Royal Marines

Arctic Strategy: Hundreds Of Royal Marines Prepare For Norway Deployment

Personnel will now travel to Norway on an annual basis as part of Britain’s Arctic strategy.

Eight hundred Royal Marines and their support arms are getting ready to deploy to Norway as Britain strengthens its focus on the Arctic.

The Defence Secretary has accused Russia of staking a claim in the region and militarising its frozen expanses.

The deployment will boost Norwegian forces - which are made up of around 24,000 full-time personnel - and among those heading to the Arctic are 539 Assault Squadron.

"The Royal Marines have a very long association with Norway and the Arctic," Colonel Chris Haw, Commanding Officer of 1 Assault Group Royal Marines, told Forces News.

"I’ve been going there for many years because of the Northern Flank of NATO and in recent times, because of the resurgent of the threat in the high north, the Secretary of State [Gavin Williamson] has recently announced 800 Royal Marines going to Norway on an annual basis.

"That’s part of the UK’s Arctic strategy.

"It’s something we’ve always done but it’s now a greater operational relevance and something we’ve been very looking forward to doing more of."

RM in Norway 210119 CREDIT Royal Navy
Royal Marines training in Norwegian waters (Picture: Royal Navy).

When asked whether it was more challenging for Royal Marines to do their job in Norway than in Britain, Colonel Haw said: "Absolutely, the environmental constraints are so severe that if they don’t get their drills correct it could be dangerous to their livelihood.

"We have to spend quite a bit of time, people doing effectively training to be safe to operate in that environment. So the considerations are significant."

Personnel have also been conducting mountain training in Britain prior to their departure.

"They’re up on Dartmoor tonight, getting cold and wet and used to operating in that environment. So hopefully they’ll be ready to go once they get out there."

“I think we’re probably unique in operating in open-top boats in that environment,” continued Colonel Haw.

Colonel Chris Haw 210119 CREDIT Forces News
Colonel Chris Haw, Commanding Officer of 1 Assault Group Royal Marines.

"The Norwegians have closed boats for good reason. But we work very closely with the Dutch as well.

"So once we're out there, it’s not just a case of us training ourselves, we work with our partner nations, with the Dutch as part of the UKNL landing force. But also with the Norwegian coastal rangers to enhance our interoperability should we be called upon to use that in a NATO circumstance."

Once deployed in Norway, Marines have to learn quickly how to survive in the harsh Arctic conditions.

Royal Marine in the Norwegian waters 210119 CREDIT Royal Navy
Royal Marines will learn how to operate in Arctic conditions (Picture: Royal Navy).

"To start off with they have to learn how to survive in that environment. So they’ll have to live in snow holes and make brushwood bivvies and understand the environment. Because it’s one of the harshest environments in the world.

“Then they’ll learn how to move, so on the ground, but also how to operate their craft and there are lots of different considerations for them operating in that environment.

"It’s extremely cold, it’s actually quite dangerous with the temperatures below freezing all the time right down to -30 degrees.

"Driving with water splashing onto you is not a great place to be.

RM in Norway waters 210119 CREDIT Royal Navy
Royal Marines training in Norway (Picture: Royal Navy).

“They have to understand the constraints of how they operate. And also the constraints of how their equipment operates, because the craft have different oils and technical parts that have to be changing in order to operate in that environment.

“Once they’ve learned how to do all of those things in that environment, they can then learn how to fight in that environment.

"So to support the Commando troops from the Rifle companies or to act independently as tactical assets.”

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