Royal Marines ready for the Arctic winter

Royal Marines are readying for the Arctic freeze with demanding mountain training in the Scottish Highlands.

The cold weather warfare specialists of Arbroath-based 45 Commando are preparing to step off to Northern Norway in January to hone their expertise in surviving and fighting in one of the world’s most extreme environments. 

Before they can head north, the commandos – who have a rich history of Arctic warfare dating back to World War Two – took on rigorous mountain warfare training in the Cairngorms.

This intensive package of training is designed to push the marines in some of their basic commando skills, build an understanding of the mountain environment and what is needed to fight and survive in these unforgiving surroundings.

Captain Olly Frost, Officer Commanding Recce Troop, leads the team delivering this essential training to 45 Commando, who are held at high readiness to head on operations around the globe at a moment’s notice.

He said: “My team is here to train and ensure the commandos of the brigade can live, move and fight in the mountains. This exercise is infamous for its difficulty.  Fighting in the mountains is difficult.  The resilience and mental strength of those who deploy will be tested from day one.”

 

My team is here to train and ensure the commandos of the brigade can live, move and fight in the mountains. This exercise is infamous for its difficulty. Fighting in the mountains is difficult. The resilience and mental strength of those who deploy will be tested from day one.

Captain Olly Frost

45 Commando spent the first few months of this year testing themselves in the Arctic Circle and plan to return again in early 2021 as they deliver on the UK’s commitment to security in the High North. 

At the heart of this is Future Commando Force. This bold modernisation is a restructuring that will overhaul how the world-famous green berets operate.

It is about returning commando forces to their roots as raiders from the sea at the spearhead of operations around the world, including all extremes of environment like desert, jungle and Arctic.

This mountain training saw the marines test Future Commando Force tactics and techniques, including working in small teams on mountain raids. 

The first phase was a refresher in navigation techniques and strategies, dealing with the changeable weather of the Cairngorms and the impact of the terrain on the ability to navigate.

The training soon ramped up in intensity as the commandos started the tactical phase, during which they practised vertical assaults on sheer cliff faces. 

Vertical assault tactics are used to scale obstacles, whether it be a cliff face or mountainous terrain inland. It uses advanced climbing and abseiling techniques and allows commandos to go undetected and catch the enemy unaware.  

The technique was developed by the first commandos during World War Two to launch raids against German forces behind enemy lines. Modern technology has improved the equipment used but the basic principle has changed very little.

The commandos also worked on techniques used to evacuate casualties from the mountains, setting up observation posts to monitor enemy activity and training in ‘Extraction Under Fire’ – withdrawing from combat while under pressure from an adversary – while raiding ‘enemy’ positions.

The final phase of the training will put all these elements together on an intensive field exercise.