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Royal Marines calm the storm in realistic exercise on streets of Belgium

Royal Marines in Storm Tide 3
22 June 2016
Royal Marines joined Belgian, German and Dutch comrades in a five-day test of urban warfare and evacuation skills – all played out in real time and real locations across Belgium.

In scenes not too distant from those on television screens over the past 12 months, the green berets of Bravo Company, 40 Commando, moved through the Channel port of Ostend.

The marines from Norton Manor, near Taunton in Somerset, were invited by their Low Country allies to join in Storm Tide 3.

With 1,800 Belgian troops deployed on the streets of the country for security reasons following the atrocities in Brussels back in March, the host nation’s involvement was scaled down – while international input stepped up.

For the sake of the exercise, western Flanders became the fictitious land of Canaria, with scores of people requiring rescuing as conflict swept through – just the sort of thing a lead commando group is expected to do.

In all, some 2,000 personnel were committed over the five-day exercise, bringing with them four Hercules transporters, 15 helicopters, Dutch Viking armoured vehicles – like those used by the Royal Marines – and the Dutch assault ship Rotterdam.

For my company it’s an exceptional opportunity – it gives us the chance to exercise alongside our international counterparts in a complex, real-time environment

Major Tom O’Keeffe Royal Marines, Officer Commanding Bravo Company

The bulk of Storm Tide 3 was focused around the port of Ostend – hallowed soil for Royal Marines who fought here in 1914 and 1918 – with a second stage in the city of Kortrijk, about 30 miles inland.

40 Commando have a year’s training to prepare them for the role of lead commando group – the Royal Marines unit the government can call on at immediate notice in the event of an international crisis.

“For my company it’s an exceptional opportunity – it gives us the chance to exercise alongside our international counterparts in a complex, real-time environment,” said Maj Tom O’Keeffe, Officer Commanding Bravo Company.

“We’re training in a real city with real civilians, resolving complex problems which is a real test of our most junior leaders.”

The streets of both cities echoed to the crackle of rifle fire (blanks…). In Kortrijk, fighting raged around the K shopping mall – slightly larger than Plymouth’s Drake Circus – the central library, civic theatre, town hall and railway station.

And Ostend was subjected to assault by land, sea and air with an amphibious landing near the casino to seize the neighbouring harbour, airport – so Hercules could land and evacuate large numbers of civilians.

There were also clashes in a college, the stadium of KV Oostende FC, and the city’s most popular park and grounds.

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