Naval reservists help Manchester’s fight against Covid

A dozen reservist sailors and Royal Marines are helping nearly a quarter of a million people in Manchester fight Covid.

More than 80 reserve personnel from across the three Services have been committed across the metropolitan area which includes major towns such as Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport and Wigan, plus the cities of Manchester and Salford – a population of 2.8 million in all.

The reservists are working side-by-side with regular British Army units – in the maritime reservists’ case, in the borough of Trafford in southwest Manchester, home to nearly 240,000 people across communities including Stretford, Old Trafford, Sale and Altrincham.

The sailors and commandos have been integrated into Waterloo Company, 4th Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, testing at-risk members of the community.

The military teams are carrying out asymptomatic testing – for people who are not displaying signs of the virus – and training each borough’s own workforce to develop testing capability for the longer-term.

Being tested can be intimidating and daunting for some people. We settle them down, break the ice a little bit, a bit of Bootneck humour – people love it.

Mne Ross Cooney

“I was fortunate last year to be part of the mobilisation to help with this and to be able to do it again has been very rewarding,” said Marine Ross Cooney from Doncaster. He owns a performance and consultancy business – and volunteers with Royal Marines Merseyside.

“Being tested can be intimidating and daunting for some people. We settle them down, break the ice a little bit, a bit of Bootneck humour – people love it. We also reassure people – they are happy when they leave.”

Former full-time warfare officer Lieutenant Kevin Cabra-Netherton now runs an award-winning travel business for backpackers as well as volunteers with Leeds RNR unit HMS Ceres.

“On an operation like this, it doesn’t matter what background you are from, we are all doing the same job and working towards the same goal. We’re all in it together,” he said.

“We’ve had a really positive reaction from the public – I think they are reassured and it’s nice to get that sort of a reaction.”

They’ve found working alongside fellow reservists and regular personnel has gone well – “with a bit of banter,” said Ross.

“The great thing about the Reserves is that we are able to manage our time really well and bring our experiences outside of the military. It’s also great working alongside the regulars.”

The Reserves force will be on task until February 26.