Little did I think that less than 1 week into married life we would be heading down the M20 to spend 2 weeks on our annual camp at St Martin’s Plain, Folkestone. The alternative “honeymoon” had been meticulously planned and was in the calendar before the wedding date so we had a busy September!
St Martin’s Plain camp is on the outskirts of Folkestone, overlooked by the impressive North Downs ridge and was used as a German prisoner of war camp in World War 2. The squadron arrived on mass, with a long convoy of green fleet consisting of new MAN 6T and 15Tonners, new TMDP vehicles , JCB’s and Hyster forklifts. This camp had numerous courses running simultaneously and within the first week we had 2 new Cat C drivers (HGV’s), 6 off road JCB plant drivers, 3 Hyster forklift licenses and some hardened Geo Techs, having spent the week with the Regiment on Exercise simulating a Battle Group’s Geo Cell in Somalia.
St Martin’s Plain
I was on the 5 day JCB 240-50 training. This was a very practical course; we were straight behind the wheel after donning the safety gear and being briefed on the basic controls. We spent the days combining some theoretical lessons, understanding basic mechanics of overloading the forks and the limitations of the Load Moment Indicator (LMI) and time on the plant. Stacking metal pallets of “simulation” mapping, we quickly learned how to delicately place a 1Tonne pallet up to 4 high, on rough terrain. If you thought that stacking was simple, then try doing it in a rutted field, on an incline, whilst manoeuvring between tyres. There were some great concentration faces being made!
Hyster counter balance forklift truck
The second week of camp included some specialised training for the surveyors on our new survey kit from a Leica engineer. It was great to get our hands on the GPS and TPS kit which we found was more intuitive and user friendly than the previous version of Leica kit. We all benefitted from having the Leica engineer on hand to answer our questions. We completed our training with a tasking to survey the camp using a combination of static GPS capturing, RTK and picking up detail using the remotely operated TPS feature. This training will help facilitate the next survey task which 135 undertake, whether it be another Op NIGHTINGALE or airfield survey in the future.
Whilst some of 135 Sqn were surveying, others were getting familiarised on the MAN trucks, this involved understanding the basic mechanics of the vehicles, how to change a wheel, document filling and off road driving etc. With no new scratches and only a couple of missing zip ties, a fresh contingent of 6T and 15T drivers were added to the Squadron’s driver’s list.
JCB All Terrian Forklift Truck
Throughout the camp, we enjoyed a variety of entertainment and adventurous training including climbing, trekking and mountain biking. The mountain biking in Bedgebury Forest was a favourite. As we gained confidence throughout the day thanks to instruction by the OC and WO1 Ray Peace, we conquered “Dad’s Army” trail and the more exhilarating “Deliverance” with some instant face painting thanks to the muddy puddles we dropped into! Each evening the Sergeant Major created the SMP film club showing a variety of films including the popular Zulu (for a bit of Corps history)!
The final day was spent at RSME, Chatham where we were taken out in the Engineer’s rigid raider RIB’s. Despite the millpond that was the Thames Estuary, the pilots still managed to get three lifejackets to self-inflate. We had fun performing high speed cross decking – which was more akin to scrambling across from one RIB to another and piling up in a tangled mess of arms and legs before getting completely drenched by the support boat’s stern wave! Despite the perception of not being skilled at this manoeuvre, no one fell out and we all made it back to the jetty before heading off for a quick visit to the RE museum.
All in all, Cpl Terry A and LCPl Terry K had the best unofficial honeymoon we could have asked for; we had good food, great training and even better adventurous training with our friends and have lasting memories. We will never forget this annual camp and may even go back in 25 years’ time to celebrate our wedding anniversary….!