Nuclear guardians hone combat skills on The Rock
The men charged with the round-the-clock protection of the UK’s ultimate weapon hit Gibraltar for two weeks of intensive training to safeguard our nuclear deterrent.
Normally confined to the ammunition depot at Coulport on Loch Long, or the berths at nearby Clyde Naval Base, 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines are protecting the nation’s Trident missiles and the machines which carry them.
The unit trains daily, but also conducts extended exercises, playing out various scenarios to keep them on their toes — usually in their native Scotland.
However, in October last year, the marines of O and P Squadrons swapped Gareloch for Gibraltar to master close-quarters battle and to expose them to a fresh, challenging and unfamiliar environment.
Gibraltar is mostly dry and dusty with temperatures reaching the low 20s at this time of year.
The Rock presents the Royal Marines with physical challenges in the form of arid, rugged terrain as well as its numerous caves and wartime tunnels.
Weather and terrain aside, Gibraltar surprisingly closely mirrors the complex environment in which the marines work at their Clyde base.
Both are comprised of jetties set in a busy industrial and maritime setting with complex infrastructure.
The main phase of the Rock training — Exercise Serpent Rock 19 — involved moving at night through a series of underground tunnels, before emerging in the empty streets of Gibraltar and towards their first objectives around the jetties.
With complete surprised achieved — and the rest of Gibraltar still asleep — the marines overcame strong resistance from a well-trained enemy and reached their goal before the first rays of light touched the Rock.
They didn’t stop there, however. With little time to rest, the 43 men moved quickly on to their next task; securing a mock village with its array of complex tunnels.
When the combat was over, the Clyde-based Commandos were reminded of their Corps’ illustrious history with a tour of Gibraltar.
The Rock is the only battle honour to be named on the Corps heraldic crest, the Globe and Laurel. They also learned about the key role the tunnels and secret complexes hidden in the mountain played during World War 2.
And no visit to Gibraltar would be complete without a ‘Rock Run’ — from the naval base to the top of the 1,300ft mountain which dominates the small territory.