Ex ARRAS SCHOLAR 2620 Squadron RAuxAF Regiment Staff Ride to France
Recently, 34 Reserve and Regular personnel left Marham for France to conduct Ex ARRAS SCHOLAR. The Staff Ride (SR) was focused on World War One and aimed to conduct a participatory analysis of historical events which took place on The Somme in July 1916.
Expert oversight was provided by Sqn Ldr White, OC 2620 Sqn and Flt Lt Walker, OC Community Support Flt, who guided the SR and provided the in-depth historical oversight surrounding the stands.
In preparation for the SR, personnel were split into study groups and each given a specific question to research and present once in France. The questions covered specific actions from individual infantry divisions as well as the development of Air Power and the various different tactics employed across the Somme campaign.
The Squadron travelled across the Channel on the Friday with the SR beginning early Saturday morning in La Boisselle with the first stand. The group then moved on to the impressive Lochnagar Crater where we learnt about the mining operations of the Somme offensive. Next we moved on to Contalmaison, Fricourt, Mametz Village and finally Montauban Village. It was clear from the onset that a lot of hard work had gone into the stands and we were rewarded with interesting and insightful presentations from the full range of ranks. It was particularly fascinating to hear the local Norfolk links that the groups had discovered. These included the experiences of Norfolk ‘Pals’ Battalions and the Zeppelin raid on the Marham local area.
Despite a packed itinerary, there was still the opportunity to sample the local area in the evening. Friday night saw the Squadron Officers host Sir Michael Oswald, 2620 Sqn Honorary Air Commodore over dinner, with the Squadron SNCOs hosting him on the Saturday night. As an ex-serviceman himself, Sir Michael is full of remarkable stories and anecdotes bringing yet another dimension to the SR.
Whilst this all sounds extremely pleasant and enjoyable, you may be asking why we conduct SRs or you may not see the point of them. Well, the idea behind SRs is to research key historical operations in order to promote discussion, debate and analysis of events that have direct application to modern operations both current and future. Rather than just a battlefield tour, a SR doesn’t just focus on the past. Using the history as a starting point, the idea is to explore current operational concepts as well as leadership models and the ethos and heritage of the RAF. Currently restricted to France and the Low Countries, SRs provide an excellent opportunity to get your unit out of the office conducting meaningful and useful out-of-branch training. You can run them yourself at Squadron/Unit level, jump onto a Station SR or join one of the Core SR’s such as EX LONG MARCH or COMET CHALLENGE (both of which I thoroughly recommend). If this has peaked your interest then speak to the Force Development Flight to start the process.