Sunday, January 3, 2010

Form here you can link to the various sections of Condor Troop Story.

Condor Troop was conceived in March 71, to become 4 Troop, under Command of Captain David Hillard. It was changed to Condor, to become a "Scottish" Troop, taking its name from the Base.

Just like "The Dirty Dozen" film, David Hillard could personally select his troop, from those passing the All Arms Commando Course, to form the very first all Commando Engineer Troop, which would be based 400 miles away in Arbroath, Scotland.

The last member to join the Troop, as it prepared to leave for Arbroath, was Sapper Ray Elliott, who had spent 3 months Trade Training, as the Troop Fitter.

20th September 1971
An advance party from Condor Troop, left Stonehouse Barracks, Plymouth, England.
This consisted of:
Staff Sergeant Stephen Pickles - Landrover & trailer.
Sergeant John Gray - travelling with the landrover.
Corporal Jimmy Evans (G1098 storesman) - made his own way by car.
The advance party arrived in Arbroath, to pave the way for the main troop.

Monday 4th October 1971
Condor Troop were allocated two 3 tonners, plus minimum Operating kit, which was loaded on the 3 tonners, along with personal equipment and the Troop.
The Troop left Stonehouse Barracks, under command of Sergeant Ivan Patrick.
Despite the coldness in the rear of the trucks, moral was high, at last we would have our own base, where we would belong and call 'home'. Royal Marines beware, Condor Troop is coming!!
It was a long hard day, but finally we stopped at a TA Centre in Penrith for the night.
Both Troop Officers - Captain David Hillard and Lt Tim Hoddinott made their own way by car.

Tuesday 5th October 1971
After leaving the TA Centre in Penrith, the two 3 tonners slowly progressed into Scotland, following the coastal route (no motorways) to Arbroath.
Every member of the troop will clearly recall Arbroath, approaching along the sea front, into the fishing town, turning left halfway through this sleepy town and heading for Brechin. After about 3 miles, we were running alongside the Airfield on our right, finally turning into the base.
The Main Guard Hut stood on the left of the Barrier, where they checked our identification.
The Guard room consisted a single storey building, with main room, kitchen area and 3 x detention cells.
Just through the gate, the road split 3 ways:
To the left was the various accommodation blocks - Officers, SNCO's and just past the Parade Ground, was the 6 x 'Spiders' for the Soldiers.
To the right was the Workshops, Fuel Pumps and Airfield.
Ahead was the working centre of the camp.

Our vehicles turned right, passing the Camp Church and Gymnasium, past the Fuel Pumps on the right and the Workshops on the left, our Office Block was on the right, at the central road intersection.
Behind our Office was the Airfield, with the Airfield Control Tower. Ahead and to the left, across the road was the Artic Warfare store and where vehicles were sometimes stored, this was one of the purpose built Hangers.
On the Airfield was two Aircraft Hangers and two underground Weapon Arsenals.
We off-loaded our vehicles into the Office, then proceeded across the base to our 'Spider', to locate a bed and rest.
Our Spider was the furthest away, though alongside the main road.

A wooden spider is single storey, similar to an actual spider, main body with legs.
The 'body' is the central corridor, with toilet block and Ablutions in the centre of the corridor.
Off the corridor, is 6 'legs' being bedrooms, with an emergency door at the far end of each room.
Each room held 17 men, on single framed beds, with a steel upright clothes locker on one side of the bed and a wooden bedside cabinet on the other. The floor was polished wood, easy to keep clean.
The troop was given a long week-end off.
The Troop Fitter used this period, to get Engaged to his girlfriend in Blantyre - 100 miles away.

We were now truly an Independent Troop - 400 miles from our Independent Squadron, attached to an Independent Commando Group RM.
The Camp consisted of various Troops, making up the Group:-
45 Commando - had 5 Companies, consisting of 30 men to a troop, with 3 troops to a Company.
The Companies were: Headquarters, Support, X-Ray, Zulu and Yankee; one Company consisted of Logistics and Recce.
Royal Engineers - Condor Troop with 36 men.
Royal Artillery - 145 (Maiwand) Cdo Light Battery with around 200 men, which incorporated the Army Pay Corps.
RAOC (Detachment) with around 30 men.
RNMC mainly Naval Medical with a few Artillery Medics.
Approximately 800 - 1000 Officers and Soldiers.
Returning from the long week-end and on Parade outside of our Troop Office, we were all surprised to hear the Camp Tannoy announce "Clear Lower Decks".
We all just looked at each other, we did not understand Navy terminology.
Capt Hillard went into the Office to phone and find out, he was advised to bring his Troop to the Hanger, for a welcome Speech by the CO.
Once formed up, 45 Commando CO - Lt. Col. Sir Stueart Pringle, welcomed our troop to his base and to his Group, expressing his deep pleasure in having an Engineer Unit in full support of his troops.

He further advised us, that we would be leaving with his troops, within the next two weeks, deploying to Northern Ireland.
This was a "Bolt out of heaven", although we had no Weapons, Stores, Vehicles or Equipment, we were going into action, this should be fun!

Unknown to our Troop, behind the scenes, our Squadron OC - Major Graham Owens and the Engineer-in-Chief - Major General Mackay, had decided that our troop was not fully trained or equipped, to deploy to Northern Ireland.
Sir Stuaert Pringle and David Hillard discussed the issue, resulting in an agreement that Condor Troop should deploy with 45 Cdo, to become an integral part of the group, or be dictated to by 59 Indep Cdo Sqn.
The Colonel sent a message to 59 Indep Cdo Sqn and the Engineer-in-Chief "That as Condor Troop are now an integral part of 45 Cdo Group RM, they would be accompanying his Commando Group to Northern Ireland" and so it was to be, it was up to 59 Indep Cdo Sqn to have Weapons, Stores, Equipment and vehicles brought up.