Royal Marines launch first boat raid drills from Royal Navy patrol ship HMS Medway in the Caribbean

RAIDING parties from the Royal Marines have been sharpening their deadly assault skills from a Portsmouth-based warship for the first time.

Monday, 22nd June 2020, 12:28 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd June 2020, 1:50 pm

Elite green berets from 47 Commando Raiding Group have launched fast boat exercises from HMS Medway in the Caribbean.

The Commandos’ drills are readying them for operations in the region, which could see them speeding out to raid drug smugglers or rushing to save lives in disaster relief operations.

The Plymouth-based Marines are the navy’s experts in handling fast raiding boats and landing craft, and are aboard RFA Argus for their hurricane season deployment in the region.

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539 Raiding Squadron conducts boat drills conducts with HMS Medway off the coast of Cayman Islands. Photo: LPhot Joe Cater

Having pushed themselves and their kit in extreme climes, they are now working closely as part of a potent Royal Navy task group, including Medway, Argus, an air group of Wildcat and Merlin helicopters and 3 Commando Brigade’s crisis response troop.

Continuing their preparations for Caribbean missions, the Commandos worked with Medway on high speed pacing drills, which saw them quickly and carefully manoeuvring their boats next to the warship – a key skill when raiding and boarding other vessels.

Corporal Thomas Thornton, said: ‘Having been through exercises in really tough places like Norway, we can trust ourselves to operate in the harshest conditions. We have learnt to treat our kit well, so we can push it to the limit to achieve tasks.’

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539 Raiding Squadron conducts boat drills conducts with HMS Medway off the coast of Cayman Islands. Photo: LPhot Joe Cater

In the event of a natural disaster, the squadron will be tasked with quickly landing supplies and emergency aid, along with landing the 24 Commando Royal Engineers from the crisis response troop.

Already the Marines have been training hard with the task group, testing the ability to respond to disasters across the Caribbean.

On counter-narcotics operations, the squadron are able to land boarding parties onto suspicious crafts, supporting local police forces and the US Coastguard to intercept suspect vessels.

Navy raids in the region over the past five years have managed to prevent £750m of drugs hitting the streets.

539 Raiding Squadron conducts boat drills conducts with HMS Medway off the coast of Cayman Islands. Photo: LPhot Joe Cater

Cpl Thornton added the green berets had a diverse range of skills that made them some of the most adaptable troops in the UK’s military.

‘There is a lot of responsibility for landing craft operators in the Marines, and in 539 this is very true,’ he said.

‘You are the coxswain, it is your boat, and there is a lot of trust placed in you by those you transport.

‘Sometimes they can be very senior, and sometimes you need to deliver them to a location safely, quickly, and all of that falls to us.’

539 Raiding Squadron conducts boat drills conducts with HMS Medway off the coast of Cayman Islands. Photo: LPhot Joe Cater

HMS Medway, one of the newest offshore patrol ships, will be based out in the Caribbean for several years as part of a long-term mission in the region.

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