More than one thousand Royal Marines, the largest numbers for many years, have deployed to the frozen Arctic for the annual cold weather workouts.
Arbroath-based 45 Commando are in the north of Norway learning to be winter warriors. They have already completed the first phase of their Arctic survival training in bitterly cold temperatures.
The Green Berets are around 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle, where the sun barely rises and temperatures plummet to below -30C (-22F).
As 3 Commando Brigade’s highest readiness unit, 45 Commando must be prepared to instantly deploy anywhere in the world. That includes arctic, jungle and desert climates.
More than a thousand marines have headed for Norway this time, with 47 Commando Raiding Group with their small boats and 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group also in the region.
This is all in preparation for Exercise Cold Response – a large-scale, multinational war games led by Norway in February-March.
The deployment is part of the UK’s commitment to the Arctic which saw 800 marines deployed last year.
Firstly, commandos must take on the survival training before learning to move and fight in one of the planet’s most inhospitable regions on the Cold Weather Warfare Course.
Half the battle is managing the temperature, lack of daylight and the terrain. Snow storms can occur suddenly, so learning the basics of survival is key to operating in the frozen Arctic conditions.
“Overcoming this demanding environment presents its own challenges,” said Lieutenant Alex Saunders, of 45 Commando.
“The survival phase of training includes how to construct snow shelters, navigating by the stars and how to trap animals.”
The initial phases on the Arctic training concludes with the infamous ice breaking drills. Commandos must plunge into a hole in the ice and climb out of the water unassisted using their ski poles.
This brutal part of the training helps Royal Marines recognise and reduce the risks of cold shock, which can rapidly incapacitate and even kill.