ALTCAR TRAINING CAMP - UPDATE
Dear Residents of Hightown & Formby
What a difference a part year from March 2021 to December 2021 makes. The COVID-19 pandemic survives and continues to apply very demanding challenges on us all. At the time of writing this missive, some COVID restrictions have been re-applied. Military personnel are still actively involved around the country in support of Operation RESCRIPT and Altcar which is recognised as a prime site in the North West area remains on standby to support authorised requests for Military Aid to the Civil Authorities. As we start to look forward to a well-earned break, ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ last Christmas if we are not careful. Let us hope are not heading for another lockdown and that we get the opportunity to spend time with our loved ones, family and friends. I do very much hope everyone manages to get some time off/down-time.
The aim of this letter is to provide you with an update and a brief on Altcar Training Camp. We sit on your doorstep so the update is important.
I am Colonel Mark Underhill, and I am the Chief Executive of the organisation on the top of this letter head. Altcar Training Camp, whilst fully funded by the Ministry of Defence, is owned and managed by the Association I run.
The Altcar Training Camp mission is to:
Deliver a safe, sustainable, compliant and managed training estate and range complex to support the operational and training outputs ensuring maximum use of the estate is used for:
• Regular tri-Service Units (Army, Royal Navy & Air Force)
• Reserve tri-Service Units (Army, Royal Navy & Air Force)
• Cadet Units (Combined Cadet Force, Army Cadet Force, Royal Air Force Air Cadets and Sea Cadet Corps
And to enable irreducible spare capacity to be used for:
• Other Government Departments e.g. Police & other Emergency Services
• Other users through the Alternative Venues initiative – hiring out elements of the estate when not required
The site must be prepared to provide accommodation and training facilities for operational surge activities/requirements. In terms of surge deployments, the camp and the Armed Forces has definitely stepped up over the last few years to support the COVID-19 pandemic in the North West under Military Aid to the Civil Authorities. Altcar Training Camp has been used extensively throughout by the military for deployment. During various COVID Government phases, when permitted, the military have made every effort to get back to military training where possible. There has been some difference this year but in some cases, it has been difficult to differentiate last year’s activity with this years. COVID, has placed several restrictions on site output; very much the same as last year.
Facts & Figures: Altcar Training Camp is split by the River Alt – the camp, accommodation (709 bed spaces) and real life support services are on the east side of the river and the ranges (10) and training areas are on the west side of the river. The two respective sides of the camp are over 620 acres in size and the association also owns and controls an additional 500 acres of foreshore (the beach). Please note: when the red flags are flying the beach is out of bounds to the public. The beach is not a safe place to be during live firing. COVID has meant camp activity has been different. For comparison over a 10 year period, accommodation usage has increased. Range days and rounds fired down the complex have slight variations (increases/decreases). Use of training areas and other site facilities such as classrooms and dry training areas have been responsible for attracting more units:
Year Accommodation Usage (heads on beds) Range Days in Use Total Rounds Fired
2010 86714 267 1552350
2011 89921 265 1832450
2012 95951 274 1840269
2013 94058 264 1510775
2014 98306 253 1212828
2015 108744 297 1658855
2016 104014 284. 1737536
2017 105773 257 1495068
2018 98142 271 1335268
2019 111863 263 1174535
2020 45561 171 749213
Training for Regular military unit activity on site has never really stopped but in all reality, has reduced slightly during the pandemic. The use of the site by our reservists and cadets over the last few months has picked up noting that Altcar Training Camp is a prime location for back to basics soldiering.
Night shoots: We have a number of night shoots each year and the dates for these shoots are published monthly on the Hightown Face Book page they are also published on the Hightown Parish Council website: http://hightownparishcouncil.co.uk/latest-news/. These night shoots are an essential/critical element of training and operational output for our Armed Forces. Please bear with us as they train during hours of dusk and darkness.
Helicopter Activity: In addition to our main training efforts, we have a number of helicopters that use the camp throughout the year. We have had, on occasions over 10 helicopters based on site in one go and they fly during the hours of darkness; many of you will have heard them. They joined us as they do most years for a week of activities (July 2021). Flying at night is an essential part of their training output and therefore we have always notified Hightown/Formby residents of this activity. We warn against anyone trying to enter the site when the Helicopter exercise is in play – or at any time of the year and we would ask that you please stay off camp and stick to the public footpath that surrounds the camp. The site is littered with military debris and these can be dangerous if handled incorrectly and trying to remove some of the military debris off site could cause harm or even constitute a criminal offence. We advise, by way of obvious boundary signage, that people should not enter the camp.
Field Supply Area (FSA):
The Field Supply Area (FSA), completed a couple of years ago (see picture above), has provided all year round troop training capability. My thanks again to the residents of Hightown – particularly on the main road into the village – for putting up with the increased vehicle usage. We have a number of outdoor classroom/Dutch barns on site – these are temporary structures enabled to facilitate outdoor COVID compliant teaching, training and operational output activity. Their usage is expect to significantly increase when the “new normal – post-COVID” is applied.
Flooding: Sadly the bad weather at the end of last year and into 2021 meant that the urban complex on site – several buildings was difficult to access. In fact, use of that site was dangerous. This village (Williamsville) is known as the FIBUA. This stands for Fighting In a Built Up Area. As you can see from the under mentioned, some of the buildings were under water and access to the buildings was not been possible. This is an essential part of the site and is used for training by our regulars, reservists and cadets.
The village provides urban training opportunities; urban warfare is combat conducted in urban areas. Urban combat differs from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical levels. Urban warfare is complex and by default training for urban warfare is important. Our military train to carry out attacks, patrol and defend such facilities. As urban warfare is time-consuming and costly in terms of manpower, tactical assaults include dealing with booby-trapped buildings, tight enemy engagement and close quarters. The need to maintain the integrity of these buildings to support the defence effort and provide suitable structures for urban combat training/operations and objectives is important.
Ranges: The inclement weather did affect many of the ranges last year. Our ranges have multiple functions. They provide safe and controlled live firing for various small arm weapon systems. In addition to the above, multiple units use the range for Close Quarter Battle (CQB) engagement. All site ranges are currently in a safe and compliant format. The picture below shows significant flooding on one of the critical ranges at the beginning of this year. Fortunately, the range is currently usable.
Alt House: My headquarters has now been open for just over a year and we are delighted with the build. The build comprises a two-story office building located near the southern boundary of Altcar Training Camp, not far from the main entrance. It is a modern, sustainable and eco-friendly building (footprint c400sq metres) with an associated car park (footprint c600sq metres) which provides an enduring base for our ongoing work in support of the Reserve Forces and Cadet organisations in the region.
With various facilities on camp – we have plenty of space to keep the users busy – such as an excellent football and rugby pitch as well as a fully fitted and fantastic gym:
The PODs: This great voluntary project for our wounded injured and sick soldiers, sailors and airman, has really caught the imagination of the local residents, is completed. During the COVID pandemic, site access has been limited. Altcar staff have maintained a weekly check of the premises and where work was required, have applied such an effort. During the pandemic and when periodically restrictions were lifted, Veterans from time-to-time (under COVID guidelines) have attended the site to carry out general site maintenance. It is just a disappointment that due to a complaint we have been trying to obtain retrospective planning permission for near on a year and until Sefton Councul give us the go ahead we are unable to open up the facility to our wounded, injured and sick personnel.
And a little bit of history: Normally, Altcar Training Camp would close down for Christmas/New Year. Christmas & New Year last year was an exception. During the COVID pandemic we had the pleasure of hosting for the duration of 3 months, a Royal Signals contingent of 100 Gurkha soldiers as they went through various basic training modules on site.
We were delighted to inform you that they enjoyed the Altcar experience so much last year that they are back for 3 months! The picture above shows the Gurkha soldiers having a traditional Christmas Lunch. Feedback on the lunch is as follow:
“Lovely, different but not entirely sure about those things you call Brussel sprouts”!
Moving forward: The new COVID Omicron variant may take us in a different direction; we will just have to wait and see how that effects the camp meeting its outputs. What I can be absolutely sure of is that 2022 will be very busy – indeed there are large periods of the next 12 months when Altcar is “full” when we will see much vehicle traffic enter and leave Hightown as they access the camp. It just remains for me to thanks you all for your forbearance; we appreciate the noise – from vehicles, gun fire and helicopters may at times be loud. It is a camp of strategic importance and as I say too many locals “we have been here for well over 100 years and we will be here for many more years to come”. Your continued support to our Armed Forces and the cadet and other organisations that use the camp is very much appreciated.
So, with all the above in mind, and that you live within the vicinity of Altcar Training Camp, I would like to offer you and your families the opportunity of coming onto site, meeting the commandant and I (with our wives) and allowing us to brief you further on Altcar Training Camp and showing you around the facilities.
Details of I and the commandant are as follows:
• Mark Underhill (me): As per the top of this letter.
• Lieutenant Colonel Gordon Black (Commandant Altcar Training Camp):
Altcar Training Camp, Grange Road, HIGHTOWN, Merseyside, L38 7JD Civilian: 0151 929 2601 | Mobile: 07903 366000 Gordon.Black136@mod.gov.uk or email@example.com
If you would like to take up our offer would you be so kind to drop us an email and we will organises a date(s) and come back to you. In the meantime, if you have any questions then please feel free to contact Gordon or I.
With every good wishes to you and your families and friends for 2022 and fingers crossed that we can reach some form of normality sooner rather than later.