Saturday, January 3, 2009

26th April - 11th May 1974

Lydd Training Camp

26th April
07.30hrs - Leave Arbroath in Convoy, convoy split-up on the M90.
18.30hrs - Arrive Swynerton camp for night stop.

27th April
08.30hrs - Leave Swynerton Camp.
17.00hrs - Arrive Lydd Training Camp -609 mile journey.
As we drive into the Camp, we are greeted by the 'local' children, with a hail of stones, just to get us into the training "spirit".

Lydd is an old WW2 Camp, huts sleep 7 to a room.
The Camp accommodation sits in a square, with a road leading to a village, we would soon 'hate' this village.

28th April - Hythe Ranges - Village.
We first "zero" our rifles on an open range, during the morning.
Then we move to the "Killing Village".
A new experience, this was fully electrical operated, targets appear or turn at a push of a button, cameras watched every inch of the range. Music, Riot sounds, car horns blowing, bullets ricocheting even explosions can be piped round the range.
Observation was paramount, when targets turn or appear, they are either "friendly" or "enemy".
From now on, we use "live" rounds, so safety in carrying and using our weapons must be disciplined into us.

The whole Commando Group, was given a "Penetration" and "Sound & Distance" Demonstration.
Split into sections, we advanced through the village, where we came under firte from "live" rounds, it was so realistic, it felt as though we really were being shot at.

Sight & Sounds
After each shot was fired, the Tannoy announced what type of weapon was used, the distance the shot was fired from and the angle the shot came in from.
The frightening part, was the bullet passed within 2 feet of our heads, fired on a set projectory, whilst we walked on a set course.
Only "live" bullets are fired in this village and we are the 'Targets'.
It was our job to learn the sounds of different weapons, the "hissing" sound tells what direction and how close the bullet and the "ricochet" tells the distance.

Various types of weapons were fired at Single and Double brick walls, only our SLR Rifles could penetrate a double wall.
Despite having been to Ireland, this was just as real, impressively showing us the dangers and how to recognise the dangers.
Un-like the Marines, our work does not always bring us close to gunmen, when we hear bullets getting close, we stop work and take cover.
This village, with live shots coming within 2 feet of our heads and bullets bouncing off of walls, made our hair stand on end, even though we knew we were safe.
Listening to the lads that evening, it was as though we had all walked through an "ambush" un-scathed, with bullets everywhere.

29th April - Lydd Fort
Another frightening area.
Moved into the fort, set-up Parking and Stores areas, then off-load the 3 tonner.
Driving around the outside of the Fort, facing children and adults, throwing stones and petrol bombs; we had faced this already in Ireland.
Troop patrolled the Fort in shifts.

30th April
06.45hrs rise, quick breakfast and start work.
The troop is laying a concrete floor and converting a room into an Interogation room, which has a half-step floor.
All the time we are working, the rioting continued outside.
20.30hrs - finally left the Fort, amidst stones and petrol bombs.

1st - 2nd May - Lydd Ranges
Morning - 300 yard Range - up & down targets.
Afternoon - Firing from a moving Landrover, then firing at targets from Landrover travelling at 8mph.
Night - Firing at oblique targets using Starlight sights, this was made difficult, due to very little moonlight available.
Then we used Zulu Night Sights, which turn night into day.
Troop finally got to bed at 00.30hrs, with rifle strapped to our wrists, for we were in a "live" situation.

3rd - 4th May - Hythe Ranges - Village
The Village is like 'Coronation Street' film set, a true village, but where we have to parol in vehicles and on foot, not knowing what to expect.
All houses are fitted with targets, 'film shows', moving screens with people being shown. Doors that suddenly swing open, bullets being fired, bombs going off, smoke bombs that go off as you pass, or worse, if you stand on one (leg blown off - casualty). Cars that drive past, or "charge" at you. Rioting crowds that throw stones (bloody hard) or petrol bombs.

Arrive at the village, with our weapons converted to .22 calibre, for close quarter fighting.
We are briefed quickly - "Terrorists are due soon, be alert".
The troop is split into Sections, to do foot patrols through the village.
Doors suddenly swing open, we are trigger happy and open fire, the Tannoy informs us "You have killed a mother and daughter".
We continue our patrol, when suddenly three men fully armed jump out and start shooting, we return fire whilst taking cover, the three men fall. The Tannoy announces "Two Terrorists dead, one seriously wounded, two of you seriously wounded". Those hit, knew they had been hit, the bullets "sting" when they hit, even leave grazes or cuts.
The Patrol "carry" the two injured and continue the patrol.
Rounding a corner "OUCH", we walk straight into a 'wall' of thrown bricks and stones.
We rapidly retreat, don our Gas Masks and arrange our Riot Shields, we re-deploy to cover each other and drive the crowd back, using CS Gas.
The Riot Shields can withstand Petrol bombs, if linked together and firmly held to the ground, they give good reasonable cover.

The Troop then splits into groups of Four, competing for the most "Kills", no riot crowds.

The same the next day, only we had hatched a plan.
On the final Night Patrols, we would ignore the Tannoy and continue our Patrols, to "hunt" each others teams, it would be a "Kill or be killed" battle.
As expected, we came across a situation and the Tannoy stated "Retreat", we knew we were close to another group and continued. The other groups did likewise.
The Controllers soon realised what we were doing, lowered the volume to the Tannoys, talking directly to each group, without the others hearing. A Cat & Mouse game had started.
The Controllers could see the full picture and "steered" each group about, getting fleeting glimpses of each other - snap shots fired only.
Our Bullet-proof vests counted the hits, but our arms and legs felt the "stings".
For 30 minutes, the controllers "played" with us, giving us fleeting snapshots at each other.
Now they brought us all together in the centre square, where we expended all of our ammo.
It was a fabulous Final to the last night, everyone of us had bruises, grazes and cuts to arms, legs and even face cheeks. We slept soundly that night.

5th May
08.30hrs - Moved to St. Martins Bay.
We were held at the "mounting" area, as the Ranges were not ready for us. We spent the whole day just waiting.
During the early evening, we were briefed for the Exercise:
"Your task is to patrol in vehicles, behind enemy lines and attack an enemy camp, a hit & run operation".
Each Landrover would have four Riflemen, two of these would have Night sights fitted.
"The Eight Landrovers would surround the enemy camp and light it up with their headlights, those without sights would shoot at what they could see, those with Night sights, would shoot hidden objects".

We then moved into position, with 4 Landrovers facing diagonally opposite the other 4 Landrovers, giving a good 'cross-fire' position.
We moved forwards slowly, killing everything in sight and "sweeping" through the enemy camp.
Back to our "hold" position, then onto the main Range.
Here were 6 'Heavy' weapons set up, all fitted with top quality night sights; each of us took turns in firing them, over a 100 yard range.
Back to Base for 01.00hrs, clean and hand-in our weapons.

6th May
06.30hrs rise.
On stand-by for move to the Ranges, waited all day, no range available.
20.30hrs - move back to Lydd Camp.

7th - 8th May
Troop continue to lay concrete, to improve the village.

9th May
Troop given day off, visit local village.

10th May
09.30hrs - Leave for Arbroath: Drivers by road, rest of troop by train.

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