BATUS, the Canadian prairie home to the Army’s biggest playground
We take a look at an area of Canadian soil that is home to one of the largest military training areas in the world. BATUS stands for ‘The British Army Training Unit Suffield’ and is an area the size of Dorset.
Size matters when you’re operating some the heaviest and most state-of the-art military vehicles and that’s why in 1972 the British Army began using the facility as a place for large-scale exercises with the first round being fired by the 4th Royal Tank Regiment battle group that year.
BATUS is equivalent in size to the combined area all of the main training areas used by British Army in the UK and in Europe. Salisbury Plain Training Area would even fit into it seven times over! Since 1972 hundreds of thousands of British troops and the UK’s allies have enjoyed and benefitted from the unique training experience BATUS offers.
BATUS is considered to be one of the most memorable postings for the British Army. The area sits in cowboy country close to the tiny community of Suffield. The nearest city is Medicine Hat, which is around 50 km away. The much larger city of Calgary is around a three hour drive. Despite the isolation BATUS is an exciting place to live and work.
The 217 UK military personnel who live there will find their time to be busy and productive. BATUS is equipped with hundreds of vehicles including a full complement of Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior Infantry Fighting Vehicles. The area is big enough to create fictitious towns and regions to give British troops a realistic idea of what it’s like to interact with different environments and scenarios before being posted on operations. Shipping containers have been used to simulate villages and towns, complete with imitation shops and houses. When they’re not on duty there is a British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) radio station local to BATUS, and manned by a small number of committed DJs.
BATUS is just one example of the close relationship between the UK Armed Forces and their Canadian counterparts. For over a century Canadian and UK troops have trained together and fought together in battles across the globe from Passchendaele to Southern Afghanistan. But the close military relationship goes much further than just the two armies. At any one time there is around 40 UK military exchange officers from the three Services embedded in Canadian Air, Maritime and Land formations across Canada from the Atlantic to Pacific coasts.
The military ties are perhaps one of the most obvious examples of the close historical and cultural ties between the two countries. The British Defence Liaison staff in Ottawa are embedded within the British High Commission and work hand in hand with partners across government.
Canada this year also has the honour of hosting the 3rd Invictus Games, welcoming wounded, injured and sick Service personnel and veterans as competitors from Britain, Canada and 15 other nations. The Invictus Games, launched in 2014 by HRH Prince Harry, use the power of sport to inspire recovery and support rehabilitation. Find out more here:www.invictusgamesfoundation.org.