Each year the Ulysses Trust presents awards for the best expedition in the following categories – Volunteer Reserve Forces, University Units and Cadet Forces – to highlight the very best in leadership, challenge, courage and planning. The expeditions for the Ulysses Trust 2015 Awards have been selected using the award guidelines, which include the key objectives of the Ulysses Trust, specifically that expeditions supported should:
- Enhance unit and force morale, recruitment, retention and public esteem.
- Help develop the characteristics of leadership, teamwork, confidence, initiative, self-discipline and judgment of their individual members.
The citations for the 2015 Prince of Wales’s Awards for Best Expeditions are set out below by category.
Volunteer Reserve Category – Exercise ALPINE ARC
The Volunteer Reserve Award goes to an Oxford University Officer Training Corp-led expedition, with participants from across the Regular and Reserve Forces, for Exercise ALPINE ARC.
Exercise Alpine Arc was a ski-journey through the European Alps from Puchberg am Schneeberg in Austria before winding its way through 1,100kms of snow-locked mountains, accumulating almost 80,000 metres of ascent and descent before arriving in Menton 82 days later. Led by Captain Noakes, an Oxford University Officer Training Corps Training Officer, the aim of the expedition was for a British Army team to traverse the entire European Alpine chain on skis during a single winter season. Although similar expeditions had been completed before by other groups it had not been undertaken by a military team. The route was divided into 11 stages, with each stage completed by a different team of 6 skiers, sometimes from the same unit but mostly individuals from different units. A total of 58 British military personnel took part in the expedition: 29 Regular Army, 27 Reservists and 2 from the Royal Air Force.
The expedition highlights the desired outcomes of The Ulysses Trust, but it is the closing sentences of Captain Noakes’ report which reinforce the importance of supporting expeditions such as this:
‘[al]though I had many enthusiastic supporters who backed the project there were also many individuals who were very negative and saw the project as overly ambitious and destined to fail. This is true to all ambition and all challenges in life. Those people who listen to these detractors and are not prepared to take the risk that they may fail to reach their goal accept immediate defeat by not trying. I, for my part, am very glad that we tried and even more satisfied that we succeeded.’
University Unit Category – Exercise ROLLING EAGLE
The University Unit Award goes to Exeter University Officer Training Corps for Exercise ROLLING EAGLE.
This unique expedition over the summer of 2015 saw 3 Officer Cadets of Exeter University Officer Training Corp undertake a trans-American cycling challenge cycling from West to East across the continent of North America. This was an entirely self-sufficient expedition with the team carrying all their equipment for the duration. The route took the team through all of the Northern States between Seattle and New York City, and briefly into Canada; this took the team 59 days and saw them cycle 3743 miles.
This expedition was entirely cadet conceived, planned and executed, and the unique nature of the expedition makes it an extremely worthy recipient of this year’s Award.
Cadet Unit Category – Exercise FISTRAL FOLLY
The Cadet Unit Award goes to Durham Army Cadet Force for Exercise FISTRAL FOLLY.
This unique expedition saw 105 cadets and 19 staff from the Durham Army Cadet Force make use of Royal Air Force St Mawgan during the October half-term to undertake a junior cadet camp which focused on expedition and adventurous training. The cadets, many from social backgrounds that would not normally expose them to such activities, took part in a varied and robust training programme, which was designed to develop their personal and social skills in order to build confidence in their own abilities, and demonstrating that they had the ability to succeed. The training included survival training and an adventure training package around the local area, which included coasteering – a combination of climbing, traversing and swimming around the sea coastline. Durham Army Cadet Force has invested significantly in both resources and staff to allow it to run effective and challenging mountain bike packages for its cadets and this camp allowed the staff the opportunity to put the training into practice.
Exercise Fistral Folly highlights the opportunities available within the United Kingdon for cadets to undertake meaningful adventure training and is thoroughly deserving of this year’s award.
We would like to congratulate the 2015 winners, and extend our best wishes to all other units that undertook adventurous training in 2015.