Week 20 started with only one thing on everybody mind, bottom field pass out. This was going to be the culmination of the last 7 weeks of gruelling bottom field sessions and an intense crash week.
It all started at 1100 with a small warm up and a prep talk from our Physical Training Instructor (PTI). Bottom field pass out consists of a rope climb, a run around the assault course, fireman carry and finally a regain over the infamous tank all wearing webbing weighing 21lb and a rifle.
First we started on the ropes with a 30ft single climb this had been my down-fall on the previous week practice test but this time I had managed to climb to the top. Unfortunately for a few lads it had caught them out this time. 1 of our own troops recruits and a lad from Hunter Company had not managed to climb the rope. This doesn’t mean that it is over for them as they have another chance at the end.
Secondly it is the Assault course, this is a timed run of which under 5min is a pass. The Assault course is a mixture of 12 obstacles from the 6 foot wall and monkey bars to the aptly named chasm. Everyone completed the course in under 5mins and was found walking around the ‘Zombie’ circle (a circular dirt track used to cool down as a group) to recover before the penultimate test -the fireman carry.
The fireman carry is a 200m sprint from one white post to another across the length of bottom field. You have 90seconds to complete the task while carrying another recruit (both while carrying full kit) on your shoulders. This section of the assessment is as much about technique as it is strength and determination. You need to be able to work well as a team to put yourself in the correct position to make the carry as easy as possible for the carrier.
Finally it came to the Regain over the tank. If you are unfamiliar to the tank this is a large concrete box that is full of water that will catch your fall if you cannot manage a regain. We have a recruit that has had a love hate relationship with the regain and the tank since day one. Everyones eyes and hopes were directed to recruit Blackwell to complete his regain. Everyone in the troop watched as he made his approach up the stairs and onto the rope, shuffle out to the middle and drop off. Unfortunately for the troop Blackwell didn’t manage to overcome his nemesis and complete the regain.
With all the tests completed, bottom field pass out had been a huge success for many of the troop. Unfortunate there were a few of our own lads from the Troop as well as Hunter Coy that didn’t quite make the grade and had to have retakes throughout the week.
The rest of the week was directed towards preparation for Exercise Hold Fast (Dig Exercise as it was previously known). We had been nominated that we would be the first troop in 6 months to actually dig battle trenches on the exercise.
In preparation we had lectures from the Assault Engineers on how to construct our 2 man battle trenches. If anyone says that a trench 3.2m long, 1.5m deep and 0.6m wide isn’t that big then anyone in the troop would happily challenge then to dig it themselves. We also had lectures on mine detection and recognition, wiring and filling sand bags.
Exercise Hold Fast began on the Thursday by deploying to the Antony training area near HMS Raleigh. We were briefed by the AE’s on where to build our defensible position and set to digging. Each pair had to dig a battle trench by the next morning. Digging from 1800 and through the night until 1100 the next morning is an experience the troop would quite happily miss out on if given the option in the future.
When the sun came up in the morning it looked like a large mole had caused havoc in the farmers field. Next we had to cover half the trench with corrugated iron to create a sheltered sleeping bay. When all the trenches had been dug and the top cover applied we then had our final experience of CBRN (Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear); We had to react to a mock gas attack and carry out all the necessary drills correctly. This consisted of wearing our full CBRN suit including boots, gloves and mask in the glorious sunshine of June. A little sweaty would be an understatement.
The rest of the second day consisted of clearance patrols being sent out to dominate the ground around our position which led into the evening for 4 section. Sentry was carried out throughout the night from out battle trenches with an ‘hour on/hour off’ rota.
We were woken up during the middle of the night and the IC’s were called over to the Cpl’s. We were told to get all the lads out of the positions and over to an area of the field to conduct a lesson that they had forgot to teach us earlier in the day. This lesson consisted of corrective physical exercise because of poor kit awareness before deploying on the exercise.
The final hurdle before Exercise Hold Fast was over was a 5 mile yomp to our transport. This can be described as cheeky. It was very warm and very hilly; it was a stunning route with some of it running along the coastal path. When we were walking along Dolphins were spotted off the coast playing in the blue waters below the cliffs.
Week 20 had been a good week for the troop, firstly starting with bottom field pass out and then completing exercise Hold Fast. We now looked forward to a Week of CQB (Close Quarter Battle) and seeing our Corporals in action on the demos.
Weekly Diary – Week 21
Week 21 saw 218 troop embark on exercise URBAN WARRIOR, in which recruits learn Close Quarter Battle (CQB) within a specialised compound on camp.
The prospect of carrying out this training was very exciting for us all and it turned out to be an enjoyable week for the lads- it meant a lot of hands on with their weapon systems (which is always a bonus!) and a chance to release some aggression when mock ‘enemy’ were added to the exercise.
A particularly memorable moment was when Corporal Caisley played a ‘non-compliant’ enemy, which in other words meant ‘take him down!’ However after being taught to not get drawn in by just one man in the room, we did not expect to have to use 3 of the biggest lads to try and detain him!
Later on in the week the training team introduced ‘Simunition’ rounds, which are like paintballs on steroids. This made the thought of being shot all the less appealing. Also the use of training grenades and flash bangs added to the chaos of taking the compound.
To finish the week, we deployed to a training compound at 40 Commando RM in Taunton, where we engaged multiple enemy throughout the night and into friday morning to take control of the compound and prove that we were ready to embark the phase two criteria test, Exercise VIOLENT ENTRY.
We awoke apprehensively on Monday, knowing full well that the week ahead on Sennybridge training area, in Wales, would challenge us both mentally and physically. The forecast for exercise Violent Entry pointed in the direction of moist.
Our Bergans packed and with stores loaded, all that separated 218tp and the rolling hills of Abergavenny was a three and half hour coach ride… Which unfortunately could not have gone any faster. Having arrived in Brecon, our ammo and sigs kit was issued… The yomping began and did not seem to stop for a while.
Our destination was Cellini village where we commenced OBUA (Operations in Built Up Areas), building defence drills and clearance patrols. From the village we yomped to some heavily wooded areas of Brecon and practiced FIWAF (Fighting In Woods And Forests) – definitely one of the more enjoyable phases of the exercise. That night, an ambush was set on a regularly used ‘enemy Main Supply Route (MSR or more simply a road!) having executed this we began yomping to another village on the other side of the training area where we further practiced our building defence and contact drills.
The night was long, filled with screams of “stand to, stand to!” And multiple contacts, however long the night was, it was undeniably excellent training. This was all to be ended by the calls of ‘STOP STOP STOP’… The end of exercise had arrived and it was time to head back. All that separated us from the Helicopter replacement ‘ White Angel’ (more commonly referred to as a bus in the civilian world) was a brisk walk out of Village 1. Once we arrived, we boarded the coach with high morale… Knowing that exercise Violent Entry, a major hurdle, was complete.
After having completed ex Violent Entry the week before 218 troop were looking forward to doing something a bit different and having a bit of down time to relax.
Monday: We arrived at the camp we would be staying on for the week that evening. We went into the accommodation and settled in before having a lecture on what we would be doing that week.
Tuesday: We got up early that morning and the troop did some Physical Training (P.T) with the Physical Training Instructor (PTI) before we had a shower and went to breakfast. 4 section were broken down into the other 3 sections which would rotate around and do a different activity each day. The 3 activities that we had to do were sea kayaking, mountain biking and coasteering. The first day I was with 2 section and we did sea kayaking. We did about 9 miles that day consisting of visiting an island out to sea, a lunch break, the 1 km group race and then weaving in and out of the rocks on the way back to the start. As a section we found it surprisingly hard work but it was good fun. In the evening we chilled out and most of us got an early night ready for the next day.
Wednesday: Not such an early start as we didn’t have any P.T (Physical Training ) that morning so we got a bit of extra head down. The activity which we did that day was mountain biking which started off with a group team work task of getting some bike saddles out of a ditch but we could not touch the floor in the designated area. We recovered them using a series of ropes and pulleys with a hook and set off on the days ride where we had to navigate our route. We rode all day, some of the hills were a steep but nothing too bad and we all got good times on the trail run which put us in good stead to win the complementary beers at the end of the week. We got back in the evening, washed the bikes and cracked on with our admin and then relaxed for the rest of the evening.
Thursday: We didn’t manage to escape the PTI that morning and had an early start with some troop P.T on camp before getting changed and eating breakfast before commencing our last activity of the week. That day 2 section did coasteering which started off with us shuffling along a rope suspended between two rocks with the sea below us. Everyone made it across. We then swam through a cave before climbing around the rock face and up onto it before doing out first jump off it at height which was good fun! We then swam over to where we started and did a jump that was about 13 metres high which was even better than the last jump. We were there until the instructors said it was time to leave then we set off back to camp having a quick obligatory stop at McDonald’s on the way back.
Friday: We got up, had a shower and breakfast before packing up ready to head back to camp. We had one last lecture before we went back and from there we had the weekend off.
Weekly Diary – Week 24
After a well deserved long weekend at home with our families, 218 troop returned back to Lympstone. As expected, morale was as low… After a fun-filled weekend, 218 had to face an enduring week starting with a monday morning 6 mile run, endurance course teach, 12 mile load carry and LMG (Light Machine Gun) weapons handling test.
218 were up bright and early monday morning ready for our 6 mile booted run. This was the 6 mile route that we would be running for our speed march to be awarded with our cap comforter in two weeks’ time. This run blew off the cobwebs and sweated out any possible side effects from our weekend leave…
Tuesday, saw 218 troop head up to the “daunting” Endurance course. This was our second encounter with the course since “Black Thursday” of the PRMC. First of all we walked around the course to reacquaint ourselves with the route with no kit. Once finished, we set off in threes on a timed run around the course which saw us fully submerged in the sheep dip and to tunnel our way through the tiny smarties tube, much like the scenes from ‘Shawshanks redemption’. Wet, sandy and covered head to toe in mud, we endured a four mile jog back to camp and ready to hit the showers.
On the Wednesday, 218 was introduced to one of the other commando tests- the Tarzan Assault Course. This period was a technique period and we were shown how to use the “death slide” aka the commando slide and also the 30ft wall.
Thursday was the day we all had to demonstrate that we were competent with using the LMG and could pass the weapons handling test with this gun. We now knew the characteristics of the weapon, as well as how to strip and assemble, clean and carry out all necessary drills on it.
Friday marked the 100 years remembrance of The Battle Of Somme , as well as our 12 mile load carry- complete with 69 pounds and a weapon. As soon as we reached Woodbury common, we held a few minutes silence in remembrance of The Somme. 218 set off on the 12 mile load carry which was carried out at some pace but was still not the most exciting serial of Recruit training. The whole troop completed this test which helped us to become more robust for the hard yomps that were coming our way in Final Ex.
Weekly Diary – Week 25
Week 25 allowed 218 troop the opportunity to experiencing working and living alongside members of the Royal Navy at the phase 1 Training establishment; HMS Raleigh. The week offered a real insight into how life may be within any of the RM “on ship” roles. As an amphibious unit, we also were able to learn about the different vessels on offer to the Marines, and how to correctly embark, disembark and generally carry out the drills which we will use on exercises and potentially operations within the future.
Monday & Tuesday
After setting off from Lympstone late Sunday afternoon, the Troops first official day of the Sea Acquaint week began with sections 1 & 2 starting sea survival training, and 3 & 4 learning how to deal with on ship fire fighting. The sections then swapped training classes the following day.
The Sea Survival training began with a morning of PowerPoint presentations regarding ship safety. Although a warm classroom, dim lighting and a 2 hour PowerPoint presentation can be notorious for playing havoc with a Recruits sleep system, the lecture itself was very interesting and showed how the Royal Navy had effectively learnt from its mistakes during WW2, in which multiple deaths had resulted in a serious overhaul of how the Royal Navy approached abandon ship situations and how they would thus survive in the aftermath of such an incident. After lunch the sections partook in a more hands on session, within the (thankfully warm) water of the Raleigh indoor swimming pool, the sections practised how to put on a survival suit, abandon ship, and then survive on a 50 man inflatable survival craft.
Whilst 1 & 2 sections were getting wet, 3 & 4 section experienced the complete other end of the spectrum by learning what to do in a situation where fire breaks out on ship, effectively the first lesson was “let the trained Royal Navy ranks deal with the fire” however should it be an emergency where the designated fire fighters are unavailable, the RM recruits learnt about the different type of fire fighting equipment used depending on the type of fire. After lunch the practical session resulted in the recruits wearing full fire fighting equipment and tackling controlled fire within the RN’s Ship fire simulator, the combination of heat and smoke made it extremely uncomfortable and although all recruits proved capable of putting out and dealing with the fires, it was certainly a situation that no one would want to find themselves in.
After the days lessons, the Troop Corporals ensured that the frequent NAFFI breaks and RN galley food wouldn’t adversely effect our fitness too much – taking a physical training session around the camps running trail. The session itself was a great taster for what physical training would involve within a unit. For many recruits this was the first time in months that any of us had done ‘phys’ in “civvi rig” as opposed to in combats (with boots) and without PTI encouragement.
Having all been successful on the weeks previous LMG weapons handling test, today offered recruits the opportunity to fire live rounds on the camps 25m range. The LMG (Light Machine Gun) is a very popular weapon within the RM, and after a few 3-5 round bursts it was easy to see why. The recruits all got to experience firing the weapon, and majority also gained valuable experience of how to deal with LMG stoppages, notably the “incorrectly fed round” which frequently reared its head. As we have been told multiple times in training, its best to make the mistakes now!
Wednesday evening was spent with more training team-led phys, this time a circuit was used within the camps training cage, featuring pull up bars and Tyre flips. Again the session was well led and resulted in plenty of sweat and grunting noises.
In theory today should of been a horrible experience, spending the day surrounded by a Recruit’s worst nightmare; cold water. However, it in fact proved to be one of the most enjoyable days of training so far. Based at the RN (Royal Navy) training establishment; Jupiter point. Today’s main focal point was to learn about the multiple Landing crafts that are used by the RM’s and to experience how to correct carry out (dis/)embarkment, and beach assaults. We spent the morning learning how to get the Inflatable Raiding Craft (IRC’s or Zodiac’s) back into the correct position should they capsize at sea before moving on to the Landing Craft , which we will be using next week on our final exercise. After getting to grips with these we then spent the rest of the day learning how to correctly get on and off the offshore raiding crafts (ORCs) and zodiacs. We practised beach assaults from all the different vessels, ensuring that the basic principles were constantly carried out, covering all arcs, minimal noise and keeping as low a profile as possible. In conclusion it was agreed by the troop that the Landing Craft (LC) branch were extremely effective, and that the specialisation would certainly be explored a bit more by certain individuals within the troop.
After a morning of cleaning the accommodation, our sea acquaint week concluded with a trip to the China Fleet country club. Within the club the troop were able to play a range of racket sports, use the golf driving range and various pool/spa facilities. The pool featured a flume ride which, although designed for the enjoyment of small children, proved very popular with the (almost commando stage of training) recruits. When not on the flume, many of the recruits used the spa facilities to recharge and relax. After the sauna/steam rooms became too unbearable, the troop used the ice showers to full affect; possibly the only time within recruit training that nods will voluntarily put themselves into cold water without feeling very sorry for themselves.
In conclusion the week was extremely beneficial to the troop, morale is certainly high and the taster of the LMG and LC’s has left the troop eager to continue with the 6 mile speed march on Monday and enter the final commando stage of training.
Weekly Diary – Week 26 and 27
After an enjoyable week at HMS Raleigh doing all of our Landing Craft skills and drills we were all set and prepared for what Week 26 had install for us.
On the Monday the troop had an opportunity to swap there blue berets for a cap comforter and the only thing stepping in the way of that was the 6 mile speed-march. Fortunately, majority of the troop managed to dig out and pass the speed-march however we did manage to pick up a few failures as well. For the ones who passed, we eventually got to wear the historic cap comforter of the original commandos worn during World War II. Passing the 6 mile speed-march was a confirmation that the troop has entered the commando phase of training.
Moving into Monday afternoon we had an introduction to river crossings and cliff assaults with the Mountain Leaders (ML’s) preparing us for the Foggin Tor quarry day the next day. This included doing a length of the tank whilst pushing a Bergen across with you.
Moving onto the Tuesday, we set off to Dartmoor early in the morning ready for our day session with the ML’s and from the moment we arrived we were already sprinting around with our fully packed bergans on! When we arrived at our muster point we got taught how to put on our harnesses properly and then we were straight into vertical assaults and abseiling. Just before we tucked into our short lunch break we took part in a section race which included multiple abseils and vertical assaults. It was no surprise when 2 section achieved first place however it was a shock to everybody when 3 section were announced as the losers with 4 section mainly having had that title. We eventually got to have our 30 minute lunch break and then we got straight back into the harder obstacles. The afternoon consisted of scaling ladders, roller haulage (a pulley system used to get Troop up a cliff face very quickly!) and abseiling with full bergans on. Once we had completed that evolution we had to wait till dark so we could conduct the same serials in the dark.
After having minimal sleep from de-servicing our kit from our ML day, we had a Tarzan Course acquaint lingering over us on the Wednesday. This is where our PTI took us around the Tarzan Course and showed us how to do the correct technique and skills for each of the obstacles. Once we had been taught, it was our turn to put it into practise (without kit). The troop managed to work hard for the whole phys session before some lectures and preparation for Exercise Final Thrust commenced.
We received a set of orders from our Troop Commander ready for our deployment onto Final Ex in the morning to help the troop mentally prepare ourselves for the tasking ahead. Preparation was well under way and the lads were all ready to move if called upon with the troop being on 10 minutes ready to move. The troop Commander gave us the nod and the lads were not hesitant in beginning the exercise. Eventually we arrived at our destination and the troop hit the ground running. From Thursday to Sunday the troop conducted many attacks and yomped many miles in search of Enemy. Having done a couple of attacks on predominantly farms we were not able to capture our main objective. We were successful in pushing the enemy out of Dartmoor and it was time to go to Plymouth. After some amphibious operations using various boats, we eventually identified the enemy in the proximity of an old Napoleonic fort. A dark-hours attack resulted in victory and capture of the High Value Target we had been pursuing all along! From here we were extracted back to camp in merlin helicopters bringing an end to our Final Ex.
The following day back on camp we had a series of lectures and braced ourselves for the weekend of work ahead.
Saturday was the day we first tackled the endurance course with full kit.
Finally on Sunday we had our first full run through of the Tarzan assault course with kit and also 3 hours of drill, leading to a few recruits to have a miserable Sunday evening with re-parades.
That ends week 26 and 27, albeit a very eventful and busy couple of weeks, 218 troop now have only 4 more weeks of training to go!
Weekly Diary – Week 28
After recovering from the shock of having to work on a weekend 218 troop prepared to face their hardest challenge yet the dreaded cheeky week. This week consisted of various run throughs of two of the commando tests which proved to be rather arduous as well as beginning to have some lasting effects on some of the recruits.
The first run through of the endurance course was conducted on the previous Saturday and required the troop to be up earlier than they would of liked. This was in order to maintain the cleanliness of the accommodation and to ensure that it was up to the required standard. After completing the 4 mile walk up to Woodbury before breaking off into syndicates of three. From here it was a best effort to complete the course in 73 minutes or less . Each recruit had on them webbing weighing 21lbs and a rifle to carry round the tunnels and the sheep dip in order to make the course more interesting.
On returning to camp the final part of the test would be conducted on the 25 metre range , where each recruit was to hit the target at least 6 times out of 10 . Indeed, this was to see whether or not we had carefully maintained our weapons on the way round the course. As a whole the troop did not seem to have any problems with this component of the course.
As well as the endurance course cheeky week also required the troop to partake in the Tarzan assault course. This test was the test that was viewed as the lung buster out the lot and always required the most effort to complete. The test began with the death slide before moving on to the high obstacle rope course which was a hangout on the arms. After this we had to run the bottom field assault course which most of the troop thought they had left behind on week 20. The course ended on when we got to the top of the thirty foot wall where we would be given our time by the PTI. If we came in over 13 minutes it would be a fail , however again the majority of the troop were successful.
Furthermore, week 28 also allowed the troop to attend various lectures and be provided a valuable insight into what 43 commando was like . As well as this each recruit put in their preferences to which unit they wished to go to . Much to Corporal Bushell’s dismay a lot of people opted not to go for 45 Commando.
Finally, week 28 concluded with 218 conducting the first commando test for real, tension was high as were nerves on the road up. However, once the course started the troop performed well and nearly all of us finished under 69 minutes. A lesson learned from this course was that each second counted as recruit Copeland learned to his demise. After overcoming the euphoria of completing the course 218 troop were rewarded with an accommodation change much to our delight.
To that end after this was completed we were allowed off camp and a day off for the first time in a while. Morale was at an all-time high with each member of the troop looking forward to the nine mile speed March and progressing towards that green beret.