The Royal Navy opened its first dedicated centre of excellence for treating Royal Marine recruits injured in training.
Fleet Commander Admiral Sir George Zambellas unveiled a plaque at the dedicated newly-built rehabilitation centre at Parker Hall at Royal Marine Commando Training Centre Lympstone, Exeter, Devon.
Adm Zambellas addressed the recruits as they worked on their exercise machines: “Compared with the old gym and rehabilitation services there, this is a bespoke professional facility with the most dedicated and expert staff who are working with the recruits under training to return them as efficiently as possible to mainstream training.
“I know from taking to the guys today that what they want most is to return to their core activity as quickly as possible, to train again with their mates they made through training. That matches up with what the Navy wants – to get them fixed and return them to the brotherhood of the naval service.’’
Royal Marines recruits go through one of the toughest training regimes in the world at the Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, near Exeter, before they are allowed to wear the coveted Green Beret and enter the Commandos’ elite ranks. During that tough training they are occasionally injured and temporarily join Hunter Company to undergo a programme of rehabilitation before rejoining training and being prepared for front-line combat duties.
Parker Hall is the only purpose-built unit for rehabilitating injured Royal Marine recruits and is used by Hunter Company. This is distinct from the care of trained Marines who are injured on operations and rehabilitated through Hasler Company in Plymouth (including those with complex long-term injures and illnesses) and in their parent unit’s own smaller scale recovery troops (Kangaw Troop at 42 Commando in Plymouth; Termoli, 40 Cdo, Taunton and Harden 45 Cdo, Scotland).
Admiral, Zambellas added: “The Parker Hall rehabilitation centre reflects the Naval Service’s commitment – alongside our partners in the Public Services Apprenticeship Scheme – to getting our high quality people into the front line as effectively as possible. The Commando training which Royal Marines undertake at Lympstone is the best in the world, but it is also incredibly tough and makes strenuous demands on our recruits.
“At Parker Hall, those who have been injured in the course of their training have the specialist facilities they deserve to get them back on track in achieving the goal to which they all aspire – the award of the coveted Green Beret. I want to thank everyone who has worked so hard to make Parker Hall a reality.”
He said the Royal Marines, the Royal Navy’s infantry, was largely protected from reductions in manpower and the investment in rehabilitation reflected that policy.
Up to now about 180 recruits daily have been rehabilitated through the Stone Gymnasium, a general use multi-purpose gym which was not designed for rehabilitation and shared with fully fit users.
Joe Harnick, 19, of Exmouth, is in Hunter Company and using Parker Hall to recover from a dislocated knee injured while on the assault courses. He said: “I am gutted I have lost so much time in training to do what I have always wanted. I am now behind in training and lost contact with my mates I made while training with them. I have nine months of rehab here, but the up side is that I could not do it any faster or in a better environment. The staff are immediately on hand and they are focussed on us “recruits rather than anyone else – we are their priority. And we have special equipment to train on, compared with normal gyms.’’
Parker Hall has in-situ physiotherapy, an important function of the recovery process, and consultation bays with remedial instructors on hand. Other indoor services for Hunter Company recruits include a matted exercise area, bespoke cardio-vascular and weights equipment area and a reduced-impact surface running-track – all under one roof in a stand-alone centre.
Officer under training Second Lieutenant Harry Mallalieu, 23, of Dorset, injured his feet on the speed march and assault course. He said: ”You couldn’t get any better than this place to recover from injury. It has the rehabilitation instructors and physiotherapists in the gym, in special consultation bays all in the same place. An added incentive is seeing the lads on the assault course outside as you exercise – you just want to be out there and get on the frontline doing what we joined up for.’’
The predicted benefits are that the Royal Marines will retain more of their recruits and reduce the drop-out rate and medical discharge due to injury. This makes the training more efficient and provides a more consistent supply of operational Royal Marines for specialisation training and eventual combat duties. The new centre will also free up more time in the multi-purpose gym, especially for permanent staff. The project cost £3million with specialist equipment costing an extra £121,000.
Parker Hall is named after a Victoria Cross winner Lance Corporal W R Parker (Royal Marine Light Infantry) at Gallipoli 30 April 1915 who displayed conspicuous bravery in rescuing wounded in daylight under heavy fire.