A lot harder and more demanding

Sapper Bradnam – formerly Junior Soldier Bradnam – describes the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 training, as he begins to learn the trade of a Royal Engineer at the Royal School of Military Engineering (RSME) at Chatham in Kent.

It’s time to begin the next phase of my training as a Royal Engineer. Combat Engineering is the focus of the first part of my Phase 2 training and from day one it was far from what I expected. We arrived on the Sunday to begin training on the Monday, with some more excited than others. Nervous anticipation would be a good way to describe the feeling of starting a new course. However the nervousness rapidly wore off as realisation hit home when the pace of the course was unveiled. From the start we were straight into locker inspections and into the first module of the course – Basic Construction Techniques. To be honest I thought the standards of previous locker inspections were high but this was a whole new level – every single detail of the locker and block was meticulously inspected from the floor upwards and every minute fault found! The standard expected of us now had certainly been raised…

Basic Construction Techniques (BCT) covers various things, from setting up formwork and concreting to learning how to tie basic knots. Every day, new information was fed to us and we were expected to learn very fast. The “best books” [notebooks] that we had were an excellent way of helping us absorb this information. After all the elements of basic construction had been taught, we had our first modular test. There was a theory paper and 3 different practical tests that had to be completed in order to pass. The 3 practical tests included setting out a 2-metre squared formwork, tying basic knots and creating a square lashing, and setting up and using a Makita drill.

Safety on the drill was a main focus, however all the tests were just as difficult. Not everyone passed the test first time – some had re-sit.

Once the basic construction module had been completed the next module we started was Water Supply. This module covered everything that enables us to source, pump, purify and store water. We built a cuplock tower (water tower), set up a small groups water purification unit, NBC purification units and APE (Purification Equipment). Water supply is one of the main roles that Royal Engineers undertake in Afghanistan and it is therefore a very important subject. The module was slightly shorter than BCT however there were a lot of facts and figures that needed to be learnt in order to pass the test. Again the test comprised a theory paper and 3 practical assessments which included using a gilkes pump, using the APE unit and naming component parts from various pieces of equipment.

The pass rate was a lot higher than that of BCT, which I think was down to people understanding the standard required to pass the test and how much work and revision was needed.

On top of all the Combat Engineering we had learnt we also continued to complete physical training, which, in keeping with the rest of the course, is a lot harder and more demanding. In the first week alone we had a personal fitness assessment, military swim test, 4-mile run and a 5-mile loaded march (tab). After 2 weeks of leave this amount of PT was hard work, but everyone pushed on and worked hard and actually did OK on the sessions and tests.

The start of this course has been a real eye-opener into the standards expected in the Royal Engineers and in the rest of the Army. It is a lot harder than Phase 1 and what I expected. That said, I am enjoying rising to the mark and can’t wait to carry on with the rest of the course. Next week is Demolitions week, which has a reputation of being one of the best weeks in the course. I cannot wait!

11 thoughts on “A lot harder and more demanding

  1. Great effort! Good to hear the standards are still high and the course is as effective as it always was.
    My advice…….keep smiling, when it gets to Bridging, not only will you need your section working together, but you will need your sense of humour.
    Well done.
    Paul Armer ex sapper 93-02


  2. Wow, that was a real eye-opener thanks for this blog and good luck with the rest of the course. Im looking forward to becoming a Royal Engineer, but I’m still a ways away. Just finished Pre-ADSC. Good luck Sapper Bradnam.


  3. i find it amazing that the cuplock tower is still used even though i was taught it back in the 80’s.must be a good piece of kit afterall.well done my friend.as paul said,bring your sense of humour with you when you do bridging.its tough,especially if you dont have enough blokes!demolition is ace.we blew alsorts up in the falklands,more at a place called onion range.good luck and crack on sapper!!


  4. Well done Sapper Bradnam! My goodness, this sounds hard work just reading about it. However I am sure that you have all now picked up on what is expected, and will be expected, and you will cope. It’s a challenge, but one worth taking I’m sure.
    Keep it up.


  5. watermanship was the best part of combat engineering training. pootling about on the lake. I have to agree with paul to on the bridging, the MGOB killed my back due to putting it up and taking it down so much, if you dont laugh you will cry especially when you have to do it at 3 in the morning on final ex.


  6. I loved my Combat engineering course, looking back it was one of the greatest achievements in my life and I still take pride in this even though it was many moons ago!
    Take Paul Armer advice onboard in regards to bridging, it can be tough if your section doesn’t pull together.
    Good luck.

    Gaz Doggett ex sapper


  7. My late husband was a Sapper who specialized in well boring. He did a lot of work in the Middle East looking for something which is far more precious to them than oil. Water. As it was during a very volatile period politically they were under constant attack and had to keep a guard at all times to prevent the wells from being sabotaged, but it was a job he loved.


  8. Well done Sapper Bradnam. So very proud of you and know you will step up to every challenge put in front of you and make the mark.

    Keep it up.



  9. You blokes are all amazing. I wish you all the best in the world. Unlike the SierraHotelIndiaTangoSierra in parliament. You put life and limb on the line and what do they give you? Threats of redundancies and pay cuts! The MOD was going to cut paras SSP to save £4 million. This is equivalent to the current cost of being in the EU for 16 minutes. AND we have been in the EU for over 38years. Please see the petition on http://www.gopetition.com/.

    Bless you all for putting your country first not last.


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