It was with an air of apprehension that 224 Troop approached week 10. This was the week of Survival Ex and Exercise HUNTER’S MOON; the ‘Nod-Vine’ was rife with cautionary tales regarding the 5 day long exercise.
On the Monday morning we loaded stores and made ready for the transit to Dartmoor. For most of the troop this was the first time in this national park, so the vastness and ever-changing weather may have come as a shock to many. Over the first three days the troop executed various daytime, and night navigation tests to varying success. There was a troop-wide learning experience and we could feel ourselves gain confidence with each passing test.
The transition from navigation to the survival phase was an arduous load-carry for around six hours across the moor. This for me, and many of the other recruits proved to be the most challenging aspect of the exercise but it was good to get yomping with bergans. On completion of the load-carry we began the survival phase.
After being searched for contraband items (we were allowed nothing but our survival tin) we spent our first night without shelter, spooning together for warmth under a light drizzle. This highlighted the need for fire and shelter even in the middle of summer. In the morning and as soon as we could, we began building our shelters and employing the survival techniques we had learned in previous lessons with the Mountain Leaders. The highlight for me was eating the chicken we were taught to dispatch and prepare; most welcome after a day of no food.
After one night in the shelters we had built, we took the one and a half hour journey back to camp. Knowing how much we must have smelled after the survival phase I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the bus driver!