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Plymouth's commando gunners train with Brittany peers

Plymouth's commando gunners train with Brittany peers
18 January 2016
Royal Marines gunners were put through their paces by their French counterparts in the austere surroundings of an 18th Century Breton fort.

The artillerymen from 29 Commando Royal Artillery, based in Plymouth’s famous Citadel, crossed the Channel to spend a week with their French twins, 11th Marine Artillery, and their training base on the Quiberon peninsula, between Lorient and St Nazaire.

The 250-year-old Fort de Penthièvre guards the isthmus – and serves as the home of the French 9th Marine Brigade’s commando initiation course, which a troop from the Citadel was invited to try.

The fort’s Tarzan high rope assault course runs around a moat where the Nazis murdered 59 members of the French Resistance more than 70 years ago. 

The present-day adventurous challenge is far more demanding than a similar course at Lympstone, home of green beret training.

The training is intended by the French Marines to be a short, sharp shock of commando ethos and it did not disappoint

Lieutenant Colonel Jon Cresswell, Commanding Officer of 29 Commando Royal Artillery

Barely had the gunners caught their breath than they faced a combat assault test, which ended with the men forming a human pyramid.

Other challenges thrown in by the French marines included abseiling the walls of the fort and the cliffs it sits upon, then scaling them; sea kayaking; an aquatic assault course (in the middle of winter); night navigation; yomping and orienteering through Breton villages and orienteering; and a nighttime railway march.

“The training is intended by the French Marines to be a short, sharp shock of commando ethos and it did not disappoint,” said Lieutenant Colonel Jon Cresswell, Commanding Officer of 29 Commando. 

“The setting and views were stunning, the Breton welcome warm – a French Marine bagpiper played each evening on the battlements to ensure that we felt at home – but the sea was cold and the wind merciless.”

The gunners returned to Plymouth with French commando daggers as a mark of their accomplishments in Brittany.

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