Junior Soldier (JS) Bradnam writes from the Army Technical Foundation College, Winchester, about his 14th week of Phase 1 training. He’s been very busy with a Commanding Officer’s inspection, a trip to France and his first ever boxing match.
As week 14 began we prepared ourselves for the Commanding Officer’s inspection. A “no holds barred” session was held for a considerable period in smashing the block jobs until they were done to perfection. Block jobs were not the only issue – our lockers had to be immaculate with every little minor detail ironed out. Literally. This took up a major amount of our time and in between we still had time for a PT (Physical Training) session on the assault course which rather inconveniently caked our clothes and webbing in mud. Just another thing to add to the seemingly endless list of jobs to sort before the major inspection. It took place on Tuesday morning and after an early start we were ready. With everyone stood to attention the Commanding Officer (CO) accompanied by an assortment of hierarchy paraded into the block and began their inspection. The block jobs were inspected first and then followed directly by the lockers. We were announced as the winning troop for the inspection which brought a smile back to our faces!
With the inspection over the training continued and for us this meant a visit to the battlefields of Normandy for the “Realities of War” trip. With bags packed we set off via the ferry to Chateau de Longues which was the place where we were staying for the duration of the trip. On the way we stopped at the Merville Battery and Pegasus Bridge to have a look at these 2 crucial objectives, that were the first places to be attacked on D–Day.
The next day we headed for Gold Beach. Gold Beach was the codename for one of the beaches that was used in the invasion. Over 400 casualties were taken but these were considered light due to the size of the invading force. We also followed the footsteps of another Green Howard – Stanley Hollis. He was the only recipient of the Victoria Cross in the campaign at Normandy. It was awarded to him for various actions that he carried out. We also went into the town of Arromanche to see the Mulberry Harbour – a temporary harbour set up as a solution to the logistical nightmare of supplying an invasion force with all of its needs.
The third and final day was spent visiting Point du Hoque and Omaha Beach. These were objectives tasked to the Americans. Point du Hoque was a German artillery emplacement that was situated on top of a cliff. Seeing the beach for real and not just in “Saving Private Ryan” hit home just how hard a task the troops faced on D–Day and I can only begin to imagine what the troops must have felt leading up to and during the fight itself.
With the tour over we returned to ATFC Winchester and began packing for the test exercise. 13 Troop deployed onto the training area on the Monday morning. However as the preliminary fights were being fought in boxing I stayed behind with the team for those and travelled to the area on Monday night. It was yet another night of stagging on and then a series of tests that needed to be passed in order to progress further into training. These tests included administrating yourself in the field, fire and movement and camouflage and concealment. The camouflage and concealment test involved lying up in a position where you could see a position without people at that position being able to see you. Practically everyone passed these tests with only a few people still left to pass. The test exercise finished on the Tuesday afternoon which left us with another load of admin to do.
16 February was the boxing finals night. I was nervous and full of adrenaline at the same time. Months of painful preparation had led up to this night and it was the culmination of all my boxing training. The whole regiment turned out to watch the night, the CO and every single member of permanent staff was there including a General. I was the 3rd bout out of 11 and as the RSM introduced me to the ring and I stepped out of the tunnel and was met with 600 screaming soldiers all cheering for me or my opponent. It was the best feeling I have had in my life so far. I came jogging into the hall and into the boxing ringing to the sound of blaring music and lasers going off everywhere. The officers and NCOs all applauded me in which was an unusual experience but definitely an enjoyable one. The moment I stepped into the ring the noise seemed to fade away and I was in my own little world, blood pumping with adrenaline and concentration. As the bell rang for round 1 the place erupted and I began the first bout of my life.
It was a fairly even contest throughout however I felt on top throughout. All of my training was kicking in instinctively and I was enjoying every second. It was one of the most tiring experiences ever however it was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and as the final bell dinged all I wanted to do was continue. My coaches thought I had won and I did too however the judges thought different, and I lost to a majority decision which means it would have been by a miniscule margin of defeat. I was gutted but nothing could take away the euphoria of stepping into that ring with everyone cheering and shouting. It was truly amazing. After all 11 bouts everyone re-entered the ring to find out which squadron had won the competition. C Squadron was announced the winner by 1 point and all the disappointment of losing went out of the window, and at that point in time I was one of the happiest people on the planet. Pictures were then taken and we all headed to the Sergeants’ Mess for a curry and a drink which was a massive privilege.
The morning after, my head was throbbing and paracetamol had never been so welcome – however it was all completely irrelevant to me as I was still on a massive high from the previous night. Thursday was our last full day on camp before leave and it was the CO’s Competition which is an inter-section competition. Unfortunately I was unable to compete in this event as I was on a compulsory rest period after the boxing. However the rest of the troop took part. The competition involved an observation patrol, ammunition box 1.5 mile run, 800m stretcher run, assault course, bayonet fighting, a hill climb using a rope followed by 25m shoot. Each individual had to carry 15kg of weight whilst doing this. As you can imagine, it’s a very physically demanding competition. Keeping up with what is becoming a trend, 2 Section 13 Troop won the competition which is another thing we can add to the list of our achievements.
This was the final day of training before our week of leave, but I cannot wait to get back into training and face the challenges ahead.