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Marines' nuclear guardians fight their way through Germany's Tin City

Marines' nuclear guardians fight their way through Germany's Tin City
4 August 2016
The men who protect the nation’s ultimate weapon spent a fortnight in Germany honing their combat skills.

Normally the men of O Squadron, 43 Commando, can be found patrolling the grounds, buildings and jetties of either Faslane Naval Base or nearby Coulport depot – home, respectively, to the UK’s nuclear deterrent submarines and the Trident missiles they carry.

But for two weeks around 60 troops went to the heartland of British Forces Germany and its ranges at Sennelager, just outside Paderborn.

The site is home to a replica town for urban warfare training – ‘Tin City’, originally modelled on Northern Ireland in the 1980s at the height of the Troubles – as well as extensive open spaces for more general infantry training.

To make sure the entire squadron is at the top of its game continually, O builds up to such or similar training three times a year – on this occasion it was the unit’s Comacchio and Dubrovnik Troops assigned to Exercise Deutsche Dagger (the German for dagger is actually ‘Dolch’…).

The idea is to make sure that the squadron hones its close combat skills in urban warfare – approximately replicating the warren of buildings at Faslane and Coulport – whilst keeping their hand in at the Royal Marines’ day-to-day business of infantry.

With the urban warfare training facility and the live-firing ranges, Sennelager is perfect for our needs

Captain Josh Roughton RM, O Squadron’s second-in-command

“Deutsche Dagger is an important part of O Squadron’s training year,” explained Captain Josh Roughton RM, O’s second-in-command.

“It allows the Marines to strengthen and develop the skills they employ in their nuclear security duties whilst also refreshing and developing their core ‘green’ soldiering skills in an extensive training area.

“With the urban warfare training facility and the live-firing ranges, Sennelager is perfect for our needs.”

Moving around Tin City, the commandos used ‘simunition’ – simulated ammunition, which possesses the characteristics of live weapons without the lethality.

On the open ranges, the green berets swapped simulated weapons for the real thing with live rounds as the men swept across the fields and through woods, eventually in troop strength – about 30 commandos.

With the training completed, the marines headed on a battlefield tour of Aachen, 130 miles away.

Today the historic city with its magnificent cathedral is a UNESCO heritage site, but in September and October 1944 it was the scene of ferocious fighting between US and German troops; the latter eventually surrendered and Aachen became the first major city in Germany to be captured, but much of it was reduced to rubble.

Some of the tactics used by the soldiers in the house-to-house fighting of 1944 have been incorporated and adapted by today’s Royal Marines when they conduct what is now known as Close Quarters Battle.

Just an hour’s train ride from Aachen is Cologne, where Deutsche Dagger ended with some downtime for the green berets before they returned to Scotland.

“The Battle of Aachen was an urban battle and the doctrine developed from such engagements was put into practice during the training on Deutsche Dagger. Cologne also proved to be a great city to visit and I know all the lads had a great time,” said Lieutenant Jon Sutton, commander of Dubrovnik Troop.

Aside from safeguarding Clyde Naval Base and Coulport, the 550-strong 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group helps escort vessels in and out of Faslane and acts as the Navy’s experts in board and search operations in the Caribbean and Middle East.

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