French stage a friendly invasion of Gosport beach

9/3/2013 (SB)''The French Navy conducted a military exercise on Browndown beach in Gosport on Saturday afternoon.''Pictured is: Military vehicles unload from the landing craft onto Browndown beach.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13678-3786)
9/3/2013 (SB)''The French Navy conducted a military exercise on Browndown beach in Gosport on Saturday afternoon.''Pictured is: Military vehicles unload from the landing craft onto Browndown beach.''Picture: Sarah Standing (13678-3786)
HMS Prince of Wales was officially named at a ceremony in Rosyth last week. Picture: LPhot Ben Shread/UK MOD Crown Copyright.

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A FRENCH invasion force has landed in Gosport – but don’t worry, they’re only on a training exercise.

Helicopters buzzed overhead as landing craft dropped vehicles and troops on the ground at Browndown this afternoon.

Hundreds of soldiers, 43 vehicles, four helicopters, two landing craft and a catamaran, were part of the invasion force which was put together as part of a large-scale exercise.

The French landing helicopter dock Tonnerre and anti-submarine warfare destroyer Georges Leygues arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base yesterday in preparation for the drills.

The French navy is practising a major invasion on the British mainland to test amphibious operations.

A French navy spokeswoman said: ‘Once the vehicles and soldiers disembark, using the landing craft and helicopters, the troops will continue with instruction activities, driver training, live fire exercises and assault course on Browndown.

‘This kind of manoeuvre is a unique chance for the 134 midshipmen of the French Naval Academy 2010-class embarked on board the Tonnerre and the Georges Leygues to discover both amphibious and joint operations.’

Today’s exercise was held to signal the co-operation between the Royal Navy and French forces, in the wake of a defence treaty signed in 2010.

The last time French troops landed on British soil was in 1797.

The French forces sail from Portsmouth this evening for Beirut, the next stop on their deployment.