Royal Marines Reservists Raid Lismore





As the breeze dropped away, the faint whistle of wind across the antenna of the ship was replaced by the hiss of rain which now fell vertically into the inky black water of the Firth of Lorn. It was 0145 hours on Sunday 11 July, a time of day which most right-minded people will deny the existence of, but out in the darkness of the firth Royal Marine Reservists were quietly applying the finishing touches to their camouflage and climbing down ladders into the waiting Raiding Craft.



Exercise NORTHERN RAIDER is an amphibious training exercise run annually by RMR Scotland, but drawing marines from across the UK.  This year, with the kind support of the landowners, the exercise was conducted on the Island of Lismore and the mixture of terrain and weather made it an ideal venue. The Training Officer, Captain Andy Goldsmith commented “There are few parts of Scotland’s unique coastline as attractive as the west coast, and the Island of Lismore is a jewel in the crown”.  Royal Marine Reservists provide 3 Commando Brigade with fully trained and deployable marines, who are prepared to operate in all climates and who regularly exercise in areas ranging from the jungles of Brunei to the Arctic Circle. “We need an individual who is comfortable when wet, tired and hungry, and Scotland breeds good raw material” whispered Captain Goldsmith as he followed the last man down from the Fleet Tender ORONSAY, “and tonight should be a good test of that strength”.



He was right, by the time the 8-man inflatables had crossed the mile of choppy water to the landing point, every man was soaked to the skin and the raid had only just begun.  By 0215 hrs, 40 blackened-faced and grim looking commandos had slipped ashore unseen at Miller’s Port, cleared a safe lane through a defensive minefield and now moved under the cover of the night and increasing rain towards their target, Sailein on the far side of the island. The Raiding Craft meanwhile slipped back into the darkness before starting a slow voyage around the south of the island to be in position for the raid planned for 0515 hrs.



The enemy had selected their base carefully.  The ancient and disused lime quarry, kilns and jetty of Sailein are not only of historical interest. They are isolated from the rest of the island by the high cliffs that dominate the area, and cannot be reached other than by two easily defended tracks running north and south….unless of course you are prepared to climb down an overgrown and hidden waterfall, now in full torrent after a night of heavy rain. The marines were. Right on time a simulated mortar strike crashed out, and as the echoes rolled across Loch Linnhe, General Purpose Machine Guns beat out from the crags overlooking the scattered buildings, now interspersed with tents and radio masts. Sweeping onto the position, the marines assaulted building by building using smoke to cover their approach and moving in short sprints from one sodden piece of cover to the next.  Twenty minutes later and it was all over.  As the Raiding Craft surged in from their hiding place around the broken coastline the marines withdrew, taking with them captured radios, weapons and the one “surviving” prisoner.


“Excellent!” Said Captain Goldsmith as he watched the last of the marines transfer back onto the mother ship for their journey back to Oban Port, “We could not have asked for a better training area, and even the weather has eased off!”


RMR Scotland would like to express its gratitude to the people of Lismore and to the Port and town of Oban who supported the exercise. Most especially, Captain Goldsmith wishes to thank his “Island Agents” who made the exercise possible, who kept it as secret as possible, and who know who they are!

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