Royal Marines

Inside the demanding Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course

Watch: Candidates taking on the Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course.

It is not as simple as just turning up to begin your Royal Marines Commando training.

Any potential candidates are faced with strict standards that they will need to meet – and exceed – if they are to prove they can make it as a Royal Marines Commando.

There are several stages before someone can take on the initial training, and Forces News has been able to join candidates as they take on the Candidate Preparation Course (CPC) stage.

Even before starting the CPC, the candidates have to complete a pre-joining fitness test at a local gym and an interview with a military career adviser.

Most of the tests have a minimum requirement, but it is a key part of the Royal Marines' ethos to "push to the limit, regardless of what is acceptable".

The stages are:

1. Pre-Joining Fitness Test Plus 2. Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course 3. Recruit Orientation Phase 4. Initial Training

Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course candidates taking on Bottom Field 24052023 CREDIT BFBS
Candidates are introduced to the infamous 'bottom field' during the preparation test.

Candidate Preparation Course

The Candidate Preparation Course (CPC) is a three-day course at Commando Training Centre Royal Marines (CTCRM), Lympstone. 

After settling into Commando Training Centre on the first day, the tests start bright and early on the second – with the Royal Marines fitness assessment.

A 20-metre VO2 Max/Bleep Test starts off as a fairly gentle shuttle run but gets a lot faster as the beeps get closer together.  

This is followed by press-ups, sit-ups and pull-up assessments – 30 press-ups, 40 sit-ups and four pull-ups, all to the accompanying beep.

Recruit hopefuls then practise what is called 'feet to beam'. 

Everything on the course is demonstrated by one of the Physical Training Instructors or CPC instructors, so they know what is expected, because standards are exact.

"I would, sort of, emphasise to people to make sure they can do it before they get here," said Corporal Brewster, a Physical Training Instructor, Commando Selection Team.

Feet to beam being demonstrated by a Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course  instructor 24052023 CREDIT BFBS
Feet to beam being demonstrated by a CPC instructor, so the candidates know what is expected, as standards are exact.

He added: "Not just being able to scrape through the numbers, being able to get well over them so that they know, effectively, that the first test is almost a box-ticking exercise that they can pass it.

"So that they can earn the right, as it were, to go on to the rest of the day."

Following these punishing tests is the swimming assessment.

The pool at Lympstone is 33m long, and after the candidates enter they must jump off the 3m-high diving board before doing two laps, approximately 150m, and then tread water for two minutes.

They then have to get out of the pool unaided without using the steps.

At any point across the CPC, if someone doesn't pass, they will be sent home, but can attempt the CPC three times, so are given valuable feedback and bespoke hints and tips that may help for future attempts.

Swimming test during Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course 24052023 CREDIT BFBS
Candidates taking on the swimming assessment of the Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course.

The preparation test continues with going over the low and high obstacles and then an introduction to the infamous 'bottom field'  – and this course is designed to push the candidate.

Candidate Josh said: "I was quite confident about the fitness tests, and I was getting 10 pull-ups on a normal pull-up bar... smashing out all these reps and doing well.

"Actually when you get there, the way that they instruct you to do it, and the way that they advise you to do it is a lot different, and I feel like you need to be well over what you think is alright, and definitely nowhere near just the minimum."

Day three sees the candidates at Woodbury Common for the endurance course, where they take on the tunnels – going through water, crawling, sprinting and more.

Royal Marine Candidate Preparation Course candidates taking a dunk in 'Peters Pool' 24052023 CREDIT BFBS
Candidates taking a dunk in 'Peter's Pool', the second obstacle on the course and a prominent feature within Woodbury Common.

Confidence and determination assessments are a key part of the course, which are conducted on the endurance course, high obstacle course and bottom field.

Determination is certainly needed on day three after taking a dunk in Peter's pool, going underwater through the sheep dip, performing press-ups at any given moment and then a change into trainers to run three-and-a-half miles back to camp.

There are also information sessions at Lympstone on weapons, fieldcraft and what it is like to be a Royal Marine – and, before attending the CPC, an itinerary of what to bring and what to expect is made available.

Those who pass the CPC are invited to start the recruit orientation phase – a precursor to phase one commando training.

The hard work is truly only just beginning for the candidates.

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