Royal Marines

Night And Day: Conducting Arctic Beach Landings With Royal Marines

Personnel from 539 Assault Squadron took 16 vessels to Hellarbogen to train on the Norwegian fjords.

Royal Marines from 539 Assault Squadron have been honing their beach landing skills in the fjords of Norway.

They are not the only ones working in the region. Personnel from Taunton-based 40 Commando have been training with their Viking all-terrain vehicles and honing the skills of 'skijoring' - a means of quickly transporting Marines over good ground.

Since the drawdown of British military personnel in combat roles in Afghanistan in 2014, there has been a focus on Royal Marines returning to their amphibious roots as well as enhancing their Arctic capability.

Hellarbogen, which is in the Arctic Circle itself, is seen as the ideal place for 539 Assault Squadron to train both skills.

Last year's exercise was cancelled due to funding cuts and for many Marines they are deploying to to the area for the first time.

A total of 16 vessels were brought to Hellarbogen to train on the fjord and rehearse beach landings.

Marines during training in Hellarbogen.

Marines conduct landings in the dark but before they can do that, they start with the basics which are sometimes done in the daylight. 

"It's mega tactical, so it would all be done at night, no lights on at all, as quiet as you can," explains Marine Nath Nicholls.

"It comes with its challenges and also leaving ground is a big one.

"This beach is not too bad with the stones but obviously if it was a sandy beach you could leave footprints everywhere."

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Before landing in the dark Royal Marines often train in daylight.

There are plans to develop a tactical partnership with the Norwegians over the next few years, not just using their infrastructure and environment.

Last year it was announced the Royal Marines will integrate into the Norwegian Defence Plan, with 1,000 personnel promised to Norway for the next ten years.

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A total of 16 vessels have been brought to Norway to help train the Royal Marines.

In the Arctic, divers from the Norwegian forces conducted a visual and fingertip search of the beach, ready for the Royal Marines to operate their landing craft in the water.

"We do ice diving as well," explains Senior Sergeant Steinn Mar from the Forsvaret, Norway's armed forces.

"The main reason to do ice diving would be to salvage vehicles that went through the ice."

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"We're establishing some baselines and basic operating procedures," says Captain Samuel Moreton.

As part of the training, the two allies have been using each other's equipment and people.

In this exercise, 539 Assault Squadron were using British boats to move Norwegian vehicles.

The landing craft can transport anything from a Land Rover to 32 troops. Crewed by three Marines, it is capable of 15 knots.

Royal Marines in Norway 060319 CREDIT BFBS

The offshore raiding craft is much faster at 40 knots.

One variant can carry both the general-purpose machine gun (GPMG) and 50-calibre machine gun.

The other, meanwhile, can take up to eight Marines.