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Royal Marines Band trainees bond during gruelling survival week at Commando Training Centre

22 February 2018
A would-be member of the Navy's world-famous band grimaces as he prepares to go through the 'sheep dip' - a short, water-filled tunnel - watched by fellow trainees.

Fifty trainee musicians from the Royal Marines School of Music were taken out of their comfy surroundings (en suite individual cabins, classrooms, halls and practice rooms) in Portsmouth…

…and endured a week in the wild down at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, near Exeter, where the Navy's elite seaborne infantry earn their coveted green berets.

As well as performing at public events up and down the land such as the Mountbatten Festival of Music in the Albert Hall, homecomings, (de)commissioning ceremonies, in time of war, the RM Band Service has a key role to perform.

Its men and women act as stretcher bearers and assist medical teams both on warships and the casualty treatment ship RFA Argus, as well as in the field.

The trainees seemed to enjoy the week thoroughly as it was certainly a change of scenery from instruments and music practice

LPT Iona Mannering

That means they must be expected to endure the hardships their commando brethren are used to, hence the 'survival week' at Lympstone.

By day temperatures never got higher than 8˚C, were more typically were around 4˚C and, at night, dropped a couple of degrees below zero.

Under the guidance of the school's physical trainers LPT Iona Mannering and Sgt James Plowright and with the help of C/Sgt Terry Ansell and Cpl Matthew Potts, the trainees began by learning the basics of survival - building shelters from natural resources (trees, foliage) in Gidley Woods, as well as cooking fish and chickens from scratch.

Having survived a very cold night in the open, the trainees moved to the training centre itself to tackle the gruelling endurance course - a six mile cross-country slog, mixed with various obstacles such as pipes, tunnels and the sheep dip - the dreaded 'bottom field' assault course (which commando recruits are expected to complete in just five minutes) and the Tarzan 'death slide' which also features a 30ft rope climb up a near vertical wall.

"The trainees seemed to enjoy the week thoroughly as it was certainly a change of scenery from instruments and music practice," said Iona.

Their charges are now back in Portsmouth where they've resumed their musical training (two years and eight months for musicians, two years for buglers).

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