Royal Marines complete training in Belarus

Royal Marines have shared essential experience and expertise with Belarusian forces during landmark exercises with troops specialising in peacekeeping missions.

Green Berets from Plymouth-based 42 Commando worked with the Peacekeeping Company of the 103rd Guards Airborne Division at the Losvido Training Areas, in northern Belarus.

While on the two-week Exercise Winter Partisan, the commandos – 28 of them from Lima Company – trained the Belarusians in abseiling and general tactics useful for peacekeeping missions utilised by the Royal Marines.

In return, the Belarusian troops showed the marines their own survival, navigation and tactical skills at the training area near the north-eastern city of Vitebsk.

This was the first time Belarusians have provided training to any nation in recent history – they’ve previously only ever hosted instructors teaching their own forces.

In between the joint training, Lima Company visited museums and the Khatyn Memorial, which is a tribute to almost three million Belarusians who died during World War Two and the site of a brutal massacre by the Nazis in 1943.

“Exercise Winter Partisan was a great experience for Lima Company, where the exchanges of tactical and survival skills enhanced the company’s abilities for the future,” said Major John Whiteman, Officer Commanding, Lima Company.

“Visiting the Khatyn Memorial was a memorable visit. This was a very sobering affair and highlighted the brutality that was experienced on the Eastern Front. The company also visited the Afghan museum and Partisan museums in Vitebsk.”

 

Exercise Winter Partisan was a great experience for Lima Company, where the exchanges of tactical and survival skills enhanced the company’s abilities for the future

Major John Whiteman, Officer Commanding, Lima Company.

The training was carried out in two mixed troops of Belarusians and commandos and culminated in an exercise under the cover of darkness.

The final phase saw the teams tested on a 25km yomp, which included various missions that tested the skills learned during the fortnight of exercises.

In addition to this, the marines were hosted in Minsk, where they took in the Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War (World War Two) – where they also laid a wreath – and visited the Stalin Line Military Museum.

The wreath read: "In grateful memory of our grandfathers who, 75 years ago, fought fascism together on different fronts. 42 Commando Royal Marines." 

“Overall it was a very enlightening experience where there was a great respect for how the Belarusians operate and their sacrifice in the Second World War,” added Maj Whiteman.

This was the return leg of joint work after Belarusian troops attended exercises in the UK last summer. It is all aimed at building trust and mutual understanding.

Lima Company are the Royal Marines’ specialists in ‘Joint Personnel Recovery’, meaning they are experts in rescuing downed aircrew, military or civilians from hostile environments.