Fresh legs and tip-top morale for the Nijmegen Marches

The team sets off.

The team sets off.

Staff Sergeant Michelle Carr, Army Air Corps (AAC), shares the experiences of her all-female team, as they take part in the Nijmegen Marches (12 – 19 Jul 14).  The mixed-ranks team won the Best Land Team prize, based on speed, team spirit, morale and general conduct throughout the event.

Having successfully qualified at the RAF Cosford 50-mile test eight weeks before and being awarded 2nd best Army team, we were looking forward to the challenge, albeit a little apprehensively. The march consisted of approximately 46,000 participants, 806 of whom were British military and 369 from the Army (including a team from 9 Regt AAC). Each day teams must cover a set distance within a certain time frame, with two or three designated rest stop areas which had refreshments and medical cover.

Day one

An early start of 0405 hrs wasn’t as bad as we first thought as the atmosphere was amazing from the beginning . It was a tough day as we had 29 miles to tackle but fresh legs and tip-top morale meant the day went as smoothly as can be expected and we finished with a full team and no serious injuries. Blisters and sore feet were here to stay! Along the route we came across a Reservist who had completed the march 39 times and was part of the support team. I asked him for some tips; the advice was to get around as quickly as possible and spend the minimal amount of time in the rest areas (10 – 15 minutes). That is what we did.

Day two

Another very early start but with less distance to cover; 23 miles. A lot of Ibuprofen and blister management was a theme! I have to admit that the team were making my job as team leader very easy; self motivation and determination (or stubbornness) was an attribute of each team member. Towards the 18-mile point it was apparent that the team were feeling the miles they had covered and needed a pick-me-up. We came across a German Team as we entered back in to Nijmegen town and we sang songs to each other back and forth for the rest of the distance (it’s amazing how singing helps, it speeds up the pace and takes your mind off the pain). Once again we finished with a full team.

Day three

It was hinted to me that we were in the running for best Land team (this category was for British Army and the Royal Navy). A slightly later start and a slight hiccup from one of the team meant that we missed our start time. This resulted in us being the VERY last team to leave camp. As we had messed up a little I assumed that the best team prize was out of the window; however, we still felt like we had to make amends, so we really went for it. Ten minutes in each rest stop (as opposed to some teams spending 45–60 minutes) and a quick pace meant that we lost count of how many teams we over-took, and morale was through the roof. That evening at the Team Leaders brief we were awarded the best Land team prize for speed, Morale, team spirit and not to mention that we had still not lost anyone from the team.

Day four

Time for a breather.

Time for a breather

The final and longest day. We had 30 miles to get through having started with extremely sore feet/legs/backs; this was a huge challenge in 36-degree heat. It was made even more difficult due to the sombre mood because of the loss of many Dutch lives on the Malaysian Airlines flight the previous day.

As it was the last day we knew the end was in sight so we kept to our strict timings but we did have to stop more often. At the end of the route despite the nation grieving the atmosphere was amazing and there were local people everywhere playing music and spraying us with water, which was appreciated by all of us.

As the Team Leader the most worrying part of the whole March was the final four miles, this should have been the ultimate march through Nijmegen town centre but the lack of water, heat and sheer distance covered resulted in many service and Cadet personnel showing signs of heat injuries. Although morale was high our team members took it up on themselves to look after the wellbeing of others who were struggling (carry their own packs and individuals’ packs, supplying water and giving encouragement).

Everyone who started the challenge completed it showing self motivation, robustness and determination. I couldn’t have taken a better team:

Maj Claire Curry (HQ AAC)
Lt Susie Finch (7 Regt)
2Lt Steph Cray (1 Regt)
WO2 Ally McIlroy (5 Regt)
SSgt Annie Aspin (5 Regt)
Sgt Clare McMaster (6 Regt)
Sgt Sara Canning (HQ Land)
Cpl Emily Leggett (ATR Pirbright)
Cpl Tanya McIlroy (2 Regt)
AirTpr Katie Carter (4 Regt)
AirTpr Allison Kerr (4 Regt)
SSgt Michelle Carr (HQ AAC)

The group photo.

The group photo.

Find out more about the Four Days Nijmegen Marches at this link www.4daagse.nl/en

Visit the Army Air Corps website: www.army.mod.uk/aviation/air.aspx

Supersonic inspiration at Goodwood Festival of Speed

REME Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown getting kids to calculate the speed of rocket cars on their mobiles

REME Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown getting kids to calculate the speed of rocket cars on their mobile phones.

Not taking any prisoners

“I get it – I finally get the equation”. The words of one of the 300 children invited to take part in the Bloodhound Rocket Challenge at Goodwood Festival of Speed.

What did she get? The penny had dropped for this 12-year old, who is starting to make choices that will shape her academic pathways, that the crafting of a foam rocket car hurtling along a wire at 120 mph had a direct impact on the speed.  There’s an argument to say that family, friends and the subjects she is confident in have already set her on a path that may take her away from STEM* careers – so today has never been more important.

The team of three girls from Twynham School, in Dorset, turned up to Goodwood prepared – tool boxes, plans – they were not taking any prisoners. They wanted to win. The foam rocket car they had so carefully crafted shot up the track – surprising the adults and momentarily silencing the young students. Smoke from the rocket motor and then the impact of the car – the same weight of an apple – into a soft barrier to keep the cars intact.

The car stopped and the girls were off, sprinting up the 50-metre track to see what the heat from the rocket motor had done to the foam car. Had they removed too much material? Had it melted through?

Public watches rocket cars made by chidren travelling at 100 mph_2

Public watch rocket cars made by children travelling at 100 mph

 

The car had gone down the track so quickly that the rocket motor was still burning and had set light to the soft barrier – this was “epic” according to the girls and was certainly not what normally happened at school. The flame was stamped out and all eyes focussed on the rocket car. The front wheel of the car was gone.

“What happened?” “Where has it gone?” The girls started discussing what went wrong, how it had happened and if had slowed the car down?

“Miss, what speed did it go?” the question was fired at Army Reservist Craftsman Liz Brown marking run times on successful cars. “I’m not telling you” she said with a grin. “You work it out!”

What followed was an impromptu lesson on speed=distance/time. Teacher Amanda Britton who was accompanying the girls watched on as Liz drew out the S-D-T triangle and mobiles were pulled out to work out the speed.

Craftsman Liz Brown recently joined the Army Reserves and is “cool” in the eyes of the three girls because she is training to repair weapons systems in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. “Once I’ve qualified, the guys will bring in their rifles to me and I will be responsible for fixing them” says Brown when quizzed what she does.

The girls get the significance of Brown’s role and eyes are fixed on her as she tests their calculations. “If you are dividing metres by seconds, what do you get?” Next is an explanation of m/s and mph and some homework via Google on the journey back to Dorset.

 

As they walk away we overhear, “I get it – I finally get the equation”.

Educational Ambassadors

Rocket powered inspiration - Students from Twynham School Dorset display their rocket car

Rocket powered inspiration – Students from Twynham School Dorset display their rocket car

Mission accomplished. In the space of 2 hrs, Bloodhound’s rocket challenge has linked the shaping of a blue Styrofoam block to aerodynamics, rocket science (chuck in chemistry and a dash of Newton’s laws) and a lesson on speed calculations that will adhere to a mind filled with much more than school work.

Bloodhound’s rocket challenge is simple but powerful. Outreach projects like this, and others that the Bloodhound team have up their sleeves, are challenging kids’ perceptions of what is achievable and how they access Science and Engineering.

Bloodhound has the ability to inspire – and kids get it.

The rocket challenge coincided with an announcement from the Army at Goodwood’s Festival of Speed to support Bloodhound’s education program. The Army has trained 100 soldiers as part of a volunteer force of Educational Ambassadors to take the 1,000 mph car’s cutting edge technology into schools. Soldiers from the REME have been visiting schools across the country in support of Bloodhound’s professional educators – all in an effort to offer every child a lesson on Bloodhound by 2018. So far 40,000 children have received a lesson on the supersonic car.

The announcement reaffirms the Army’s support to the Bloodhound project, which already has a small team of military technicians seconded to the engineering team under a commercial arrangement to help build the 1,000 mph car.

Ask your kids if they have heard of the Bloodhound project – you will be surprised at how much they know!

By Major Oli Morgan

Read more of Maj Morgan’s blogs here

*Science Technology Engineering and Maths.

You’re in the Army now: Pride on parade before hometime

My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my sixth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.

Week 6

Monday

Recruit Vaughan

Recruit Vaughan

We started the morning by getting sized up for our No 2 Dress, the uniform we’ll be wearing for pass out. Very smart!

Next was a lesson with the Padre on the ethics of the Army, and shown a clip from Platoon highlighting the vast difference of what’s right and what’s wrong as military.

More drill with 2 section commanders who corrected minor mistakes a lot of us are still making.

Finally a code of conduct lesson with our Troop Commander who informed us what we can and can’t do during our long weekend.

Tuesday

Today was spent mostly on the ranges zeroing our rifles to ourselves. Apparently my grouping was pretty good, which I’m happy about.

After cleaning our rifles and handing them in to the armoury, we had drill. Here we practised what would be happening on Thursday and our last attempt was really good according to our Troop Sergeant. Happy with that!

Troop Commanders locker inspection tomorrow. I hope we impress him!

Wednesday

Our locker inspection didn’t go too badly today. However, a spare locker some of the section use for storage was also inspected and let us down.

For PT, we had another indoor assault course in preparation for the outdoor assault course, which we would be tackling next Monday. The session was, as usual, intense but rewarding – apart from somehow getting a drawing pin in my toe, which stopped me completing the last lap. My luck is horrendous.

Functional skills and then last bit of drill before the big day tomorrow. So excited to see my family and I’m praying I pass my drill test! Long weekend to look forward to and a well earned rest!

Thursday

Huge day today; one we had been looking forward to for some time. In the morning we got into barrack dress, making sure we looked immaculate. Due to time constraints I only managed to properly bull one shoe, I hoped it would be ok though.

After a kit inspection, and a quick iron of my sleeves, we were marched to the square for our drill test. Our troop were first to do this test and we all wanted to pass with flying colours.We were put into open order and had a kit inspection from the Regimental Adjutant. My kit was apparently quite good other than one shoe being evidently shinier than the other. Damn! Despite a couple of hiccups our Troop all passed! Morale soared and we knew we were getting our cap badges in front of our families, a great feeling.

The recruits on parade.

The recruits on parade.

We completed some admin to kill time and then back to the square for the ceremony. We marched on as a squadron, marching past our loved ones without daring to look at them lest we make a mistake. Thankfully nothing of the sort occurred, and one by one we received our prized cap badges to rounds of applause. The self pride is indescribable and I can’t imagine how I’ll feel at pass out!

After matching off the square, we were finally allowed to see our families. After lots of hugs, each troop then had to put on a demonstration to our families giving an insight into the sort of things we’ve been learning the past 6 weeks, from our different uniforms to ration packs to setting up a basha on exercise. It’s a nice touch to be able to show off our newly acquired knowledge.

A quick change into our civilian suits and we were free to go! A 3 hour drive home and a curry with my friends to cap off one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

See you on Sunday Winchester!

 

Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey

Find out about joining the Army

Find out about ATR Winchester

Jakarta: An exercise in disaster management Pt4

Major Paul Lodge and Captain Chris Willett are both reservist members of the Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG). In their civilian jobs, Paul is a Project Manager and Chris is a Police Officer. For two weeks, they are deployed on Exercise Civil Bridge, an MSSG overseas training exercise which this year is taking place in Jakarta – the first joint exercise of its kind to involve the British and Indonesian Army.

Capt Chris Willett (left), Maj Paul Lodge (right)

Capt Chris Willett (left), Maj Paul Lodge (right)

Day two’s highlight was meeting with the Mayor of East Jakarta, who even laid on some cake for us.

A piece of ‘sponge in a bag’ was going down well when the room went quiet and our hosts stared at one of my colleagues. The Mayor who knew no English managed to say ‘we don’t eat the chilli’ as a green wedge disappeared down with the cake.

 The ice was broken

The gathered masses sat back to see the result as they all agreed, ‘no we never eat the chilli; it’s hotter than red ones…only to flavour the cake in the bag’. To spare any blushes I’ll say no more but it’s fair to say the ice was broken.

We had a busy morning of meetings planned.

After the interviews with Mayors we got out to meet more people. First up, the local police who, after the formal presentation, took us outside for a more relaxed demonstration of their inflatable rescue equipment. In front of about 100 officers and the station’s car park attendants I was in high demand for photo opportunities. That lasted until they realised WOII Chris Parsons is a stunt double for Michael Owen and I was side-lined as they clambered to have a photo with him instead……most undignified!

 

Taking notes on the tablet while having tea and cake with the Mayor – complete with super-spicy chillies

Taking notes on the tablet while having tea and cake with the Mayor – complete with super-spicy chillies

 

Dealing with the rainy season

It actually took some time to extract from the Police who kindly offered to visit us when we next have floods.

They struggled to grasp that we don’t have a ‘rainy season’ or more accurately a ‘non- rainy’ season and that we have no idea when or where we will have floods!! They have a complex system of pumps and gates which to be blunt directs flood water to a low lying shanty town across the road from the station.

The city evacuates the residents, the area gets wiped out and they efficiently clean up the mud salvaging enough wriggly tin to rebuild it. Have we considered doing that? Hmmm answers on a postcard as to where you would recommend we trial the concept.

The partial construction of colossal high density housing projects suggests an effort to alleviate the problem of shanty towns but I suspect the current pace of economic development will draw people into the city to fill any space vacated by those already there.

The police give a dry-run demonstration of their rescue equipment

The police give a dry-run demonstration of their rescue equipment

 

A five minute walk brought us to the local health department where we had another exceptionally warm welcome. Offered fruit instead of cake (naturally) we were frankly amazed at what they can deliver with so little. Accommodating 500 displaced locals in the foyer and another 400 in the basement (rooms, which aren’t big at all) …. for a month…with food, clean water and health care etc while not 50 metres away the flood waters wash away the neighbourhood and wash in rubbish and toxic waste from across the city.

Of course the rats and other vermin have the same idea when their homes are flooded. Impressed? Just a bit!

After all that hard work we needed a bit of local situational awareness and headed for the old town from where the Dutch ran the country as their colony in the late 18th century. Walking past a line of school children waiting to enter a museum caused carnage when they all decided they wanted a piece of ‘Michael Owen’ and followed us down the street. What must their teachers have thought?

“Go away, I am not the Messiah!”

“Go away, I am not the Messiah!”

Jakarta: An exercise in disaster management Pt3

Major Paul Lodge and Captain Chris Willett are both reservist members of the Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG). In their civilian jobs, Paul is a Project Manager and Chris is a Police Officer. For two weeks, they are deployed on Exercise Civil Bridge, an MSSG overseas training exercise which this year is taking place in Jakarta – the first joint exercise of its kind to involve the British and Indonesian Army.

Capt Chris Willett (left), Maj Paul Lodge (right)

Capt Chris Willett (left), Maj Paul Lodge (right)

We are now into Day 3 of the main part of Exercise Civil Bridge (ExCB14A) and we’ve had a fascinating experience so far. The training and flood preparedness assessment are going well and we were asked to support the Embassy Defence team at the annual British Embassy Queen’s Birthday Party last night.

The teams that have been deploying on the ground have been making excellent progress with getting a first-hand look at the ways in which Jakarta is prepared for future floods. This has involved the joint MSSG/Indonesian Army (TNI-AD) teams coordinating meetings with key players involved in managing the floods, visiting these people and seeing the infrastructure that is in place to either combat the flood water or mitigate its impact on lives and livelihoods.

Technological trialling

The way in which we are recording our observations is by means of the GeoDash tool from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL). As well as providing us with real-time mapping, location and messaging services, it allows for the creation of question sets that can be accessed and used by all. We developed a standard question set during the preparatory phase of the exercise to cover all elements of the Jakarta flood response plans. The key subject areas include:

  • organisation
  • resources allocated to flood defence and clean up
  • communication systems available to inform both flood response teams and citizens
  • training
  • evacuation, medical planning and response
  • questions around lessons learned and future risks.
Team planning between meetings

Team planning between meetings

The teams are conducting the interviews with a TNI-AD interpreter using this question set as a guide, while other team members record the responses directly onto the application via the tablets that have been issued to each sub-team. Images and video footage from the mobile devices – we are trialling both iOS and Android platforms – can be added directly to the text and then published to GeoDash. As soon as the survey is published, this information is made available to all members of the all-informed net and is location-tagged on our mapping. This allows the Ops Room, or any other member of the team, to interrogate specific points on the map and see what data has been collected there – rather like clicking on a restaurant review on Google Maps!

As a result of our extensive use of this platform, we are working with the team at DSTL to suggest improvements and new ways of working with the kit. This will support the broader work of the MSSG and other teams within the Security Assistance Group (SAG).

Flooding a fact of life

So far the teams have visited mayors’ offices, police stations, medical facilities and flood defence infrastructure (both existing and some under construction). Here the local Mayors have real responsibilities in terms of managing district finances and services, unlike the more ceremonial role that most mayors have back in the UK – and the police are one of the lead agencies in a flood. This is providing us with the overriding impression that flooding is simply a fact of life for most Jakartans and they are prepared and conditioned to deal with it. However, we are also finding areas where, with a little bit of investment, the response could be further improved.

The time spent on the ground has been invaluable in building relationships between our team and our TNI-AD colleagues. We are relying on them to set up and facilitate the meetings to provide the interpreters. In turn, they are learning about the UK approach to Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Recovery (HADR) and getting a good understanding of some of our technology by using the kit on the ground and in the Ops Room.

In parallel with the assessment work in the field, we are also delivering the second of three comprehensive training packages in stabilisation and HADR. These have covered the full spectrum of our work from consent-winning activity, through use of interpreters to negotiation skills. This package has also been supported by some excellent guest speakers, including members of the British Council based here in Jakarta. The TNI-AD cohort have been hugely enthusiastic throughout the training and have been working out of hours to support their own colleagues with less English language capabilities.

Outside our day-to-day work, we have been constantly exposed to the life of the city by the TNI-AD, members of the Embassy staff and the people that we have met on the ground. Everyone has been incredibly warm and friendly and it seems that wherever you go you are offered something new and interesting to eat, generally involving lively amounts of chilli.

Networking and business at the Queen’s Birthday Party

At the entrance to the Queen's Birthday Party

At the entrance to the Queen’s Birthday Party

As part of this process we were asked by the Embassy team to help support British engagement in Indonesia by joining their staff team at the Queen’s Birthday Party last night.

The Queen’s Birthday Party is one of the major events in the Embassy calendar and is an opportunity to promote UK trade and investment into the region. As a result, many well-known British brands were represented, and all Embassy staff were expected to be on hand to support and promote the close working relationship between the UK and Indonesia.

A cake fit for the Queen's Birthday, modelled on the new royal carriage

A cake fit for the Queen’s Birthday, modelled on the new royal carriage

It was an excellent opportunity for us, as team, to network within the disaster management community in Jakarta. For instance, we were able to meet with a small Australian team who have a permanent Disaster Reduction team in Indonesia, the Australian–Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction (AIFDR). We were also able to meet with other members of the Indonesian military and police, who provided us with advice and guidance on how we could gather additional information to support our work here.

Looking ahead to the next couple of days, we will be continuing to conduct our data collection activities and, hopefully, be able to continue developing our cultural understanding of the area, including a visit to the nearby Commonwealth War Cemetery.

We will be posting regularly throughout the exercise and will look to give you a flavour of all of the elements of our work via this blog.

Life changing experiences in Malawi, Botswana and South Africa

Corps of Army Music

Corporal Simon Lindley, Corps of Army Music Short Term training team member

Corporal Simon Lindley is a trombonist and singer in the Corps of Army Music. His current role is Force Development Assistant at the HQ of Army Music.  He and a number of other members of the Corps of Army Music recently went to Malawi, Botswana and South Africa as part of a short term training team to help develop the musical capabilities of  the Armed Forces in those countries.

Army Music training team visits Malawi, Botswana and South Africa

Malawi

The Corps of Army Music Short Term Training Team (STTT) led by Warrant Officer Class One Shane O’Neill arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi after a 14-hour flight via Johannesburg. With lots of queuing in airports in between, we finally arrived at the Sunbird Hotel, where the team relaxed and prepared for a rewarding 2 days work with The Malawi Defence Force Band (MDF Band). The team arrived at the 2nd Battalion Malawi Defence Force camp in Lilongwe, home of the MDF band and were introduced by their Director of Music, Captain Levison Chisambi, himself a graduate of the Royal Military School of Music Bandmasters course.

The team quickly became acquainted with members of the Band and sat down to join in with their full band rehearsal. Part way through the morning the OCs of both our team and the MDF Band left to go on a recce for a joint engagement for a charity golf event for the Malawi War Veterans charity. Rehearsals for the engagement continued under the direction of Sergeant John Storey and myself.  After lunch we each took sectional rehearsals of the MDF Band working on music for the engagement, as well as covering some basic musicianship skills, and answering questions on a variety of subjects. After a hard day’s work we returned to the hotel for a well-earned rest.

With part of the day free before the engagement at the British High Commissioner’s residence the we took the opportunity to visit Lake Malawi, which was an amazing site and also visited a local village community market and saw first-hand the talented people had carved wooden gifts to sell for their community. After returning to Lilongwe the team headed to work where both the brass quintet and the wind quartet provided musical entertainment to all the guests as well as performing the all important national anthems of Malawi and Great Britain. We were then invited to enjoy some fish and chips and chatted with various guests before retiring to the hotel. A second day of training with the MDF band went ahead, with final preparations for Saturday’s joint engagement being the focus. After a full band rehearsal the team again took sectional rehearsals continuing to work with the MDF Band on music as well as covering instrumental maintenance. At the end of the day the team all had photos with our new friends in the MDF Band.

The War Veterans Commemoration Event at Lilongwe golf club, which was attended by many senior MDF officers as well as the British High Commissioner and the newly elected Vice President of Malawi, was a great success. The band provided musical entertainment all morning on the 18th green and then further music was provided during dinner by the wind quartet. At the end of this joint engagement with the MDF Band, the team said fond farewells to our new friends in the MDF band and returned to the hotel to pack for the drive to Blantyre in southern Malawi. Next day we  packed up and headed off in our two trusty vehicles fully loaded with bags and instruments on the six-hour drive to Blantyre… After some excellent navigation, we arrived 9 hours later with 4 tired drivers who had to show their off road skills on multiple occasions and good use of the emergency stop to avoid goats that appeared to have suicidal tendencies as we travelled through the country. After checking in to our second hotel, the team settled for the evening. On the 9th June we went to Blantyre hospital to work with the Sound Seekers Charity providing music for the event and working with hearing impaired people helping them to have fun and express themselves with various musical instruments, a very worthwhile cause and a satisfying day was had by all.

Corps of Army Music training team

Training by the Corps of Army Music short term training team

Johannesburg

Arriving safely in Johannesburg after flying from Blantyre, the wind quartet were straight out on an engagement, at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Pretoria whilst the rest of the team enjoyed their new surroundings. The team met with the South African National Defence Force Ceremonial Guards Band based in Pretoria for a day of training. After watching the Band perform a marching display and small ensemble performance we and the SANDF CG Band joined up for full band rehearsal under the direction of our Bandmaster and enjoyed another successful day. There is a high degree of satisfaction when both the training and rehearsals go so well.

On 12th June  the brass quintet performed at the British High Commission in Pretoria over lunch before the whole team headed to the Soweto Theatre to spend the afternoon working with local musicians. Next day, with part of the day free, the team took the opportunity to take in some of the recent history of South Africa visiting the Constitution Hill Museum and Court  and learning much about the country’s transition from apartheid to democracy. Later that evening we supported another Dinner Night before retiring for the evening.

The next day we began the drive north towards Botswana stopping en route to spend part of the day with Modderspruit Sunrise Hospice who work with children and families living with HIV and Aids. This was without doubt the most harrowing and moving part of the whole trip, but it was a privilege to be able to provide a little entertainment and ‘musical therapy’ for the children and families living with this disease.  The end of the visit culminated in the performance of the British and South African National Anthems, the children gathered together and sang their anthem as we played. Having performed anthems at both Wembley and Twickenham, I can guarantee that these pale in comparison to the passion and energy for life that the children sang with. Very moving.

Community engagement by the Corps of Army Music

Modderspruit Sunrise Hospice

Before continuing on to Botswana, the team took the chance to go on an early-morning game drive taking in some of the wildlife of South Africa in their own environment. After enjoying the spectacular sights and sounds, the team continued the journey to Garbarone in Botswana, arriving at the hotel late in the afternoon.

On the 16th June the team spent the day with the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Band Garbarone, after introductions the team assisted with an Officer Commissioning Parade rehearsal and provided feedback to the band afterwards. In the afternoon the bandmaster took a full band rehearsal of the parade music, then later in the evening the team joined with the BDF Band performing a concert for the Officer Cadets.

Next day it was the turn of  the brass quintet who performed at a Queen’s Birthday Party at the British High Commission enjoying some traditional British food and providing background music. Our final day of training with the BDF Band proved to be an interesting one, despite major issues with a power cut the team still managed to provide some tuition to the various sections of the band. The team were later taken on a tour of the BDF zoo where they keep animals for the purposes of training and educating their soldiers about wildlife they may encounter in the field.

The team with a statue of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg

The team with a statue of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg

After leaving presentations and photos with the BDF Band the team headed back to the hotel for a final meal and to pack for the journey home. The team packed up the vehicles and drove from Botswana back to Johannesburg for the flight back to the UK. The team arrived home full of amazing memories, life-changing events and feeling thoroughly satisfied that we had completed the trip and leaving the musicians we trained with plenty of new skills and things to think about over the coming months.

 

Read more CAMUS blogs

Find out more about the Corps of Army Music

By Royal Invitation – Garden Party at The Palace

Invitation to the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace

By SSgt A Standley

Me and Mrs Standley.

Me and Mrs Standley.

When you arrive back to work after your Christmas and New Year break it can seem a very long time to the summer and those lazy hazy days drinking Pimms (other drinks are available). So as in previous years one of the first emails which arrives, comes courtesy of the adjutant, this year on the 6th January giving serving personnel the opportunity to apply to attend the Queen’s Garden party.

Being in my 40th year of service as either a Regular Soldier, TA Soldier or as an NRPS (SQMS) I figured that this year it must be my turn.

So, as I have done for many years now, I filled in my application and applied for myself and my good lady to attend one of the dates available. Then as in previous years forgotten about…. until…

Lets fast-forward to the 23rd of April, and many celebrations in the Standley house as it is our 26th Wedding Anniversary. I departed for work with the words ‘ thought you could at least have had the day off to be with me, I have taken time off’ (whoops!) Then I receive a call mid-morning asking what I have done wrong as there appears to be a letter from the Palace. I think I may know what it is, and sure enough we had been fortunate enough to receive an invite to this year’s Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

My thoughts immediately turned to ‘jeez how much is this going to cost’?

Dress…Check
Shoes …Check
Hat…Check
Small handbag…Check
Really good deal on the Train….Check
NO Forget that………first class on the train….Check
Top-up Oyster card…..yup forget that taxi only, if you like.
Premier Inn…you get the idea.

So off we set to attend on the 3rd June on a lovely sunny day. We arrive in London in good time to check into our hotel, get dressed into our outfits for the day; with the wife looking pretty good in a spotty number with various matching items. And, if I say so myself, I looked pretty cool too.

We left in good time to arrive at the palace for about 3.15pm and on arrival we joined the queue with other attendees. We spent about 15 minutes in the queue, then we were into the main gate after the first security check had taken place. You get to walk under ‘THE BALCONY’ and through the courtyard and the inner quadrangle and finally through the rear part of the Palace for the final security check and on into the garden.

The garden is laid out with 2 long marquees and 2 military band areas and the Royal tea tent (for invited guests only) along with numerous tables and chairs dotted around the grassed area. It is a very, very big garden. At approximately 3.55pm the Royal party arrived headed by the Queen with various family members including The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Camilla, Prince Edward and Sophie and also many of the younger members.

Our view across the lawn to the rear of Buckingham Palace

Our view across the lawn to the rear of Buckingham Palace

Smallest plate in the world

The event then starts with the National Anthem. This year it was followed by what can only be described as a downpour of biblical proportions, which then changes all the plans for the day so instead of 4 different Royal groups mingling about, the Royal family are ushered to the Royal tea tent with attendants producing brollies, as if by magic! With all the other guests all trying to squeeze into a marquee that is probably large enough for about a third of the invited guests. It was at this time we realised that the expensive matching brolly was indeed not that much use – it was still in the hotel room!

Still with military guile and not a small amount skill we managed to find our way to the front of the cake and sandwich queue where we selected from such as an ice coffee or tea, sandwiches cut into soldiers with no crusts, made of various fillings including Cucumber and Mint, Egg Mayo, Smoked Salmon, Gammon Ham to name but a few and many various other nibbles along with a selection of very small but exceedingly tasty cakes which included Dundee cake, Victoria sponge, Strawberry tart all served on the smallest plate in the world, I kid you not. But all very pleasant nevertheless.

Then as suddenly as the rain started out came the sun, so time to leave the marquee and explore the gardens. Many people were taking photos and no one seemed overly concerned (but none of inside the house). The gardens and the lake at Buckingham Palace are huge and it took around an hour to walk round soaking up the atmosphere of the day and to be fair, mainly people watching and having the occasional laugh at the ladies sinking their heels in the grass. The afternoon finishes off once again with the National Anthem and as the Royal Party retires, the guests then start to leave. It is quite amusing how the guests become a tourist attraction themselves as on the way in and out there are many people photographing us.

Afternoon tea

The history bit now, the Queens Garden Party albeit originally a breakfast party, primarily for debutants and the likes started in the 1860s by Queen Victoria and took place twice a year but by the mid 1950s there were now 3 a year and took the form of an afternoon tea party between the hours of 4 till 6 pm and along with the Royals there also present are the Yeoman of the Guard, Gentleman at Arms and Gentleman Ushers. At the garden party, you will see and meet many members of the public and service personnel from around the Commonwealth, there is also numerous attendees from across all religious divides, classes and race. With people attending in National costume, or Service personnel in uniform (albeit not required), lounge suits or morning suits. With the ladies in a variety of outfits and hats (dress as if you were attending a wedding being the best advice).

It is an event to be part of and savoured. Both my wife and I feel privileged to have received an invite and to be able to attend an event that is part of British history.

The Royal Stamp on the Envelope.

The Royal Stamp on the Envelope.

 

About 159 Regiment RLC

159 Supply Regiment Royal Logistic Corps (RLC) is an Army Reserve Supply Regiment, which is responsible for more than a million items of equipment, spares and stores of the Army. Its soldiers work alongside Regular troops from 102 Logistic Brigade; 6 Regiment RLC and 7 Regiment RLC.

Members of the 159 Regt RLC run a regular blog http://159er.blogspot.co.uk and are sharing their story with us.