Thursday, February 25, 2010

Condor Troop Photos
Awaiting stories, description and where taken / date.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Condor Troop (Arbroath) 1971 - 1987

This is dedicated to all Condor lads, who served in Arbroath, alongside 45 Commando Royal Marines.
The Troop came from all over, but were proud to be called "Scottish" troops.

The Birth of Condor Troop

During May 1971, the Squadron OC – Major John Grosvenor, paid a visit to Royal Navy Air Station (RNAS) Condor, to view the accommodation for his first Commando Troop.
During Dinner with Lt. Colonel Sir Steuart Pringle RM, Major Grosvenor discussed the attachment of his first Engineer Commando Troop, to 45 Commando Group, Royal Marines.
At this time, 45 Commando Group, was an Independent Commando Group, with the responsibility for reinforcing Northern Flank, NATO.
45 Commando Group were not part of 3 Commando Brigade at this time and were in essence, NATO Force troops.

Colonel Pringle was concerned that the attached Groups were starting to detract from the Scottish base, in the use of ‘numbered’ units, such as 145 Battery, 29 Regiment Royal Artillery.
45 Commando had five Companies – X-ray, Yanky, Zulu, Headquarters and Support. Each Commando Company had three troops, consisting of 30 men per troop. Support Company had 5 troops, which included Logistics and Recce. A total of around 510 men.

Major John Grosvenor assured Colonel Pringle, that his Field troop would become a ‘Scottish’ troop, by naming the troop after the base, as no troop in 45 Commando had adopted that name.
Hence the troop took the name of the Marines Base (RNAS) ‘Condor’.

3/5/71 to 4/6/71
Commando volunteers for Condor Troop and Major Owens(OC), plus Captain Hillard underwent Commando Training at Lympstone.

Following a short leave, the Troop deployed to Field Engineer School in Chattenden during July/August 71.
A period of 2 – 3 weeks of intensive Field Engineer Training, arranged by Captain Hillard, through Colonel George Harris then Combat Instructor - Field Engineer School.
Plant Operators also received some refresher training on Plant.

Engineer Training was followed by 10/11 days Survival Training under 22 SAS at Hereford and the Brecons. The Chief Instructor for this was a regular Warrant Officer with 23 SAS (V).
The course included 3 days trekking over the Breacons with only a Survival Pack.

At the end of September, an Advance Party from Condor Troop, made it’s way to Arbroath, to prepare the way for the main body.
Stonehouse Bks

4th October 1971, Condor Troop departed from Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth for Arbroath.
The Troop had most of it’s ‘B’ vehicles, but no ¾ ton trailers
The journey was to be a 2 day drive to Arbroath, stopping overnight around Penrith, at a TA Base.
The journey in the rear of the 4 tonners, was very un-comfortable, as the vehicles had various Store items (begged, scrounged or otherwise acquired), plus the lads personal kit. To add to this, the weather was atrocious, so sleeping bags had to be used, to remain warm.

5th October 1971 – arrived in Arbroath. The Single lads moved into the prepared ‘Spider’ accommodation.
Condor Troop was ‘Unique’ in many aspects:
The Troop was formed by volunteers from RE Units across the whole Corps, including those from 59 Indep Cdo Sqn, who had already passed the Cdo Course, plus REME and ACC.
The Troop age was mainly within the 20 yrs old to 22 yrs old group, the majority could not transform to Regimental life easily, yet found a flexibility in the Independent Squadron and particularly in the Independent Troop.
Normally the Troop would be made up from volunteers from 59 Independent Commando Squadron and 9 Parachute Regiment.
The Troop had six married men :
Captain David Hillard, Sergeant Patrick, Corporal Gray, Corporal Hamill, Lance Corporal Evans and Sapper Gould.
The Troop also boasted: Captain Hillard and Lt Tim Hoddinott, plus a Staff Sgt, Sgt, 2 x Cpls and 8 x L/Cpls.

The Troop was the only Independent Troop (in the Whole Corps of RE).

The Troop Commander had:
Powers of OC and deferred to the Battery Commander as CO.
Published it’s own Part 1,2 & 3 Orders and operated it’s own Expendable Account.
Had it’s own small Impress Account, controlled it’s own Treasury and organised Trade Training directly.
Came directly under the Command of 45 Commando Group RM.
Administration Support came from 59 Independent Commando Squadron.
Indeed, Condor Troop was ‘Unique’.
The Troop Commander became the Engineer Advisor, direct to 45 Cdo RM CO.
The first Troop Commander - Captain David Hillard, was offered the Independant Command of Condor Troop. The Troop required a Senior Captain, to set-up the troop in Arbroath, without "Close" support from 59 Indep HQ.

6th October. 45 Commando Group was ‘warned’ for an Emergency Northern Ireland Tour.
Lt. Col. Pringle approached Captain Hillard, to ask if Condor Troop could be ready to deploy with the Commando Group to Belfast.
59 Indep Commando Squadron OC – Graham Owens and Chief Engineer (Eric MacKay) UKLF, believed this would be impossible. 145 Battery RA had already found an excuse not to deploy
Captain Hillard explained to Lt. Col. Pringle, that if his Engineer Troop did not deploy with the Commando, it would make Integration with his Commando Group, that much more difficult.

The Troop deployment was preceded by ‘flash signals’ of vehicles and trailers, with Plant being re-routed direct to Belfast. The Troop G1098 Stores had to be de-preserved and broken down into Section Kits.
The week prior to deployment was pure bedlam, filled with combining Kit & Tools, preparing vehicles, issue of personal Weapons – including shooting to ‘zero’ those weapons.

The Troop deployed at very short notice to Belfast 15th October 1971 and it was the ‘making’ of Condor Troop, as an Operational Troop.
The High Standards set by Condor Troop in those early years, set the standard for years to come and established the Troop as an Integral part of 45 Commando Group.
Condor Troop was placed under commando of 9 Indep Parachute Regiment in Belfast, effectively doubling their operating numbers in Belfast. With numerous light vehicles, Condor Troop solved a problematic MT situation.
Red and Green Berets could and did mix, working well, side by side.

The 1st Troop Commander Report was initiated by 59 Indep Sqn OC – Graham Owens, his last Report was initiated by Lt. Col. Pringle, with OC 59 providing an Insert. Such was the respect earned by Condor Troop, from 45 Commando Group.