Royal Marines storm the Rock to protect Britain's ultimate weapon

The men charged with the 24/7/365 protection of the UK’s ultimate weapon hit Gibraltar for two weeks of intensive training to make sure no one ever threatens our nuclear deterrent.

43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines provide round-the-clock cover for the Trident missiles and the Vanguard-class submarines which carry them, ever alert to respond to potential attacks on the missile depot at Coulport or the boats at nearby Clyde Naval Base.

The unit trains daily, but also conducts extended exercises, playing out various scenarios to keep them on their toes – usually in their native Scotland.

This year, 43’s O and P Squadrons chose Gibraltar, its rugged terrain, caves, tunnels and training grounds, not to mention heat and dust, to take them out of their ‘comfort zone’ and hone close quarter marksmanship skills in a fresh, challenging and unfamiliar environment.

Gibraltar closely mirrors the complex environment which the marines work in at their Clyde base. Both are comprised of jetties set amongst a busy, industrial and maritime setting with complex infrastructure. 

Training gives you that good foundation of skills and trips such as this give you the chance to develop them to a higher standard

Marine Joe Howes, 43 Commando FPGRM

The location was therefore perfect for ensuring that 43 Commando upholds the high standards required for their continuous role back in Scotland, as well as maintaining its reputation as the Royal Marines’ experts in close-quarter marksmanship.

As well as conducting exercises around the jetties, the commandos had the opportunity to train in a mock village and in the network of underground tunnels for which the Rock is famous.

Helping them throughout were the troops of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, who know the subterranean world and training areas like the proverbial backs of their hands.

“I found the exercise to be very realistic – it worked us hard,” said Marine Dan Hart. “It was actually better than I expected it would be – working in the field was hard and it was a good time for the lads bonding.”

Marine Joe Howes added: “As the first time I’ve been on a trip away as a Royal Marine, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found the exercise really enjoyable. It involved a lot of things that I am interested in – close quarters battle, for example.

“Training gives you that good foundation of skills and trips such as this give you the chance to develop them to a higher standard.”

Observing some of the training was the Governor of Gibraltar, Lieutenant General Ed Davis – between 2011 and 2014 the Commandant General of the Royal Marines.

“43 Commando Royal Marines are making the most of the Rock’s excellent training facilities,” he told the Fleet Protection Group team. “Welcome back to your Mediterranean home, Royal.”

To remind them of their Corps’ heritage, the Clyde-based Commandos took part in a historic tour of Gibraltar – the Rock is the Royal Marines’ sole battle honour, commemorated to this day on the Corps’ heraldic crest. The tour also included accounts of how Gibraltar’s tunnels were used during World War 2.

And the visitors found time for a football match against Royal Gibraltar Regiment (a 6-1 defeat), before honour was regained on the rugby field with a 36-0 demolition of their Mediterranean colleagues.

And no visit to Gibraltar would be complete without a ‘Rock Run’ – from the naval base to the top of the 1,300ft mountain which dominates the small territory. Marine James Arding took the 43 Commando bragging rights as the first man to complete the 2.7-mile race.