Gibraltar Overseas Camp 2015
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By Sgt R Smillie - 2431 (Keighley) Squadron
Between 20th and 28th July 2015, Sgt Smillie from 2431 (Keighley) Squadron ATC, attended a week long Overseas Camp at RAF Gibraltar.
On Monday 20th we were told to report to the York Memorial Gardens at 23:30 BST, where we would be met by a coach that took us to London Heathrow Airport. We arrived at Heathrow at around 05:30 the following morning. From here, we would meet up with all the other cadets and catch a British Airways flight to Gibraltar
The flight lasted around 3 hours long and was very comfortable. Everyone was really tired from the previous journey so everyone tried to get some sleep, however, I personally didn't manage this. We touched down on Gibraltar International Airport’s short runway at around 16:15 local time. The sight that greeted us was spectacular. I had been to Gibraltar before on several occasions with my family, nether the less it was a great view.
The Rock of Gibraltar is situated right at the base of Spain, near the Costa del Sol. It is approximately 3 miles long by about 1.5 miles wide, with a population of 30,000. Gibraltar has long been a British Overseas Territory, therefore, the currency is pounds. Gibraltar has a long established history. It played a key part in World War 2 as it provided as safe haven for naval warships. The Rock was also the location where all the plans for the British Expeditionary Forces landings in Africa were drawn up, as the Rock is a stones throw away from Northern Africa. In the present day, the rock is home to the Army's Royal Gibraltar Regiment, a Navy diving and security squadron and a small RAF movements squadron.
Day 1 -
The first day of our week long camp consisted of settling in, unpacking and relaxing. At 17:30 local time we were given the keys to our rooms followed by dinner at 19:00. The rooms were standard MoD style with bunk beds with thin mattresses. There was 8 people allocated to one large room. At this point, there was a power cut, so there was no electricity. Therefore, for the first night, dinner consisted of a BBQ style buffet. After dinner, we all gathered our swimming gear and headed for the nearby beach. This was a 3 minute walk from Devils Tower Camp, where we were staying. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing and getting to know everyone.
Day 2 -
Our morning began with breakfast at 07:00 local time, where we had the standard MoD, one bacon, one sausage, one hash brown style cuisine. Next, we went back to our rooms and got changed into our Wedgewoods with ties. This was for the camp photo and the only time we wore uniform all week. This took place on the large sports field in front of the rock. After this we marched to the RAF Gibraltar HQ. Here, we received a number of briefings from the ACLO (Air Cadet Liaison Officer), Medical staff, security staff and fire and rescue. As well as completing all of the standard briefings, they gave us an insight into the operations of British Forces in Gibraltar. After this, we had a packed lunch and then got changed out of our uniform into civvies from a trip up the rock to St Michael’s Caves. These are large natural caves were discovered in 1887 and are largely untouched. There are a number of incredible rock formations which are now preserved and shown off to the public. Just before entering the caves however, we encountered one of Gibraltar’s most famous creators. The Apes. Gibraltar is very well known for the Apes and they are very well known for being very mischievous. They even stole a cadets packed lunch. After the visit to the caves, we had to walk all the way down the rock as there was no minibus available to collect us. This was an all mighty challenge but we made it in the end. Next, we had an hour or so of free time in Casemates Square, the main retail area in Gibraltar. Finally, we returned to Devils Tower Camp for dinner and then headed off to bed with our expectations of the rest of the camp being very high.
Day 3 -
The following day we had breakfast in the Junior Ranks Mess as normal Al 07:00 local time. This was followed by us splitting into our allocated flights and heading off to different areas. My flight (No1 Flight) went to Buffadero Training Camp on the other side of the rock. This is the home of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment. Here, we were split down into 3 groups and alternated between 3 different activities. These was Bomb Disposal, DCCT (Dismounted Close Combat Trainer) and a typical army command task. My favourite activity was Bomb Disposal because they allowed us to ‘play’ with the Bomb Disposal robot costing a total of £1 million! Next, we had our packed lunch and headed up the rock once more to the World War 2 Tunnels. Gibraltar has many hidden tunnels. At the moment around 34 miles worth of tunnelling has been discovered. Most of it is open to the public with a guide, but the tunnels also have a operational side. The Royal Gibraltar Regiment, SAS, Royal Marines and the U.S Seals still use the tunnels today for training purposes. Heavy weaponry is also stored within the tunnels. The tunnels were a very well planned and executed constructional challenge. They contain accommodation and basic facilities for 16,000 soldiers, old ammunition stores a hospital and even a power station. The thinking behind them was superb. They were designed with the thought of war. Therefore, bomb proof doors were installed along with a number of blast tunnels at strategic points. Exploring the tunnels was an eye opening experience and I was just stunned while constantly thinking, ‘How did they manage it?’ Following the visit to the tunnels we headed to Casemates Square again to relax and get an ice cold drink. After dinner in the mess that evening, we played a game of rounders with No 2 (Overseas) Squadron ATC, based in Gibraltar. This allowed us to socialise with local cadets while having a fun but competitive game of rounders.
Day 4 -
On day 4 of the camp we began with breakfast at the usual time followed by potted sports. This was an activity that the Navy use to calm and relax their personnel. It was simply just a few silly mini games. We then went over to visit the Royal Gibraltar Defence Police Dog Section. This is where they house all the guard dogs and sniffer dogs used to protect Gibraltar from terrorism and crime. All of the handlers and dogs were very friendly. Next we had lunch and free time. We were then reunited with the other flight before heading to Ocean Village for a spot of Dolphin Watching. This was an incredible experience, one which I will never forget. I was literally feet away from a number of roaming Dolphins. Next, we returned to Devils Tower Camp, had dinner and went to bed after a a great day.
Day 5 -
Saturday was very fun. It had been arranged for us to cross the border into Spain to visit the Bahia Water Park in Algeciras. This was a very fun day with a number of trips of high speed water rides and a touch of sun bathing in the 35 Degree heat.
Day 6 -
On Sunday it was arranged for us to enter Spain once again. This time we went to Amazonia Park, Estapona near Marbella. I knew this area well as I had been on a number of family holidays there, yet somehow, I had never been to this park. The morning was filled with adventure in the tree tops. Harnesses, rope swings, climbing walls and zip wires, all suspended around 10 metres in the air. What more could you possibly want. Unfortunately, we had to depart early as one of the cadets had sustained a serious injury. The remainder of the day was filled with free time and a small task set by the staff called the Snapchat Challenge. This was a great idea. It involved the cadets going around the base and finding the best photo they could relating to a number of given categories. It was very entertaining. For example, one of the categories was Harry Potter, so we decided to go into the NAAFI and write on the chalk board ‘Harry’ and then take a picture of someone potting a pool ball in the foreground.
Day 7 -
The penultimate day of the camp was a chill out day. In the morning we walked to Casemates Square, where we had an hour or two of shopping. This was followed by lunch and then a relaxing trip to Europa Pool. This is a swimming pool specifically for the British Forces of Gibraltar to enjoy at the most southerly point of the rock. From here, we had a great view of Morocco, Africa. We then returned to Devils Tower Camp where we had a relaxed BBQ outside followed by the Presentation of paper plate awards. We also conducted some packing in the evening to prepare for our departure the next day.
Day 8 -
The final day of the camp began with breakfast at 06:30 local time. My flight then went on a section visit to the Fire and Rescue Section where we were showed round all the Fire Engines and given a talk about what they do. We then went straight to the beach for a final time followed by cleaning the accommodation. After this, we all went for lunch in the mess for the final time at around 14:00 local time. At 15:00 local time we set off for the airport. We checked in at Gibraltar’s modern airport and waited for our flight. The British Airways A320 from London Heathrow landed and from the balcony we saw the next set of cadets arrive. So, we decided to give them a few words of advice. We then departed at 17:15 local time, arriving at Heathrow at around 19:30 BST. After collecting our bags, we said farewell to the rest of the cadets and got back on the coach to return home. We arrived at York Memorial Gardens at around 01:30 BST the following morning.
Looking back on the entire week, I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to attend this camp. I learnt a lot about Gibraltar, the UK Armed Forces and myself. I was also given the chance to go on some amazing visits and meet so many new people from all over the North of England. It was a very eventful week. One which I will remember for a long time. If you ever get the opportunity to go on any overseas camp, I strongly recommend to any cadets that they take it. I have been in the cadets for 4 years now and have been lucky enough to head overseas twice as I went to RAF Troodos in Cyprus last year. I only have around a year left in the ATC before I go to University and the 2 overseas camps are without doubt the highlight of my cadet career. You must grab every opportunity with both hands and get as much out of it as you can. This applies to all cadet activities, not just overseas camps, but they are the real icing on the cake.
For more information please visit the Squadron website