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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Out on the battlefield with Cumbrian troops

On a peaceful patch of hilly countryside, a group of soldiers were preparing for battle.

Battlefield photo
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment take part in the exercise

Around 400 troops from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (1 LANCS) – which recruits from Cumbria and the North West – have undergone battle training at Otterburn in Northumberland.

The exercise, over the weekend, was a series of mock battles designed to test the soldiers’ skills over a range of terrains, including open ground and woodland. To make it more like real life, they used live ammunition.

The exercise was among many being carried out by the British armed forces as they move away from the focus on missions in Afghanistan, which have been the priority for over a decade, to return to more conventional military training.

They were joined by fellow soldiers from across the English Channel in the shape of the 2eme Regiment Etranger d’Infanterie, better known as the French Foreign Legion.

This was as part of an agreement with the French Government which also sees British troops use their training facilities.

Major Matt Adams, the second-in-command of 1 LANCS told them he was pleased with how the exercise was unfolding.

“We are preparing to fight a generic war,” he said. “There are a variety of threats out there and we try to reflect a situation rather than a specific environment.”

The exercise saw British and French troops try to seize a variety of positions. Typically, once one group of men had moved forward, they were supported by another behind them, who would then move forward themselves.

As well as firing live ammunition, the soldiers used mortars and grenades. The size of the groups involved rose over the course of the weekend before the final, full-scale operation took place.

Major Adams explained that, despite the soldiers in 1 LANCS coming from a wide geographic background, they all managed to get on.

He added: “Everyone integrates well. We don’t have any enclaves.” He praised the French army saying: “It is a two-way exchange of information, we have a huge amount in common.”

Local troops also proved very popular with their Gallic counterparts.

Major Bertrand Blanquefort, the French liason officer to the British Army, attending the exercise, joked: “The interaction is going well, it won’t be long before we are speaking Cumbrian.”

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