The desolate Gulf island of Failaka in Kuwait Bay was the setting for the latest amphibious assault by Royal Marines on their six-month deployment with HMS Ocean.
The helicopter carrier visited Kuwait for a mix of ‘soft’ diplomacy (hosting VIPs) and hard training alongside the Middle East kingdom’s marine forces.
Pictures: LPhot Ben Shread, HMS Ocean
A Royal Marine of 42 Commando advances towards the rising sun on sands once stirred by the legions of Alexander the Great and Nebuchadnezzar and laid waste by the nihilism of Saddam Hussein.
Royal Marines joined their Kuwaiti counterparts on a mostly-deserted island near the tip of the Gulf – the latest amphibious workout for the commandos with marines from the UK’s Middle Eastern allies during HMS Ocean’s deployment to the region.
The helicopter carrier’s rare visit to the kingdom allowed for some ‘soft’ diplomacy (hosting Kuwaiti VIPs and staff and students from the kingdom’s staff college), and ‘dynamic’ diplomacy, combined, action-packed training with the host nation.
Failaka has been deserted since the Gulf War of 1990-91, now serving as a useful training ground for the Kuwaiti military – who invited Lima Company, 42 Commando, to join them on its beaches, before moving inland.
The training consisted of a range of complex exercises from beach reconnaissance to close quarter battle drills and fighting in urban areas.
After the warm-up, the joint force returned to HMS Ocean ready to conduct a final assault – a night raid resulting in a full-scale attack on a town.
Under the cover of darkness HMS Ocean launched three waves of the combined marine force in landing craft from 9 Assault Squadron Royal Marines.
Before the first rays of dawn hit the island they had secured a beachhead and begun to move towards the deserted town of Failaka. Under covering fire from the commandos and clouds of smoke, the Kuwaiti Marines got into position and stormed the target building, achieving their mission.
A Royal Marine assesses the accuracy of a Kuwaiti colleague
“The Kuwait Marines are a capable and professional force; we set about demonstrating what we are capable of, which developed their skills and added perspective to some of their procedures. The interaction between the lads and the Kuwaiti Marines was central to the success of our mission,” said Capt Robin Bruce RM, in charge of the training team of Failaka.
Major Tom Noble RM, in charge of Lima Company added: “The extensive nature of the training required a high level of interaction between my troops and the Kuwaiti marines. This was achieved and the successful amphibious raid clearly demonstrates the ability of both countries to operate close to shore.”
With the mission complete, the Kuwaitis returned to base whilst the Royal Marines returned to HMS Ocean ready. Behind them, peace and quiet returned to the deserted island of Failaka.