Action-packed test for Royal Marines’ raiding teams off Plymouth

Topic: Fighting armsRoyal Marines Storyline: 847 NAS

Royal Marines who will carry their comrades into action on hostile shores tested their abilities off the coast of Plymouth.

Trainee landing and raiding craft crew demonstrated what they can do in the first of two major tests which assesses their skills in the panoply of boats the commandos use on operations around the globe.

The elite force uses small Inflatable Raiding Craft (IRCs), larger, faster Offshore Raiding Craft (ORCs), and slower landing craft – Vehicle Personnel (LCVPs) for smaller vehicles/troop units and Utility (LCUs) to carry major armour such as Challenger tanks and large numbers of troops.

Any Royal Marine who wants to drive or crew these vessels must undergo a 14-week course which build up to two major live assessments: First Wave and, at the end of the three months’ training, the cunningly-named Final Exercise.

They learn the basics as Landing Craft specialists 3rd class, moving up through the ranks as they are taught more complex skills and tactics, including commanding groups of boats, to become 2nd and finally 1st-class specialists – all taught by 10 Training Squadron based at RM Tamar in Devonport Naval Base.

With the Royal Marines focusing heavily on a return to their wartime raiding ‘roots’ under their ongoing transition to the Future Commando Force, the work of 10 Training Squadron and its parent unit 47 Commando assumes renewed importance.

Marines new to the landing craft world learn to operate/crew the full range of vessels, are drilled in navigation, participating in high-speed formations at night and covert beach and river reconnaissance.

On First Wave, LC3 and LC1 trainees practised helicopter drills off Rame Head and in Plymouth Sound, assisted by the Commando Wildcats of 847 Naval Air Squadron from Yeovilton, while fast patrol boat HMS Express also joined in.

They carried out winching on the move, picking up and lowering marines from fast-moving ORCs – nine metres long, three wide and with little open space - as well as the rather more spacious LCUs.

Also tested was the commandos’ ability to ‘helicast’ – jump out of a helicopter and make their way ashore to carry out a raid to be recovered by boat or helicopter.

“As a junior pilot on the squadron, learning the essential skills such as wet winching and helicasting is a rewarding experience,” said Captain David Lewis RM.

“Having the opportunity to practise this live with 47 Commando is crucial for maintaining 847’s ability to react rapidly for whatever task 3 Commando Brigade requires of us.

“Also, as a Royal Marine, it was great to work with familiar names and faces from 47 Commando.”

The trainee LC1/2/3s will now complete their instruction working up to their final assessment.

As a junior pilot on the squadron, learning the essential skills such as wet winching and helicasting is a rewarding experience

Captain David Lewis, 847 NAS