Monday, March 29th 2010 - 18:48 UTC

Falklands training ground for UK troops to be deployed in Afghanistan

Eight thousand miles from the United Kingdom in the Falkland Islands more than 150 soldiers from 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment are preparing for war.

British troops with live munitions in Onion Range

Next year they will all be deployed to Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban, reports Nicola Rees for BBC under the heading: Yorkshire soldiers train in Falklands for Afghanistan. For now though, their battlefield training ground is the bleak and rocky terrain of the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic. They have joined British servicemen from the Army, Navy, and RAF at Mount Pleasant military base near the islands' capital, Stanley. Nicola writes that besides playing a vital role defending the Islands from any foreign invasion, “the infantry soldiers from the Battalion's A Company are also being put through some gruelling training regimes”.

Cpl Anthony Brown, 26, from Beeston in Leeds, says it is one of the hardest environments he has trained in. “It's like everything out here is designed to hurt you, and as for the weather I've seen it all - rain, hail, snow, all in one day - and I've still managed to get sunburnt.”

One of the toughest field exercises is the live firing that takes place at the top of Onion Range, so called because the journey up there alone is enough to make your eyes water.
The soldiers set up camp on the exposed hillside, often for several weeks at a time, and the training takes place in a simulated battlefield environment.

Every machine gun, mortar and rifle that is fired contains live ammunition, and as the soldiers scramble over rocks and riverbeds in full body armour, it is the closest they can be to an all out war - everything but the enemy is real.

L/Cpl Lee Mullarkey, from Bradford, commands a section of frontline soldiers. For him the live firing exercise is crucial.
“This is the build up for Afghanistan next year, and the way I see it the harder we train now, the easier the fight will be out there,” he said.
”My biggest worry is the IED (improvised explosive device) threat. Roadside bombs are a massive problem for the British army out there - they're the one thing that causes the most casualties.
“I think within the regiment there's going to be a lot of wounded, and there's going to be a lot of soldiers killed.
”I've just got to stay focused on keeping my men alive and getting them back in one piece.“

Ms Rees goes on to explain that the Falklands are more than just a training ground for the soldiers of the Yorkshire Regiment. Many of them are too young to remember the 1982 conflict with Argentina, but the battle scars of that war are ever present.

More than 20,000 land mines were left behind, and 28 years on it is not hard to find the wreckage of fighter planes shot down during the conflict.

The Falklands War claimed the lives of 255 British soldiers and 655 Argentines, a fact that is not overlooked by 28-year-old Cpl Phil Horton from Keighley.
”I've been to Goose Green with the lads that I command, and there's something very sobering about us being here 28 years later.
“It's good for us to train on the same ground that the men fought and died on in 1982, and to appreciate just how tough it was for them.
”I lead a platoon of soldiers on daily patrols around the Islands. It's not that we think there's a real risk of an Argentine invasion, but we do know they have Special Forces trying to access the Islands.
“It's my job to make sure they don't make it ashore so that they can't stash kit or get information about our defences.
”To be fair I am really anxious about going out to Afghanistan, but the way I see it is if I don't do it someone else will have to.
“I miss everything about Yorkshire, but in particular I miss my wife obviously, and I miss Timmy Taylor's beer.”

Despite the distance reminders of Yorkshire are everywhere, from the rugged moor-land and grazing sheep to the picturesque capital of Stanley, which is twinned with Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast.

Private Martin Wilks, 21, from Royston in South Yorkshire, managed to take a couple of hours out of training to visit the Islands' capital city.
“It's so surreal being here, it's more like a tiny seaside village in England than a capital city, but the locals are really nice.
”You do have to remind yourself how far away from home you are, and there are certain things that I really miss like the smell of my mum's washing and going out with my mates.”

The piece ends pointing out that next year the environment will be very different for the infantry soldiers of the Yorkshire Regiment's A Company. The date for their deployment to Afghanistan is yet to be confirmed, but when the announcement is made they'll be ready, thanks to their battlefield training 8,000 miles from the UK in the Falkland Islands.

5 comments Feed

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1 Rhaurie-Craughwell (#) Mar 30th, 2010 - 08:40 pm Report abuse
”I lead a platoon of soldiers on daily patrols around the Islands. It's not that we think there's a real risk of an Argentine invasion, but we do know they have Special Forces trying to access the Islands.
“It's my job to make sure they don't make it ashore so that they can't stash kit or get information about our defences.”

now thats interesting, I thought Jorgelito said theres no point on British forces being there?
But more interestingly why isn't this in the mainstream media, we've known for years at this end that Argentina always tries these little ops and like 2 years at at Fox bay they buggered so badly and left half their kit behind!
2 khh (#) Mar 31st, 2010 - 12:28 pm Report abuse
Rhaurie can you spare any more info on the Fox Bay fiasco?
I was arround when the Concordia Bay incedent happened . [christmas 2000]
They left a rubber boat a a shed load of kit! pretty high tek stuff some of it.
3 J.A. Roberts (#) Mar 31st, 2010 - 12:35 pm Report abuse
“the soldiers set up camp on the exposed hillside, often for several weeks at a time”

I can't see the Argentine squaddies doing that. It would be back to barracks at tea time every day for mate cocido and alfajores.
4 Rhaurie-Craughwell (#) Mar 31st, 2010 - 02:10 pm Report abuse
It's all very hush hush Khh remember the Argentines respect the wishes of the Islanders and want to resolve it peacefully :)

But my hearing of Fox bay is apparently some Farm Labourers literally stood on the buggers one night the, Argies scapered so quickly the results were the same as Concordia, except they managed to use their dinghy this time but again maps, rations, ammunition and weapons were left behind, the “most likely” scenario so they say it was a few overly nationalistic Fishermen from an Argy trawler that left the area very quickly the next day. However a more serious incident I know is the simulated Torpedo attack by an Argy sub in South Georgia on a fisheries patrol vessel about the same time, there is talk now that the garrison shall be restablished on South Georgia as a result of this.

All in all the same source told me that due to these incidents Army Cadets and OTC's are no longer allowed to go to the Islands, and the Garrison has been since 3 years ago on 24 hour, 7 days a week readiness alerts and the Typhoons were rushed in 5 years ahead of schedule.

It all makes for very interesting reading, anyway whether it is can proven or not.
5 khh (#) Mar 31st, 2010 - 02:30 pm Report abuse
Thanks Rhaurie, very interesting stuff, Well hopfully a RIC patrol will catch them sooner or later and make them piss gravy. But it is a very big coast line to patrol.

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