During the first week of May 2019, C (Charlie) Coy, augmented by members of 5 Platoon B (Rorke’s Drift) Coy, deployed on Salisbury Plain to support Exercise LIONS STRIKE. The exercise is designed to refresh company commanders with the tactical demands of their new role before they take post. With many of the students returning to their regiments from administrative or external postings, this exercise saw them take on appointments as Platoon sergeant (Pl Sgt), Platoon commander (Pl Comd), Company Sergeant Major (CSM) and, crucially, Company Commander (OC) with C Coy’s own command element observing and coaching them over a challenging three days. For the Charlie Company this was a golden opportunity to focus on of dismounted skills and drills, leaving the Warriors in the sheds.
The Coy deployed on a Sunday afternoon; the weather was on our side with a light, warm breeze for most of the day. On arrival we occupied a hasty harbour and were immediately tasked with model building prior to the students’ arrival the following day. This was a chance for the Coy to showcase its high standards, professionalism and work ethic, particularly given the presence of the incoming OC as a student on the exercise.
As a Company we were fully prepared and expected a challenging exercise both physically and mentally; a typical day would entail 3, lengthy, Coy attacks on multiple enemy positions. On the first morning, the students joined us at 0800 hrs at the first model pit. Once allocated their appointments and integrated within the platoons, the student OC briefed the company on the mission ahead and we set off ready for the first attack.
We had to adapt quickly to the different leadership styles of those in role, with everyone working hard to support them and sharpen their own individual soldiering skills at the same time. Once the first attack was complete, there was a quick debrief and appointment change before receiving orders for the next mission; this was the battle rhythm for the remaining two days which the Coy, particularly its younger, less experienced soldiers, took in its stride. For the students, many out of practice, the challenge of field-soldiering meant they didn’t hesitate to seek advice when uncertain. C Coy’s command element was happy to oblige, notably CSM Harris who, in his natural habitat, took the opportunity to treat the students to a pre–Brecon style crash course.
On the final day the battle tempo picked up and fatigue kicked in.
Everyone was stretched further by conducting a battalion dawn attack on Copehill Down Village. The Coy received orders at 0130 hrs and an 'H' Hr of 0330 was set. Recce Platoon provided guides to lead the Coy up to the FUP under the cover of darkness. The weather was against us, as it started raining cats and dogs straight after reveille. For the less experienced soldiers, this was going to be a mental battle they would have to overcome. It was impressive to see the progression the Coy had made from day one to the final attack, their skills and drills much slicker as seen in their assault on the village against heavy resistance. The CO and the students were overwhelmed by the professional conduct and contribution of the Coy in making the exercise a success throughout.
Without a doubt C Coy benefited hugely from supporting Ex LIONS STRIKE, which enabled low level development of personal skills whilst conducting different actions within both a Company and Battlegroup context.