Royal Marines find passion in the desert as 6 year mission in Qatar begins

Royal Marines passed on their world-famous commando skills to Qatari military personnel – the first exercise in a six-year training mission for the green berets.

The Gulf nation – which is due to host football’s World Cup in just four years’ time – is looking to create a marine brigade, and turned to the UK to help realise its dream of forging elite ‘seaborne soldiers’.

Qatar presently has around 4,000 sailors who operate more than 80 craft – mostly patrol boats, plus around a dozen fast-attack missile boats – charged with safeguarding the country’s 350-mile-long coastline, territorial waters and the many oil rigs offshore.

Royal Marines of 40 Commando – normally based in Norton Manor near Taunton – held a Q&A session with potential Qatari marines at Doha College, explaining life in the Corps and the duties expected of them.

The Qataris took to the training with tremendous energy

Major Rob Garside RM

They then turned words into action with a comprehensive training package alongside the Qatari Emiri Naval Forces, assisted by British amphibious ship RFA Lyme Bay, at Port Hamad, near Doha.

For that they were joined by 539 Assault Squadron, Royal Marines raiding craft specialists from Plymouth, Merlin helicopters of 845 Naval Air Squadron, and troops of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment Royal Logistic Corps, responsible for the mexeflote powered barges Lyme Bay uses to move kit from ship to shore.

The spread of training offered during the exercise covered close-quarters combat/fighting in urban areas, advanced soldiering skills and boat handling during amphibious landings.

The Qataris were also given a comprehensive tour of Lyme Bay before the country’s senior military figures, led by Rear Admiral Abdullah Hussan al-Sulaiti, head of the Emiri Navy, were treated to a demonstration of what the RFA ship can do.

“The Qataris took to the training with tremendous energy and effort,” said an impressed Major Rob Garside, in charge of Bravo Company, 40 Commando.

“There’s considerable passion here to develop Qatari amphibious capabilities.”

Captain David Buck RFA, Lyme Bay’s Commanding Officer, revelled in the chance for his men and women to show off a vessel which is often eclipsed by the Royal Navy’s assault ships on exercises.

“I’m thrilled we were given the opportunity to showcase Lyme Bay’s significant capability,” he added.

“It’s been most rewarding observing the manner in which our Qatari colleagues have embraced the training opportunity and we’ve admired the receptive nature and hospitality offered by our hosts.”

On the back of Qatari Falcon 18, the marines will return to the Gulf each year until 2024 to help build up the Qataris’ skills.