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Royal Marines raiders take on high speed exercises with HMS Medway

19 June 2020
Royal Marines raiding experts have been testing themselves on fast boat exercises with HMS Medway in the Caribbean.

It is the first time the 47 Commando Raiding Group marines have worked with the Offshore Patrol Vessel and was another chance to polish their fast boat coxswain skills ahead of operations in the region. 

These raiding specialists bring a distinct advantage to the Royal Navy task group in the Caribbean on their main missions in counter-drugs trafficking and disaster relief operations.  

The Plymouth-based marines are the green berets’ experts in handling fast raiding boats and landing craft, and are aboard RFA Argus for their hurricane season deployment in the region.

Their presence on the support ship means when it comes to getting crucial aid ashore or hunting down a suspicious craft on counter-narcotics ops, the Royal Navy can do it with tremendous speed and precision. 

These hardy coxswains are trained in operating their boats in the most extreme of conditions, having just completed months of training in the icy fjords of Norway and previously worked in the extreme desert heat in Oman. 

Having pushed themselves and their kit in extreme climes, they are now working closely as part of a potent Royal Navy task group, including Medway, Argus, an air group of Wildcat and Merlin helicopters and 3 Commando Brigade’s crisis response troop.

Continuing their preparations for Caribbean missions, the commandos worked with Medway on high speed pacing drills, which saw them quickly and carefully maneuvering their boats next to the warship. A key skill when carrying out board and search operations.

Corporal Thomas Thornton, said: “Having been through exercises in really tough places like Norway, we can trust ourselves to operate in the harshest conditions. We have learnt to treat our kit well, so we can push it to the limit to achieve tasks.”

In the event of a natural disaster, the squadron will be tasked with quickly landing supplies and emergency aid, along with landing the 24 Commando Royal Engineers from the crisis response troop. 

Already the marines have been training hard with the task group, testing the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief capability on demanding exercises in British Overseas Territories across the Caribbean. 

On counter-narcotics operations, the squadron are able to land boarding parties onto suspicious crafts, supporting local police forces and the US Coastguard to interdict suspicious craft.

Sometimes this will need to be done covertly, so delicate maneuvering of the craft is just as important as working quickly, something they tested while working with Medway.

Through similar efforts in the last five years, Royal Navy ships in the region were responsible for seizing circa £750 million worth of cocaine and cannabis. 

More emphasis will be placed on these boarding and raiding skills as Royal Marines forge ahead with Future Commando Force development. 

The development programme puts commando skills like these right at the front of what the corps does, along with the ability to conduct covert landing of forces for reconnaissance missions.  

Cpl Thornton said: “In the marines we have been used to kit that is meant for fighting land campaigns.  With Future Commando Force, as well as some higher-level projects, we are starting to hear about scope for kit that can help us in the marine environment. 

“Things like waterproof boots, experimenting with software and consoles that aid our navigation, use of drones to conduct recces, and maybe down the line some firearms and weaponry that is more suitable in a maritime environment.

“There is a lot of responsibility for landing craft operators in the marines, and in 539 this is very true.  You are the coxswain, it is your boat, and there is a lot of trust placed in you by those you transport.  Sometimes they can be very senior, and sometimes you need to deliver them to a location safely, quickly, and all of that falls to us.”

Medway is stationed in the Caribbean on a long-term mission to support Britain’s overseas territories in the region under the Navy’s Forward Presence programme, basing new patrol ships around the globe.

Having been through exercises in really tough places like Norway, we can trust ourselves to operate in the harshest conditions. We have learnt to treat our kit well, so we can push it to the limit to achieve tasks.

Corporal Thomas Thornton

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