British soldiers have been deployed to Norway to brave Arctic temperatures as they learn the basics of survival in winter weather training.

The soldiers undergo a series of intensive trials during ‘Operation Clockwork’ including being plunged into freezing water during infamous ice-breaking drills.

This week the Clockwork Ground training team based at Op Clockwork’s Bardufoss camp at the Royal Norwegian Air Force base Bardufoss have been training Joint Helicopter Command (JHC) personnel to be able to survive and operate and fight in a cold weather environment. 

Photographer: POPhot Kyle Heller – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023

The team consists of a RM Sgt Mountain Leader 1 (ML1), and up to nine Tent group commanders (TGC’s) capable of delivering both instruction and supervision in tent group routines, which include equipment, tent husbandry and safety related issues. This is further complimented by a RM Captain and Cpl to lead on the tactical phase. The ML1 is IC of all training delivery on behalf of the RM Captain and Officer Commanding Clockwork as the Cold weather SME.

The Cold Weather Aviation Operators Course or CWAOC delivers a week-long training package to Joint Helicopter Command personnel to be able to survive and operate and fight in a Cold Weather Environment (CWE). This differs to the Commando Forces (CF) Cold Weather Warfare Course (CWWC) in that it is tailored to aircrew, engineers, pilots and enabling staff and so after the Training Objectives for Cold weather Survival (CWSC) the tactical training element is specific to those roles, with less emphasis on Fighting Troop SOPs.

Consisting of two days classroom/practical demonstration lessons it covers everything from clothing layer systems, kit and pulk packing, Ration and cooking systems, tent building, hjelper sled building and navigation 

This is followed by 6 Days/5 nights field training in the Bardufoss area which lends itself well to a varied mix of terrain and weather conditions. Broken down into:

Days 1 & 2: Insertion march up “Radar Hill”, a 4 Km uphill walk with fully laden bergens. Once at location set up their 10-man tents, remaining tactically aware using the snow to their advantage and keeping ground sign to a minimum. For the next 24 hours, the students are trained in Avalanche survival and recovery, Astro Navigation and have several exercises to achieve including a hjelper sled race between tent groups and navigation exercises in small groups. Upon the order “Pull Pole” the students pack their tents and equipment and start their next “YOMP” to their next site.

Students then set up 4-man tents have further instruction on tent routine and navigation exercises, remaining at site overnight.

Day 3: Again, on the order “Pull Pole” students pack up and return to Clockwork camp where they remain in a basic hangar to reservice and enter the Tactical Phase of training. Here they are issued weapons, receive tactical lessons, and prepare their kit to deploy back out into the field that evening. Once in area they secure a harbour and set up sentry routines. The harbour plan includes a Helicopter Landing Site (HLS) which gives the most relevant training for aviation operators.

Photographer: POPhot Kyle Heller – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023

Day 4: A full day of tactical instruction and practical’s which include, Sentry responsibilities and SOP’s, Trip flares, break contact drills and patrolling. Remaining there overnight again in 4-man tents, keeping alert during this phase is a must as they never know when they will be contacted (Engaged by enemy). 

Day 5: Survival after instruction on how to build snow and brushwood shelters, make and maintain fires and how to eat without rations! The students are left to create their shelters make their fires and survive the night using the lessons before to feed themselves. Before entering the area, students are checked to ensure they are only carrying the instructed minimal kit.

Day 6: The students conduct the Ice breaking drills where in the event of falling through ice into a lake or river, they must be able to control themselves, their breathing, lift their bergen out and get out of the water unaided. Understanding the body’s response to cold water immersion shock and preventative measures against hypothermia is vital to preparedness in the CWE.

Upon successful completion, JHC ranks are able to fulfil their various job roles in the CWE, key to a successful Clockwork deployment.

Photo credit: Soldiers of the CWAOC course conduct ice breaking drills. Photographer: POPhot Kyle Heller – UK MOD © Crown copyright 2023


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