Royal Marines stormed a passenger ferry packed with holidaymakers as they rehearsed boarding drills in the Channel.
Using high-speed boats and their specialist climbing equipment, commandos deftly clambered aboard Brittany Ferries’ Armorique, ten miles off the south coast.
The green berets of 539 Assault Squadron and 42 Commando swooped on the Plymouth-bound ship as she came over the horizon on her journey from Roscoff in north-western France.
In rough seas, the commandos sped behind of the 29,469-tonne Armorique, as passengers crowded the upper decks to watch.
They saw 16 specialist troops from 42 Commando – the Royal Marines’ Maritime Operations Unit, based at Bickleigh Barracks on the northern edge of Plymouth – make their daring ascent of the nine-deck ferry in notoriously difficult conditions.
With coxswains from 539 Assault Squadron piloting three fast craft, the marines made the audacious climb by cable ladder to the upper decks of the ferry, all while cutting through the water at around 25mph.
“The Royal Marines are one of only a few forces in the UK trained to conduct this sort of Operation, so it is vital we do this training regularly, under the most arduous conditions possible,” said Captain Jack Denniss of 539 Assault Squadron.
“42 Commando’s J Company is unique in that it is trained to conduct ‘level three’ boarding operations, which is to say that your access to a target vessel is opposed; through either manoeuvre, obstacles, force, or all of the above.
“During this sort of boarding, the point of greatest vulnerability can often be the embarkation. In fact, achieving access to a fast-moving vessel is in some cases more dangerous than the enemy protecting it.
“Success in such an endeavour requires rigorous training, courage and importantly, an expert coxswain who can stand up to the conditions.”
539 Assault Squadron are the ‘punch’ of 1 Assault Group – based at Royal Marines Tamar in Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.
As the Royal Marines’ specialists in amphibious raids, riverine operations and maritime interdiction, the landing craftsman of 539 stand ready to ensure that J Company can reach their target and achieve their task.
Maintaining a constant state of readiness means that commandos of both units train regularly on vessels of every size, type, speed and in any sea-state.
The Royal Marines currently use the Pacific 24 sea boat, a multi-purpose craft carried by all UK warships which can reach speeds of up to 40 knots (around 46mph). On this exercise, they deployed with two Pacific 24s.