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Royal Marines raiders swarm up the Tamar to new £30m home
4 June 2013

Royal Marines raiding craft swarmed across Plymouth Sound as they completed their move to new £30m state-of-the-art facilities in the Naval Base.

Ten Offshore Raiding Craft from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines were the last part of the unit to leave their old home at Turnchapel and relocate to the new Royal Marines Tamar complex at the northern end of Devonport Naval Base.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Ben Shread, FRPU West

SWARMING up Plymouth Sound, these ten Offshore Raiding Craft complete the move of the Royal Marines’ amphibious assault specialists to their new £30m home in Devonport Naval Base.

The ORCs from 539 Assault Squadron Royal Marines were the last boats to leave their long-standing base at Turnchapel in Plymstock as the Royal Navy focuses its amphibious forces at the northern end of the vast base.

Once commonly referred to as ‘frigate alley’, Weston Mill Lake near Camel’s Head Gate is now the Senior Service’s home of amphibious warfare, serving as the berth for Albion-class assault ships and helicopter/commando carrier HMS Ocean (currently in refit).

As part of that concentration, the Royal Marines amphibious forces – landing craft, hovercraft, raiders and RIBs – are relocating from Turnchapel and Poole to the £30m RM Tamar complex.

539 is the UK’s only self-supporting and organised assault squadron – part of 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines. Unlike other assault squadrons which whose focus is on amphibious assault and mass deployment from ships such as HMS Bulwark, 539’s emphasis is on smaller scale raiding and river and river estuary operations.

The final flotilla to arrive at Tamar were ten armoured ORCs, which sped up the Tamar, past Drake’s Island in Plymouth Sound and up the River Hamoaze and to take up permanent residency in their new home.

“The official handover of Royal Marines Tamar from a building site to an operating amphibious base is fantastic,” said Col Garth Manger, Commanding Officer of both 1 Assault Group Royal Marines and RM Tamar.

“RM Tamar is the first of the Navy’s centres of specialisation and has been delivered on time and in budget. It offers defence, the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines a modern, bespoke amphibious operating base capable of delivering support to worldwide operations, training and maintenance in a ‘one-stop amphibious shop’.”

One building in the Tamar complex will serves as the HQ of both 539 ASRM and 10 (Landing Craft) Training Squadron Royal Marines (currently in Poole), and provides training rooms.

A second large building will house landing craft and mechanical transport engineering workshops, including hard-standing available for landing craft storage.

Some 25,000 cubic metres of material have been dredged from Weston Mill and the area around Wilson’s Beach at the eastern end of the lake.

A concrete slipway replaces the drab, muddy rocky shore at Wilson’s Beach and will be used to launch and recover the Royal Marines’ hovercraft – officially the LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushioned) and small boats and landing craft.

Larger landing craft – the smaller ‘vehicle/personnel’ and the larger ‘utility’, which can carry a Challenger 2 tank – will be hauled out of the water for storage and maintenance by a powerful new boat-lift.

Tamar – which will be formally dedicated and opened at the beginning of August – will be home to around 300 personnel (plus up 132 throughout the year on courses) when they’ve all relocated to the dockyard later this year.

The project has been overseen by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation and carried out by Debut Services (South West) Ltd.