On Monday 29th June, 32 pupils from Llantwit Major Comprehensive School set off on a journey to the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes in Bridgend. The trip was one night long with the group setting off from school at 9:00 AM and returning at 1:30 PM the next day.
First of all, we arrived at the MPCT headquarters in Bridgend so that they could check our kit, supplies etc. We were split into two sections for competition. Then, we were given army camouflage uniforms and burgens to put all of our things into. Also, we were given 3300 calories worth of ration bags. I had a tomato sauce salad and an all-day breakfast for my two meals. We also had power bars, orange juice, fruit flakes and other energy filling snacks.
When we arrived at the road nearest to the campsite that the bus could go down, we received our burgens. My knees instantly collapsed at the sheer weight of them! In my opinion, it would have been easier carrying a person! Once we managed to get the bags on our backs, we trudged on to a rugby field next to Bridgend leisure centre to do some intense army training. We took our burgens off and were told how to estimate distance using pacing. We did this with our burgens on and off to check the difference between the pacing.
After this, we began our extremely long trek towards our camp with the heaviest bags we had ever carried. Overall, it probably took us around three and a half hours to walk about 7 miles. More and more moans and gasps emerged from the ever tiring crowd of hikers. Luckily, we were given rests at fairly regular intervals so that we could keep on going!
Finally, we reached the end of our journey to our camp but we still couldn’t see the sand dunes! We were taken into a large forest and placed our burgens on the ground. We were allowed to eat our lunch and have a rest before the real activities began. The first activity that we did was “camo and concealment”. We were taken to a hilly, savannah-like area with lots of long, dense grass so we could hide, concealing ourselves with army face paint. Overall, with our army uniform and concealed faces, most of us were concealed and hidden away with the grass and trees.
When we took the small but fast trek back the “harbour”, we were given the instruction to put up our shelter. The term they used for the plastic cover that were soon to be sleeping under was a ‘basher’. All that a basher is, is a light plastic cover that is attached to two trees and the ground. Me and Joe (my partner) found the set up very easy and were soon putting down our roll mats.
Later on in the day, we began to plan for the main event: our reccie patrol in the middle of the night. Our objective was to gather as much Intel as we could by surveying a group of enemies guarding a lot of discarded ammo in a big car park. We had a long trek along the sand dunes towards our destination. Once we arrived, we had to use a tactical viewing technique called petalling. It is very simple as it means what is says. You just have to go around the carpark in the shape of a flowers petals. Once we had gathered all of the Intel needed, we walked back through the countryside along steeply ascending sand dunes and rough, rocky lanes back to camp. Once we got back, we all dropped onto our roll mats, got into ours sleeping bags and went straight to sleep after a very long and tiring day!
Silence concealed the forest very early in morning. The sun had just come over the horizon and was peeking through the long trees. No-one, apart from Mr Paylor and one of the commanders, moved a muscle. Suddenly, a loud shout came from the commander’s mouth. “EVERYBODY UP! WE ARE UNDER ATTACK!” We were instructed to get up, get changed and get into line to evacuate the area. We trekked quickly through the green forest and the soft sand in order to escape the ‘enemy’.
Once we arrived at our destination, we were told that we had three more fun activities to do and the day would be over. The first activity was to receive the name of animal from the commander. In our sections, we had to order our animals in size order by just making the noise of that animal! No-one knew what each other’s animals were! Of course, our section won and were winning 1-0.
The second task was a race across the sand dunes. Sadly, the other section won that to make it 1-1 but I did see a small sand snake in the shrubs! Finally, we had the last section. We had to carry everyone’s burgens up to a certain point and then take them back! Amazingly, our section managed to pull through and win the whole competition! We were overjoyed and both sections received hot-dogs to end the trip on a high.
Overall, the trip was very hard and very gruelling but was also very enjoyable and was a good and different experience for everyone that went.
Written by Nathan Pownall 8MAW