The team comprised CSjt Chad Usher, Sgt Arthur Gell, Sgt Tim Lovick, LCpl Oliver Taylor and LCpl Ed Craik from the Army section, with CSgt Harry Remnant, Cpl Tom Plaut and Cpl Freddie Williams accompanying from the Royal Marine section.
Cambrian Patrol is an army competition located at the Sennybridge training area in Wales. It is notorious for pushing regulars and cadets alike to their physical limits, while testing their military knowledge and practical skills. It is a selective competition and both schools and ACFs have to bid to their regional brigade for the honour of representing the region. After army success in the Military Skills Competition over the previous two years and in the Cadet Leadership Battle Camp, we were given the privilege to compete. The team set about training for the competition every Thursday from January, with regular additional sessions outside of usual CCF hours.
The team set off on Friday afternoon, excited at the prospect of a challenging weekend, supposedly accompanied by the Welsh sun, a rare sight on the bleak backdrop of Brecon. On arrival we underwent a series of assessments including ‘Battle Prep’, Weapons Checks, Order Issues and a Complete Kit Check with points deducted for missing items. However, the most demanding challenge of the first night proved to be getting some vitally needed sleep through the jarring din of 200+ cadets and their cooking pots clattering around the barn.
Reveille at 0400 started the day off with an army container meal and the start of the patrol at 0630. Throughout the day, the team had to ‘tab’ across the rugged terrain of Sennybridge for 25km, avoiding all roads and carrying every item required for battle. It was a day of ‘baby heads’, bogs and blisters, with Sgt Gell succumbing to a groin injury, a war wound which he liked to inform everyone of at every opportunity.
However, to everyone’s surprise the weather was in fact the most challenging aspect, with the normally bitter, soggy Sennybridge at a sweltering 23 degrees. This heat, intensified by the weight of the kit and the challenging terrain, pushed the team to their limits. Even the Marines, Harry Remnant, Tom Plaut and Freddie Williams, hardened by the challenges of the Pringle Trophy endurance course, admitted a struggle.
Along the route there were nine checkpoints at which there were military stances to complete, including military knowledge, observation and section attacks. Finally, after clearing a woodblock of enemy forces, the patrol was finished. The team could now be evacuated to a harbour area to receive orders for the next day.
Once orders were passed down the chain of command and ‘bashas’ erected, the team cooked their military rations and rested. The night was punctuated with the sound of live artillery and mortar shells being fired by the Belgium Paratroopers less than three miles away, with Sgt Lovick experiencing the unique challenge of sleeping exposed to the elements after the wind robbed him of his shelter!
As dawn broke, the mist had settled and the final phase of the competition began. A speed march across more challenging terrain to the 100m shooting range soon followed, this time accompanied by the regular icy showers of Brecon. A 15-round snap shoot ensued, testing our skills in prone, kneeling and sitting positions; although challenging, by all accounts this went well. At this point, the tactical competition phase was over.
After a tense three-hour waiting, it was announced that our efforts had paid off and we had been awarded one of three gold medals.
We would like to thank all the staff involved: Captains Simper and Farmer for accompanying the team to Wales; WO1 Byrne for organising the kit; Major Billington for escorting the team; Lt Col David for his efforts to secure the team the place and the cadet training team; and Sergeant Welsh and Serjeant Bates for the training they have given us.
Tom Plaut and Chad Usher