First Soldiers Complete Army Basic Training Since Lockdown

One hundred and twenty-four recruits have passed out at Pirbright's Army Training Centre in Surrey.

The first group of soldiers to complete basic training since the coronavirus lockdown have been welcomed into the British Army.

A total of 124 recruits passed out at Pirbright's Army Training Centre, after beginning their training in January, with loved ones watching the ceremony via a livestream video.

The Army suspended the majority of its training due to COVID-19 in March, with basic training resuming earlier this month.

For the new soldiers passing out at Pirbright, they were required to keep two metres apart and parade in combats, rather than the blue number 1 dress uniform.

Brigadier Mike Butterwick, leader of the Army’s Initial Training Group said the recruits have worked and trained "in a unique and extraordinary way", during an "unprecedented" process.

Beginning in the first week of 2020, phase one training was put on hold halfway through due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For seven weeks during lockdown, recruits took part in virtual training, including battlefield casualty drills and soldier values.

Mobile apps were also used to maintain physical fitness, with Army training instructors setting targets.

First pass out parade since coronavirus lockdown. Army Training Centre, Pirbright.
Recruits paraded in combats instead of the smart blue number 1 dress uniform (Picture: British Army).

On 7 May, recruits began to be called back to the barracks as part of a phased return.

Each person was given an armband to wear for 14 days, depending on whether or not they had shown symptoms of COVID-19, or if they had possibly come into contact with the virus.

Brigadier Mike Butterwick was the senior officer on parade at Pirbright who addressed the new soldiers.

"Usually there is a band, usually you are in smart uniform, usually there would be more drill," he said.

"However, today the stands stand largely empty and you’d be forgiven for thinking that today doesn’t matter; nothing could be further from the truth.

"Today is still that rite of passage from recruit to soldier.

"As of today, you are no longer recruits, but signaller, engineer, craftsman, and more.

"Think of the discipline you have shown through training virtually and the loyalty to stick with it.

"Remember those values for the rest of your Army career."

The recruits were told to remember the "loyalty" and "discipline" they have shown through this period, for the rest of their career (Picture: British Army).

At Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, trainee officers have been learning online since the start of the month.

The Royal Navy has said much of its training has continued through the lockdown period, including operational sea training and at HMS Raleigh where ratings get initial training.

The Royal Air Force has said essential training has not been affected by the pandemic and the rest of its training activities are now back to capacity.

Cover image: British Army.