Monthly Archives: December 2013

103 Battalion REME

Ex-Himalayan Tiger

As we sat in the tea house, considering an apple pie masquerading as a Cornish pasty, we began to   wonder exactly what it was that we had got ourselves into.  We were 50m away from Lukla’s airstrip – aka the World’s scariest airport, and several days walk from Everest Base Camp via a lot of “Nepali flat”.  It seemed a long time since the posters had first been put up around the Battalion advertising “the trip of a lifetime” to Nepal.  With just 12 places available for members of 103 Bn REME, the selection involved a classic English trudge across the South Downs one delightfully damp weekend in November 2012, followed by an extreme weekend in Brecon doing the Pen y fan route in Force 8+ winds in Feb 2013.  Suddenly the training weekends we’d completed in the UK didn’t seem preparation enough when considering the mountains we could see out of the window.

View of the mountains

View of the mountains

We’d been in the country for 4 days at this point, and were already 2 days behind schedule.  After sitting in the chaos of Kathmandu domestic airport for 2 days waiting for the weather to clear, we’d given up on the airplane and arranged for a more exciting and possibly less terrifying helicopter flight.  Our first experience of a tea house (trekking phrase for a youth hostel really) was something of an eye opener.  The rooms were basic but nice, and the beds had what looked like mattresses on – they even had sheets and blankets, although you probably wouldn’t want to sleep in them without the protection of your sleeping bag.  But it was just so cold.  This turned out to be one of the themes of the trip, with the temperature decreasing as the altitude increased.  By the time we got to 5545m at Kala Pattar most of us were dreaming of being on a beach in the Bahamas.  But the experience was outstanding.

The glacier we crossed

The glacier we crossed

We made it to Namche Bazaar at the end of Day 2, the main town of the SagamarthaNational Park, the Nepalese name for Everest.  This was our last real sign of civilisation for the next 8 days, and sold almost everything you could wish to buy.  The most amazing part of this is that everything is carried up to Namche either on a Porter’s back, or using Donkeys or Zos.   A Zo is a cross between a Yak and a cow.  We even passed a porter carrying a full sized fridge freezer on his back.  This humbled us somewhat as our measly 15kg rucksacks didn’t really compare.   From Namche our route quickly took us away from the crowds, as we headed North to the beautiful Gokyo lakes.  We had a poignant two minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday next to one of the lakes, surrounded by a thin layer of snow.  The following morning, we had a 0330 hours start in order to climb Gokyo peak in time for sunrise, which was by far the coldest moment of most of our lives, but an incredibly satisfying achievement and a real experience to see the sun rise on Mount Everest.  And we soon forgot about the cold that day, as our route took us over a swelteringly hot glacier.  Crossing a glacier was another first for many of us.  Because of the amount of rock debris that the glacier had collected it took a while for most of us to realise there was any ice at all.  And the huge peaks and troughs on the surface meant that there was little air movement.  The next day was another big marker in our trek, as we headed East to cross the Cho La Pass.  While the group had known this was likely to be the most challenging day of the trek, the sheer scale of it surprised many of us.  It took 4 hours just to get to the top and the last part involved climbing up a wall of snow that was at the limit of what we were able to trek without crampons.  Stepping into the sunshine at the summit of the pass and feeling the heat from the sun was glorious.

The team at the top of Cho La Pass

The team at the top of Cho La Pass

We then wound our way through the valleys as we headed towards Everest base camp.  The altitude was starting to show in everybody.  Energy levels were generally sapped while the body worked hard just to keep the vital functions going; loss of appetite meant that eating anything was becoming a real effort; and trying to drink 4 – 5 litres a day was getting harder and harder.  Reaching the summit of Kala Pattar became an even bigger highlight, because the rest of the trek was then spent walking down to lower altitudes where simple tasks such as breathing were so much easier.   Four days later we found ourselves back at Lukla airstrip, although this time we were allowed to pop into the Irish bar to see what the breweries of Kathmandu had to offer.  As we flew back into the city and said goodbye to the mountains, the rose tinted glasses were already coming over.  With the odd comment of “well, it wasn’t that hard really”, and “Cho La Pass wasn’t that cold”, and with the prospect of a hot shower, a bed with a duvet, and more than Dal Bhat to choose on the menu, that contented feeling was starting to come over all of us.  All round a fantastic trip, and very much the challenge of a lifetime.

If you are interested in joining the REME please visit





Sittingbourne Sea Cadets

Sittingbourne Sea Cadets assist local shoppers

Sittingbourne Sea Cadets were out and about at Morrisons Superstore in Sittingbourne last weekend on Saturday 30th November 2013 Helping shoppers to pack their bags and collecting donations for the unit.

Local young people who have joined the unit and enjoyed the wide variety of activity they offer from sports to Sailing and Power Boating. Turned out to help raise funds for their Training Ship (TS) Wyvern.

The Unit is a registered local charity and does not receive any direct funding from the Royal Navy although we do have very strong links with the RN and our core values are based on their customs and traditions. They therefore have to raise to raise all their running and maintenance costs and rely on the generosity of local organisations and people to support the opportunities they offer, through donations and offers of help. Including volunteers.

Store Manager (Morrisons) Petty Officer Lee Maybourne (Officer in Charge) Petty Officer David Friday (First Lieutenant) Store Manager Morrisons Cadet Conner Lewis, cadet Matt Button, Cadet Ollie Dawes

Store Manager (Morrisons) Petty Officer Lee Maybourne (Officer in Charge) Petty Officer David Friday (First Lieutenant) Store Manager Morrisons
Cadet Conner Lewis, cadet Matt Button, Cadet Ollie Dawes

The day at Morrisons was a great success and with just a small team they managed to raise £324.66. They are booked to appear again on Saturday 21st December 2013 when they hope to beat the target now set.

They also took the opportunity to speak with parents and young people from the local area about who they are and what they do. A good deal of interest was shown in joining the unit which means they will grow our numbers of cadets.

One young man; Keegan De La Hey (almost three years old) who was with his mum and dad Kelly and Karl. Wanted to join straight away. Unfortunately Petty Officer David Friday had to say “I’m sorry Keegan but you will have to wait until you are 10 years old, but we will still be here then and would be happy to have you on board

To do this successfully however they will also need to grow the number of adult volunteers and so, if anyone is interested in joining our team of volunteers, there are many options open to them from Uniformed Staff to Parents and Supporters Association and Trustees.

Unit Vice Chairman Peter Luxton said “I would like to thank Morrisons at Sittingbourne for supporting us. The staff have been particularly supportive and helpful. Without support like this we would struggle to do what we do”.

Sittingbourne Sea Cadets has been serving the Swale Community for over 60 years and plans to continue doing so for foreseeable future with the support of the local organisations, companies and individuals.

They meet on Monday and Wednesday evening throughout the year. If you want to know more or join them for action, adventure and fun. Check out the website or Telephone 01795 439334 email: they are also on facebook!