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SWORD and Beach.
● In the bleak midwinter... (Clockwise) A
Put the words in close proximity and you’ll conjure up images
solitary commando on Pentewan Sands
of a five-mile stretch of the Calvados shore from Ouistreham to
watches a landing craft in the mist; a ‘stick’
St Aubin-sur-Mer stormed on the morning of June 6, 1944.
from 42 Commando join a Jungly Sea King
Not the sands of Pentewan in Cornwall... or the shingle of
aboard Albion in Stokes Bay; a Challenger 2,
Browndown in Gosport.
Scimitar and green berets emerge from the
In truth, neither was ‘Sword Beach’. More accurately, they
smoke at Browndown; a CHF Sea King in
were beaches ‘attacked’ during South-west Sword, the warm-
dramatic action; a pensive moment for the
up by Britain’s amphibious forces for exercises in Norway.
men of 42 Commando; and landing craft
Perhaps we’re being a little generous with the phrase ‘warm-
and raiders approach the Browndown
shingle with RFA Mounts Bay docked
Neither Mevagissey nor Stokes Bay are toasty in January.
down in the distance
Especially not in January 2010.
South-west Sword opened in a Cornish fug and ended in the
Solent murk ten days later.
In between, there was quite a bit going on...
Amphibious flagship HMS Albion parked off Pentewan in
company with RFA Mounts Bay and promptly began to ferry the
green berets of 42 Commando ashore on to sands beloved by
tourists... but not in the depths of January.
Aside from staff from 1 Assault Group Royal Marines – the
parent organisation for the Corps’ amphibious arm – who set
up shop on Mounts Bay to direct 42’s landings, experts from
the Flag Officer Sea Training were also on hand to observe how
Albion performed.
The exercise was the final test for the assault ship after
emerging from refit last year.
And she needed to be on top form, because she’s heavily in
demand in 2010.
Aside from Cold Response in Norway (see next month), the
ship is spearheading the RN’s flagship deployment of the year,
Auriga, which will see her cross the Atlantic with HMS Ark Royal
to exercise with the US Navy and US Marines.
All that’s a long way in the future. For now it’s fog, mud, mist
and two English beaches.
Pentewan was the warm-up part of this, er, warm-up exercise.
South-west Sword really kicked off in the Solent, where the
Royals were joined by troops from the King’s Royal Hussars
and Royal Logistic Corps and something the green berets don’t
have in their arsenal, but the Army does: a Challenger 2 main
battle tank.
Two Challenger 2 main battle tanks to be precise, ferried
ashore by LCUs. And a few other tracked vehicles.
Which was jolly nice of them.
“It was good to work with the Army – they have assets like
the tanks that we could use,” said Cpl Louis Martinez, section
commander, Mike Company 42 Cdo.
“It’s good practice for us and it shows just what we are
capable of.”
With South-west Sword done, the Royals returned to their
base at Bickleigh (their sister unit 45 is in Norway, but the 42
boys will be back aboard Albion for Auriga).
Meanwhile, within sight of Devonport Naval Base...
Not all the work-up for Cold Response took place at
Browndown and Pentewan. There was a much smaller
scale exercise for HMS Ocean’s inherent RM unit, 9 Assault
Ocean wasn’t involved in South-west Sword, but she is taking
part in the exercises in Norway and needed a little amphibious
Hence a week of training around Plymouth. With 42 and 45
Commandos engaged elsewhere, the men to be deposited
ashore came courtesy of 993 Troop, recruits in the final stage of
training at CTCRM in Lympstone.
The would-be green berets arrived on the Mighty O fresh
from Foggin Tor on Dartmoor which was characteristically wet.
After ‘Operation Dryout’ (warm food, bit of laundry) aboard
the helicopter carrier, there was a re-introduction to the art of
boarding Ocean’s landing craft and inflatable raiders, followed t
by yet more warm food (“a classic range stew”) and a repeat of r
the first drills... but in the dark (and the rain to boot).
It culminated in the troop’s reconnaissance team being
: l
dropped on a beach without being spotted so they could yomp
to the top a cliff.
Their cargo safely dropped off, 9 Assault Squadron returned
to mother in what we’re told were ‘on limits’ sea state (ie a bit
) ke
sporty) which resulted in some ‘exciting’ (ie hair-raising) davit
drills. i
Still, crack on.
h m
For the rest of 993, there was a night above Ocean, followed
by a return to the beach by day to meet up with their recce
comrades and march to their objective.
“The week was a great opportunity for the squadron to bring n
the new-joiners in to the swing of things – and to exercise with
some real troops,” said Mne Evans of 9 ASRM.
d l
“The recruits had the bonus of a trip on board a ship which
many of them may find themselves operating from after they r
pass out of training. n w
“If that wasn’t enough benefit, we were able to bring a group
of Royal Naval Reserve amphibious watchkeepers on to the
beach to experience the watch they’ll be keeping on exercises
and operations when they’re deployed.”
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