Tunnel fighting keeps Army's new Brigade streets ahead

Reconnaissance troops from 1st Deep Recce Strike Brigade are deployed on the Brigade’s first overseas training exercise abroad since it was formed in the summer.

104 soldiers from The Royal Yeomanry and 1st the Queen’s Dragoon Guards have been in Gibraltar practising combat and reconnaissance skills in an urban environment.

A Lance Corporal stripe is on the horizon for 24 of the soldiers who went to Gibraltar as Troopers and, having completed the Army Leadership Development Programme, return to their units ready to be promoted. The course was described by some as “the most intense and demanding exercise that they’ve ever had to do in the army.”

The Royal Yeomanry and 1st The Queen Dragoon Guards, also known as The Welsh Cavalry, are both reconnaissance regiments, seeking out information about the enemy and the terrain. Together they combine to form the light cavalry reconnaissance component of the new Brigade. The Royal Yeomanry is the largest reserve light cavalry regiment in the Army.

The two-week exercise - Exercise Barbary Star - has been the culmination of months of training aimed at testing the soldiers basic military skills to ready them for any future operations. 

The soldiers came ashore on landing crafts in a dramatic display and once ashore, they quickly patrolled through the streets of Gibraltar to reach a stealth observation post on the Rock of Gibraltar itself.

The soldiers combat skills were then put to the test when they had to fight their way through the urban operations training facility, navigating through the simulated village clearing buildings, rooftops and access points.

Corporal Searle said: “Urban operations bring unique challenges not present in other environments. Contact with the enemy can be at very close quarters so the soldiers must be alert and vigilant. For example, roads could be easily used to direct soldiers into a certain area where they could be ambushed.

“They continually have to evaluate the changing risks as they navigate through the simulated village. In an urban environment the enemy can be in the air, on the ground or beneath their feet. There are a multitude of threats to think about, including drones.”

Gibraltar’s tunnel system was used to challenge the soldiers and test their ability to fight in darkness. Underground training has been a part of military training for many years and with restricted views, narrow choke points and close enemy engagements, it takes time to master.

The Royal Yeomanry’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Field said: “As part of the Army’s Future Soldier programme to transform and modernise by 2030, we need to be prepared to operate globally and deploy with our allies or as part of international organisations such as NATO.

“This means our soldiers have to  be prepared to fight in any terrain across the globe including underground.  Exercises like this improve and refine our skills to ensure we have the ability to respond successfully when needed.

“Our people are our main asset. Our Regiment is a reserve regiment and together with our regular sister regiment, 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards, we make an invaluable contribution to the Armed Forces. I am extremely proud to be their Commanding Officer.”

Recent operations by the Royal Yeomanry has also seen reservists deploy to Poland alongside 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards where they provided a reconnaissance capability as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) deterrence posture.

The Royal Yeomanry also deployed personnel with 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards to Mali as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.