The Cambrian Patrol is arduous and concentrates on leadership, teamwork, physical fitness and achieving the mission.
“48 hours and 74 kms later carrying 88 pounds worth of weapons & equipment, no sleep 2 litres of water a day and minimal food, #CambrianPatrol is over!! Hardest thing I’ve ever done, never again. What an experience though!” (Akhtar, 2018).
It is considered the premier examination of patrolling skills in NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), being a mentally and physical demanding examination of all the basic skills of a modern soldier.
2.0 Synopsis of The Cambrian Patrol
The Cambrian Patrol is a continuous, 48-hour long-range international military patrol exercise, carrying a heavy backpack, across the rough terrain, and often rough weather, of the Cambrian Mountains of mid-Wales.
The patrol is also composed of various ‘stands’ along the patrol route, at which teams must complete numerous types of military exercises in an attempt to score points.
3.0 History of The Cambrian Patrol
In 1959, a group of Welsh Territorial Army (now Army Reserve) soldiers designed a weekend training event, set in the Cambrian Mountains of Wales, featuring long distance marching and culminating in a shooting match on the Sennybridge Training Area (SENTA).
In August 1960, British Army Major General Lewis Pugh, a Welshman, furthered this event into Exercise Cambrian Patrol.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the format was largely a march and shoot scenario, with SLR’s (self-loading rifles), starting in mid-Wales and covering 70 miles over 4 days to a finish at SENTA with military skills tests on the way. Each team had a base camp party that put up tentage/bashas and a cook tent for the end of each day or night phase. The patrol finished with a final speed march over SENTA.
During the 1980s, the exercise transitioned to a tactical patrol format.
All-female patrols are a rarity and those actually completing the exercise even rarer. In 2014, a patrol of eight women representing the London University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) made history by winning a bronze medal.
The Cambrian Patrol has been continuously updated to meet the changing challenges faced by soldiers.
4.0 Who Hosts The Cambrian Patrol?
The Cambrian Patrol is an annual event organised and run by 160th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters Wales, commonly known as 160 (Wales) Brigade, and located in Brecon.
The Commander 160 (Wales) Brigade, a Brigadier (OF-6), is the Exercise Director, who is assisted by the Officer Commanding (OC) Exercise Cambrian Patrol, a Major (OF-3) (The Military Times, 2017).
5.0 When is The Cambrian Patrol?
The Cambrian Patrol is usually run over 9-10 days in October each year.
6.0 Exercise versus Competition
Points to note about The Cambrian Patrol include:
- It is an exercise and not a competition.
- It is conducted for the benefit of units and there is no final order of merit.
- The exercise is designed to be within the capability of any well-led and well-trained patrol from any Arm or Service.
- The exercise is the same for Regular and Reserve Forces and also draws participants from foreign countries.
7.0 What is the Aim of The Cambrian Patrol?
The aim of The Cambrian Patrol is to provide a challenging patrols exercise in order to enhance operational capability.
It is considered one of the most arduous and prestigious military events, testing candidates’ leadership, field craft, discipline and both mental and physical robustness.
8.0 Who Can Enter The Cambrian Patrol?
The Cambrian Patrol is open to:
- Regular personnel of all three Services.
- Reserve personnel of all three Services.
- University Officer Training Corps (UOTC) units.
- Foreign militaries (some overseas entrants have to claim the right to take part by winning their own domestic competition).
9.0 Teams and Competitors
- 95 teams, with 64 completing the exercise.
- Teams attended from the British Army, Royal Air Force (RAF), Pakistan, Canada, Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark, India, France and the Czech Republic.
- 90+ teams, with [number] completing the exercise. A record 45 Regular British Army teams with a total of 752 participants (Wisbech Standard, 2010).
- International patrols that participated in the exercise included India, Pakistan, Belgium, Canada, and Australia.
- In this year a patrol of eight women representing the London UOTC made history by winning a bronze medal.
- Five teams won a gold medal.
- Eight members of the Kazakh Armed Forces earn a bronze medal (Browne, 2014).
- 126 teams, with 21 being international.
- 2016 (Hodgson, 2016):
- 120 teams, with [number] completing the exercise.
- International patrols that participated in the exercise included Latvia, Mexico, Nepal, Canada, Italy, Georgia, Germany, Pakistan, Australia, Czech Republic, New Zealand, India, Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belgium, Chile, Brazil, and Switzerland.
- Kosovo took part for the first time.
- 2017 (British Army, 2017; The Military Times, 2017):
- 139 teams (75 Regular, 36 Reserve and UOTC, and 28 international patrols) (British Army, 2017), 126 patrols (The Military Times, 2017), 127 patrols (Grimes, 2017), or 131 patrols (McCann, 2017).
- Over 1,200 military personnel took part.
- Five foreign militaries took part for the first time including Armenia, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, the Philippines, and Moldova.
- They were joined by teams from 37 nations including Georgia, Switzerland, Albania, Denmark, Italy, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Lithuania, Chile, Brazil, Pakistan, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Ireland, Serbia, Czech Republic, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Ukraine, Spain, and France.
- “This year was considerably tougher due to the weather with a higher drop out rate of teams, this year 47% of the teams failed to complete.”
- 7 out of 10 phase 1 teams failed to complete the first 24 hours of the patrol due to the severe weather conditions.
- “Of the 31 Reservist teams who crossed the start line, 71% failed to cross the finish line this year.” (NW RFCA, 2017).
- 9 gold, 33 silver, 11 bronze medals were awarded, as well as 15 certificates of merit. 59 did not finish (Grimes, 2017).
- 2018 (British Army, 2018):
- 137 teams, with [number] completing the exercise, with 37 foreign militaries.
- Over 1,000 military personnel took part.
- Six foreign militaries took part for the first time including Nigeria, Macedonia, Cyprus, Belarus and Finland.
- Only two teams had female members (12 Regiment Royal Artillery (RA) earning a bronze medal and 16 Regiment RA earning a silver medal).
- The Pakistan Army won its fourth consecutive gold medal.
10.0 Outline of The Cambrian Patrol
The Cambrian Patrol is a test of leadership, self-discipline, courage, physical endurance and determination. Usually run over 9-10 days each October, it is split into eight phases (British Army, 2018):
- Phase 1: Reserve and UOTC teams.
- Phase 2: Regular and international teams.
- Phase 3: Regular and international teams.
- Phase 4: Regular and international teams.
- Phase 5: Regular and international teams.
- Phase 6: Regular and international teams.
- Phase 7: Regular and international teams.
- Phase 8: Reserve and UOTC teams.
In 2012, The Cambrian Patrol was noted as having seven phases (Bain, 2012).
Teams (known as Patrols) consist of eight men and/or women who will traverse some of the most unforgiving terrain during their 48-hour continuous patrol.
The Cambrian Patrol usually starts with teams arriving at a specified rendezvous (RV) before being subjected to a thorough check to ensure that they are in possession of the correct kit, equipment and clothing required for the exercise. Missing equipment will be replaced by dead weight and will mean points will be deducted. Each team member’s kit will be weighed.
From there, the team leader (Patrol Commander) will be taken aside to receive their orders while the rest of the team may set up a quick hide, start their battle prep and prepare to receive orders (i.e. prepare a model of the ground/area which will be covered during the patrol). This model will include local features such as river/streams, buildings, hills/mountains, roads etc.
The Patrol Commander will be given a set of orders based on a specific, realistic scenario which often involves having to traverse enemy territory, enemy forces, interacting with friendly and not so friendly civilians or militia groups, for onward briefing to members of their own patrol.
The Patrol Commander must then conduct their own battle prep and map out a designated route (via a full set of NATO orders, along which they must navigate through day and night, and deal with a set of scenarios at various ‘stands’.
- First aid and casualty evacuation(s): An NGO worker being attacked by a local militia wanting medical assistance (in 2017).
- Navigating a minefield.
- Dealing with mock improvised explosive devices (IED’s).
- Intelligence gathering and observation (perhaps to call in artillery fire).
- Seeking protective measures against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats: A drone released a chemical agent (in 2017).
- A tactical (and cold) water crossing: 75 metres of open water tactically with all equipment (in 2017).
- Close-target reconnaissance (CTR).
- Defensive shooing under attack.
An outline of the tasks undertaken my patrols can be found here.
Navigation skills are also required as GPS and mobile phones are not allowed. New for 2010 was the introduction of GPS tracking for teams, and teams may also be subject to random searches for GPS and mobile phones whilst on their patrol.
Patrol teams are taken to drop-off points in the hills where they will then commence the Patrol.
“The two-day patrolling mission is a mind-and-muscle sapping 60km, carrying full personal kit and equipment weighing in at 32lbs.” (British Army, 2018).
The exact route and distance vary, but is usually around 55-65 km (34.2-40.4 miles) (although some sources state 80 km), as well as the weight carried, usually around 50-70 lbs (22.6-31.7 kg) – although many soldiers end up carrying around 70-100 lbs. Therefore, fitness is essential. Further, teamwork is required to complete the various tasks to a satisfactory level and, as such, rehearsal is required. An understanding of the Military Annual Training Tests (MATTs), section attacks etc. is also required.
As well as collecting points for each stand, the patrol must also submit a completed reconnaissance report (Recce Report).
Patrols are de-briefed on everything they encounter on the route during a comprehensive, tactical debrief at the end of their mission.
“Patrols find out how they have done at the presentation ceremonies, which take place daily.” (British Army, 2018).
11.0 What do Teams Receive when they finish?
“On average, only five per cent of patrols gain the top award while about a third fail to finish, indicating just how arduous Exercise Cambrian Patrol is.” (British Army, 2017).
Military skills, stamina and dedication are constantly evaluated during the exercise and marked with a system of points. Many of the teams that enter do not finish, those that do complete the exercise earn one of four distinctions:
- Gold medal for those achieving 75% or more of total points.
- Silver medal for those achieving 65-74% of total points.
- Bronze medal for those achieving 55-64% of total points.
- Pass (with certificate of merit) for those achieving less than 55% of total points.
A patrol can complete with five soldiers, taking into account any injuries or other issues which depletes the team, but they can only be awarded a certificate in that instance.
12.0 National Cadet Cambrian Patrol Competition
The Army Cadets also hold their own “National Cadet Cambrian Patrol Competition” which operates in the same manner as the ‘adult’ exercise (Army Cadets, 2017).
Akhtar, J. (2018) #CambrianPatrol. Available from World Wide Web: https://twitter.com/hashtag/cambrianpatrol?lang=en. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
Army Cadets. (2017) Cambrian Patrol National Champions 2017. Available from World Wide Web: https://armycadets.com/county/wiltshire-acf/news/cambrian-patrol-national-champions-2017/. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
Bain, W. (2012) Risca Soldier Jonathan Hughes takes on Exercise Cambrian Patrol. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/10021884.Soldier_pits_himself_against_gruelling_test/?ref=arc. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
British Army. (2017) Exercise Cambrian Patrol 2017. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/news-and-events/news/2017/10/exercise-cambrian-patrol-2017/. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
British Army. (2018) Exercise Cambrian Patrol 2018. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.army.mod.uk/news-and-events/news/2018/10/exercise-cambrian-patrol-2018/. [Accessed: 27 October, 2018].
Browne, C. (2014) Kazakhstan Armed Forces members took part at Cambrian patrol in Wales. Available from World Wide Web: https://blogs.fco.gov.uk/carolynbrowne/2014/11/04/kazakhstan-armed-forces-members-took-part-at-cambrian-patrol-in-wales/. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
Grimes, A. (2017) Exercise Cambrian Patrol: testing the best from around the world. Available from World Wide Web: https://militarynews.co.uk/2017/10/24/exercise-cambrian-patrol-testing-the-best-from-around-the-world/. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
Hodgson, S. (2016) Watch soldiers take to Cambrian Mountains for one of Army’s toughest challenges. Available from World Wide Web: https://www.dailypost.co.uk/news/watch-soldiers-take-cambrian-mountains-12069465. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
NW RFCA (North West Reserve Forces’ & Cadets’ Association) (2017) QOY on Ex CAMBRIAN PATROL. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.nwrfca.org.uk/qoy-ex-cambrian-patrol/. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].
Wisbech Standard. (2010) Wisbech Soldier in Exercise Cambrian Patrol. Available from World Wide Web: http://www.wisbechstandard.co.uk/news/wisbech-soldier-in-exercise-cambrian-patrol-1-685799. [Accessed: 29 October, 2018].