Less than a week after our annual final parade, the cadets who were in Yr. 8 and above set off on the second adventure at Crowborough Camp like last year. We met at school for 1000 and following that we set off south to camp, buzzing with excitement. We were the first contingents on camp so all was quiet. This was good because everyone could settle into their accommodation for the week and prepare for the two days in the field that lay ahead of us. This included receiving kit, putting together folders and repacking our unpacked burgans. Soon afterwards the other contingents, including private and public schools, started to arrive. Before long it was NAFI and then lights out at 2200, ready for two long days in the field.
Monday morning was an early start with breakfast 0615 before heading off at 0700. The day was laid out with two activities before lunch and two afterwards before heading to camp out in the field with bashers in a harbour formation. The first activity was survival skills. The first section of survival skills was hammocks and this included a team building exercise of building an a-frame for a hammock to sit. It managed to fit everyone in our team on the hammock making it successful for out in the field. The second section included a command task which put pressure on our platoon commander as he had to undertake a scenario and complete it successfully.
The first part was to open the safe containing nuts and bolts and keys to build a stretcher and to rescue our casualty from a locked area. The numbers for the safe were discovered from stations around in the trees and then added up in two groups to make a four-digit code. We were successful and managed to complete all the challenges in 16 minutes. Time was taken off afterwards due to our good teamwork and decision making creating us second overall for this long going challenge. This meant our school name will be shown on the massive board which is visited by royalty every so often. This is a massive achievement for our school as everyone was really happy. The final section was trying out homemade weapons used in previous wars before rifles were invented. They involved arrows being fired off sticks, catapults, axe throwing and another arrow contraction. It was good fun but also dangerous because these weapons could damage us and we weren’t on an authorised range but a gravel road. Luckily no one got hurt as we followed instructions and listened properly.
The second activity in our first day of field craft was first aid. After lunch we split into our three sections and practised small first aid drills. They were fun but a lot of us were gearing up for the compound clearance where we would use our rifles for the first time and fire some blanks rounds. We practised CPR and dressing bandages before arranging to extract a casualty from the forest. Some parts were more challenging than others but soon it was time to march down to the compound clearance. The first half of the activity was a practice and we gained knowledge of how to clear a room of a compound area. We split down into a few groups of four or five and were briefed of the challenge ahead of us. Then it was our time to shine.
We entered the compound area and used all our blank rounds and fired like crazy at the targets and the dangers we came across. Time flew by and not long afterwards we were heading to camp to settle down for the night. To test our knowledge, we all took part in a snap ambush before reaching our harbour area. It went well as there were no unintentional sightings and we all managed to get to the harbour area safely. Unfortunately, the area was not available so we had to move to a different area in order to sleep at night. Fortunately, it was sorted and we were setting up bashers, reviewing sections battle drills, learning about models and cooking food from our ration pack. At around 2100 we were preparing for a deep sleep in the open air along with all the insects.
At 0600 everyone started to wake up and pack everything away. The idea was to leave no trace whatsoever that we had stayed the night there. Opposite, outside the tree area of where we had set up camp was a large field of grassland. Using our food and cookers we cooked our rations for our breakfast and ate them before joining the other contingents in the area for a briefing of today’s round of fieldcraft. Soon afterwards we were walking down the hill towards the area which we would be participating in a snap ambush. In our three sections, we were given the job of either, right cut-off, left cut-off or the killing squad.
My section had the job of being the right cut-off group for if the enemy did a runner in our direction. We did a rehearsal of how it would turn out to be like. If we saw the enemy, we would have to pull the string to let the platoon commander in the killing squad know we had spotted the enemy and to get ready. After the rehearsal was the time where we would put the practice into a real situation and fire blank rounds. After everyone was set up in position, we waited for the enemy to arrive oblivious to us. After about twenty minutes, the enemy appeared in sight of the left cut-offs and the killing group fired on order. My section was only needed for the when one of the enemies decided to run in our point of fire and luckily, they didn’t manage to get away after our rapid fire.
Soon after we were moving on to the next session which was an escape room. On top of a hill above where we were introduced to the escape room were five marquees full of different types of equipment in each. We were split into five different groups and had to complete a selection of challenges to unlock the padlock at the exit or the marquee. Maps and papers were scattered around the room with metal boxes with padlocks locking them up. We had an hour to get out of the marquees through the “fire escape”. When the timer started there was the sudden scramble of trying to get started but before long, we started to understand how to do it. There was Morse code, number questions and lots more. Luckily, we all got out in the hour with seconds to spare. We then moved onto the one a lot of people were looking forward too; the bridge ambush.
We were led to a marquee with a map made by different materials from the ground. Each section sat on a different point of the map and as soon as possible we were briefed how it was going to work. Soon afterwards, they showed each section how they were going to accomplish the job. My section started off in herring bone formation and went towards the right of the bridge and slowly went into the tree line hidden from the enemy but the bridge was still in sight. We fired our blank rounds, aiming through the explosions and at the targets. Everyone enjoyed it and not long after just getting started we were moving onto our final fieldcraft session of central. It was a vehicle check point which involved role playing with different situations involving communications with drivers and passengers that may or may not have suspicious objects. A lot of the cadets found it fun as we were put on the spots unaware of what the people in the vehicle were going to do.
The three situations were different and useful in teaching us what it would be like. The first was unsuspicious and both passengers followed our instructions and created conversation with us. However, the second was a lot worse as the passengers did not follow our instructions and made it difficult for us. They gave the impression that they were nervous about something and could be described as on edge. Both of them needed to be searched and so did their vehicle. We found weapons in the boot of the car meaning they were hiding something. As they were both nervous, there was a time when one of them took off running in circles. The final situation was worse than the other two as the driver stopped the car before the check point and fired their weapons at us causing us to fire back. A few minutes later we were on the minibus back to the coach area to head back to Crowborough training camp. After handing kit back in, we had the job of cleaning our rifles to top quality before handing them back into the armoury. Then after a quick debrief we were left to relax at NAFFI and prepare for the next morning of adventure training.
On the Wednesday, we had to wear civvies as we were participating in activities offsite and at a civilian area. After breakfast we collected our kit from the office and set off on coaches towards a lake. We were joined by another school and later on that day, both schools were mixed into groups for the archery and the mountain biking. In three groups we went onto the lake in kayaks and played lots of games including standing up and jumping and reciting “heads, shoulders, knees and toes”. Everyone enjoyed getting wet and running off boats trying to capsise each other. The next activity after paddling back to shore was raft building. It was a lot harder as we were given ropes and six barrels and four planks of wood. Luckily when we paddled in the water none of our rafts collapsed. After a quick change out of the wet suits, we were back on the coach towards a woodland area with hills. The two sessions were about an hour long and first the group that I was in started off with a warrior fighting game with shields and swords. There as the yellow and the red team.
The first two games were to do with being the last team standing. Then it was to protect the royalty and either get to the other side or kill them. Soon afterwards it was archery and we all did really well. Before long we were preparing to do the next session; mountain biking. Behind the archery was a circuit made of wood with small jumps and uneven ground. This was used to test our ability and to be but into two groups. It determined what course we would be going on. The course that I went on was over steep hills and down hills. It was a good course as it tested our abilities in lots of different ways creating it to be easier and harder in different parts of the course. After arriving back at the marquee, we headed back to camp and for the usual evening layout.
We were over halfway through the central by now and everyone was enjoying it. Thursday was a day in Crowborough camp with sessions involving lots of different things that would be appearing in the competition held the next day. We started off with the 25m range. From last year it was a definite favourite to a lot of our cadets. Considering it was some of our first or second times on a range, as a contingent we managed to do amazingly well. Afterwards we spent the whole day marching to activities around the camp. This included laser tag, paintballing, shotgun, weapon information lesson, searching the area with metal detectors and more.
After finishing all the sessions, we were preparing for the last full day in camp. We had to decide what competitions we would like to participate for the next day’s range of competition events. The was a lot of events including shotgun, first aid, command task, survival 1 and 2, range, mountain biking, stem, military knowledge, archery, obstacle, skill of arms and drill. After the decision was made, everyone apart from the drill team was allowed to go to NAFFI. The drill team was left to iron their kit thoroughly and make sure their kit was to the best it could be. Unfortunately, they didn’t finish that night so continued the next day.
The next morning, everyone was prepared to do the competitions. We started with first aid and the last competition was the survival. The other competitions were laid out unevenly, leaving out about an hour for lunch. Not everyone could attend to watch each competition because of either other competitions were in the way or the drill team was polishing kit. Some of the competitions were new in skill to us making it harder and pushing us to do our best and some were easier. However, it was all good fun. In the end the day went quickly and we were all relaxing at the end of the day waiting for the results to our competition. Then the results were in…
We came second in the 25m range. Everyone was happy for our win and during our own debriefing we discussed our favourite parts of the camp and were given awards including badges like half stars and rifle badges. There was one promotion given to one of our Lance Corporals. The evening finished off with a recreation of the “cha cha slide”. We were then left to pack for leaving the next day.
Saturday was a day where we were cleaning our accommodation and clearing up all our equipment and leaving the camp. We arrived back at school tired but buzzing from the last week of camp.
Everyone enjoyed central and to me it was that extra level higher than last year’s central. I found it good and it was a good one for the contingent as last year we were new to this camp so the sessions seemed easy. Now we have gone up a level and it’s a bit harder and pushing us to be better as a contingent and in our own individual skills.