Tough challenge for Barnstaple soldier

Joseph Bulmer

Former Pilton College pupil takes part in the Cambrian Patrol — one of the toughest tests on the Brecon Beacons.

A Barnstaple soldier has conquered one of the British Army’s toughest tests – a two day, mind and body-sapping 45 kilometre patrol across the inhospitable Brecon Beacons.

Private Louis Rooke, 21, of 23 Pioneer Regiment, took part in Exercise Cambrian Patrol – an annual event which takes place over some of the most challenging terrain in mid-Wales.

The exercise, run by 160 (Wales) Brigade, is a highlight in the training calendar as patrol groups of soldiers – both male and female - navigate by day and night, facing many challenges on the way.

These include observation and reconnaissance of enemy forces, cold river crossings in full kit without access to boats, first-aid and defensive shooting under attack.

The teams marched carrying full kit and equipment, weighing in at some 60 pounds, with military skills, stamina and dedication constantly evaluated.

This year’s event was regarded as one of the toughest for a long time and a third of the groups failed to complete the course.

Successful teams were awarded gold, silver or bronze medals or a certificate of merit, depending on the number of points gained.

Louis, a former Pilton Community College pupil who has already completed a tour in Afghanistan, said this was his first attempt at completing Cambrian Patrol and his team had put in some vital pre-exercise training.

“We took part in the Gore Trophy, a military competition testing fitness as well as marching and shooting skills, to help prepare as a team for Cambrian. We came second in that but we knew we were in for a harder test in Brecon,” he said.

“Everyone gave their all to ensure we did well over the two days.”

Cambrian Patrol Regimental Sergeant Major, WO1 Brian Pratt MBE added: “Although not the longest of Cambrian routes, the teams still had to cover 1,800 metres of climb and 1,300 of descent, in addition to some horrendous terrain on the opening legs.

“Again, the exercise has lived up to its reputation as one of the sternest tests a modern-day soldier can face.”