Words by WO2 (SMI) Peter Russell, County Media Officer, and pictures by WO2 (SMI) Peter Russell, SI Nicola Gale (Media Officer in Waiting) & N Coy photographers
The great news is that the bounce back from the terrible COVID days is astonishing! Normandy Company had an almost 100% increase in numbers since this time last year for their weekend camp, with 104 cadets and many instructors making the trip to new ground for most of them.
Rollestone Camp, just to the west of Larkhill on Salisbury Plain, hasn’t hosted a Somerset weekend camp for many years. That fact that the weather was predominantly wet throughout the weekend certainly didn’t dampen anyone’s enthusiasm.
With loads of 5.56mm ammunition the 3 Stars made the short journey to Bulford Ranges where they had a chance to really improve their skills, with roughly a one to one ratio of cadets and coaches being the ideal proving ground for crack shots to demonstrate their worth.
While they were there the rest of camp, and the Plain, hummed with activities. Navigational skills were tested with both night and day exercises, while First Aiders, signallers and fieldcrafters all had plenty to occupy them. Although an old camp, pre-dating the Great War by a considerable number of years, Rollestone has great accommodation and cookhouse facilities - something that every successful camp is judged by.
One of the highlights of Saturday was a visit by the Commandant, Col Stephen Kendall MBE, when he presented Cdt Dillon Castle from Frome Platoon, with the Commandant’s Award in recognition of his First Aid skills and courage when rescuing a youngster from the water and potentially saving a life. Cdt Castle’s actions illustrate the vital importance of the first aid training gained in Army Cadets in day-to-day life. If cadets achieve nothing more from their time with Army Cadets, saving a life because of this training puts them head and shoulders above the majority of us - well done!
To add variety to the mix, just over the road 19 Regiment Royal Artillery (19 Regt RA) were also out brushing up their skills and shaking the cobwebs off their equipment that had been stored for six months while the gunners were abroad on exercise. After some brief negotiations everyone had a chance to look over, and learn about their ‘Big Boy’s Toys’. There were AS90 L131 155mm Self-Propelled Guns and their associated support equipment, namely the Warrior OPVs (Observation Post Vehicles) sporting dummy 30mm Rarden guns to allow space inside for everything needed to run a regimental fire plan without letting on that they were anything other than ordinary IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles), a massive CRRARV (Challenger Repair & Armoured Recovery Vehicle) run by their REME Workshop as well as FV432 Command Posts and other supporting vehicles. With its 39-calibre barrel the AS90 has a range of 30km, but they are due to be up-gunned with a 52-calibre barrel that, with extended base-bleed ammunition, will allow targets to be engaged out beyond 40km.
Following their visit, the cadets returned across the road to continue their training and testing and at the end of the weekend professed themselves delighted with the experience. So much so that everyone will be back in four weeks time for the Normandy Company Christmas Camp, where the OC has promised that if numbers reach 120 all the NAAFI costs will be covered by him!
Don’t miss out!