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Reserve Forces & Cadets Association
Northern Ireland


NEWS

QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY OFFICER TRAINING CORPS - THE GERMAN EXPERIENCE

29 June 2016

Summer camp is an event which is looked forward to by many an officer cadet. It offers freedom from academia, the opportunity to travel, and most of all, two weeks’ pay. With this in mind, at 5am on a grey Saturday morning, the drowsy students arrived to begin the journey. 

Once everyone was assembled and accounted for, two brand new coaches arrived to pick us up and deliver us to the Belfast ferry terminal. After a two hour ferry crossing to Cairnryan, it was discovered that the coaches had not made the ferry, prompting a three hour wait as they got the next ferry, and then a mad dash across Scotland and England to meet the Hull Rotterdam ferry, with the corps arriving with only minutes to spare.

On the overnight ferry we were treated to a selection of singers reinterpreting classic songs, and a variety of bars, including an ‘Irish bar’ at which many of the corps made themselves very comfortable. With fuzzy heads the corps then travelled through Holland, seeing traditional windmills, modern wind turbines, and Arnhem Bridge, a site of ferocious fighting during the Second World War.

Crossing over to Germany, we encountered the locals in American style, with an hour-long rest at McDonalds. The travels finally ended with our arrival in Sennelager, where we were briefed on the exercise scenario, and what to expect over the coming weeks. After dinner, we carried out weapons handling tests, and the some of the corps went to the NAAFI to use the pool table and watch Top Gear, before turning in.

Monday and Tuesday consisted of ranges, and involved the use of the Glock 17 handgun, the firing of which was an unfamiliar but exciting experience for many of us. This was then followed by the zeroing and firing of the L85s, and general acclimatisation to the hot and humid weather of Germany.

Tuesday evening, after a set of orders and a hearty dinner, was the deployment into the field and the start of the three day Exercise. After a TCV drop and the issuing of ammunition, the two platoons began a long tab to the harbour area that would become home for the next two days. After pitching bashas, everyone settled down to catch as much sleep as they could.

The first day of exercise began with a stand-to being called around half four in the morning, after which breakfast was consumed. Sometime afterwards Two Platoon embarked on a very long march, across the rolling German hills. Unfortunately, due to the heat, humidity, and high levels of pollen in the air, a few people came down with various ailments. Three section, two platoon was reduced in numbers from ten to six throughout the day’s patrolling. Upon Two Platoon’s contact, under the wise guidance of Mr S. King, the aforementioned three section took part in a rapid flanking manoeuvre to assault and destroy the enemy position. After another contact, the platoons returned to their harbours, from which orders and the night’s reconnaissance patrols were conducted.

 

Left: Two Platoon awaits final attack.   Right:  Construction of a model kit.

The second day consisted of preparation for the evening’s orders, with the creation of a model kit, along with a set of orders and lengthy rehearsals before a relatively fast-paced tab to a bridge, where an ambush was set and launched. After the conclusion of the ambush, Two platoon then retired back to the harbour area, where an O group was held, for the final attack on a previously Recce’d Airfield.

With little sleep, but lots of enthusiasm, two platoon marched to the area of the airfield, where there was a brief but silent reunion with the Cambrian patrol team and one platoon at the FRV.

The attack was fast paced, with enemy contacts coming from seemingly every direction, with mad dashes across open ground, to rapid fire orders in thick woodland. There were some surreal moments, such as the CO and RSM walking amidst the sound of rifle fire to observe the proceedings, and the Padre giving out sweets towards the end of the attack.

After the attack was over, and the weapons had been cleaned, the corps went to the officer’s mess, for a well-earned drink or three. The evening was filled with revelry, from Mr Duncan’s fine piano playing, to the singing of many a traditional folk song by all those left in the mess.

The next two days consisted of cultural visits, the first of which was to the spiritual home of the SS, the castle of Wewelsburg. There was a tour of the local area - a beautiful medieval town, with a horrifying history. The town had been the location of executions and a concentration camp during the war, a legacy that was still partially visible. 



The Castle itself held a museum dedicated to the horrors of the SS, and a tour of the castle showed the depths of madness that Himmler was planning to go to in order to see his vision realised, including the demolishment of the entire town for a monstrous concrete superstructure, to be designed by Albert Speer.

After the visit was over, the corps was then free to experience some of the local establishments in Sennelager, an experience which was enjoyed by many, due to the low cost of beer, and the chance to unwind.

The second visit was to the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, a site which is notorious for the atrocities that took place, as well as being the site of Anne Frank’s Death. The visit was a harrowing experience, and a very moving memorial service was held by the corps to commemorate the atrocities of the camp and of Nazi Germany.

After the cultural visits, a tour of many of the units stationed in Germany took place. The Engineers, REME, the PWRR, RMP, the Dog Handlers, the Medics and the Queen’s Royal Hussars all tried to show examples of what their units had to offer, with chance to sit inside a Challenger II, and the Dog Handling demonstration going down very well.

Afterwards the officer cadets were hosted in the various messes, by the Medics, Engineers, and the RMP. Those hosted by the QRH, however, were treated to a night in the local town of Paderborn, after a tour of a very impressive officers’ mess.

The final three days of camp consisted of various adventure training activities. A day of orienteering took place from the site of church house, a location which was used by the Hitler youth during the Second World War. After the orienteering had been conducted, archery and target shooting took place, along with a very filling meal.

In the evening, the corps dinner took place, with officers from many other units being hosted by the Corps. The evening saw many tributes to the RSM, due to his departure from the corps, including a letter from an officer cadet absent from camp.

The final two days of multi activity training consisted of a combination of Mountain biking, Water-skiing, and High ropes. Each held unique challenges, but were enjoyed by most, although a fear of heights did make the high ropes course quite challenging for some.



The final day of travel was also a day of reflection and remembrance, with a visit to the battlefields of Ypres, and the war memorials located throughout the area. Some cadets had researched individuals from the corps who had been killed during the war, and presented the stories of these men at the sites of their memorial, as well as discussing the battles and the impact of the war.



After that the corps took to the coaches and embarked on a long trip to Rotterdam, over the sea to Hull, across England and Scotland to Cairnryan, and then home to Belfast.

In Summary, a fantastic camp!