Royal Marines practise amphibious skills on exercise Albanian Lion

As dawn broke on Albania’s Kepi I Pallit peninsula, Royal Marine Commandos and their Albanian counterparts launched a full-scale amphibious assault as part of an annual exercise.

After landing on the beaches at 3am, the men from 40 Commando Royal Marines worked with their colleagues to clear those acting as the enemy, who had adopted guerrilla-style tactics to ensure a tough, realistic fight.

Yet by using their Viking vehicles for protection, and with the Allies working in partnership to provide a plethora of firepower, 40 Commando’s Delta and Alpha Companies soon gained the upper hand.

Marine James Conn, 23, from Manchester said: “This is my first big exercise after completing training at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines. It was a long hard attack today, sometimes slow going due to the terrain but this is what we thrive on. 

"When it gets hard, we do not give up. I didn’t have time to think about the heat, when the adrenaline is pumping, you forget about it and just crack on.”

Albania has proved once again to be an excellent training ground for the Lead Commando Group.

Brigadier Charlie Stickland

The assault gave 40 Commando the chance to exercise their amphibious skills and to work alongside an allied nation – all as part of Exercise Albanian Lion. This is the first major workout for the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group (RFTG) – made up of the Fleet Flagship HMS Bulwark, Landing Platform (Helicopter) HMS Ocean and the lead Commando Group, 40 Commando Royal Marines – while on their annual Cougar deployment. 

They will be away for nearly four months practising their contingency skills in the Mediterranean and the Gulf, working with partner nations along the way.

Following the three-day exercise, the RFTG was visited by His Excellency Bujar Nishani, the President of the Republic of Albania, at the Kepi Palit Naval Base. He was given an amphibious demonstration by elements of 4 ASRM, 539 ASRM, 40 Cdo RM, 820 Sqn, 736 Sqn and Albanian Commandos following an official welcome with a Guard of Honour.

Brigadier Charlie Stickland, the Commander of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines, said: “Albania has proved once again to be an excellent training ground for the Lead Commando Group. 

"This scaleable force of highly trained Commandos, based around 40 Commando Royal Marines, has worked seamlessly with the ships and sailors of the high-readiness Response Force Task Group, to exercise our core amphibious skills in a testing environment. 

“We have enjoyed thoroughly the opportunity to train and exercise alongside our Albanian partners who have been extremely welcoming. I would like to offer my personal thanks to the President of Albania and his country’s Armed Forces for their hospitality. 

"Delivering Marines to their objective from the sea, by helicopters and landing craft, while sustaining them from the sea-base, is complex and demanding. 

"It requires detailed integration across the entire Task Group and its invaluable Joint enablers – this exercise demonstrates that we are ready to respond agilely to a range of diverse challenges as part of the Cougar deployment.”           

The RFTG is the United Kingdom’s high readiness maritime force, comprising ships, submarines, aircraft and a landing force of Royal Marines, at short notice to act in response to any contingency tasking if required. This could include providing humanitarian aid maritime security operations, Defence international engagement and supporting regional stability. 

The last time the Cougar Task Group deployed, HMS Illustrious was activated to sail to the Philippines to carry much needed aid for islands devastated by Typhoon Haiyan in October 2013. The Task Group is commanded by Commodore Jerry Kyd, Commander United Kingdom Task Group.

Of Exercise Albanian Lion, Cdre Kyd added: “It has been wonderful to be able to return to Albania to work with old friends and the support and the welcome is as warm as ever. Being able to start our four month annual Cougar deployment in this way really sets us up well for our training in the coming months.”