Soldiers from 1st Battalion Irish Guards and the 13th Demi-Brigade of the French Foreign Legion have become the first joint effort between a British Army and international team to complete the world-renowned challenge together.
Their bronze medal finish marks the way forward for future pairings on the exercise, which this year attracted a record tally of nations from all corners of the globe.
The most difficult weather conditions lay in wait for Patrol Commander Lieutenant Tom Hallatt and his mixed team after an unusually muggy warm start to this year’s event, with temperatures in the mid-20s at the initial phases.
However, by the time his patrol set off, there was a sudden change in conditions, as is always the scenario in a Mid-Wales climate known for throwing unsuspecting seasons in the faces of marching troops looking to cover 60km in two days, with the small matter of myriad military tests along the way.
“Overnight visibility dropped to near zero, which of course makes navigation all the more challenging,” said Tom.
“Then the rain came in quite hard and that made the close-target reconnaissance pretty tough.”
Exercise Cambrian Patrol began as an event in 1959 and is organised and run by 160th (Welsh) Brigade. Soldiers have to complete about 60km over two days with a number of set military challenges along the way.
While we may have lacked the immediate cohesion with our French team once first meeting, we managed to overcome a lot of that during the past two weeks with combined training." Lieutenant Tom Hallatt,
It is widely respected by international allies, illustrated in the fact a record 38 patrols from 32 nations took part this year.
The test is also open to all units in the British Armed Forces.
Corporal Sandesh Ranabhat, originally from Nepal but now serving with 13th Demi-Brigade, based near Montpellier, said the pre-training conducted with the Irish Guards three weeks before the event made all the difference.
He said: “We practised close-combat skills, preparation for water crossings and covering long distances."
“It’s been good to spend three weeks with the British team and share our experiences and exchange what we do well, and we take ideas on what works for your teams."
“I think all the other nations respect this event and want to do well: they all know it’s a big challenge. It’s important to take confidence from your preparation, but not to be overconfident and to make sure that whatever comes your way you can deal with it as a joint team."
“The heavy loads and the hills of Wales were more testing than first thought, especially when you have bad weather facing you too. But I enjoyed every single mile, even though we had only about one hour’s sleep."
“It’s a great feeling to come away with a medal because the Cambrian Patrol was hard work and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved.”
Tom, of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, but currently attached to the Irish Guards, said preparation was key. He said: “The French element joined us two weeks ago but prior to that we were conducting our own individual training, mainly physical preparation, then we came together and ironed out our own SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).
“I’ve done Cambrian Patrol twice before and it’s all about robustness. Getting everyone across the line is 90 per cent of the task. The soldiering skills, we’ve got them, but the main thing is sustaining the team throughout the whole patrol."
It’s a great feeling to come away with a medal because the Cambrian Patrol was hard work and I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved." Corporal Sandesh Ranabhat,
13th Demi-Brigade French Foreign Legion
“While we may have lacked the immediate cohesion with our French team once first meeting, we managed to overcome a lot of that during the past two weeks with combined training."
“The main challenge is the language barrier. None of the Irish Guards speak French and, while the four French soldiers with us have a degree of spoken English, but there’s only one member who spoke it fluently."
“The competitive edge was not lost on us though because while we’re together none of us were going to quit and come off this challenge midway through, so that was beneficial to our focus for doing well."
“Whenever British units deploy on operations it’s very often the case it’s with partner nations, whether they’re embedded within your own unit or you’re working alongside them, so it’s really second nature to us now."
“We conducted a company-level exercise in Brecon three weeks ago and that’s where the majority of our tactical training happened and I would definitely recommend any future joint patrols for Cambrian put the pre-training in together first."
“This event is an excellent test of basic soldiering skills, particularly when you do think about your robustness and being able to perform highly when you’re fatigued, sleep deprived and under stress."
“The joining of the two battalions and the different cultures was very useful and we’ve learned a lot together in the last weeks and days on the ground because we’ve taken a competitive edge into all of this."
“That mentality has ensured we’ve completed with a medal finish and it’s a great feeling of cohesion and achievement.”
For more on Army Jobs click here.