135 Geographical Squadron Royal Engineers
It’s been a busy time for 135 Geographic Squadron. Back in the warmer months we held a driver training weekend which included convoy drills and the use of Night Vision Devices. Driving and maintaining B and C class vehicles are vital skills allowing the deployment of the Bulk Replication and Geospatial Information Dissemination capabilities. Driving the 6T and 15T MAN SV trucks over cross country courses is both challenging and rewarding, stretching the soldiers and improving their skills sets and confidence.
Annual Camp provided the opportunity for 135 Sqn soldiers to conduct their annual marksmanship training and tests. They conducted grouping and zeroing, the basic annual test and then progressed to a static Close Quarter Battle Range. Weapon handling and marksmanship are vital skills that all soldiers must be proficient in.
In July, we said a fond farewell to Major Mark Sleeman who handed over Command of 135 Geographic Squadron to Major Robert Giles. Major Sleeman had commanded for the last three years and moved to a Staff job. Maj Giles previously served as the Squadron Second in Command at 135 Geographic Squadron. He returned to take up the Officer Commanding appointment after Reservist jobs in the training and NATO spheres.
Remembrance was conducted with a parade at the Squadron, guests and families attended with a scaled down presence in the St Mary’s Church. The end of the year culminated in some administrative and equipment management training, there’s no point having the people and equipment if you can’t use them.
We head into 2022 continuing to add recruits to the roster and ready to fulfil our mission. If you would like to experience life as a Reserve and take advantage of the excellent training we offer please get in touch.
HMS ECHO Navy News
Following a period of sea training off the South Coast, ECHO got the tick in the box that she is still safe to operate. She then deployed to the Arctic, conducting independent survey operations and national tasking in the high North. She also got her first foreign run ashore in a year and a half with a trip to Bergen, Norway. During the Winter season, ECHO is expecting to continue survey ops in the North Atlantic, and off Scotland.
A Blue Nose
One of the many naval traditions, the origins of which are somewhat lost to time is the welcoming of sailors into the ‘Order of the blue nose’ when they cross into the Arctic Circle. During our recent operations ECHO had the privilege of welcoming many personnel into the domain of the polar bear for the first time. The ceremony, and a selection of fun games were hosted by our very own King Neptune. Operation in the Artic circle also gave ECHO a new lick of paint, with her very own blue nose now on display.
Whilst operating in Arctic, ECHO was able to take time to remember the vessels lost as part of the Artic convoys of WW2. The convoys were vital to ensuring essential supplies made it into the USSR as part of the lend lease programme. Although vital, it was the most dangerous route by which supplies could be transferred into the USSR.
ECHO conducted wreck investigations of the HMS TRINIDAD (scuttled 15 May 1942) and HMS EDINBURGH (scuttled 2 May 1942). The wreck of the EDINBURGH has been closely examined, as it sank with 465 gold ingots onboard, all but five have since been recovered. ECHO took this opportunity to pay her respects to those who lost there lives, in company with a shadowing Russian unit.
During what seemed like the warmest week of the summer ECHO embarked a team from FOST to put us through our paces. The programme consisted of a series of routine activities such as pilotage (navigation in restricted waters), breakdown drills to check we can fix any day to problems.
To the more dramatic Damage control exercises, with ECHO being required to demonstrate it could extinguish engine room fires, and deal with multiple floods/fires at once. We have to train for these scenarios as whilst we hope they never happen, there is no 999 service at sea.
Another important aspect of training, ensuring our force protection teams and upper deck weapons crews are competent and well practised. ECHO as a survey vessel, is primarily outfitted for self protection only, with GPMG, Mk44 Mini Guns and 20mm cannons. These were all fired in preparation for national tasking.
Wildlife on the Ocean Wave
Back with our now regular wildlife column. Arctic waters presented an opportunity to see some new species. As well as a photography challenge as poor weather meant a very unstable platform to try and focus from. The highlight for many was a pod of Orcas. Although there was some disappointment that no polar bears were spotted near bear island. Had any polar bears been sighted it is likely they would be near starving due to the lack of sea ice in the area of operation at this time of year; so arguable a positive sign.
We also saw the Northern lights on occasions when the cloud lifted; although they proved somewhat challenging to photograph.