Commandos practise beach assaults ahead of Cougar 12

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Royal Navy and British Army air and sea power combined on the sands of Cornwall at the weekend as a large scale beach landing was played out in Carlyon Bay.

The wader exercise - a practice landing in slow time - tested the ability of the forces involved in the key Cougar deployment to work together on complex manoeuvres before the task group set sail for the Mediterranean.

Among the various manoeuvres played out on the sands near St Austell was bridge-building which was the first time a bridge had been pre-assembled on a ship and flown forward to its position on land.

An RAF Chinook ferried parts of the bridge from the large ferry/military transporter MV Hartland Point to the shore, where the sappers of 24 Commando Engineer Regiment - the specialist Army unit attached to 3 Commando Brigade to provide the marines with engineering support - pieced the sections together.

The engineers were joined on the training exercise by their Army comrades from 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery - the brigade’s artillery support - with 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines from fleet flagship HMS Bulwark providing the assortment of landing and assault craft.

The bridge-building was just one element of the amphibious assault that was played out in slow time to make sure that all the many different aspects of the landing ran smoothly.

It’s been a year since the Royal Navy and Royal Marines have carried out a large-scale amphibious exercise and, with large-scale landings serving as the crux of the major deployment of the year, Cougar 12, in the Mediterranean, a ‘refresher’ was needed; hence the training in Carlyon Bay.

There is no more complex manoeuvre in warfare than moving men and machines from ship to shore, whether by boat or by aircraft.

The deck of HMS Illustrious throbbed with Army Air Corps Apache gunships and Commando Helicopter Force Sea Kings flying on and off the deck all day.

The former provided the aerial punch, the latter the cold steel, ferrying the men of 45 Commando ashore.

‘Lusty’, as HMS Illustrious is affectionately known, is home to around 140 Green Berets, who arrived in incongruous red ‘goon bags’ - the immersion suits worn to keep them warm and dry should their helicopter be forced to ditch - and quickly got changed into combats ready for the assault.