Student squaddies put through their paces

Students from across East Anglia have spent four days training with soldiers as part of an army bursary scheme.

Most students' idea of a relaxing Easter holiday would probably not include dawn runs, assault courses or taking orders from a sergeant-major.

But that's exactly what 11 young people from colleges across Norfolk and Suffolk have chosen to do by spending part of their spring break training with the army.

The students, aged between 16 and 19, spent four days with soldiers at Robertson Barracks, Swanton Morley, home of the Light Dragoons. All are being supported in their varied courses by the Army Further Education Bursary Scheme (FEBS), which grants qualifying students �1,000 a year during their studies and guarantees them a job in the forces.

The training included some of the fieldcraft skills they will encounter in basic training and culminated in a night-time exercise. Serving soldiers dispensed top tips, such as wearing two socks to avoid blisters... and knowing never to call a senior officer 'Mate'.

Major Mike Robinson, army careers adviser for Norfolk and Suffolk, said: 'We always do this at Easter because it is in their time. They have to show commitment rather than jetting off to the sun with their mum and dad.

'The idea is to give them a leg-up for when they join the army so they know what to expect in training and get over what we call the 'shock of capture'.'

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Those taking part were from City College Norwich, Great Yarmouth College, East Norfolk Sixth Form College, Fakenham College, Suffolk New College and Lowestoft College.

Among them was 17-year-old City College student Jack Himpleman, from Poringland, who plans to join the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and train as an aircraft technician. 'The training is brilliant,' he said. 'It is really helpful and a lot better than sitting around indoors all day and not doing anything.

'This is what I want to do every day: I just want to be part of a massive team. I tried to join straight from high school but I decided to build up my education instead.'

Another was Alice Tarry, 17, from Fakenham, who is studying for her A-levels at Fakenham College. She wants to become a combat medical technician.

Alice said. 'We've learned a lot, and I found things like the obstacle course quite challenging, but it's really enjoyable to push yourself as far as you can go.'

chris.hill@archant.co.uk