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Royal Marines involved in Arctic rescue

12 January 2024
Royal Marines assisted Norwegian authorities in finding two missing hikers lost at night deep inside the Arctic Circle as temperatures plummeted below -20c.

Specialist from Plymouth-based 30 Commando’s Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron are usually found at the tip of the commando spear, covertly gathering crucial information on the battlefield and on ‘enemy’ positions to help commanders might make the right moves in combat.

But they turned their particular talents as the eyes and ears of the UK’s Commando Force, to a rescue mission as Norwegian Police and search and rescue experts searched for two missing hikers in the remote mountainous Helligskogen region, near the border with Finland and Sweden. 

The squadron’s Operations Room – inside Helligskogen military camp in Norway’s far north – became the coordination hub and a staging post for rescue services to gather before deploying into the wilderness.

Four Royal Marines Commandos on snowmobiles were offered to authorities to aid their search efforts, while avalanche equipment and maps were provided to aid efforts.

“Thankfully, we were stood down when the first Norwegian team to deploy found the hikers in a mountain shelter,” said Mountain Leader, Warrant Officer 2 Dave Strickson.  

“Following the incident, all involved came back to Helligskogen to conduct an after-action review and to thank us for our support and hospitality. 

“From a squadron perspective and all parties involved, this was an excellent example of partnering and everyone is looking forward to training together in the future.”

Britain’s Commandos are currently deployed to northern Norway ahead of a major NATO exercise, as the UK underscores its commitment to security in the High North. 

Elements of the UK Commando Force, including Royal Marines, Army Commandos and the Commando Helicopter Force are bound for the alliance’s northern flank.

Royal Marines established an encampment in Skjold (40 miles south of Tromsø) – known as Camp Viking – which is to be their operations hub for the next ten years as they continue to be at the tip of the Arctic spear.

The Royal Marines have a long tradition of cold weather and mountain warfare dating back to the 1940s, and continue to build on the strong bond between Norway and the UK.

The Commandos will be sharpening their ability to survive, move and fight across the tough Arctic terrain as they build up to an exercise which will test Allies’ collective ability, for the first time, to defend the Nordic regions – including Norway, Sweden and Finland – from invasion.

“The opening of Arctic trade routes and the constant threats, requires the UK to support NATO and our Scandinavian allies more than ever,” said Major Ric Cole, spokesperson for the Commando Force.

“Since World War 2 and the first use of Commandos, we have trained and operated from the fjords and inlets, pushing deep into the frozen interior. 

“The UK Commando Force remains the partner of choice for our Norwegian counterparts, and increasingly to new NATO member Finland along with Sweden, whose Special Operations Forces and Coastal Rangers will be working with the Royal Marines. 

“Together, and with US and Dutch involvement, we seek to develop a potent force capable of Defending NATO’s Arctic flank.” 

More than 20,000 NATO troops, 50 warships, submarines and other vessels and more than 110 fighter jets, helicopters and other aircraft will take part in the exercise, with the Norwegian hosts expecting participants from 14 nations.

Usually Norway hosts the bi-annual exercise. However, since Finland joined and Sweden’s expected membership to NATO, the exercise – previously called Cold Response – now encompasses the wider region and has been renamed Nordic Response.

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