A GROUP of Royal Marine reservists including lawyers, doctors and shop workers have spent two weeks in the Arctic Circle as part of their cold weather survival and warfare training.
The group of troops from the Royal Marines Reserve (RMR) took leave from their civilian jobs to complete the intensive training course in northern Norway.
The group learned cross-country skiing, how to survive after falling through ice, cooking in the extreme cold and how to build a snow shelter.
Lance Corporal Gareth Wilkinson, a 34-year-old police officer from Aberdeen, completed his second trip to the region.
He said: “It was extremely challenging, arduous and difficult conditions to work in this time.
“The weather has been unpredictable with strong winds, low temperatures, and then rain and snow as well.
“Strangely, some of the more experienced guys said that it could have been doing with being a bit colder and with less rain, as it’s better in the dry cold rather than when everything is wet.
“We haven’t really been able to plan each day too much because we don’t know how the skiing would go, depending on the rain, sometimes making it heavy-going and then the next day it would freeze and it’s like walking on ice.”
The project, named Operation Hairspring, was led by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Parvin, Commanding Officer of RMR Scotland.
He said: “Temperatures this year ranged from 5C (41F) down to -30C where we routinely train. Cold weather training is at the core of what we as Royal Marines do; it is in our DNA.
“Reservists are everyday men from every walk of life who have a unique bond in that they are members of a 350-year-old family.
“They are a small band of highly committed individuals who manage their civilian and family lives to undertake intensive, yet rewarding, training and deploy around the globe.
“Coming to Norway is a big commitment for them, it’s the harshest environment to fight in; with learning to survive against the elements being a constant challenge.”
‘Never skiied before’
Many of the reservists who completed the exercise had never skied before the trip, including marine Hugh Wright.
The 35-year-old doctor from Oxford said: “I had to learn to ski very quickly in order just to keep up.
“Progressing from no experience to skiing with a 100lb rucksack on your back is quite a steep learning curve.
“The training is tough and the environment dangerous, so teamwork is essential in Norway to ensure everyone remains safe and warm.”
Most reservists had to take a two-week holiday from their work in the UK to go through the course and many headed straight back to their full-time job today.
Military bosses believe the men’s experiences in the field give them skills they can take back to the workplace while the knowledge that comes with their job can boost the strength of any unit on operations.
Further exercises are planned throughout this year as the Royal Marines mark its 350th anniversary.
Some troops will also provide extra security at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland this summer.