Exercise Cambrian Patrol back on track after two-year hiatus

The British Army’s world-class patrolling challenge is back in the spotlight after being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year the event, which has only ever failed to take place once before in 2001 because of the Foot and Mouth crisis, begins on October 8 and finishes on October 17.

‘I’m thrilled the exercise is back on track following an enforced absence in 2020 due to the pandemic. Now in its 62nd year, Cambrian Patrol continues to challenge patrols from across UK Defence and from around the world." Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE, Commander 160th (Welsh) Brigade and Exercise Director

Exercise Cambrian Patrol is organised and run by Headquarters 160th (Welsh) Brigade, based in Brecon, has been held annually since 1959 and is respected by military partners around the world as NATO’s toughest patrolling test.

The numbers involved have been scaled back to a maximum of 100 patrols, down from a maximum of 145.

Commander 160th (Welsh) Brigade and Exercise Director, Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE said:

‘I’m thrilled the exercise is back on track following an enforced absence in 2020 due to the pandemic. Now in its 62nd year, Cambrian Patrol continues to challenge patrols from across UK Defence and from around the world. The format remains focused on the battlecraft syllabus to an annual training test standard. One may think this sounds simple, but you would be quite wrong."

"The patrols will operate tactically to complete their assigned mission whilst dealing with the pressures of the scenario, opposing or indigenous forces, the weather, the environment and, of course, themselves. Although it’s not a competition, the patrols are assessed and will strive to do their level best to return to base with a gold, silver, bronze or Certificate of Merit."

A mix of Regular, Reserve and University Training Officer Corps teams will take part, plus nearly 20 patrols representing international armies from across the globe.

The exercise is unique, world-class and the largest of its kind with some foreign entrants having to claim the right to take part in the UK by winning through their own domestic competition.

Exercise Cambrian Patrol is now very different to how it started in 1959 when a group of Welsh Territorial Army soldiers designed a weekend training event featuring long distance marching over the Cambrian Mountains, culminating in a shooting match on the Sennybridge Training Area.

Now, the event has been adapted with more of an operational mindset. Arriving at the Patrol Base teams, made up of eight soldiers, will be subjected to a thorough check to ensure that they are in possession of the correct kit, equipment and clothing required for the exercise.

"This year a human performance monitoring study is taking place and the Army’s Enhanced Light Force Battalion will trial new equipment prior to it coming into general service." Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE, Commander 160th (Welsh) Brigade and Exercise Director,

Patrol commanders will then be given a set of orders based on a specific scenario involving enemy forces for onward briefing to members of their patrol. They must battle prep and map out a designated route, along which they must navigate through, day and night, and deal with a set of stands: these include casualty evacuation scenarios, dealing with mock improvised explosive device finds, intelligence gathering, seeking protective measures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats, a water crossing, close-target reconnaissance and others.

The two-day patrolling mission is a mind-and-muscle sapping 37 miles, carrying full personal kit and equipment. At the completion of the exercise each patrol faces a comprehensive debriefing session. 

Depending on how they have dealt with all those challenges they are awarded points, for which they will either gain the top gold medal, a silver, bronze or certificate finish. A patrol can complete with five soldiers, taking into account any injuries or other issues which depletes the team, but they can only be awarded a certificate in that instance.

Brigadier Andrew Dawes CBE also added:

“Although the format largely endures, the exercise continues to evolve as we seek ways to innovate and deliver wider benefit for Defence. This year a human performance monitoring study is taking place and the Army’s Enhanced Light Force Battalion will trial new equipment prior to it coming into general service. It remains a rite-of-passage event for our finest soldiers and is supported by more than 350 personnel from across the Army and dozens of contractors and DSTL scientists who support the Brigade in its delivery."

"I’m indebted to the local landowners for their goodwill to operate with such freedom across this amazing and challenging landscape and also grateful to the Welsh Government for their support in enabling this year’s event to take place and remain international."

“Good fortune to all the patrols in their endeavours.”

On average, only five per cent of patrols gain the top award while about a third fail to finish, indicating just how arduous Exercise Cambrian Patrol is. Patrols find out how they have done at the presentation ceremonies, which take place daily (from Sunday, October 10) at the Sennybridge Training Area camp.

The exercise is mentally and physically demanding and tests all the basic military skills of a modern-day soldier, enhancing leadership ability and levels of endurance and determination.

Split into eight phases, Reserve and University Training Officer Corps patrols will set off on Phases 1 and 8, with Regular and international patrols setting of on Phases 2 to 7.