My name is Andrew Vaughan, I am 25 years old and this is my story so far. I have just finished my twelfth week of Phase 1 training at ATR Winchester where I hope to go on to join the Royal Artillery.
After a morning kit check we donned our bergens, boarded the coach and set off for Salisbury Plain for Ex FINAL FLING!
Once there, we made a quick stop to cam up and then tabbed to the harbour area. We were briefed on where we were to set up sentries as this was to be a linear harbour area as opposed to the triangular one we are used to adopting.
Then the fun part – digging our shell scrapes. We spent the next few hours digging a hole suitable enough for 2-3 recruits to comfortably fit into, which was harder than we expected due to the vast amount of tree roots present in the area. Eventually though, our shell scrapes were deep enough and work routine came into effect.
Gas attack unleashed
Before we could test out our new pits however, we were given a briefing on potential enemy in the area which is suspected of posing a CBRN threat. We got into the appropriate dress state and began our patrol. From a distance, we saw the enemy vehicle being intercepted by 1 Section; however as they tried to detain the enemy a gas attack was unleashed and less than nine seconds later our respirators were donned and purged. The enemy got away, and we patrolled back to our harbour area. We were later given a report that the CBRN threat had been neutralised and that we wouldn’t need to worry about it for the rest of the Exercise. Phew!
Morning routine and then we were given our first set of orders. We patrolled to a site where we were to later ambush the enemy’s supply route that evening. We planned how we’d go about it and then made our way back. On the way back however we were contacted by the enemy; we won the fire fight but had a casualty. After conducting our MIST report we CASEVACed our casualty back to the harbour area.
We spent our free time conducting personal admin and grabbing any sleep that we could. Once it got darker, we were given our orders and made our way back to the site previous and got into position. The ambush was set and ready. When the enemy supply vehicle came past they set off the trip flares we had set and we neutralised them in one swift blow. A quick check of the bodies and vehicle and we tabbed back to the harbour area for a debrief.
Morning orders to start with in which we were informed that enemy morale has dropped since our successful attack on the enemy supply vehicle yesterday which has resulted in the enemy not getting resupplied. Up next is a trip to the site where the main enemy HQ is supposed to be based. Instead of tabbing there however, we were to be taken by a Merlin helicopter!
We stood to, kept silent and got ready for a fire fight.
We waited for a while and then the helicopter made its approach. As it got close the ground, the force from the blades covered us in the surrounding grass and you can’t help but be impressed by its power. We made our way onto the Merlin and strapped ourselves in, myself being right next to the open side door. We took off and quickly picked up a huge amount of speed – I never realised how fast helicopters can go and also how much they can tilt! Absolutely loved it and had a huge grin on my face the entire journey.
Eventually we were dropped off not far from the enemy HQ. We kept low and looked for areas where we could spy on the enemy for tonight’s recce where we were to try and gain intelligence on the enemy. We found the perfect spot on a hill overlooking the HQ and then snuck away from the area. We had some lunch once we were far away enough from the enemy, regrouped with 3 Section and then went back to camp via a Chinook!
Back at the harbour area, instantly after I finished stag we were contacted by the enemy. We stood to, kept silent and got ready for a fire fight. We heard the enemy sneaking around the bushes directly by my basha and I braced myself. Eventually however the enemy backed off and we were stood down – just in time for me to go back on stag!
After scoff, we reapplied cam and used the cover of darkness to make our way to the enemy HQ. We took it in turns as pairs to make our way to the spot on the hill to use the CWS to spy on the enemy and note down their movements, appearance etc. An enemy vehicle was also roaming the area and a couple of times it’s light scanned the area we were in. Luckily we were completely camouflaged and didn’t move a muscle. Once we all had a good amount of information, we made our way back to camp without alerting the enemy. Success!
Our orders today were to patrol an area where enemy vehicles have been spotted and to set up a VCP where we would hope to stop and detain the enemy. After a while of waiting, two individuals made their way down the road and we quickly went about trying to stop and question them. I convinced the one I was dealing with to let me search him and eventually after questioning him, he made a break for it and outran me. Embarrassing! Things didn’t go much better for the other guys either and the scenario was reset. It took a few attempts until eventually we were able to successfully detain suspects on foot and in vehicles.
Before we could head back to the harbour area, we saw that 3 Section had been contacted and we provided covering fire whilst they could make their way to us by which point we withdrew together. Once back we filled in our shell scrapes and covered up our presence there. We used the remaining time we had to get dinner and sleep on before our briefing from the Troop Commander on our all-out attack on the enemy tomorrow morning.
We woke up at 0000 hrs and our Troop Commander began to give us the plan of attack on the enemy HQ. The HQ consisted of three barns and our section were to attack the first barn and then provide fire support for the section attacking the next barn. During the briefing the wind picked up quite a bit but we ignored it. The briefing finished and we began to get ourselves ready. A bit of rain broke out but we ignored it. We checked each other over and got ourselves into patrol formation ready to move.
Then an all-out thunderstorm hit us.
We have had thunderstorms hit us on the last night of two exercises! Whilst some of the troop enjoyed the fact that we were now drenched for the final attack, I was not happy!
Despite the sudden weather change, we departed as a Troop to the enemy HQ. The way there was hard work with the weight on our backs but eventually we made it and set our bergens down. We quietly made our way into our relevant positions and waited for the signal to attack – mortar fire! At 0430 hrs the signal was given and our section made its attack! Our firing manoeuvres have never been better and we suppressed, approached and assaulted the enemy with no dramas at all. We kept up the momentum and quickly provided fire support for the other section as they too flawlessly neutralised the enemy. It’s great to see how far we’ve come as a Troop and how we were able to pull it out the bag when it mattered.
In what felt like seconds the battle was won. We made our way into an empty barn and were given a final debrief. That marked the end of Ex FINAL FLING and the end of exercises during Phase 1. A huge sense of relief washed over us and we went about collecting brass and cooking breakfast/cleaning rifles whilst waiting for the coach to arrive.
We got back to camp and made a start on cleaning our kit before finally crashing out in our own beds!
Today I finished cleaning my kit and put my laundry in. I spent the rest of the day bulling my shoes in the Welfare centre whilst watching films. A lot more attention now needs to go into these shoes for pass out – in which I want them like glass!
A long day of admin today. I cleaned the magazines and BFA used on Ex FINAL FLING, polished my boots, cleaned my lockers, ironed and folded my clothes, washed my body armour, mess tins, ear defence, mug and respirator. Made my bed, did my block jobs, brought new hangers and rehung my clothes to name a few tasks!
I didn’t stop from 0700 to 2200 hrs with things still to do! It’s amazing how quickly time flies when you’re having fun in the Army! Bring on Week 13!
Visit Recruit Vaughan’s page and read about his journey
Find out about joining the Army
Find out about ATR Winchester