Exercise GOTHIC DRAGON

February 2020 saw the entire Battalion move out to Paderborn for the largest Battalion activity of the 1 R WELSH calendar year. The logistical conundrum that was the planning for this mammoth of an exercise was complete, and the stage was set for what looked to be an excellent gun camp.

Charlie Company got off to a strong start on the armoured ranges, due in part to the significant work put into the restoration of the Land Training Fleet (Sennelager) by the Battalion during the weeks leading up to the exercise. Any mechanical setbacks on the ranges, which are inevitable on such exercises, were forgotten amidst the waves of enthusiasm from the excited, newly qualified gunners, all looking to pass their Individual Gunners Tests (IGT). Due to the success of the gunners, by the end of the range package the crews had progressed onto more complex Live Firing Exercises, moving tactically around the battlefield and engaging various targets across the expanse that is Sennelager Training Area (STA).

Concurrently, the dismounted troops of C Coy were fighting battles of their own; using Live Fire Tactical Training (LFTT) to develop from section-level skills and drills, to fully planned platoon attacks. In demanding terrain and even more demanding weather, C Coy conducted deliberate attacks, got stuck in on the bayonet range (quite literally), and Fusiliers Hughes, Mapley and Spencer fired the NLAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) to great success.

Once out of the field, the opportunity to let one's hair down was seized by all in the form of the St David’s Day celebrations. A morning parade, followed by a day of inter-company sports saw some tough competition on the rugby and football pitches, the highlight for me being Charlie Company’s exemplary performance on the volleyball court. And so, on to the evening, where the Oktoberfest theme and leek-eating ceremony were greatly enjoyed by all, enhanced by the excellent schnitzel and Bratwürtse produced by the catering platoon. The Officers Mess St David’s Day Dinner was a quieter, but equally enjoyable affair in Paderborn, which was fantastic experience for those who, like me, were experiencing their first St David’s Day celebrations as members of the Battalion. Highlights of the evening included Lt Whitehead’s rendition of ‘Under the Sea’ and Lt Shearer’s operatic take on ‘Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer’.

Festivities completed; the Battalion continued with its busy training package. Sniper ranges, mortar ranges and FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas) were running, and the CATT (Combined Arms Tactical Trainer) facilities were proving to be excellent for practising Armoured tactics at company level. A battlefield study to Berlin by seniors and officers was very engaging. Studying the various forms and facets of armoured warfare up to and including the fall of Berlin proved both interesting and useful in developing our conceptual understanding ahead of a busy training cycle which will culminate in Ex PRAIRE STORM 21. Visits to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the SS fortress of Wewelsburg proved sobering. However, these visits offered an important opportunity to examine the unique ethical responsibility as military leaders incumbent upon us all.

Overall, Exercise GOTHIC DRAGON was a great success, despite an early finish, having completed a vast array of quality mounted and dismounted training. I strongly believe that the hard work put in 1 R WELSH has set up other battalions for further success in Sennelager.

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Maindy Barracks, Cardiff, CF14 3YE

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