft pick up point which was 12km away! The nod vine is usually quite accurate with letting you know what is to come on future exercises – but this caught us all out! With morale at an all-time low we moved off and cracked on. We walked past a few car parks where everyone’s eyes lit up thinking we were getting picked up from these. However we yomped on past them with everyone’s heads dropping again. After a few kilometres the morale picked up and everyone just wanted to get it done. We covered about 4km when we saw the familiar shape of the TCVs; to everyone’s delight the yomp was ended and everything was loaded on the transport. This yomp was a test of everyone’s mental strength and ability to just simply get on with the job that’s set out in front of you – no matter how demanding it may seem. With the Troop Commander content that we had passed this little mental test, we made our way to 30 Commando in Plymouth where we were due to be picked up by the landing crafts and moved to RM Tamar: home of the Corps’ amphibious capability. Here we were accommodated under hard cover which is a comfort taken for granted by most but certainly not when you are in recruit training!
It was common knowledge that on final ex you are based on a ship for at least one night. Everyone was excited for this as being an amphibious force, our careers revolve around being on ship. We were told in the hangar at RM Tamar that we would be deployed onto the ship HMS Brecon at Jupiter Point, where we had completed our amphibious training package the week before. The ship was small, but kept us dry had enough beds for the whole Troop so we were more than happy! We spent around 24 hours on ship until we gained intelligence that we would have to conduct an ambush on a target in the area.
We departed HMS Brecon at 0600 and were transported to a point just off the coast of Plymouth. We were then met at the bottom of a cliff by the Mountain Leaders we had met a few days earlier. We climbed the cliff and once everyone was up we moved into place for the ambush. After around 30 mins the high valued target appeared and we sprung the ambush successfully capturing him. We then took him back to the cliff and abseiled down to be ferried back to HMS Brecon where the target was to be given to another branch of the military for tactical questioning.
Once the target was captured, he soon told us all about the plan they had to attack Plymouth. This set us up for an attack on a compound in Plymouth where the final planning conference was happening, with the main militia leaders. The compound was Scraesdon Fort (an old Napoleonic-era fort). Knowing this would be our last model pit as a Troop, everyone got involved cutting up cardboard boxes and we made a clear model of the compound. It was then our Troop Commander gave us orders on how we were to assault it with each Section doing their bit. 3 Section was to clear the biggest side of the compound, which we were all up for! At 2100 we moved to the location in Plymouth. We conducted a small yomp where 2 and 3 Sections broke off to do our individual recces of the target area. 3 Section were tasked to go inside the compound to plan the route around the inside so we could attack it in the morning. At 0200 we began to move inside the compound with 3 Section leading the way through the dark tunnels for the final attack. 2 hours later the attack began with 1 Section in fire support. They initiated the attack by firing rounds at the enemy from overhead. 2 and 3 Sections then simultaneously broke in from the underground tunnels and cleared both sides of the compound.
Once the compound had been cleared we finally heard the words that every nod dreams of “ENDEX”. This means that the exercise has officially ended. This was a big moment for 214 Troop as we would never hear those words as a Troop again. We then had to brass sweep the area, and pack the TCVs to move back to Lympstone. It was a relief knowing that the exercise was over as Final Ex is notoriously hard and the whole of 214 Troop had completed it. To cap it off we all enjoyed a ride back to Lympstone in a Merlin helicopter!
214 Tp Recruit Diary
As the Troop entered Week 28 (or ‘cheeky week’ as it is called), we had a number of Commando test run- throughs of the Endurance and Tarzan Assault courses to look forward to.
With lectures on unit choices, unit briefs and the end of training in sight, everyone was discussing and deciding which units they want to get drafted to. 40 Commando is off to the USA on Ex BLACK ALLIGATOR and 42 Commando is going on Op COUGAR around the Mediterranean.
As the week progressed we started our first full run through of the Endurance course. With an early start of 0400 everyone was struggling to wake up before we set off. Nevertheless everyone dug deep and set good times, some under the 60 minute mark (a pass is 73 minutes). At the end of the course a shoot on the 25 metre range completes the test. The shoot consists of five three-second exposures of a target. You fire two rounds at each exposure; the pass mark is six shots on target.
The next day the Troop had a run through of the Tarzan Assault course which consists of a high obstacle course starting with the infamous Death Slide (now known – in political correctness – as the Commando slide!) moving onto a number of high ropes. After completing the high obs a quick 400 metre dash to bottom field follows to then attack the obstacles with one last push up the 30 foot wall. The times set a bench mark which we had to be beat the day after.
At the end of the week we just had one last run through of the Endurance course to tackle. By this time everyone’s legs were feeling the fatigue. The weather was humid but cool: perfect conditions for a run through. As the Troop set off in syndicates of three everyone raced to beat their previous time pushing through the tunnels ensuring their rifle sight did not get hit on the tunnel walls. If it gets knocked, this can affect the rifle’s zero and therefore make your shots off target. With the training team running around with us, they were constantly pushing us to beat our times. As the last man came in everyone in the Troop has beaten their previous time leaving the training team very pleased with us.
214 Tp Recruit Diary
Weeks 29 & 30
Weeks 29 & 30 consisted of Field Firing Exercises 1 and 2. These exercises are designed to confirm that you have good weapon handling drills and situational awareness, therefore confirming that you will be an effective and competent member of a Troop when drafted to a unit.
We spent the first week in Willsworthy, Dartmoor where we would speedmarch across the local countryside each morning to the live firing lanes. We spent a considerable amount of time practising pair and Section attacks; everybody was keen to fine tune their skills in this new, dynamic environment. Live grenade throwing came into play this week: we all enjoyed the buzz you get from throwing a live grenade although one recruit threw it so hard that it bounced back off the target by a few metres, much to the anguish of our Sergeant!
Our second week of live field firing took place in Okehampton, Dartmoor. This week we progressed from Section attacks to Troop attacks and a fully tactical advance to contact, where we would cover ground as a Troop, breaking down into Sections and even individuals to progress through the targets. It was great to see how our training over the last 29 weeks had culminated to this point. Everybody using their initiative and good communication meant that all aspects of these final attacks ran smoothly and effectively.
214 Tp Recruit Diary
This is known as test week and we began with the Endurance course on the Saturday. Having all completed run-throughs of this, everyone managed to pass without issue. The 9 mile speed march followed on Monday. We set off early for this test with the weather warming up into the summer. Although it was humid, everyone stayed with the pace and finished without issue.
Tuesday was the Tarzan Assault course. Although this is the shortest test, it is one which recruits fear most as you’re more likely to injure yourself. It’s all over in 13 minutes, but you certainly get the heart rate up!
On the Tuesday evening we set off for Okehampton camp where we start the fourth and final Commando Test, the 30 miler. The whole Troop was up early and ready for the first syndicate to step off at 0500, with the second stepping off 10 minutes later. Eight hours was all that was between us and finally earning the right to wear the coveted green beret. It’s been a long time coming for one or two of us (94 weeks at CTCRM for one individual!) and nothing was going to stop us from getting to the finish line at the bridge.
It was a great feeling when the whole Troop finished the final test, especially with a few of us struggling toward the end. After a quick change of rig, we then fell in ready for the presentation of the green berets from the Commanding Officer of Commando Training Wing, Lt Col Cantrill OBE MC. This was a fantastic moment for the whole Troop.
Come Thursday morning and most (if not all) of the Troop were feeling it after the 30 miler. Despite that everyone was still on a high from the day before. The day was a fairly relaxed day with just lectures on which all struggled to remain awake for!
Friday was the start of the King’s Squad drill. It was also a working weekend with just drill on to help us get to grips with the routine. Saturday night was the King’s Squad party where we all let our hair down with the training team over some beers and karaoke – a traditio
214 Tp Recruit Diary
So here we are, week 32: the fifth commando test. This week started with drill at 1300 on the Sunday afternoon after our more than enjoyable King’s Squad party. As you can imagine we were all very tired and there were more than a few sore heads within the Troop. We were told the plan our DL (Cpl Schofield) had in mind for our King’s Squad pass out parade. It took some time to sink in but within a few hours we soon picked up the routine for our armed drill at the halt and soon enough were putting together some good run-throughs. After a two hour break for some food we came back at 1830 feeling a lot better than the previous evening. We then cleaned up a few parts of the drill which we were not too clear on.
The following day we had our individual and Troop photos. This was the first day that we had worn our number ones (Blues). We were up early to make sure that they we immaculate and had enough time to get into them. After having our individual and Troop photos we decided to have an ‘originals’ photo of the surviving 12 that started with 214 on the 12th October 2015. Later on we found ourselves back in the drill shed where we were to be for the rest of the week. Without Guidi being there due to a reaction from our jabs we had the previous week, we had to carry out drill this afternoon with 21 of us rather than 22. Throughout the evening and later on into the night we practised and worked on our arms drill at the halt formation and how to retire in quick march. After finishing drill at roughly 2000, that night we had a late night as we had a Lovats inspection in the morning with the RSM.
We woke early on the Tuesday and finished off what little we had left to do for our inspection. We were in the drill shed for 0700 so we had time to check each other off and be sure that our rig was good to go. We stood in the middle of the parade ground to attention whilst the RSM marched over to us from behind. He came up to us all asking for our name and what unit that we were going to. He also asked the majority of us if it was our first preference and why? After his inspection he gave us a massive chuck-up by saying it was one of the best inspections that he has ever done. After this he sat us down and gave us a heads up of what we can expect and what is expected of us now that we are soon to be Royal Marines. Later on in the evening we carried on where we left off the previous night, yet again, with drill. We started to do our free arms display which was a lot different to the arms drill at the halt which took a lot of concentration and effort throughout. We carried out all the movements that we were going to conduct on the day. We were not the best to start off with but the start of the final product was taking shape. We worked late again that night piecing together the moves we were still unsure on.
On Wednesday we had an inspection in our Blues with the Adjutant. We arrived early in the drill shed again to check each other off before it was time. This time we stood to attention in the drill shed rather than on the parade ground. Yet again when the Adjutant came round to inspect us we stood to attention giving him our names and service numbers. Yet again we had another good report back, being told our rig was immaculate. After this we went back to our grot to get changed into our PCS rig with our cap comforters and took our blue and green berets to Falklands Hall for rehearsals. We practised our green beret presentation in the hall hearing for the first time our one liners, whilst being called out to collect our berets. After this we then headed back to get changed into our drill rig to put out a full run through of our drill for the first time after practising individual parts throughout the day. The DL Senior Instructor was out helping us and giving us advice along with Cpl Schofield. After putting many hours into drill through the week the instructors could see that we were very tired and had not had much rest so they gave us the night off and told us to prepare for tomorrow as we would be doing a full run through with the band.
On Thursday morning we got ready and were on the parade ground for 0800 and kept going through the drills. We spent a lot of time going through the ripple drill to try and perfect it. At 1400 we performed our first run through with the band and with more pressure on us it started to tell. Little mistakes which we had not made before started to come out and the little things started to show. With some feedback and a 5 minute break we went through a run through inside the drill shed. We corrected a lot of mistakes we made in the first run through and overall it was a lot better. The band finished and retired, we then had another break. After that we took the time out to practise a few drills we needed polishing up. We finished drill for the last time before our final day as a recruit. When we got back to the grots it was mixed emotions whilst doing our admin. Excitement and nervousness was taking its toll, not being a ‘nod’ anymore sounded pretty good. Tomorrow we pass out of the Commando Training Centre Royal Marines and take our place as operationally ready Royal Marines in 3 Commando Brigade. The last 32 weeks has been a rollercoaster ride and I wouldn’t have changed a thing!
“Royal Marines to your duties, quick march!”