Portsmouth soldiers test their mettle during high-octane Christmas raids

DOZENS of part-time soldiers flexed their military muscles during a challenging exercise – before then tucking into a socially-distanced Christmas dinner.

Tuesday, 22nd December 2020, 11:00 am
Two Soldiers from 4 PWRR prepare to clear a container during an urban attack. Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown

Infanteers from the 4th Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment carried out their final war game of the year, spread across training areas in Salisbury Plain and Browndown, in Gosport.

About 100 soldiers from the army reserve battalion’s four companies – which draws men and women from across the south – took part in the three-day drill, codenamed Exercise Punniar Tiger.

Teams, wearing masks, carried out mock assaults on urban compounds and sharpened their reconnaissance skills before then putting everything into practice in a high-octane military raid.

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A Soldier from 4 PWRR poses for a photo after an early morning attack followed by their Christmas meal, keeping his festive spirit going. Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown

Positioning themselves outside a fortified farm complex, reservists carried out an all-out attack on the compound.

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Troops, armed with blank-firing weapons and smoke grenades, stormed buildings and climbed walls to hunt for and destroy the enemies barricaded within.

Then to mark the end of the exercise, soldiers enjoyed a ‘Covid-secure’ Christmas brunch of soup, roast turkey – with all the trimmings in a Christmas roll – and mince pies.

Troops from 4 PWRR fire and manoeuvre towards the enemy position. Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown

Among those tucking into their Christmas treat was, Lance Corporal Daniel Wimberley, from Portsmouth.

The 30-year-old landscape architect is part of C Company, based in Tudor Crescent, Cosham, and said he relished the challenge of being a junior leader.

‘It’s been a fantastic opportunity as commander to be challenged in the urban environment, leading an assault and making split second decisions,’ he said.

‘Temperatures have been sub-zero, and everyone also had the Covid protocols to adhere to, I think everyone has worked really hard and performed well.

Reservists from 4 PWRR showed their Christmas spirit by slipping into Santa hats before receiving a festive meal in the field. Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown

‘The Christmas lunch was something to look forward to whilst we were out on the freezing reconnaissance mission last night.

‘To be served our lunch has enabled a bit of banter and kept spirits high, it maintains a good level of morale as we head into 2021.’

The battalion’s 367 personnel have faced a busy 2020 disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Lieutenant Colonel Jim Bird, 4 PWRR’s commanding officer, said the exercise marked the end of a ‘challenging year’, which has seen 139 troops joining the Covid Support Force, helping man coronavirus testing stations.

Solders from 4 PWRR return fire during a platoon attack at first light.Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown

‘Normally at this time of year we would thank the troops for their incredible commitment by the officers and warrant officers serving them a Christmas lunch,’ he said.

‘This year, because of Covid we have had to do things differently, so after the tactical exercise finished, we gave the troops a socially-distanced Christmas meal in the field.’

Reflecting on 2020, Lt Col Bird added: ‘In many respects we have achieved much more than we expected this year.

‘It has not been straightforward, but we still managed platoon-level tactical live-firing, grown the battalion trained strength by 10 per cent and, most importantly, contributed to five operations both in the UK and overseas. Next year, we hope to be able to match, if not better these successes.’

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Army Reserve Soldiers from across Hampshire, including Portsmouth and Southampton, who serve with 4th Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment nicknamed ‘The Tigers’ have been on Salisbury Plain Training Area in Wiltshire this month. Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown

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A chef from 4 PWRR prepares the festive bowls of mince pies, crackers and festive hats. Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown
A soldier from 4 PWRR observes thier arcs during an advance to contact. Photo: Sgt Nick Johns RLC / MoD Crown