Overall it successfully demonstrated its capabilities and proved to be a major asset

CPO Luke Jones

And a good thing they did because the beaches of the western Highlands proved to be troublesome for the craft.

Rather than sand, the foreshore on Loch Kishorn consists of large pebbles, stones which were sucked into the jet drive intakes - causing the ORCs, normally with a top speed of nearly 40kts, to run much more slowly; the engineers and their mobile workshop fixed the problem.

And some of the beaches and landing sites proved to be unsuitable for the hovercraft - in Royal Marines terminology, LCACs ('el cacks' or Landing Craft Air Cushioned) - one of which became stuck and needed rescuing.

That was a job for the new Support Vehicle Recovery and its powerful crane… except that first a line had to be connected to the hovercraft, forcing L/Cpl 'Tuppers' Tupman to struggle for 80 metres through knee-deep mud to attach the wire to the stranded craft. Once lifted to safety it was quickly repaired and back in the water in two hours.

After ten days in Kishorn, the team moved 50 miles down the coast to set up a second forward support base on golden sands south of Mallaig… where it was the turn of an ORC to get stuck on a particularly inaccessible part of the beach.

Thanks to permission from the landowner, removal of a stretch of fence, some skilful driving to manoeuvre a 30-tonne truck down a narrow track and on to the beach at low tide, the stricken craft was hauled to safety.

So as well as proving that 539's boat troop could deploy to a remote location with its mobile support team and vehicles at short notice, the grandly-titled Exercise Raging Torrent also proved that the Support Vehicle Recovery does exactly what was expected of it.

"Overall it successfully demonstrated its capabilities and proved to be a major asset," said CPO Luke Jones, "not only recovering wheeled vehicles, but providing crucial support for the craft."

Royal Marines Commando

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