Royal Marines undertake intensive Arctic training

Pictured is a member of 24 Commando Royal Engineers yomping with full field kit in Norway whilst on his Cold Weather Survival Course (CWSC) during Winter Deployment 22. Photographer: PO Phot Ethell - UK MOD © Crown copyright 2022 - MOD News Licence.

Royal Marines have deployed to Norway as the next generation of winter warriors are put through their paces in one of the world’s most extreme environments.

Scarcely four hours of daylight and temperatures well into the minus numbers have greeted hundreds of marines – as they refresh their skills in surviving, moving and fighting across the ice.

First, those who are new to the Arctic must undergo a series of intensive trials to ensure they are able to survive – building shelters, living off the land and dealing with cold shock during the infamous ice breaking drills, which involves being plunged into a hole in the ice and climbing out of the water unassisted using ski poles.

This brutal part of the training is designed to help participants recognise and reduce the risks of cold shock: a physical response to being immersed in cold water that can rapidly incapacitate and even kill.

Crossing a frozen lake or river can bring a tactical advantage but comes at significant risk, so ice breaking is about preparing for being suddenly dropped into bracing water.

After rewarming from their dip through the ice, those on the survival course head into the wilderness to construct and inhabit survival shelters.

Half the battle is managing the climate and the terrain. Snow storms can occur suddenly, so learning the basics of survival is key to operating in the Arctic conditions.

The Cold Weather Warfare Course has three phases – survival, mobility and warfare. This creates a well-rounded winter warrior, enabling the commandos to operate effectively in this unforgiving environment. 

This year, Royal Navy ships will join Royal Marines for the large-scale Norwegian-led exercise Cold Response 22. This takes place in March and April with 28 nations and a total of 35,000 troops already committed to attending the exercise.


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