The curtain has come down on this year’s Exercise Cambrian Patrol with a glut of gold medals showered on troops during the final phases.
More than 100 teams filed through the assembly area in Mid Wales with Regulars, Reservists, Officer Cadets and soldiers from all four corners of the globe stepping off from the patrol base.
But not all teams completed the event, with 12 patrols failing to finish the 60km test that was filled with a selection of arduous stands across difficult terrain.
Phase 6 of Cambrian saw an unprecedented nine gold medals presented on one day, despite that phase seeing the harshest of the weather over the eight phases.
However, Major Will Peltor, Officer Commanding Exercise Cambrian Patrol, said the ethos of the event was not all about achieving the top award.
“The important thing to say in relation to any medals being achieved is that yes, those completing Cambrian have put their heads above the parapet and fronted up to something others won’t and they should rightly be very proud of completing it,” he said.
The fact we have so many international patrols taking this seriously raises the standard of the event, across the board." Major Will Peltor,
Officer Commanding Exercise Cambrian Patrol
“But it’s all about the mission presented at the beginning of the patrol and about applying the basics of soldiering from beginning to end."
“The fact we have so many international patrols taking this seriously raises the standard of the event, across the board."
“UK patrols have to be on their toes and they cannot come here expecting a pretty steady 36 to 48 hours – the terrain, the tasks that need completing, the weather, the sleep deprivation, all adds a little bit to up the ante."
“I think when you’re representing your country, it doesn’t matter whether it’s sport or military training or military performance, you want to do your best.
“I equate this exercise to military operations and when you’re serving your country and you’re one of a platoon, or a company or just eight people in a multinational operation, you want your flag to fly as high as it can."
The 160th (Welsh) Brigade, organisers of Exercise Cambrian Patrol, which began in 1959, always aim to ensure there's an operational mindset to the scenarios presented to patrol commanders at the outset.
Will said: “We have introduced specialist vehicles on the reconnaissance element of the patrol where soldiers are seeing vehicles fed into the enemy scenarios, as well as using unmanned aerial systems, which the patrols have to integrate with and, if they use them well, will assist them when they’re conducting their reconnaissance tasks.
“The fundamentals of Cambrian Patrol are navigation, fieldcraft, tactics and soldiering and everything that makes what a soldier is. It doesn’t matter if they are an infantry soldier, logistician or engineer, it remains accessible to all."
“While it was march and shoot competition in 1959, it has evolved over those eight decades to what it is now and we see ourselves in 160th (Welsh) Brigade as the custodians of that raw heritage, so, yes it has evolved, but it always goes down to those core tenets with the soldiering aspect remaining true to its past and very much going forward.”
It’s a great honour for a Reserve team like ours to come to the UK and represent our regiment, our brigade and country, because this is the gold standard on the international stage and it’s an exciting challenge." Master Corporal Justin Fernandez,
patrol commander The Royal Westminster Regiment, Canada
Next year will see Cambrian reach its 65th milestone and will no doubt attract a healthy selection of international entrants again, as was the case this year with a record number of 32 nations haven taken part.
One example of how seriously one particular country takes it is revealed by the Canadian team, The Royal Westminster Regiment, which came through a domestic competition to win the right to go forward to the UK.
Patrol Commander, Master Corporal Justin Fernandez, of A Company, said: “Prior to arriving in the UK our team was divided into two groups: one that comprised our Canadian patrol competition winning team from 2018, with the other half of the group having recently completed our infantry section commanders’ course.
“Most of the year we spent preparing for our own in-house patrolling competition, which is called Westie Challenge, and following that we completed about four exercises preparing for Cambrian, going over our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and kit prep."
“The Westie challenge is like a mini-Cambrian, with a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) stand, section attack, mine clearances, casualty evacuations and patrolling."
“It’s a great honour for a Reserve team like ours to come to the UK and represent our regiment, our brigade and country, because this is the gold standard on the international stage and it’s an exciting challenge."
The unit is based in New Westminster, near Vancouver, and does all its training in Chilliwack and, while in the UK, the Canadian troops were hosted by 107 Battery, 12th Regiment, Royal Artillery, at Thorney Island.
Justin said: “We couldn’t have asked for more from our British hosts at 107 Battery who have been so generous with their time and we’ve very much enjoyed their support and friendship."
“It’s about having simplistic SOPs that can be broadly applied to different scenarios and mastering the basics."
“We’re not here do anything super high speed or display outlandish skills sets: we’re all about doing the basics well and, for any infanteer, doing the basics is your bread and butter, coupled with flexibility and adaptability.”
The Royal Westminster Regiment secured an impressive silver medal this year.