Video: A tour of a Royal Anglian training base in Kenya
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, The Royal Anglian Regiment are training in the harsh terrain of the African bush. EDP reporter CHRIS HILL describes life on their operations bases in Kenya.
The army takes great trouble to find the world’s most hostile environments in which to toughen up its soldiers.
So, on arrival at the camp near Archer’s Post in Kenya, I was relieved to find the inhospitable landscape contrasted with the courteous welcome from within the barbed-wire walls of the Royal Anglian Regiment’s training bases.
Much of the exercises are centred around a Main Operations Base named MOB Simba, a tented town in the middle of the bush which offers comparative luxuries like running water from bowsers, electricity from generators and – for the very fortunate – air-conditioned tents.
This is the logistics hub of the operation, where work includes the inevitable repairs to vehicles mangled by the incessant pounding of off-road driving.
Toilets are of the “long-drop” variety (too traumatic to discuss on these pages) while showers take the form of a plastic bag with a tap which, if filled and left out in the heat, will give a luke-warm dribble for about 20 minutes. And that’s barely enough to wash away Kenya’s red dust from its accumulations in every wrinkle, fold and orifice of the body.
There are also Forward Operations Bases (FOBs) modelled on those you will find in war zones like Afghanistan, with defensive walls and “sangar” towers for armed sentries.
The food is surprisingly good – testament to the work of a heroic team of chefs who provide three cooked meals a day which, without exaggeration, are better than many hotels I have stayed in.
Finally, mobile command posts, where the top brass plots and analyses battle tactics, are frequently moved – just as they would be in a genuine operational theatre – to prevent commanders being located and targeted by artillery.
Without any TV or internet, the soldiers in Africa are forced to entertain themselves, and are always ready with a dirty joke or some savage banter.
They endure exhaustion, separation and boredom. But despite the hardships, all the servicemen and women I spoke to were clearly thriving on the adversity and a shared commitment to the challenge.