Nelson Guardsman faces Army’s toughest challenge

Guardsman John Laird
Guardsman John Laird
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A former forklift truck driver has faced up to one of the Army’s toughest tests – and came away with a Silver Medal.

Guardsman John Laird (24), from Nelson, took part in Exercise Cambrian Patrol – a mind-and-muscle sapping challenge over 48 hours in the Welsh Black Mountains.

The annual event is both physically and mentally demanding and is a highlight in the British Army’s training calendar. Internationally, it is regarded as one of the toughest tests facing the modern-day soldier.

Regular and reserve soldiers in the British Army, as well as troops from around the globe, fronted up to the challenge, which took place over seven phases, includes more than 100 teams and nearly 1,000 troops.

John, who joined 1st Battalion Scots Guards in 2011, was interviewed while competing and said: “I’m expecting pretty harsh terrain and some bad weather.

“ We’ve been well prepared, going through eight weeks training for this, doing a lot of tabs (marching across hills with full kit and weapon) and some drills, too.

“But we’ve not come here just for the fun of it – we want a medal!”

The contest is run by 160 (Wales) Brigade and is split into seven phases with teams marching 55 kilometres carrying full personal kit and equipment, weighing in at some 60lbs, on the two-day patrolling mission.

This year’s event, which dates back to 1959, included teams from Norway, New Zealand, Ukraine, Pakistan, Italy, Germany, Denmark, Canada, Albania, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland, India, Australia, Estonia, Poland, Greece and France.

John said: “These are the kinds of challenges that you can take on as a soldier. This is all about coping with a lot of weight on your back, walking a very long distance with that kit and being tested on all your military skills, knowing you’re not going to get much sleep.

“When you’ve been awake for more than 24 hours your mind is in a different state and it’ll be tough remaining focused. We’ve trained hard. We’re hoping to get at least a silver.”

And they did, completing the mission to be awarded an impressive silver medal.