Commando 999 members race to the rescue!

FORMER Royal Marines from Tayside and Angus completed an audacious challenge on Friday to raise money for Corps families.

The men, all former marines and now all working in the emergency services, are part of Commando 999, a charity that raises money for the families of injured personnel.

As part of the celebration of the Royal Marine Corps’ 350th anniversary in 2014, the group aims to raise £1 million pounds for the Royal Marines Association and the Royal Marines Charitable Trust Fund.

The 18 participants set off at 11 p.m. on Friday, returning to their roots with a night-time amphibious leg consisting of 22 miles by kayak along Loch Tay to Aberfeldy.

The second stage saw the men jump into rafts donated for the occasion by former comrade Steve Thomas, who now runs Freespirits rafting centre at Kenmore.

From there they travelled to Grandtully and debarked to shore for a 65 mile cycle run through Perthshire and Dundee, passing the headquarters of both Tayside police and the fire and rescue service before reaching Arbroath Fire Station.

There they were joined by half a dozen serving members of 45 Commando to start a 10 mile run along the cliffs to Lunan Bay before marines old and new speed-marched the final six miles into Montrose, arriving at the war memorial at Mid-Links at 6 p.m. to great public applause.

Event organiser Inspector Conrad Trickett, a former officer at 45 Commando between 1993 and 1997 thought the input from current marines was tremendous.

“There were the six marines who joined us for the run and the speed-march, along with Captain Steve Lewis and their PTI, and I think their presence really served to demonstrate the life cycle of the marine.

“It shows that we’re still involved and can go off and do mad things like this.”

Another eight serving marines provided logistical support for the expedition, manning checkpoints and readying kit.

When asked about his experience, Conrad said: “There are several stories from the first stage. The wind was blowing so hard it was creating a big swell on the Loch.

“You can imagine, black sky, black Loch, upside down in your boat. Then you had to drag your kayak to shore to empty it.

“I would definitely describe it as psychologically challenging and quite an epic at times.”

Conrad said he was proud of the performance of his Commando 999 comrades: “I was very impressed with the pace that people were going at.”

He puts their success down to a combination of esprit de corps and good old fashioned marine humour.

The group raised over £22,000 in sponsorship, with another £5,000 coming from gift-aid. Although the total stands at around £27,000, Conrad hopes to reach £30,000 before making the handover.

“We’ve been revising the target ever since we started. We originally thought £10,000 was a decent target, but we quickly shot past that, and the target just keeps going up and up.

“We feel that £30,000 would be a good figure to give to Commando 999.”

Founder of Commando 999, Mark Scoular, himself a former marine based at Condor, was delighted with the effort.

“The team epitomised everything that Commando 999 would do in the first place. It’s all about the sense of belonging, the esprit de corps and the re-igniting of old friendships.

“To raise nearly £30,000, and to do it all with a Commando smile is just spectacular.”