Royal Marines 40 Commando, Ex Black Alligator 13, USA, by PO(Phot) Sean Clee (Crown Copyright, 2013)

Royal Marines Ready for Anything

40 Commando Assume On-Call Role

The Royal Marines’ 40 Commando based at Norton Manor Camp near Taunton, Somerset, is a battalion-sized formation within 3 Commando Brigade, the principal Commando formation, under the Operational Command of Commander in Chief Fleet. This month they assumed the Royal Marines’ on-call responsibility.

From WWII to Operation Herrick

Formed in 1942, 40 Commando was the first Royal Marine commando unit, seeing early action during the raid on Dieppe in August of that year. More recently, 40 Commandowere deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick in September 2012, with some 650 personnel committed to the Nahr-e Sarah district of Helmand.

Previous deployments have been to the Sangin region of Helmand Province, as well as tasking with the amphibious Cougar deployments to the Mediterranean – showing that the commando is an elite and flexible unit able to deploy anywhere in the world.

From Jungles to the Arctic

Recent exercies have taken 40 Command from the Scottish Highlands to the jungles of Belize and Arctic Circle as they prepare for operational readiness.

Royal Marines Gear Up for Arctic Role in Scottish Highlands Exercise Green Claymore

More than 400 British commandos endured snow and sub-zero temperatures in Scotland as they honed winter warfare skills ready for Arctic war games.
The green berets – who are Britain’s specialist cold weather warriors – prepared for the rigours of living and fighting in snow-blanketed mountains with 16 days in the Highlands, according to an announcement from the Royal Marines, January 5, 2017.

Exercise Green Claymore is the annual ‘pre-Arctic’ taster for the Corps before it decamps to northern Norway for three months of hardcore winter warfare training in Exercise Joint Viking.

In Scandinavia, the marines can expect temperatures as low as -30˚C (below that all training ceases as it’s deemed to be too dangerous); on the slopes of the Highlands, it was a ‘mere’ -12˚C.

For the past three years the package has been run from Cameron Barracks in Inverness, an excellent base for training in the North-West Highlands, where the changeable weather, isolation and rugged terrain make for a very challenging environment making for a valuable training experience.

Before any thought was given to tackling Britain’s tallest mountain, the 16-day training package – offered in three tranches of up to 180 troops apiece – begins with the basics.

After lectures and demonstrations, building physical fitness and strength on low-level route marches, the trainees headed out into the mountains for medium and high-level routes.

For those lucky enough to find a weather window, there was the chance to have a go at the 1,062m (3,484ft) An Teallach (Gaelic for ‘The Anvil’), located about six miles outside Ullapool. And for those unlucky enough… when temperatures dropped to 12˚C below zero and a layer of snow meant a crossing was impossible, there was snow and ice training on its slopes.

On the whole, the exercise ran smoothly, offering an excellent package overall and delivered in very challenging conditions.

Maj Paul Forrest

In addition, the groups spent a day exercising in a quarry at Ballachulish, near Glencoe, and carried out a river crossing in the frigid Scottish climate… all leading to a final four-day exercise where trainees had to practise all the skills they’d been taught during the preceding 12 days in a tactical environment.

‘Enjoying’ the experience alongside various companies from the RM’s three main fighting units, 40, 42 and 45 Commandos were marines from specialist intelligence unit 30 Commando, the amphibious warfare experts of 1st Assault Group, crews and engineers from the Viking armoured squadron and logistics support teams such as chefs and medics.

And Americans from 3/8 Marines were taking a brief break from their role as the Black Sea Rotational Force fancied a spot of cold weather training… although not all appreciated it.

“For some of them Green Claymore was a unique experience as many had never spent any time in the snow or the mountains,” said Maj Paul Forrest of Arbroath-based 45 Commando whose unit provided many of the experienced mountain leaders overseeing the training.

“They were without doubt the most vocal group on the hill, although a spell of exceptionally good weather did leave them wondering what all the fuss was about.”

On top of the 419 people successfully trained, the exercise was a useful workout for the 70 instructors and support staff.

“The success of this year’s exercise must go down to the enablers,” said Maj Forrest, “in particular the chefs, logisticians and drivers who kept everyone on the hill, fed and equipped, while dodging salt-licking deer on the roads in the process.

“On the whole, the exercise ran smoothly, offering an excellent package overall and delivered in very challenging conditions.”

Much of the Corps is now deploying inside Norway’s Arctic Circle for combined winter exercises with our allies, reaching its climax in early March with Joint Viking 17 involving British and Dutch marines and the Norwegian Army.

Royal Marines Feel the Heat in the Jungle of Belize

Howler monkeys, tarantulas, black widow spiders and snakes. Just some of the residents who have ‘welcomed’ Royal Marines to the jungle of Belize at the beginning of February, 2017.

40 Commando put all of their basic soldiering skills to the test learning to fight and survive in one of the world’s most hostile environments.

Delta Company, the jungle warfare specialists of 40 Commando, were in Belize to conduct vital training under the watchful eye of the British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) and Royal Marines directing staff.

The first phase of training saw the Royal Marines conducting break contact drills, close target reconnaissance, survival, patrol and navigation training in the depths of Sibun Gorge.

BATSUB staff, called trackers, taught the elite Commandos all about operating in the jungle; providing instruction on survival, building shelters and animal traps, creating fire, and understanding what plants are edible, inedible and which are medicinal, as well as what insects and wildlife to avoid in this environment.

Obviously the heat is one of the issues and the unusual creatures we’ve encountered while we’ve been out here. But it’s soldiering at its purest form

Major James Knight

The Officer Commanding Delta Company, Major James Knight, said: “It’s a steep learning curve – fortunately we’ve got a lot of great instructors with us who are taking us through the training.”

When the eight trackers are not teaching Royal Marines, the British Army or the United States Marine Corps, they are maintaining the training area for the next group of troops.

“Obviously the heat is one of the issues,” added Major Knight. “And the unusual creatures we’ve encountered while we’ve been out here. But it’s soldiering at its purest form.”

The second phase of the training involves live firing – where the Royal Marines progress from fighting as individuals in close quarters battle, to working in four and eight-man team assaults.

During this phase the troops use the SA80 A3 rifle, Light Machine Gun, General Purpose Machine Gun and grenades. They also learned how to carry out demolition work in the jungle.

The intense heat of the jungle is just one extreme the Royal Marines will face this year. Almost immediately after this deployment they headed to the frozen lands of Norway for cold weather survival training alongside NATO partners.

40 Commando Royal Marines take on Exercise Joint Viking

Royal Marines from Viking Squadron and Charlie Company of 40 Commando undertook Exercise Joint Viking in the Finnmark region of north Norway, over 200 miles in to the Arctic Circle in March this year.

This element of training was the culminating phase of the Royal Marines Winter Deployment 17 (Aquila 17).

The exercise saw supporting elements from the United States Marines Corps, Norwegian Army and Dutch Korps Mariniers embark with the Royal Marines on an arduous eight-day mobility action.

Troops travelled up to 100km per day in Viking ATV(P) (All-Terrain Vehicle (Protected)), on skidoos and skis.

The challenges of living and surviving in below zero temperatures and unforgiving terrain are substantial

Sergeant Matt Hoey RM

The training tested mobility in one of the world’s harshest environments with temperatures reaching minus 20 degrees Celsius, and gusts of up to 80kmph.

Navigating in the Arctic environment presents challenges for the Viking crew; from thin ice on the vast lakes to white-out conditions where the sky and horizon are indistinguishable.

The time-consuming procedures of measuring ice thickness to support a convoy of 14-tonne Vikings means traversing a lake can take multiple hours.

Captain Edward Talbot RM, OC 1 Troop Viking Squadron said; “The area provided some challenging navigation and off-road driving.

“We learned a huge amount from the Norwegians, in particular making the best use of terrain and driving in deep snow.”

When static in a location it is paramount that shelter is erected quickly to provide protection from the elements.

Digging three feet in to the snow provides vital Defence from the wind but also affords camouflage and concealment.

Sergeant Matt Hoey, 40 Commando Company Mountain Leader 1st Class said; “The challenges of living and surviving in below zero temperatures and unforgiving terrain are substantial, soldiering adds a further degree of complexity.”

You must remain focused, motivated and professional.

Sergeant Matt Hoey RM

Update: Operation Temperer

Royal Marine Commandos were recently deployed as part of Operation Temperer, the deployment of HM Armed Forces on mainland Britain in response to the critical terrorist threat level following the Manchester Arena Islamic suicide bombing on 22 May 2017.

Sources: Royal Navy.

Image: 40 Commando, Royal Marines, by PO(Phot) Sean Clee (Crown Copyright, 2013).

Royal Marines with 40 Commando Group run through a smokescreen across the barren landscape of the Mojave Desert in California, USA during Exercise Black Alligator.

With nearly 1,000 squares miles of barren, sun scorched desert landscape in which to train, Royal Marines have launched themselves into Exercise Black Alligator.

Hundreds of Green Berets from 40 Commando Group made the journey across the Atlantic to hone their war fighting skills in California’s Mojave Desert, an area that provides excellent training opportunities the likes of which are not available in the UK.

Black Alligator kicked off at the US Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Centre in Twentynine Palms. Over the course of several weeks the Commando Group will: undertake live firing with heavy machine guns and mortars; perfect their urban combat drills; and conduct a Battlegroup sized live fire Commando raid, whilst working side-by-side with their US and Dutch colleagues.

In 2014,  40 Cdo took over the nation’s high-readiness Lead Commando Group – a contingency force able to deploy anywhere in the world at very short notice – so training and validation of this nature is vital to ensure their combat readiness.

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