Royal Marines from Plymouth sailed their landing craft and assault boats to Holland to train in leading amphibious attacks.
The Royal Navy’s small boats and beach assault experts carried out their final test, having completed 14 weeks of training for landing craft crews, on a quiet Netherlands nature reserve.
The Marines, of 1 Assault Group based in HM Naval Base, Devonport, chose the wetlands of De Biesbosch National Park, 35 square miles of canals, channels, creeks and lakes near Dordrechtas as the ideal training ground for their expertise in early covert assaults ahead of main forces during attacks.
Colonel Graeme Armour, the Royal Marines commanding officer, said: “De Biesbosch National Park and the inland waterways of the Netherlands provide a perfect area for our training and development which could easily represent areas we may find ourselves operating in at some point in the future.
“Our strong relationship with the Netherlands is key to developing our excellence in amphibious warfare. The time spent exercising during this visit has been highly beneficial to both my assault group.’’
He said the terrain was completely different from the South Coast of England’s cliffs, ensuring the Royal Marines were ready for any operations they may face in the future.
More than 100 commandoes and 12 craft took part, having been invited by their Dutch counterparts with whom they have a long standing partnership.
They used two large landing craft (capable of carrying large tanks), loaded with Land Rovers for the exercise, two smaller landing craft, five fast offshore raiding craft and four smaller inflatable boats.
The first week was spent in UK waters, initially around the Exe in Devon, then near Portsmouth before crossing the North Sea in their larger craft and passing through canals, locks.
Experienced staff from the assault group tested the 14 recently-qualified landing craft crews, fresh from courses, in an unfamiliar environment and scenario – using a small group of boats to patrol a network of complex waterways, ‘reassuring’ the local populace and deterring any moves by an ‘enemy’.
Among the newly-qualified landing craftsmen tested was Marine ‘Bungy’ Williams, who said: “The course has been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot from it. I look forward to the opportunity of taking the skills I’ve learnt and using them onboard HMS Bulwark during our deployment this autumn.”
Corporal Taff Fulton, a marine engineering officer, also proved he and his team had the skills to maintain the complex systems and engines in the field – without all the workshops and facilities they normally rely upon.
Cpl Fulton said: “The three weeks away proved a real challenge – maintaining the craft without the usual base unit support. Although we faced the issues we might expect when operating from a shore base or ship, in this case we were left to our own devices to rectify them.”
Crown Copyright. Photos by Lt Chris Chew RN