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Royal Marines head to Norway to prepare for NATO Arctic exercise

6 February 2022
Royal Marines are honing crucial Arctic warfare skills in Norway as they prepare for important exercises alongside NATO allies in the region.

The commandos are the UK’s experts in operations in all extremes of environment, including the frozen mountains and fjords of the Arctic Circle – one of the harshest environments known to man where the sun doesn’t rise for two months of the year and temperatures can plummet below -35°C.

Every winter the next generation of Royal Marines head to the high north to train in surviving, moving and fighting across the rugged coasts and unforgiving mountains of northern Norway, demonstrating the UK’s commitment to protecting one of its closest NATO allies. 

This year, marines will spearhead the UK involvement in Exercise Cold Response, supported by a task group of Royal Navy ships and aircraft, including aircraft carrier and NATO command ship HMS Prince of Wales.

The Norwegian-led exercise, in March and early April, involves 35,000 troops from 28 nations, with allied warships and aircraft working closely together as the powerful task force tests its ability to protect Norway from modern threats. 

Before the icy combat of Cold Response, commandos must take on the intensive Cold Weather Warfare Course run by Royal Marines Mountain Leaders, the Arctic and mountain warfare specialists who train commandos in the valuable skills needed to fight and survive in the snow and ice. 

That includes emergency shelter building and jumping into freezing water – known as the ice-breaking drill – to test responses to cold shock. 

The commandos are also taught navigation skills before taking to skis and snow shoes to learn how to quickly get across the ice and out-manoeuvre adversaries carrying weapons and equipment across training areas in the mountainous Troms and Finnmark county in northern Norway.

Lance Corporal Jack Cooper of 40 Commando said: “This is my fourth Norway. Just surviving here presents unique challenges, but if you can operate here, you can operate anywhere.”


Royal Marines deploy to Norway at the invitation of the Norwegian government and continue to do so to remain at the cutting-edge of Arctic combat, ready to fight in the region whenever called upon. 

 “Norway is an incredibly harsh environment, but with a few specialist skills and doing the basics well, sustaining and operating out here is a lot more manageable,” said 19-year-old Marine Mark Clarke, who has been learning to build a range of shelters for Arctic survival. 

The training course has been extended by a week this year to get marines more experience and develop further confidence.

Colour Sergeant Taylor, 45 Commando’s Mountain Leader 1 said: “In terms of the training benefit, we’re in a really good position. I’m expecting the companies to maximise their interaction with this demanding environment, so that they grow as an effective fighting force.”

Adventurer, TV presenter and Royal Marines Honorary Colonel Bear Grylls dropped in to see the training and take on the infamous ice-breaking drill.

He said: “It’s always inspiring to spend time with the Commandos – seeing them demonstrate their unique winter survival combat skill set in such challenging conditions is a reminder of what heroes they are.

“For a young marine the Arctic is such an amazing experience, and if they can operate here then they can operate anywhere.”


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