A BUXTON soldier has faced up to a gruelling two-day test in the Welsh Black Mountains.
Sapper Stewart Bothamley, 22, was one of eight team members with 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault) taking on Exercise Cambrian Patrol.
The annual event, run by 160 (Wales) Brigade in the UK, is both physically and mentally demanding and is a highlight in the British Army’s training calendar. Internationally, it is regarded as one of the toughest tests the modern-day soldier can face and some foreign entrants have to claim the right to take part by winning through their own domestic challenge.
Stewart, a former Buxton College student who joined the Army in 2010, said this was his first attempt at taking on Cambrian: “This is a proper test of soldiering and surviving in the field – stretching all your military skills.
“The river crossing is probably the one thing everyone winces at because of the thought of dragging your kit across a freezing cold reservoir, or whatever stretch of water we’re tested on.”
Teams are subjected to a thorough check to ensure that they are in possession of the correct kit, equipment and clothing required for the exercise. Team patrol commanders are then given a set of orders for onward briefing to members of their patrol. Patrols are then taken to a number of drop-off points in the hills.
Split into seven phases, the teams then have to march a mind-and-muscle sapping 55km carrying full personal kit and equipment, weighing in at some 60lbs, on a two-day patrolling mission.
Navigating both by day and night, the patrols face many testing and specialist challenges, including observation and reconnaissance of enemy forces, cold river crossings in full kit without access to boats, first-aid and defensive shooting under attack.
At the completion of their patrol, each team faces a comprehensive debriefing session on their mission.
Military skills, stamina and dedication are constantly evaluated during the patrol and marked with a system of points. Teams that successfully complete their patrol are awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal or certificate of merit, depending on the total number of points they have gained.