British Army’s First Cold Weather Instructor Course

The British Army is now developing its own winter warfare training teams.

Currently this training is led by the Royal Marines, our cold weather experts, across the whole of UK Defence. This new course, besides helping to reduce the likelihood of cold weather injuries, will enable future Army instructors to deliver training to soldiers deploying to cold weather operational environments.

What Does the Training Involve?

The training is currently delivered as a four week package:

  • Ice Drills:
    • Students face a 90-second dip in the body-numbing cold water, which is part of a practical session showing them how to extract properly should they fall through the ice into a river of lake while skiing.
    • Wearing a thermal base layer, socks, gloves, and trainers, students must calmly enter the icy water.
    • Remove their skis and place them on the side of hole.
    • State their name, number, rank, and then ask for permission to leave the water.
    • Answer a few more questions to test their mental state before being allowed to pull themselves out using their ski poles.
    • Roll in the snow, absorbing excess moisture and providing some insulation to help them warm up.
    • In line with Royal Navy tradition, those plunging through the ice are issued a swift tot of rum once they are out in return for a salute to the Queen.
    • They can then exchange their wet kit for the welcome standard dress of thermal layers and Arctic clothing.
    • It is a critical pass or fail stage of the course.
  • Food:
    • Students are shown how to target food sources, such as fish, that can be caught easily using any small shiny item as bait, and how to humanely dispatch a chicken.
    • Good husbandry is key for the prevention of food poisoning and students learn the importance of thinking outside the box in such an austere environment when food is scarce and precious energy is needed to stay alive.
    • For example:
      • Instructors encourage the use of pine needles and moss in tea as they contain high levels of phosphorous and vitamin C.
      • Protein and carbohydrates are really important and can be found by searching for root vegetables and berries.
      • Bark can be chewed, and the sap contains lots of sugar.
  • Water:
    • Water can’t be carried as it will just turn to ice.
    • Students are taught to stop regularly to melt snow to provide the recommended three to four litres per day.
  • Skiing:
    • Students are taught the Telemark skiing technique, this combines elements of the Alpine and Nordic styles (allowing users to have free heel movement that is better for carrying weight and flexibility).
    • How to ski with a Bergan.
    • How to walk with snowshoes.
  • Military Skills:
    • Camouflage and concealment techniques.
    • Tested on a night navigation exercise (in a small group).
    • Over the course, training will progress onto more advanced skiing and movement, with an emphasis on military tactics and techniques.
    • Learn to fight on skis.
    • Construct observations posts (OP’s).
    • Conduct reconnaissance.
  • Survival & Shelter:
    • Construction of different types of shelter.
    • Building fires: Students are taught how to create sparks from twigs and wood shavings in order to ignite a mix of cotton wool and feathers.
    • Safety regarding fires and carbon monoxide poisoning, including signs and symptoms and managing the risks.
    • Tested on making own shelters.

During the final phase students are assessed on their ability to teach the lessons they have participated in.

Who Can Attend?

The instructor course:

  • Is open to all cap badges and trades;
  • Must have a commanding officer recommendation;
  • Be between the rank of lance corporal and captain; and
  • Have high levels of fitness and motivation.

Next, students must have passed a rigorous pre-selection stage and 14-day mountain warfare package.

This process ensures the troops are capable of marching in excess of 20 km across some of the UK’s highest peaks during the winter months and tests their night navigation skills, as well as abseiling, climbing and vertical assault capabilities.

How Many can Attend?

There are approximately twenty (20) students per course.

Facts: Ice Thickness

  • In general, ice should be a minimum thickness of 5 cm before a person can walk on it
  • It should be 10 cm deep to bear the weight of two or more people walking and they should keep a two metre gap between them.
  • A minimum 25 cm layer can support the weight of a light helicopter.
  • A 30 cm layer of ice is thick enough for a heavier support helicopter to safely land on.
  • 40 cm can support the weight of a Viking vehicle.

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