A former labourer from Leyland has faced up to one of the Army’s toughest tests.
Gunner Gavin Watkinson, 27, took part in Exercise Cambrian Patrol – a mind-and-muscle sapping challenge over 48 hours in the Welsh Black Mountains.
The annual event is both physically and mentally demanding and is a highlight in the British Army’s training calendar.
Regular and Reserve soldiers in the British Army, as well as troops representing countries around the globe, fronted up to the challenge, which took place over seven phases, includes more than 100 teams and nearly 1,000 troops.
Gavin, who joined 4th Regiment Royal Artillery in 2011, said: “I was keen to do this because there’s a big fitness element to it.
“I box for my regiment as a welterweight so this was a good bit of physical exercise over two days, carrying a lot of weight.
“Being awake for 48 hours means that our morale was tested a lot and you have to overcome these kinds of things.”
Exercise Cambrian Patrol is run by 160 (Wales) Brigade and is split into seven phases with teams marching 55km carrying full personal kit and equipment, weighing in at some 60lbs, on the two-day patrolling mission.
This year’s event, which dates back to 1959, featured 17 international teams.
“It’s all about keeping going,” said Gavin. “The tabbing (marching with heavy kit) side of things is thrown in with the scenarios you have to face so there’s quite a mix of things to take on board.”
“As a team we prepared for Cambrian by training up at Garelochhead in Scotland and also in Otterburn on week’s long tabbing.”
Navigating both by day and night, the patrols faced many testing and specialist challenges, including observation and reconnaissance of enemy forces, cold river crossings in full kit without access to boats, first-aid and defensive shooting under attack.
At the completion of their patrol, each team faced a comprehensive debriefing session on their mission.
Military skills, stamina and dedication were constantly evaluated during the patrol and marked with a system of points.
Teams started at Pontrhydfendigaid – a village in Ceredigion located between Devil’s Bridge and Tregaron.
Cambrian Patrol Warrant Officer, WO2 Stephen Eaves, from 160 (Wales) Brigade, said: “This year’s event has been another big success and there were a record number of initial entrants.
“It’s the ultimate challenge for the modern-day soldier and patrols who completed Cambrian can be rightly proud of their achievements.”