Royal Marines take on underground mission in old nuclear bunker

Royal Marines held at high-readiness for maritime security operations have pushed themselves in a vast underground complex beneath a town in South West ahead of being deployed to the Mediterranean.

Marines from Juliet Company of Plymouth-based 42 Commando work in small teams on Royal Navy warships around the world, ready to react to emergencies and specialist missions, like counter-piracy and boarding operations.

J Company is also the home of the Fleet Contingency Troop (FCT) – experts in a range of security missions and the UK’s only force trained in opposed boarding operations (known as Level 3 (Opposed)) outside of Special Forces. 

The FCT have been training in a subterranean world, below a town in the South West.

The complex of tunnels became a facility for the potential relocation of the government in times of crisis during the 1950s with the threat of nuclear war looming large.

These days, parts of it are a useful training area; a place where the commandos can push themselves in the art of close-quarters combat, testing their well-rehearsed tactics, techniques and procedures to quickly assess and deal with threats in even the trickiest of environments.

This is all ahead of deployment to the Mediterranean to join their 42 Commando comrades from Support Company – plus elements from 40 Commando, 47 Commando and 30 Commando IX – as the future of commando forces is shaped on the Littoral Response Group (Experimentation) deployment this autumn.

“Training such as this, in unfamiliar training areas, with an enemy provided from outside of our own unit, is of exceptional value to driving the FCT capability and to honing our skillset within the UK,” said Captain John Morrow, second in command of J Company.

The Fleet Contingency Troop worked in small teams against ‘enemy’ forces to hold a network of corridors and rooms that would require great skill to liberate.

The FCT were quickly entered the tunnels, calling on experience and intuition as they conducted a hasty estimate of how best to proceed.

The 'enemy' were tasked with firing simulated munitions at the advancing marines and causing havoc, providing the FCT with a tough test as they worked methodically through the dark and tight corridors to achieve their objective.

The FCT are held at very high-readiness for level 3 (opposed) maritime and land-based operations – that is to say the adversary will attempt to block any boarding attempt and fighting will be involved – around the world.

Training such as this, in unfamiliar training areas, with an enemy provided from outside of our own unit, is of exceptional value to driving the FCT capability and to honing our skillset within the UK

Captain John Morrow