Bear Grylls joins Marines for Arctic exercises and ice plunge

Adventurer Bear Grylls joined the Royal Marines as they honed crucial Arctic warfare skills in Norway last week.

The TV presenter, who grew up on the Isle of Wight, dropped in to see the commandos train and take on the infamous ice-breaking drill, which involves being plunged into freezing water to test reactions to cold shock.

Preparing to leap....and taking the ice plunge.

Honorary Colonel Bear said: “It’s always inspiring to spend time with the commandos – seeing them demonstrate their unique winter survival combat skill set in such challenging conditions is a reminder of what heroes they are.

“For a young marine the Arctic is such an amazing experience, and if they can operate here then they can operate anywhere.

“Even though the conditions are tough, the Bootneck sense of humour is always so strong with smiles all round even after our ice drills all together.

“For me it’s a humbling reminder of why the Royal Marines are so special.”

Night-time ice hike with heavy equipment is part of the training

The commandos are experts at operating in all extremes of environments, including the frozen mountains and fjords of the Arctic Circle – one of the harshest environments known to man where the sun doesn’t rise for two months of the year and temperatures can plummet below -35°C.

Every winter Royal Marines head to the high north for the Cold Weather Warfare Course, allowing them to train in surviving, moving and fighting across the rugged coasts and unforgiving mountains of northern Norway, and underpinning the UK’s commitment to protecting NATO allies.

The commandos dig out holes in the ice to sleep in

This year, marines will spearhead the UK involvement in Exercise Cold Response, supported by a task group of Royal Navy ships and aircraft, including aircraft carrier and NATO command ship, HMS Prince of Wales.

The Norwegian-led exercise, in March and early April, involves troops, allied warships and aircraft from 28 nations working closely together as the powerful task force tests its ability to protect Norway from modern threats.

Before the icy combat of Cold Response, commandos must take on the intensive course run by Royal Marines Mountain Leaders, the Arctic and mountain warfare specialists, who train commandos in the valuable skills needed to fight and survive in the snow and ice.

On the plus side there are some spectacular views and the Northern Lights

Those skills include emergency shelter building and jumping into freezing water – known as the ice-breaking drill – to test responses to cold shock.

The commandos are also taught navigation skills before taking to skis and snow-shoes to learn how to quickly get across the ice and out-manoeuvre adversaries.

Carrying weapons and equipment, the marines are tested across training areas in the mountainous Troms and Finnmark county in northern Norway.

Lance Corporal Jack Cooper of 40 Commando said: “This is my fourth Norway experience. Just surviving here presents unique challenges, but if you can operate here, you can operate anywhere.”

Royal Marines deploy to Norway at the invitation of the Norwegian government and continue to do so to remain at the cutting-edge of Arctic combat, ready to fight in the region whenever called upon.

Marine Mark Clarke, who has been learning to build a range of shelters for Arctic survival, said: “Norway is an incredibly harsh environment, but with a few specialist skills and doing the basics well, sustaining and operating out here is a lot more manageable.”

Colour Sergeant Taylor, a Mountain Leader with 45 Commando, said: “In terms of the training benefit, we’re in a really good position. I’m expecting the companies to maximise their interaction with this demanding environment, so that they grow as an effective fighting force.”