A Wyre Army Reservist has been training with Australian soldiers in the subtropical bushland of New South Wales – braving boot-piercing cactus thorns, venomous snakes and aggressive kangaroos.
Kingsman James Simpson was among a platoon of 30 reservists from the Fourth Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (4 LANCS), who spent a week living and working outdoors in the harsh ‘bush’ landscape surrounding Lone Pine Barracks, home to the Australian Army School of Infantry, north of Sydney.
James, 30, from Garstang, has been working as a rifleman and radio operator, living under canvas and patrolling under the vast skies of New South Wales – a far cry from his most recent day job at home, looking after his two children, Callum, seven and Anya, three.
James, who is soon to start work in the construction industry, said: “People might think we’re on a holiday, but we aren’t lying back in the sun, tanning – we are constantly working.
“There’s new equipment to train on, the weather is extreme – from thunderstorms to heatwaves, we’re living wild in the bush under canvas sheets while we search for the enemy forces – all the time fending off the snakes and spiders.
“On top of that, there are kangaroos everywhere.”
The unit, which recruits soldiers from right across the north west, was taking part in a 400-strong training exercise, alongside reservists from the Australian Army – the first time a British Army Reserve unit has been invited to do so.
James – a former pupil at Skerton High School in Lancaster – has been in the reserves for almost two years.
He said: “I used to be in the regular Army, but I got out early and I regretted it straight away.
“It was my uncle who suggested I looked at the Army reserves.
“I’ve recently been white-water rafting in South Africa with the unit and, soon after I got back, this opportunity in Australia came up, so I went for it.”
Lieutenant Col James Cameron, the Australian Army’s exercise commander, said: “There were a few wide eyes among the 4 LANCS soldiers when we were going through our standard safety routine – you have to check your boots in the morning and your sleeping bag at night, because there is a very real chance there will be something in there which wants to bite you.
“We consider it cold, since it’s coming into our winter, but our UK visitors are walking around as if it’s summer, while we are using three layers of thermal protection and raincoats!”
In recent times, British Army Reserve training has been designed to produce individual soldiers who can fill gaps in regular units on operations.