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IX marks the spot

DIFFERENT name, same job. 2011 opens with the newest Royal Marines unit taking its place in Britain’s order of battle after a formal renaming parade in Plymouth.

Gone is the (admittedly rather clunkily-titled) UK Landing Force Command Support Group (UKLF CSG).

In its place is 30 Commando IX (Information Exploitation) Group – commonly referred to as simply 30 Cdo.

Under their former and new title, the Stonehouse-based green berets use intelligence and information/psychological warfare to help 3 Cdo Bde defeat the foe.

Since it was formed in 2001, the CSG has supported the Corps on operations in Iraq and three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

The name change harks back to the earliest days of commando operations when one Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame) created 30 Commando Assault Unit to infi ltrate enemy lines covertly and gather intelligence ahead of a main attack.

It saw action in North Africa,

Sicily, Italy and Normandy – and some of its veterans attended the inaugural parade at Stonehouse, as did Maj Gen Buster Howes, the Corps’ Commandant General. Seven decades on from the unit’s birth and the modern-day successor uses electronic warfare, intelligence, manned and unmanned aerial surveillance, information and psychological operations and communications to provide 3 Cdo Bde’s CO with the information that he needs in order to make decisions in any operation. On the ground in Afghanistan this means 30 Cdo locates the enemy, understands his complex tribal/feudal society and enable troops to take action against him. “The men under my command are in no doubt that they make valuable contributions in support of amphibious and land operations,” said 30 Cdo’s CO Lt Col Matt Stovin-Bradford. “However, a change of name hardens an already galvanised group of specialists whose principal function on operations is to develop our force’s understanding of the environment and adversaries through analysis and reconnaissance; which in turn is used to inform decision makers at every level. “The role we perform can be traced back to World War 2, a lineage of which we are immensely proud and is now refl ected in our new title.”

Landing room only

IF YOU’RE stuck in Devonport and looking to broaden your horizons, then why not head to

Wilsons Beach? Sounds

Maldives? Bora Bora? Honolulu? Nope, about 200 yards from

exotic (well, ish).

the end of Weston Mill Lake jetty. It’s only about 500ft long. And it’s very muddy. So not very exotic, then. But

it is very useful if you’re a rookie landing craft coxswain, as the latest batch of trainees to pass through 1 Assault Group Royal Marines discovered during Exercise Broad Horizon. The

test for Royal Marines who’ve volunteered for the landing craft specialisation; they’ve undergone 14 weeks of instruction courtesy of the Devonport-based assault group ahead of the eight-day assessment. The latest Broad Horizon – one

exercise is the fi nal

chance to shake off some cobwebs; the ship’s in the fi nal stages of a refi t in Devonport before taking over from her sister Albion as amphibious fl agship in 2011. Using landing support ship RFA

Largs Bay as their ‘mother ship’, the culminating exercise sees potential coxswains use the waters around Devonport, Plymouth Sound and the Tamar to practise all aspects of landing craft operations – in all types of craft, from the large LCUs which can carry Challenger 2 tanks to smaller, more agile craft that can achieve speeds in excess of 35 knots. Broad

Horizon tests the

of three staged each year – proved to be the largest to date with around 100 troops and 20 landing craft committed in and around Devonport. As well as the rookies from 10

Training Squadron RM, the latest manoeuvres also involved 4 Assault Squadron RM, HMS Bulwark’s dedicated commando unit. For them the exercise was the

trainees in the gamut of landing craft operations, from the basic of navigation to off-loading vehicles, river patrols, beach reconnaissance, and amphibious troop training... and the ability to fend off enemy attacks. “For eight days the men being assessed will be expected to coxswain their craft by day and night, with minimal rest and always under the threat of possible enemy attack,” explained Maj Jim Fuller, Offi cer Commanding 10 (LC) Training Squadron. “The Royal Marines are the

UK’s amphibious experts and while we are committed to current operations in Afghanistan, it is also essential that we maintain our skills and knowledge of how to live,

work and fi ght from landing craft – which is what Broad Horizon is designed to do.” ■ A NEW refi t facility for the 23 Landing Craft Vehicle and Personnel (LCVP) in the RN/RM order of battle has been opened in Devonport. The building allows up to five LCVPs to be overhauled at any one time – indoors. Until now, the craft have been outside,


makeshift shelters – all dependent on the weather. Now the craft can be hauled out of the water and moved to the new refit hall on a specially-built

or under wheeled transporter.

It will be used by all RM amphibious units in the Plymouth area – 1AGRM, 539 Assault Squdron RM, 4, 6, and 9 ASRM (attached to HM Ships Bulwark, Albion and Ocean respectively) – plus units from RM Poole and RM Instow.

The joint Babcock Marine- MOD facility – renovated and kitted out over the past 12 months – was opened by the Commandant General Royal Marines Maj Gen Buster Howes who said the complex represented “a big commitment to support amphibious forces”.

● A BV rolls ashore from an LCVP at Wilsons Beach in Devonport, with HMS Ocean berthed at Weston Mill Lake jetty in the background

Picture: LA(Phot) James Crawford, FRPU West

Baggers are ‘choking the insurgents’

ONE group of Baggers has traded places with another as 854 NAS takes over the vital surveillance mission in Afghan skies from her Culdrose sister squadron 857. The two formations take it

in turns to provide airborne intelligence to Allied units, courtesy of the Sea King Mk7 Airborne Surveillance and Control helicopters – Baggers in everyday RN parlance thanks to the big black ‘sack’ which contains the Searchwater radar. The ASaCs, which entered

service in 2002, were designed to provide Airborne Early Warning for the Fleet.

But the radar also proved potent in tracking movements on the ground – and was used to that effect in Iraq in 2003. And for the past two years the Baggers have been doing the same over Afghanistan, collecting valuable intelligence which is then fed to headquarters allowing the intelligence analysts to build the ‘pattern of life’ picture in Helmand province.

Throughout its stint in theatre, 857 NAS maintained a high serviceability rate – the normal risk of corrosion from salt water was replaced by the challenge of operating veteran helicopters in the hot and dusty conditions of Helmand. “Operating a long way from

the sea, this maritime helicopter has proven to be a tremendous success in helping to stop the fl ow of drugs and Improvised Explosive Device components around Helmand,” said 857’s CO Lt Cdr Geoff Hayward “The helicopter’s state-of-

the-art surveillance radar has provided essential coverage in helping to choke insurgent supplies.

“The Sea King has been a key

contributory factor in protecting Afghan civilians and coalition troops from the effect of IEDs by assisting in the reduction of availability of the materials to build these lethal devices.”


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Saying cooey to the QE

OK, we’ll state the obvious right away. This picture’s quite dark. Very dark, actually. But (a) it was the middle of the night. And (b) a snowstorm was raging.

Nevertheless, in the gloom the ship’s name is quite clear – not the aircraft carrier, but the new cruise liner, the 92,000-ton Cunarder – and there’s a handful of people on her upper deck. As we’re not Cruise Ship News, you might be wondering why we’re featuring this merchant leviathan. Well, the photograph was taken from HMS Campbeltown in the Channel as the QE returned from her inaugural visit to France (Cherbourg). As Campbeltown neared the rendezvous point the blizzard seemed to reach a crescendo and the Queen Elizabeth took on the appearance of a ghost ship as her lights could be glimpsed only fl eetingly through the snow.

A charity registered in England and Wales 313013 and in Scotland SC037808

Wales and Western England; his commodore’s pennant was fl ying from the ship, so an 11-gun salute was appropriate and Campbeltown did the honours. The Type 22’s sailors worked hard in very challenging conditions to ensure that all was in place for a right and proper salute as the two ships positioned for a sail past.

So, in the middle of the Channel, on a dark and stormy night, the sound of 11 crisp bangs rang out. The Queen Elizabeth sounded her sirens in reply and the two ships went about their business. Within minutes they could no longer see each other through the snow and the only sound that could be heard was the howling wind. The liner’s Master, Capt Chris Wells (a Royal

When the two ships closed, brave passengers weathered the conditions and ventured on to the liner’s upper deck to wave at Campbeltown. On board the cruise ship was Cdre Jamie Miller Royal Navy, the Naval Regional Commander for

Navy reservist – see page 29), sent a message of thanks to Campbeltown’s CO Cdr Keri Harris for the display his frigate put on: “Many

complete with high speed passes, ‘destroyer’ turns, and all the bangs. You looked every bit the ocean greyhound, whereas we hopefully just looked ‘majestic’!”

thanks for your splendid show,

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