A Colburn man has got back from learning winter survival skills in the mountains of Norway and followed in the footsteps of famous wartime raiders who stopped the Nazi atomic bomb programme.
Garth Hulme, 49, is an IT project manager and also works as nurse in the RAF Reserves.
He joined 50 other RAF Reservists earlier this month on Exercise Wintermarch to learn Nordic skiing, how to survive an avalanche and how to deal with extreme cold from members of the Norwegian military.
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Garth said: “It was a fantastic experience”, adding: “The instructors were really supportive and it was great to meet other reservists from across the country.”
The airmen and women of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force were based at Rjukan, 100 miles north of the capital Oslo. The town is also the site of the wartime Telemark Raid which saw saboteurs dropped by the RAF destroy a factory making vital parts for the Nazi effort to build an atomic bomb.
The students learned more about the operation with a talk from a close friend of one of the saboteurs and a visit to the museum built on the site of the raid.
The skills used by the saboteurs in cross-country skiing and winter survival are the same as those taught by the Norwegian instructors. Participants finished the gruelling week with a cross-country skiing race.
For Norwegians the Telemark Raid holds a similar place as the Battle of Britain does here and represents their own ‘finest hour’.
Senior Aircraftman (SAC) Hulme, who serves with Number 2624 Squadron, based at RAF Brize Norton, was deployed twice to Afghanistan. He added: “It was great to learn about the raid here in the war and brilliant to learn these new skills.”
“This is this sort of thing I joined the RAF Reserves to do.”
The officer leading the expedition, Flight Lieutenant Rosie Gilmore said: “The RAF Reserves have had a fantastic week here. The guys have got so much out of it. It’s hard work, but they all help each other and you can see that they’ve given their all but they’ve had a great time.”
The exercise comes at an important time for the RAF in its centenary year.
She added: “As the RAF celebrates its 100th year, it’s fitting that we’ve been here where the RAF has long and friendly relations and it’s been great to be here strengthening those bonds between the RAF and Norway.”
These bonds stretch back to the Second World War when, as well as supporting the Telemark raid, Norwegian airmen served in RAF squadrons as they fought alongside Britain to defeat Germany and free their homeland. Both the UK and Norway are founder members of NATO.