My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my eighth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.
We started off the morning with a practical orienteering challenge. We were given a map with bearings and our task was to make our way to said bearings, answer questions at each bearing and get back ASAP.
Unfortunately, both myself and my teammate were still pretty shaky at map reading and it showed. After an embarrassing display, by the time we did make it back we were dead last – and had minutes to change into our CBRN [Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear] suits to cap it off! A frantic change ensued.
In CBRN, we learned about the chemical safety rule and also immediate action and decontamination drills. Our test on these will be in the chamber which is exciting as it’ll be easy to see who passes or fails by whether they’re scrambling to the door or not!
We had PT which today was an indoor session consisting of 4 sets of 15 workouts for 20 seconds each. It became very sweaty very quickly!
The last thing we had today was a cap badge nurturing lesson where a Sergeant Major from Larkhill came down to speak about the different regiments of the Royal Artillery in order to give us an idea of what to choose when prompted in Phase 2. I found this lesson extremely helpful as I’m still undecided as to what trade I want to go for.
In the morning, we had PT which was the outdoor assault course. The warm up was brutal and for some reason the PTIs were angrier with us than normal. After much leopard crawling and running, we then hit the assault course until it was time to go back to camp.
There was no more room in the coach and so I had to head back to the assault course with the others, and unfortunately this meant doing the assault course even more! By the time the coach came back I was wrecked, and proceeded to finish my water bottle on the way back thinking it was over. It wasn’t.
Back at camp, we were tasked with all getting our knees in the air as a troop which took a while to achieve in itself. Then we ran to the rugby pitch where we thought we’d have a warm down. Then we saw sandbags.
We had a briefing on bayonets and how there may be times when we would have to use them – and if so to put 100% into it. Kill or be killed. We ran to different corners of the pitch to keep us warmed up and also to keep us annoyed I think – anger was our fuel for this.
We marked time for ages and shouting things like “EN GARDE” which got our blood pumping. Once it was our turn, we proceeded to stab the sandbags, bellowing whilst doing do and then calmly checking the bayonet and walking away with controlled aggression.
This went on for some time, and then we were tasked with dropping to prone and getting up a lot whilst one man ran through the woods stabbing sandbags whilst another motivated him. My turn came and I used my remaining energy to thrust blade into sandbag. The fury and adrenaline kept me going and I put my all into each lunge.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of heat and the brutality of a bayonet session with two infanteer Corporals, I was dead on my feet. My eyes had sunk to the back of my head and I was marking time on autopilot. A Corporal saw this happening and swiftly took me off the line and into the shade. I had my shirt taken off and water brought to me and allowed to sit out for the remainder and was then taken to the medical centre. I had to spend most of the day in there to rest and hydrate which was simultaneously gutting yet needed. Once free to leave, I made my way back to block to start on my admin. A crazy day.
In the morning we were taken by coach to the New Forest so we could practise our map reading. Up until now I’ve not been very good so I was eager to absorb as much information as I could.
We made our way across the forest, the scenery was beautiful and the weather remained on our side. I managed to finally understand how to use the compass correctly and finally felt slightly competent on the matter. A great start to the day.
When we got back, we had a functional skills lesson on budgeting our money – something a few recruits here definitely need lessons in! Our PT was swimming which started off quite hard but thankfully turned into relay races which, although still hard work due to having to wear uniform, was an enjoyable end to the day.
Today we had our Personal Fitness Assessment (PFA). This involved 2 minutes of press ups, sit ups and then the 1.5 mile run. I managed to pass the press ups and sit ups which boosted my confidence – then came the run. I’ve never managed to hit under 10:30 before this point and after 8 weeks of training, was extremely eager to do so. I gave it my all under the blazing sun and once across the finish line, was told 10:10! I finally managed to pass and was absolutely thrilled. In comparison to others it’s still not an amazing time, but it’s a pass and I’m over the moon.
Afterwards we donned our CBRN suits and practised decontamination before tomorrow’s practical lesson in the chamber. It’s a worrying thought how many times the respirator needs to come off in the chamber – will just have to hold my breath and hope I’m quick enough!
Up next was our BCD test where we were tested on different scenarios involving the application of field dressings, tourniquets, triaging (prioritising) the casualties and acting accordingly. We also had to perform basic life support on a dummy which I thankfully revised that morning with the help of my roommate and managed to pass both tests.
To finish off, we went down the welfare centre to watch the England game. Wish I hadn’t bothered!
Today’s PT was a 4 mile TAB with our bergens, webbing and rifles. The pace was extremely quick from the off and after a while most of our legs were suffering. I tripped over a tree root and went down at one point, when I righted myself up I found myself near the back – not a great place for a short person on a TAB.
The next part for me was brutal and at one point I thought a repeat of Tuesday was going to occur. I was made to get to the front but the damage was done by that point and I physically and mentally struggled to move at all. This rightfully earned me the wrath of my PTI who tried to get a second wind out of me. It didn’t come though and despite trying my hardest I was a complete shambles. My morale took a dive after this and I’m hoping I have no more performances like that!
Afterwards was CBRN, this time practising decontamination in the chamber. Despite my face stinging from the gas entering my sweat pores, I didn’t inhale any which is a good sign. One recruit in our detail however wasn’t so lucky and quickly had to exit the chamber in a mad dash which was hilarious to watch and cheered me up slightly I’m ashamed to say!
To finish the day we had DCCT at 100, 200 and 300 metres. For some reason I’m not very good at the nearer targets yet got full marks on the 300 metres. Strange!
We started our day by getting our admin done – such as cleaning our respirators, ironing etc. Our only target for Monday was to have our block jobs squared away which we vowed to spend all of Sunday doing.
Unfortunately, another Section Commander inspected our block during our admin time, with bins full from cleaning our lockers and other such wrongdoings. This led to multiple block inspections until it was up to standard.
From 2 until 6 I was on work parade for leaving kit outside my locker. This involved cleaning leaves off the road, acorns off the grass and taking down a gazebo. Although not the greatest way to spend a Saturday, my lesson has been learned and no kit has been outside my locker since!
The recruits not on work parade were still effectively on one with the block getting a complete spring clean. The floor has never looked cleaner! Another block inspection failed that evening with one in the morning to follow. Despite being a horrible day, it’s been one which has brought our Troop closer together.
This morning’s block inspection went better with only minor points being picked up which we will endeavour to correct for next time.
As a reward, we were allowed to leave camp in the afternoon. Our morale soared and our civilian clothes ironed and donned in rapid time.
As a troop, we marched out the gates where we split into two groups, some going to Winchester and some to Southampton. I went with the latter and had a great day filled with shopping and a Nandos! A great end to a not so great week. Range week to follow however which should be awesome!
Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey
Find out about joining the Army
Find out about ATR Winchester