135 Geographical Squadron Royal Engineers
It has been a busy time for 135 Geographic Squadron (Reserves) since June. Below is a run down of formal events but also at time of writing the Squadron has a Lance Corporal deployed alongside a Regular Geographic Technician on board the Aircraft Carrier HMS Prince of Wales, a Sapper (Private Soldier of the Engineers) working as a Geographic Technician on exercise with Regular troops on Ex ASKARI STORM in Kenya, and another Lance Corporal on a leg of a Royal Engineers expedition sailing from the UK to South Georgia Island via the Falklands and then summiting the major mountains on South Georgia. We have also had various individuals attending Recruit Training, Combat Engineering, Range Management, Off-Road Driving, Positioning Survey and Adventurous Training courses.
Annual Camp, UK and Jersey
Approximately half the Squadron took part in the annual two week training event with the remainder on various courses or other commitments. The first week was spent near Bulford honing military skills including shooting, fieldcraft, navigation, first aid, counter mine and IED, as well as driver training. This testing and challenging week of events was rewarded with a second week of adventurous training in Jersey. This included a round robin of activities including mountain biking, coasteering, trail walking, rock climbing and kayaking. There was also an education event on the penultimate day around various aspects of the Islands military history from Napoleonic times to WW2.
Changeover of Officer Commanding
In early July Maj Rob Giles handed over to Maj Quintin Locke who comes in from Headquarters Royal Engineers Geographic. Maj Giles has been instrumental in strengthening and driving the Squadron forward in the last two years after Covid; passing it over in good health and with a bright outlook. His final act was leading the Squadron on a very successful and fulfilling Annual Camp.
Ex COMBAT OWL
This is a combat engineer skills exercise aimed at maintaining our ‘Sapper’ skills and included in this instance training on the Medium Girder Bridge or MGB. The MGB is a modular bridging system built in situ by a minimum of 9 sappers, spans gaps of upto 9 metres and is intended to allow vehicular access across obstacles as was proved by our 6T truck! Other skills practiced on the weekend included vehicle recovery, knots and lashings and Armoured Fighting Vehicle recognition skills; a valuable skill to identify oncoming friendly or adversary fighting vehicles.
Ex OWL RIDE
The mountain bikers has another ride out on a very wet August weekend, with 9 mountain bikers challenging themselves to two legs of 75 miles over two days from Farnham to Chatham. The ride ended at the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham where the team were welcomed by the Officer Commanding, The Honorary Colonel (Dr Vanessa Lawrence) and the Royal Engineers Corps Colonel, Col Dickie Hawkins. Coincidently each leg of 75 miles matched the Squadron’s 75th anniversary being celebrated from October 2023.
Ex GREEN OWL
This exercise was aimed at maintaining those core soldier skills of small unit tactics, fieldcraft, navigation, first aid, communications, as well as reintroducing basic urban operations tactics. We were able to tick off many of our Individual Training Requirements during the exercise; these are an annual requirement to be certified as current and competent in the skills the Army requires of its Reservists. The urban operations was the highlight of the weekend, where the team practiced room clearance drills through a complex bunker system in darkness using loads of blank ammunition and laser sights.
Ex OWL REFLECT, Germany
20 members of the Squadron took part in a Battlefield Study to Germany. The first stand was on the Seelow Heights East of Berlin looking at the final Russian assault before the Battle of Berlin which was the second day’s focus. This was followed by the “Dambusters” raid on the Möhne Dam, and finally an appreciation of the British Army Of the Rhine and its role during the Cold War with particular emphasis on Royal Engineers Geographic’s contribution. Battlefield Studies provide service people across the rank range with an opportunity to understand past actions, battles and campaigns and be able to relate them to the current security situation. These are a wonderful opportunity to travel, learn and grow professional skills of analysis and presentational skills, furthermore they provide a means to knit the team together.
On 30 Sept we held the Endeavour Dinner, attended by the Master and Junior Warden, our Honorary Colonel, Commander of the National Centre for Geospatial Intelligence as well as 76 members of the Squadron and their guests. The event was held in the Drill Hall, which was ‘dressed up’ for the occasion and an excellent menu was provided by the Regimental Chefs. This is an annual black tie combined mess event, meaning anyone from the Officer Commanding to the newest Sapper is able to attend; which is unusual in most Regiments. This event opened a year of celebration for our 75th anniversary as a military organisation.
Ex TECH OWL, RAF WYTON
In October the Ewell and Reading elements met with the RAF Wyton troop in RAF Wyton for a technical training weekend. We had a good turnout of 30 individuals to get their hands on and get familiarised with a refreshed Bulk Replication capability. The Bulk Replication capability provides Defence with the ability to print large maps in a deployed environment. The capability consists of a number of high capacity plotters which sit in a container on the back of a 15T truck. Even in the age of digital technology and smart phones, the Armed Forces must prepare for every eventuality including the disintegration of IT and communications networks, at such a time, operations must continue and the provision of paper mapping is essential for the Armed Forces to continue to plan, navigate and operate.
Lord Mayor’s Show & Remembrance Sunday
Remembrance Weekend got off to a good start with the Squadron supporting the Lord Mayor’s Show with George the Owl riding on one of our large trucks. Remembrance Sunday service was held at St Mary’s church in Ewell with a good attendance from the Squadron and the town followed by a pig roast at the Reserve Centre and various presentations including the announcement of this year’s Endeavour Award, Lance Corporal Williamson.
The Squadron celebrates its 75th year with our antecedent Regiment 135 Survey Regiment (TA) being established in Oct 1948 and formed in April 1949. We look forward to continuing to mark and celebrate the anniversary into 2024 through various events in planning.