Category Archives: Officer

On tour with 135 Independent Geographical Squadron Royal Engineers

Thelma in Helmand Province

Hello from Afghanistan!

I am now over 70% of the way through my tour and have just under two months left in theatre. However my return flight is yet to be confirmed so I am not pinning too many hopes on getting home by a particular date! I have been overwhelmed by the amount of support (and food!) that I have received from friends and colleagues so I wanted to provide you all with a bit of an update on what I have been up to. I hope this finds you well.

The arrival of our team out here was staggered over two and a half months with LCpl Wadlow the first to arrive five weeks before me and WO2 Coleman the last to be in post in mid January. During the past couple of months we have beenrotating through R&R, with at least one person out of theatre most of the time.

We are now a complete team for only a few more days before WO2 Coleman goes on R&R, by the end of which Lcpl Wadlow will have finished his tour and his successor will be in place. It’s these milestones that help us keep track of timeas otherwise most days are pretty routine and it can all blur together!

In February I managed to get to Kandahar for a two day visit and to see the Theatre Map Depot where another colleague from my TA unit is working. It was good to catch up with him and to see another base; it is completely different to Bastion which feels really quiet in comparison. Kandahar is based around the airfield and there is a lot more permanent infrastructure there including brick buildings, tarmacked roads and the famous Boardwalk which is an area of shops and restaurants (including TGI Friday’s!) on a raised wooden walkway surrounding a square where they play basket ball etc. It has almost a village green feel to it. Kandahar also has it’s very own tourist attraction in the form of a poo pond where all the waste is deposited and aerates and bubbles away. It is the done thing to go and have your photo taken next to the biohazard sign and I even managed to find a T-shirt advertising the Poo Pond Cafe (I was disappointed not to find the actual cafe though!) Kandahar generally felt a lot more sociable than Bastion as there was definitely a lot more to do outside of work.

At the Poo Pond, Kandahar

At the Poo Pond, Kandahar

I also managed to get out to Lash Kar Gah for a day a few weeks ago. The city is in the Green Zone, about a twenty minute helicopter flight away from Bastion. I went down to deliver some maps and to meet the Geo Cell that are based there. The flight was by Chinook and I took the opportunity to film it from the window. The loadie saw me with my camera and I thought he was going to tell me to stop filming but instead he invited me to sit up next to the door so I could get a better picture! He then spoke over his mic to the pilot who then flew us low over the town and for the first time I saw normal Afghans going about their daily business. There were people on bikes, in trucks and walking their donkeys. At one point we were so low that the wash from the back of the helicopter was making peoples washing flap up violently around on the washing lines in their compounds. It gave me a very brief glimpse in to the world of the every day Afghan and made me wonder about the challenges they face dealing with the insurgency that are all around that area.

Being stuck on base at Bastion can be frustrating at times and I would love to be able to get out more but the job I do does not warrant it. I can’t complain though; at least the chances of me coming home in one piece are pretty high. The base at Lash is tiny in comparison to Bastion and the perimeter fence is only a mile or so long but it seemed friendly and more relaxed Also there were flowers there – tulips, marigolds and poppies (of course). It was the first time in three months that I’d seen any form of vegetation as opposed to just sand, dust and rocks and it was delightful. We travelled back that night by Merlin helicopter in pitch darkness; they switch the lights off to make it less of a target for anyone aiming an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) at us.

Arriving at Kandahar Airfield

Arriving at Kandahar Airfield

I had my R&R during March and it was great, but over far too quickly. Amazingly the RAF got me back to Brize Norton on schedule and we landed at lunch time on my birthday, which was a lovely birthday present in itself. On the way to Salisbury and within an hour and a half of landing I managed to do a skydive, still in my uniform (we were passing Netheravon Airfield anyway and the sun was shining so I took the opportunity!). I visited my family in Somerset and then I went skiing for a week in Austria, where the snow was fantastic and I treated myself to a new pair of skis with my hard earned army wages! I then just had time to see some friends for dinner in London before driving up to Brize Norton and flying back that same night.

All this was lovely but the dashing around took it’s toll (a rookie mistake I’m told – the more experienced, wiser ones just go home and do nothing!) and I returned to theatre ill with a cold…and then got worse not better! After a week of trying to “griz it out” I eventually dragged myself to the med centre where a doctor listened to my chest, confirmed bronchitis and prescribed 7 days of penicillin and as much rest as work would allow. It took another two weeks to start feeling anywhere near 100% again though and it took me a long while to get back into any kind of routine fitness wise with a lot of ground to make up! Sadly there has been another vigil service to attend for another lad who was shot by a rogue Afghan soldier. He was only the second British soldier to die in the time that I have been here which I believe is an improvement on last year but we are only really at the beginning of the Taliban fighting season so incidents could start to increase again soon. However the move towards the transition of power over to the Afghan Army is continuing apace and they are now in the lead for the majority of operations. This means that there are less of our boys out on the ground doing the actual fighting than previously so hopefully the numbers of deaths and serious injuries should remain low. However it also means that the afghans are the ones taking the brunt of the casualties now as the insurgency are not simply giving up. Every so often we get an IDF attack on the base (Indirect Fire – someone trying to rocket us) The loud bang is preceded by tan alarm as there are instruments which detect incoming fire and we have to don our body armour and helmets and get ourselves to the nearest blast shelter (which are located pretty much everywhere). The last one was at 2am on Sunday night and it was the bang and not the alarm that woke myself and my room mate up (although we’re told it did sound). We had to leave our room and congregate in a shelter at the end of our pod while a register was taken and we waited for further information. Apparently there were six rockets in total and eventually the all clear was sounded and we were allowed back to our beds after about 45 minures. Sunday was the Mujahadeen Victory day and we were told to anticipate some kind of action as it is the day that marks the official beginning of the fighting season for the Taliban so things could get more interesting from now on in!


The future of this country relies on the Afghans being able to run effective operations against the insurgency and it is no secret that huge numbers desert the army every year when they have enough of battle conditions. At the end of next year ISAF (international Security Assitance Force – ie us, the USA etc) support will be withdrawn all bar special forces and small mentoring teams so everyone is feeling the pressure.

The team I work in is training a small group of Afghan soldiers to be geo technicians so they can produce their own mapping. These people however did not grow up with computers so it takes them a long time to grasp even basic concepts so the training objectives are constantly being revised and adjusted to fit in with what is feasible as new challenges come to light. Also they do not have the same levels of discipline and timings are not as key in their culture as in ours so they turn up when they feel like it. The training is all conducted through our interpretor, Abdul, a native Afghani who escaped to Canada with his family when the Russians invaded. He is a lovely man who is very patient and humble and is excellent at his job which he has been doing for three years so has worked with many versions of our team. The other day during a tea break in the training he was interpreting for one of the soldiers who was telling us a little about his life. I always want to ask more but there is never enough time. Here we are enjoying a break in training with the Afghans and partaking in tea and some of the cakes and treats sent by friends and colleagues at both Southwark Council and the City of London.

In other news our team chill out area that we started working on before R&R is now finished – complete with decking and hammocks! My contribution was to source all the materials from around the camp and I managed to acquire decking wood, nails, paint, paint brushes and rope. Lcpl Westhead and WO2 Coleman did the construction work and Lcpl Wadlow added the finishing touches by painting Royal Engineers Crests on the walls. We also acquired a barbeque and have had a couple of Saturday evenings eating al fresco, which has made a pleasant change to the noisy and over crowded chow hall!

Also on the entertainment side of things, every so often there is a CSE show (Combined Services Entertainment) for the troops. Celebrities and entertainers arrive and travel round to the different bases for a few days doing a show in each location. Katie Melua was over here a while ago did a gig outside the NAAFI which was very good and drew quite a big crowd. The comedians who did the warm up act though were probably the highlight for most people as they had the whole audience in stitches. Needless to say the humour was pretty rude and appealed to squaddies of all ranks. In the cookhouse after the show I found I was in the queue next to one of the comedians and he invited me to join him on their table for dinner where I got to meet Katie herself.

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Nordic Ski Team

Exercise Ski (RLC) 2013

Nordic Ski Team 

Returning to the Nordic Ski Team after two years ‘on the beat’ as a Metropolitan Police Officer, Corporal Graham Foster skied brilliantly throughout to finish 7th overall in the TA and 38th of 120 in the Corps. Keen not to be outdone by his son, Staff Sergeant John Foster’s stamina won through as he achieved a personal best result in the 15km Classic which helped him towards a 14th overall in the TA and 55th in the Corps. Leading out the Military Patrol Race Team to an outstanding 3rd placed TA Team was WO2 John Skinner who also achieved 13th overall in the TA and 52nd in the Corps. Private Gareth Walsh returned for his second season and improved with every race, his best being the 10km Freestyle where he did a top job for the Team. Gareth placed 10th overall in the TA and 43rd in the Corps, a great result for an inexperienced skier. The ‘old man’ of the team was Captain Terry Hall whose body just about held up for some key races and that enabled him to finish overall 11th in the TA and 48th in the Corps. The Team’s ‘Nordic Novice’ was Craftsman Luke Doe REME who has not skied before this season; yet he trained very hard on rollerskis and produced a series of gutsy performances on snow to finish 2nd TA Novice and well up the overall rankings but sadly was not eligible for individual prizes. Thankfully that did not matter when it came to the team event because as the only Novice Luke had to ski in every race, including the Military Patrol, so he contributed wholeheartedly towards the superb 3rd overall in the TA Nordic Team Competition and the excellent overall Corps Alpine and Nordic Combined TA Runners-Up (Silver Medals) that 151 (London) Transport Regiment RLC (V) won. It was a truly tremendous team effort throughout, the dedication from all was immense and consistency won through to enable the squad to produce a top result.

151 Nordic Ski Team

151 Nordic Ski Team

Alpine Ski Team

The Regimental Alpine team was formed from Maj Paul Gotobed (Team Captain), 2Lt Simon Sykes, SSgt Drew Johnston, SSgt David Bond, Cpl Ben Bray and Pte Tarj Sevier. The competition started with a couple of training days, an opportunity to find your ‘ski legs’ and for our novice, Pte Sevier, who had had only 2hrs of ski tuition in a snow dome prior to the competition, to realise what he had volunteered into… After a couple of days all the competitors were seeded into their start positions; a ‘one-off’ Giant Slalom race to work out those who could and those that will learn quickly! For those skiers that have skied socially this is the big awakening as they stand at the top of the course in the starting gate with the timing machine emitting the tell-tale beeps that your turn has come; with a push out of the gate down the slope you career trying your best to get the right way around the gates as the slope of the hill gets steeper and steeper and the speed increases. With a first refusal by our newest skier, he soon sorted himself out and down he went, adrenaline flowing. The duck had been broken and now the competition started in earnest; The first full day of racing was the individual Giant Slalom; unfortunately Cpl Bray had a disaster on the slope and this counted against him for the remainder of the competition as his seeding points pushed him further back in the start list. The second race day was the team Giant Slalom, where all the team skied well however the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Regiments all were in front; a friendly competitive rivalry and competition had started… The next race is the ‘Super G’ for this the competitors moved to Goetschen for the one only attempt at the Super G – the one race counted to both the individual and team scores. With the whole slope closed to the public and the German National Female Youth team showing us how it should be done we started from the top and threw ourselves down the mountain, most avoiding the man-made jump after considering the strategy of team completion and points – well we need an excuse! The weather was fantastic and the course was great however, as always, it is only after the run that the nerves have settled that you are ready to give it another go and your all – unfortunately not an option in this case. SSgt ‘Speedy’ Bond definitely came to the fore on the Super G! We now entered the realm of the Slalom; a shorter more technical course with more gates and tighter turns now the competition changed as the speed merchants fell to the wayside and the technical skiers come forward. Race three is the individual with Maj Gotobed finding himself No 3 out of the gate in the second race of the day; a position he wasn’t used to! The final race of the competition is the team competition and the most critical; where podium places are won and lost… With all the team captains keeping notes and updating where their competitors were currently standing.

151 Alpine Ski Team

151 Alpine Ski Team

The Scots were still way ahead; the Welsh dropping behind and unfortunately for the Irish a non-finisher and disqualification saw them fall by the wayside – the competition was now open to the final run and with instructions to ‘ski fast but safe’ off the team went. Where did we finish? Well we made it onto the podium just (only due to the disqualification of the Irish) with third place (TA) Alpine. Though in the overall competition with those teams who enter a team into both disciplines (Alpine and Nordic) we fought through into Silver, TA runners-up; an unexpected and welcome result! So well done to the team especially our novice; Pte Sevier who soon found his ski-legs and his way down the hill. Want to know more or see the results and photographs? Log onto

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Combat Logistic Patrols (CLP)

The LAD’s role on CLP’s

As previously explained the CSLR’s primary role are CLPs (Combat Logistic Patrols). The LAD is expected to provide support for every CLP. We have a REME wagon, manned by two VMs (Vehicle Mechanics), which deploys out of camp with each CLP.

The vehicle we use is a Mann SV with crane – a HIAB. We carry spare tyres, a toolbox, oils, lubricants and various other items enabling us to attempt to fix any problems with the vehicles that may occur on the Op. If the problem is not something we can readily repair, there are also Recovery Assets to recover the problem vehicle back to CampBastion.

Local children seen in the CLP

Local children seen in the CLP

As I am based in CampBastion, CLPs are the only opportunity I have to get out of camp and go ‘outside the wire’. I have been on 4 CLPs so far and have to say, I have enjoyed each of them. For each Op we go on, we are given a set of Orders well in advance, fully briefing us on all aspects of the CLP. Once we know exactly where we are going and when, we ‘battle prep’ our vehicle i.e. get the GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun) for the top cover, ammunition, rations, water, radios, night vision devices etc. The Drivers have to do the same for their vehicles. On completion of battle prep, drivers and vehicle commanders go on Enforced Rest. This allows them to get plenty of downtime and sleep before driving for the Op ahead.

The CLPs go out of Camp Bastion at various times. All those deploying on the Op have to be at their vehicle 2 hours before the Op goes out to rectify any glitches which are usually vehicle faults and comms problems. Everyone is also given an update on any changes to the route or destinations. Due to the potential vehicle problems there are also two members of the LAD (a Class 1 and Class 2 VM) that are on hand to fix any vehicle faults. The LAD’s role is therefore vital to the smooth running of the CLPs.

The LAD wagon with myself and Lcpl Angus from the LAD  and Lcpl Nicholson, Recovery Mechanic

The LAD wagon with myself and Lcpl Angus from the LAD and Lcpl Nicholson, Recovery Mechanic

Each CLP varies in length and can last anything up to 36 hours, which might include an overnight stop at a FOB or MOB.. As things change on the move, timings often change too. It is important that the drivers on the Op get enough rest if the CLP overruns to avoid them being overtired at the wheel.

As VMs, we are often called upon during the Op. The faults that occur can be simple, such as a tyre change or broken door ram, or they can be more complex such as a snapped belt or electrical faults. If the problem is not something the VMs can fix relatively swiftly with the tools that we have to hand, the Recovery Mechanics will hook the vehicle to one of their Recovery Vehicles (SV(R)) and tow it back to CampBastion to be dealt with by the LAD. The Recovery call signs are provided by 1 (CS) Battalion REME. Each Recovery asset has a Vehicle Mechanic as well as a Recovery Mechanic. As the CLP usually breaks up into smaller packets to attend different locations, there is a Recovery asset with each packet. We have only one LAD wagon which will always go to the furthest location on the CLP.

I enjoy the opportunity to get out of Camp and to see parts of Afghanistan. There is, of course, a risk of enemy contact on each CLP. That is why there is always  enough personnel in each wagon, including top cover observing their arcs. When I went on my first CLP I was surprised to see the living conditions of the locals. I have to say, it was a humbling experience. The more you go out though, the less surprised you are by what you see. Our wagons are constantly ‘stoned’ by the local children. This causes damage usually to the light clusters at the rear, mirrors and window screens. The feelings of sympathy soon fade. It is clear that there are mixed feelings amongst the local Afghans as to our presence here.

CLPs are vitally important out here, as I have highlighted in previous editions. The LADs role is essential to the continued maintenance of the vehicles. If the vehicles are not road worthy, the CLPs would not exist.

Time has gone very quickly for me on this tour. Having come back from my R&R the time is going quicker than ever. We will be leaving theatre next month as Herrick 18 takes over. The vehicles are up to a good standard for the handover/takeover and we are officially on our countdown to going home. However, it is important for us all to not get complacent. We still have a job to do and our tour does not finish until we are all back safe in the UK.

5th Edition: End of Tour

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The LAD and our Primary Role

2nd edition from LCpl Sian Davies 128Fd Coy REME

I am now over two months into the tour and things have really started to settle. Having spent the first month finding my feet and getting used to my new surroundings, work is the main focus.

12 CSLR’s main effort is to provide logistical support to the Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and Patrol Bases (PBs), based around Task Force Helmand. This support is in the form of Combat Logistic Patrols (CLPs). There can be up to 80 vehicles in a CLP. There are a variety of vehicles used and it is the LADs responsibility to maintain the CSLR vehicles and keep them ‘taskworthy’. The LAD is split down into sections. Our role is to carry out ‘first line’ repairs, i.e. jobs that can be completed within 4 hours, as well as modifications and servicing.

Enhanced Platform Loading System (EPLS)

I work as part of the EPLS section. The EPLS is a Man SV and makes up the bulk of the CLPs. There are approximately 60 EPLS within the CSLR and they are divided over two sections. Approximately 40 EPLS go out on each CLP. The EPLS carries loads to the FOBs and PBs. These loads consist of ammunition, medical supplies, rations, welfare parcels, post and various other items. It is vitally important that these loads are delivered regularly to ensure the FOBs and PBs have all the essential kit and also to keep morale high. Loads are often collected from these locations and brought back to camp.


Me working on one of the EPLS

Combat Support Tanker (CST)

The CST is an Oshkosh and the fleet is made up of fuel tankers, water tankers and Ilets (trailers). As well as resupplying fuel and water to the FOBs and PBs, the Ilets are used to transport heavy loads. The Ilets can move up to 45 tonnes worth of vehicle, such as Foxhounds and Mastiffs.

Force Protection (FP)

The FP section comprises of Ridgebacks, Mastiffs and Minerollers. These are protected mobility vehicles and their primary role is to lead the CLPs.

Craftsman Tuckwell with one of the Force Protection vehicles

Craftsman Tuckwell with one of the Force Protection vehicles

Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET)

The HET vehicles are also Oshkosh but on a much larger scale than the CST. The American designed vehicles can carry abnormal loads. They are used in the CLPs to take such loads to the FOBs and PBs as well as collect loads and return them to CampBastion. These loads are often other large vehicles. The HET can carry up to 72 tonnes. For example, they are able to carry all helicopters currently out in theatre.

Heavy Equipment Transporter

Heavy Equipment Transporter

Each vehicle type has its normal wear and tear and common faults. Each section is manned by a Corporal and has 2-3 ‘Class 2’ vehicle mechanics. We work between the hours of 0800-1900 daily with a late start on some Sundays. These hours may change depending on work loads. Getting the vehicles back on the road is the main priority so working late is sometimes essential.

Everyone on the shop floor has their job to do and it is not unusual to see the section heads in coveralls working on the vehicles. I am enjoying working at the LAD and I am learning more as time goes on.

December 2012 – Christmas in CampBastion

For more information contaqct 128 Field Company REME : or tel no: 02392675803





Exercise Cockney Etrangeres

Tech Task

Whilst on annual camp, 135 Geographic Squadron RE was tasked with carrying out a live technical task – to produce orienteering maps of four areas on the island of Jersey in order to practice our core GIS and Data Collection skills. This essentially involved two disciplines in three stages, Data Survey and map production using ARC GIS 10 (Geographic Information Systems).

The first stage involved the GIS team to conduct a desktop study of existing geographic data.  The field computer banks were transported from Ewell to Jersey Field Squadron HQ via MAN trucks and set up as a working Geo cell.  Using existing aerial imagery of the designated orienteering areas, the GIS team interpreted and plotted overlays on top of the imagery according to the international orienteering map standards.  Due to the fact that the imagery was five years old, features, both manmade and natural had to be verified.  Interpretation of the imagery could be incorrect and there was a requirement to go into the area to confirm and gather information.  For example, what looked like a grassy field on the imagery could now in fact be an impenetrable field classed ‘as wooded area’.

The Hon Col Dr Vanessa Lawrence being shown one of the new orienteering maps by SSM Les Hunt

The second stage commenced with the data survey team going into each of the four areas to be mapped to collect data, armed with the image maps compiled by the GIS team.  Each area was recce’d to choose two suitable base station locations which are fixed in position for the duration of the survey.  Their job is to take continual readings from satellites and between each other to make error corrections in position and then transmit these corrections to the roving GPS poles which are used to collect data.  This improves the accuracy of the positions being surveyed.  We found the perfect location for base station one, on the top of the tallest hill above a second world war bunker. Unfortunately this also meant we had to keep traipsing up and down said hill!

Base station two had to be on the other side of the area being surveyed as there were no obvious high points so we had to settle with a sand dune.  The next day we returned to commence the task, only to find that the wind had picked up, so much so that the instrumentation that we had set up on tripod legs blew straight over.  Down we went to the Land Rovers, retrieved the sandbags and shovel and weighted down the tripod legs, having used the convenient abundance of sand from the dunes all around us.  To minimise the likelihood of a passer by stealing our base station survey equipment, we hid all of the survey equipment boxes (used to transport it) within the bunker.  Base station two was assembled and we were off, capturing data.  Two hours in and the satellite signal died; the battery powering the base station antenna had died. We learned our lesson and opted for the bigger battery the next day.  On top of all this, it was raining each morning but by the time base stations were set up, the Jersey sunshine came out for us.

Cpl Carl Presswood setting up on site

Two survey teams worked in conjunction in each area, communicating by radio.  Comms were critical since requirements were updated throughout the day including location of transportation vehicles and logistical challenges; we had to transport people from camp HQ to survey area and vice versa; this used up resource and slowed up the progress of the task in hand.

Second World War bunkers and gun emplacements were a strong theme of interest throughout our data collection and acted as useful markers and interesting history lessons!

A memorable highlight was when the survey team came to the aid of a lady stranded on the beach in her car. Like good Sappers, we safely recovered her vehicle before the incoming tide swamped it.  She turned out to be the daughter of the founder of Butlins but unfortunately we weren’t offered any free accommodation for next year’s camp!

Myself and Cpl Morley were busy ‘pinging; points when to our horror, as we were approaching our base station being guarded by our sergeant we saw him, stripped to the waist, his pale white body glistening like a beacon as he took in the radiant Jersey sun.  Embarrassed by our heckling since he thought no one could see him hidden in the undergrowth, he quickly got his top back on before any more blinded sea gulls fell out of the sky.

Cpl Carl Presswood and Spr Kieran Terry

This tech task was also a training exercise and the time taken to overcome problems rapidly diminished as the team became slicker.  Once all the information was gathered in the form of GPS linked photographs and GPS data points, they were transposed onto computer and read in conjunction with the existing imagery. The time consuming task of creating the correct international orienteering standardised symbology and correctly classifying parcels of land to the ease of movement was a challenge, especially as we had very little experience of using orienteering maps previously. By day five, tensions were rising in our makeshift Geo Cell; French spellings were being scrutinised, debates on whether bunkers were bunkers or gun emplacements got technical and Naafi breaks had been cancelled. However we were kept entertained throughout by the Radio Jersey karaoke by the chefs in the kitchen next door!

Cpl OJ kept morale high in the Geo cell; as an invaluable asset to the team, he also made certain that it was easier to get into FortKnox than locating the files we were working on!

Sergeant Windle kept us motivated and encouraged us, with comments like ……. unrepeatable in print, and “get this kit set up”.

Cpl Presswood took overall command but like all good leaders, he omitted to tell us that the witness marks had not been taken and then flapped when we told him we didn’t have time to cover for him…haha, funny – we sorted him out after letting him sweat.

LCpl Walmsley did a smashing job in creating the orienteering map and then died of shame when the visiting CO pointed out that there was a spelling mistake.

This same CO caught Cpl Presswood and Sgt Windle eating lunch; the exact time when they downed tools for a brew was the exact time that he rocked up in the car park to see them ‘working’ flat out – busted.

Sgt Trepanier (American exchange) did a great job in collecting survey data on vegetation until she found that she had used the wrong base point and she had to do it all again – next time check first

We had all checked that each team had the correct kit before leaving base, and then one team promptly drove off without the booking sheets meaning that they had to write everything up after the days surveying, doh – special. All good learning points for the next time!

By the end of the five day task, we had captured over 2500 GPS points, taken over 400 photographs and successfully produced two orienteering maps to officially handover to the Combined Cadet Force and Jersey Field Squadron. The customers were happy and we had all learned a great deal.

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Trafalgar Day Parade 2012

Trafalgar Day

On Sunday morning 125 Sea Cadets and Royal Marine Cadets from Sea Cadet Units across Berkshire gathered in Maidenhead town centre to commemorate Trafalgar Day. Each year a different unit plays host and this year it was Maidenhead Sea Cadets turn to invite cadets from Basingstoke, Henley, Newbury, Reading, Slough and Windsor. Although it meant an early start for some, there was an excellent turn out and the sun shone throughout the parade.

The inspecting officer was Commodore Gerry Thwaites RN Rtd, who now lives in Cookham Dean, he was ably assisted by Councillor Andrew Jenner, the Deputy Mayor; they both spent time talking to all the cadets on parade. After inspecting the cadets Commodore Thwaites congratulated them on their smart appearance and awarded prizes for the best dressed cadets. He also presented a cup to Maidenhead Sea Cadets, performing best overall in competitions throughout the year they are the top Sea Cadet unit in Berkshire.

Following the parade the cadets and guests made their way to TS Iron Duke for lunch, which was generously supported by Sainsbury’s, Taplow branch.

Maidenhead Sea Cadets was formed in 1942 so this year is the 70th anniversary of the unit; thanks to the recent publicity by the Maidenhead Advertiser several former Sea Cadets joined the party to swop stories and share memories of the good times they had when they were cadets.

Commodore Gerry Thwaites with members of the Guard

The occasion also had a slightly poignant side as Lt Cdr Dick Boardman was remembered with the unveiling of a picture of him on the ‘memorial wall’; Dick Boardman passed away in February this year after a short illness. Dick was a member of the Sea Cadet Corps for well over 50 years and in January he received a 50 year medal from Captain Mark Windsor, Captain of the Sea Cadet Corps.

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HMS King Alfred Reservists sail to victory

Just another day in the Royal Naval Reserve

Sailors from HMS King Alfred achieved success in the Royal Navy Reserve regatta held in Portsmouth harbour. Able Seaman Rachael Asquith from Gosport, with her crew Leading Seaman Liz Grady, sailed their Bosun dinghy into overall second place but won the prize for the highest placed boat sailed by ratings. Rachael beat off stiff competition during the 9 race series in conditions that varied greatly, the later races proving testing for even the most experienced crews.

Another King Alfred crew among the prize winners, AB Alex Snow, won the Novice Cup, for being the highest placed helm that had only learned to sail in the last 18 months; he was ably supported by CPO Ian Chown from HMS President.

HMS King Alfred prize winners, LS Liz Grady and AB Rachael Asquith, celebrate their success

The RNR regatta is held at the Royal Navy Sailing centre on Whale Island each year, the centre runs a fleet of sailing dinghies, teaching Naval personnel and Sea cadet and their families how to sail and handle small RIBs . Units from all over the UK took part from HMS Eaglet in Liverpool to HMS Flying Fox in Bristol. In all there were 16 boats taking part, many with experienced helms and crews, but also some novices.  For 2 of the crews, this was their first weekend ever being in a dinghy, it was “an amazing experience, great fun” one was heard to say.

With 16 boats in the fleet the starts were keenly fought. Start lines always look much longer than they are, with the wind direction constantly varying, one end of the line is almost always favoured, with the strong winds making the starts very lively, there was plenty of white water splashing about, loud shouts of “water”, “Starboard” and a fair number of bumps thrown in.

One boat got accidently “T boned”, which is when one boat crashes straight into the side of the other (ramming in all the movies), causing damage to the rubbing strake which needed to be replaced. Due to the superb skills of the Sailing centre staff; the boat was all fixed and ready to race only an hour after being pulled from the water.

Every leg and mark on the course was keenly fought for, the heavy conditions catching out even the top boats. One boat that had been in second place found itself with its mainsheet wrapped around the first windward mark, the helmsman holding a disconnected rudder, the rest of the fleet then had to navigate their way around this unusual obstacle! A few boats did capsize but in the end every boat much to the credit of the novice sailor’s went on to finish.

The wind strong as it was, produced a great weekend of sailing, there’s nothing like a testing weekend to get the blood going, but then that’s life in the Royal Naval Reserve.

For more information on the Royal Naval Reserve see: