CCF Field Weekend
L/Cpl West gives an in-depth account of a very successful CCF Field Weekend:
We arrived at 08:30 on Friday morning to embark on our Field Weekend excursion. We began with a brief check of uniform and kit, implemented by Staff Sergeant Bradley. Once everyone was correctly attired, to the Staff Sergeant’s standard, we boarded the coach.
Our first destination was RAF Cottesmore, home of the Royal Anglian Regiment, ‘The Poachers’, for a visit to their recruitment team and to look around their Senior NCO’s Mess. Staff Sergeant Bradley came to the School from ‘The Poachers’ so was very keen for us to be looking our best, something he made abundantly clear before arrival.
On arrival we were split into small groups to move around various stalls. Some were activities and command tasks and others were stands of guns such as the Light Machine Gun, or stands of equipment such as the incredibly heavy ‘Day Sack’ and Gas Masks. After this we marched down to the SNCO’s Mess where we were hosted by a Warrant Officer and friend of Staff Sergeant Bradley. We were shown the various Trophy Rooms containing Shields for Weapons Handling, Combat and Sport.
We then visited the SNCO’s formal bar which is home to a collection of weapons brought back from various conflicts from the Regiment’s history. We progressed into the informal bar where we found a multitude of photos of a younger Staff Sergeant Bradley playing sport. Finally we were shown the tie room where ties were exhibited that had been cut off in a SNCO military tradition. This concluded our visit to RAF Cottesmore.
We then travelled the short journey to Newark Air Museum where we ate lunch and were privileged enough to be allowed into the Cockpit of a Vulcan, a Cold War Bomber and a Shackleton, a maritime Submarine hunting aircraft. The tour guide for the Vulcan had been a Navigator on the aircraft during his RAF career so provided us with all sorts of stories and in-depth knowledge. This concluded the Section visits for our Field Weekend. Now we were headed for Childerley Hall Estate, our home for the next two days.
On arriving, it began raining. Various people discovered why the Staff Sergeant had advised everyone to pack their water proof clothes at the top of their Bergen. Once everyone was kitted out for the weather we moved off along a field track to the wood we were camping in. There wasn’t much time left before the sun went down so we immediately split into our Flights and began building our ‘Bashers’. A Basher consists of a poncho raised at one end and pegged to the ground at the other. They are easy to make and quick to disassemble, ideal for military style camping. They aren’t meant to be luxurious but will keep you dry at night.
On completing our Harbour areas we lit our hexi-stoves, opened our ration packs and ate a welcome hot meal in the rain. The ration packs we were using are the standard British Army one day pack consisting of a huge number of calories and lots of good food. Morale was high despite the conditions due to the usual CCF banter.
Having warmed up a little we prepared for our first activity. There was a lesson for the whole section on night noises taken by Corporal Waldron. Various noises would be made from the surrounding area by hidden NCOs that had to be identified by the Cadets; the purpose being to demonstrate how sound is very clear and obvious at night. Then a night confidence walk was organised where Cadets had to walk individually through a wood at night to checkpoints illuminated by cyalume sticks. Everyone built up confidence from participating in these activities. With the activities concluded, we walked back to the Harbour areas and prepared to get some sleep. On the Staff Sergeant’s advice, Sentries were posted round the clock to guard each Harbour area.
The next morning it had stopped raining. We had a Physical Training session run by Corporal Waldron. This was to warm everyone up before breakfast and consisted of some light exercises from the Staff Sergeant’s PT book. With this completed the Flights returned to their Harbour areas for a ration pack all Day Breakfast or Toasted Muesli and preparation of a lighter Bergen to carry through the day. With our Bergens re-packed we went for a Briefing from the Contingent Commander, Dr Lim. The Flights then walked to their day’s main activities. These consisted of a Camouflage and Concealment lesson by Lance Corporal Fanourakis, a Harbour Drills and Formations lesson by Lance Corporal Anson, and a Navigation lesson by Lance Corporal West. Each of the three Flights took it in turns to participate in the lessons. We had lunch in the field and then walked back to the Harbour Areas.
On arriving back we were informed that we had to move our entire Harbour Areas in an hour to a new area. Everyone got to it efficiently and effectively and the task was completed with time to spare. We were then taught by Captain Couper-Marsh how to prepare and cook fish and potatoes on an open fire as a treat. We aren’t usually allowed open fires as they are not tactical and reveal your Harbour area’s position. With this knowledge fresh in mind the Flights were dispatched to cook their fish and a bag of potatoes. Once warmed up and re-fuelled, we moved off for the main Night Exercise.
The Flights were briefed by Corporal Waldron for their mission. An unknown enemy group had overrun Childerley Hall and the Cadets (Elite Soldiers), in groups of two had to move stealthily using what they learnt in their lessons to a grid reference where a Truck was sighted that was carrying enemy equipment. They had to avoid patrols, gain as much intelligence as they could from the area and make it back to the start in two hours. Everyone performed excellently with notable commendations going to Cadets Chhabra and Lau who managed to get under the truck with Staff Sergeant Bradley and Captain Couper-Marsh sitting on it. Also to a Year Nine, Cadet Sam Crawley who made it from start to finish with excellent intelligence information.
With the Night-ex completed we returned to our Harbour Areas where we roasted some Marshmallows, a reward for performing excellently in the exercise and then went to bed. Once in bed, it again began raining.
Sunday morning was foggy but it had stopped raining. Corporal Waldron took another PT session to warm us up. We were then briefed by Contingent Commander Dr Lim on the day’s activities; breakfast, packing up and then a war game in the woods using Laser Paintball Guns.
The packing up went smoothly and by the end, the woods looked as if we had never been there; fire pits were buried, litter picked up and all equipment stowed in Bergens. During this, we were visited by Mr Elliot and his family who came to see what we did and how we operated on Field weekend. We then left our Harbour Areas for good with all our equipment and walked to the wood where the War Game was to take place.
It was a Flight against Flight competition where we attempted to out manoeuvre and eliminate all of the other team. The Flight that weren’t in the game practiced Drill in a nearby field. Each flight had its own tactics, some defending, some using firing teams and great communication to out flank the opposition. Flying Officer Howard, standing in for one team, attempted to charge the opposition to no great avail; discovering that they were all good marksmen he was rapidly eliminated from the game. The clear winners were Tornado Flight with excellent commitment shown by Cadet Davies who waded waist deep in water through a drainage ditch to out flank the other Flight.
With the War Game completed, we boarded our coach and returned to school for a brief kit check to make sure everyone had everything they needed for our next Field Weekend which, in Staff Sergeant Bradley’s words, will be ‘epic’.