Men who normally protect the nation’s nuclear deterrent at its home in Scotland left their bases at Faslane and Coulport to train in the open.
O Squadron, 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, headed into the wilds of Argyll and Dumfries and Galloway for a fortnight re-learning traditional commando arts, living and fighting in the field.
Pictures: CPO(Phot) Tam McDonald and LPhot Will Haigh, FRPU North
SILHOUETTED against a particularly fiery winter sunset in south-west Scotland, Royal Marines march down a gravel track towards their bivouac for the night.
Routine business for the green berets? Absolutely.
Except 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group, who are more at home on ships and submarines and bases than in the wilds.
The 550-strong Faslane-based unit performs the most important duty of any military personnel in the land, except submariners operating Britain’s nuclear deterrent: namely protecting that deterrent on the Clyde, berthed in base or at the nearby armaments depot at Coulport.
In addition, the marines are the nation’s experts in board and search operations on the high seas – providing detachments for frigates and destroyers to take down drug smugglers in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean.
Although some 43 men stay with the unit for the bulk of their careers, others move around the Corps.
To remind all of core Royal Marines skills in the field, every year for two weeks the FPG troops revert to their traditional role: elite seaborne light infantry, sharpening their commando skills.
This year, 43’s leaders laid on Exercise Revenant Shadow for O Squadron, the men who safeguard the deterrent, splitting the fortnight-long work-out between the terrain around Faslane and the military exercise areas 90 miles away at Kirkcudbright, throwing in an amphibious landing and live firing phase for added frisson.
“Revenant Shadow is an important part of the O Squadron yearly training programme and aims to revise and strengthen core skills that are used by Royal Marines in all types of deployment – including the troops deployed on nuclear security duties in Faslane and Coulport,” explained Capt Josh Roughton RM, Second in Command of O Squadron, and exercise organiser.
“It also ensures that the Royal Marines from O Squadron remain proficient in the skills they will require as they move to other units in 3 Commando Brigade in the future.”