This year’s two-week annual training camp took place in June 2012 and was the first year in which Liverpool UOTC and Manchester and Salford UOTC joined forces. They sent almost 200 officer cadets from the North West to RAF St Mawgan, near Newquay, Cornwall, where they spent the first week ‘in greens’, carrying out pre-deployment training, before embarking on the three-day Field Training Exercise. Upon returning to camp, cadets were split up for further training: first and third years enjoyed four days of adventurous training while second years completed their senior division cadre in order to attain third year appointments. They came back together at the end of camp for orienteering, platoon sports, skits and camp handover.
Pre-deployment training was extensive and covered a plethora of field tactics and skills, including section battle drills, battle casualty training and prisoner of war handling. Six platoons then set off on exercise early on the fourth day of camp to hunt an enemy armed with foreign weapons and a penchant for fish and chips. The sun shone over Bodmin Moor Training Area for the first 36 hours while friendly forces carried out deliberate attacks on local militia. Eventually, both A and B Companies, made up of Liverpool and Manchester OTCs respectively, overtook the positions and continued their patrols over many kilometres of hilly ground to their platoon harbour. These patrols were not without danger, and enemy forces carried out spontaneous ambushes and shock attacks on tabbing troops. However, at triple the strength of the insurgents, NW OTR platoons quickly eradicated any last efforts from the enemy and bedded down for the night in a harbour so well camouflaged that the enemy had no chance of locating it.
The next day involved various patrols aimed at maintaining a presence on the ground and removing the last pockets of resistance from a weakened enemy, while the evening brought with it not only recce patrols for an attack on the last enemy stronghold to the southwest, but also a torrential downpour. Morale on both sides was at a low-point as troops struggled through boggy ground and horizontal, driving rain. Nevertheless, both Companies launched attacks the next morning, even if the description ‘dawn’ was far too early a time frame to describe it. A Company managed to conclude their attack before B Company had even begun, due to ‘navigational issues’. The effectiveness of a simultaneous strike was lost, but the fighting spirit of both companies had rallied following a break in the rain and the side of good prevailed. The Cornwall militia were no more. It was then back to camp for tea and medals, or in our case, tea and a choice of curry or pasta, followed by platoon, company and NW OTR photos.
It was straight in to the Senior Divison Cadre for almost 40 second years hoping to take on command positions in the next academic year. Drill, the values and standards of the British Army and how to instruct first years were the focus of the three day course, along with a few healthy periods of physical training before breakfast. Skills were notably improved and the sun literally shone again on the future of NW OTR.
Adhering to the phrase ‘concurrent activity’, the shooting team left bright and early at 0530 to hone their shooting prowess at Okehampton Ranges in practice for a post-camp competition. Alongside this, most students had the chance to participate in an exciting four-day adventurous training programme covering not only the usual suspects of rock climbing and abseiling, mountain biking, hill-walking and kayaking, but also sailing, surfing, windsurfing and coasteering. The general consensus showed that this was the most popular part of camp and was a welcome antedote to the stresses of the previous few days living and working in the field.
The Mess Meeting was well attended and officer cadets were keen to improve the social events and sport functions for the next academic year. Skits were provided by all six platoons and lampooned not only officer cadets but also directing staff, from Sergeant to Commanding Officer. Luckily, this was taken in good spirits and brought the entire OTR to its knees with laughter. The regimental barbecue was unfortunately a wash-out due to the weather, but both it and the Hawaiian-themed party a few nights later enabled us to let our hair down after the exercise phase of camp. In other activities, LUOTC proved to be less adept at orienteering than their Mancunian counterparts, while a joint Manchester and Liverpool team won the sports afternoon, proving themselves to be experts in the less-than-typical OTC sports of basketball and softball.
A big thank you should got to those organisations and Trusts who have very generously supported the NW OTR this year, and in particular thanks should got to The Ulysses Trust, without whose support we would not have been able to carry out such a wide range of activities.
As Exercise ‘Golden Sword’ wound to a close, ‘Work hard: Play hard’ once again revealed itself as the ongoing motto of this year’s annual camp, proven through a haze of muddy boots, wetsuits and Hawaiian shirts.
JUO Harriet Bailey
Thanks to The Ulysses Trust for the generous grant of £1,500 towards the cost of Ex Golden Sword. We are very grateful to all those organisations and Trusts who have very generously supported the NW OTR this year, and in particular your support has been invaluable as it ensures that we are able to carry out a wide range of activities which keeps the OCdts coming back for more.