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From map reading to gunnery drills, airborne gunners have competed against each other to be the best.
Colchester-based G Parachute Bty (Mercer’s Troop) 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse
Artillery held a gun detachment competition (Thu 25 Jun), testing the skills as both soldiers and
gunners of the six-man teams who each fire one of the Battery's 105mm L118 Light Guns.
On a gruelling day-long circuit around the STANTA Ranges in Norfolk, the gun detachments were
tested on their navigation, radio skills, rigging a vehicle to be carried as an underslung load by a
helicopter and the theory and drills of gunnery. The final test saw troops race against the clock to
bring their gun into action, carry out a simulated fire mission and then limber the gun up to its
Pinzgauer towing vehicle.
The contest took place at the end of Exercise Mercers, Thunder & Lightning (22-26 Jun),
which was about refreshing and reinforcing the soldiers basic skills as 7 Para RHA returns to work
in earnest after the easing of Coronavirus restrictions.
Battery training officer Lieutenant Phil Tombs said: “Running a competition is about building up
team cohesion in the gun detachments, putting a bit of pressure on them. We want our gunners to
be on top of their technical skills and able to deliver at speed - because that’s what they need to do
“This exercise has been about getting back out into the field. While working from home we were
able to do a lot of remote learning covering the theoretical side of the job; this is about putting our
skills into practice again. We’ve also had a lot of new soldiers join us in the last few months, and
this is helping them to bed in.”
Among G Bty’s new intake is Gunner Harry Dixon, 17 from New Moston in Manchester. “I came to
the unit in March and a few days later we were sent home on lockdown,” he said. “We did a lot of
video lessons and I trained hard to keep my fitness up, but it’s really good to get out on the gun.
Three of us in my detachment are new, but we’re gelling together well. Having a competition has
helped - working under pressure almost makes the job easier, because you don’t have time to
think about what you’re doing, you just get on with it.”
7 Para RHA’s core role is to provide offensive fire support to 16 Air Assault Brigade,