Held from Friday 22nd May until Monday 25th May at Catterick Garrison this is a fantastic weekend for any one of Cadet age and above.
Below is a story of a previous years event.
Many years ago, the North East Military Vehicle Club, used to hold an off-road event using one of the Driver Training Areas on Catterick Garrison. This ran for a number of years before the novelty eventually wore off.
In those days we couldn’t use the Armoured Training Ground as our armoured and tracked vehicles may have caused damage to it.
Anyway, this year the Events organizer for the NEMVC, David Forster, decided it was high time we had another try at getting on the Ranges, but this time purely for tanks and wheeled armour.
Through his contacts with the military and work with Help for Heroes, he achieved a favourable outcome, insurance was arranged and a weekend over the May Bank Holiday was confirmed.
The only difference this time we would be inviting members of other clubs – the Military Vehicle Trust, Invicta Military Preservation Society and the Scottish Military Vehicle Group to join us and bring their vehicles.
Prior to the weekend itself, 40 club members took part in a comprehensive day of training at Phoenix House on Catterick Garrison. This covered first aid, fire precaution and control, armoured vehicle movement and marshaling and movement as well as radio communications.
After all of this, we got our first chance to drive the range – and it was much larger than we expected. The gravel roads stretched for miles and were wide enough to have 2 main battle tanks pass side by side. Obstacles such as steps, wide ditches, a knife-edge, steep hills, water filled sections and uneven surfaces were all there to test each and every driver.
Around 50 tank owners expressed an interest, which I personally thought was a bit optimistic. In the end we had a varied assortment of 30 turn up.
The tanks were to be supported by 20 lighter vehicles, such as Jeeps and Land Rovers, which would be used by the marshals to manage the site.
Friday and Saturday morning were all about safety briefings, letting the drivers know what they could and could not do. A one way system was set up and we had the assistance of the TA 124/102 REME unit based at Newton Aycliffe, who came along with two of their MAN SVR wreckers to assist with recovery of anything that got stuck or broke down.
We arrived in the Marford Land Rover ‘Wolf’ and set up camp on Friday evening. It was cold, very cold, a biting S. Easter was blowing across the site and the tea supplied by the lads of the 29th Field Kitchen was very welcome. After our dinner and a couple of swift drinks we turned in. It was a chilly night – minus 3 degrees.
Breakfast over, we were held up for a couple of hours while the Wardens checked that the range was clear and away we went. A strict speed limit was imposed so that everyone could gauge their abilities and get used to the course.
Although still cold, we did get some sun and a great day, was had by all concerned.
One chap who had the largest tank at the event, a mighty T34/85, had brought it quite some distance and in the past had only driven it slowly round an arena. He spent the whole day just driving round with a beaming smile on his face, at a top speed of 5mph.
Being able to do this meant that he had identified several problems, which he would be able to rectify later.
After our freezing Friday night, we went home for a hot meal and a comfortable bed, before returning bright and early the next morning for what proved to be a sunnier and more entertaining day.
Many including the T34 driver mentioned earlier, were still content to drive around the circuit, but Martin, the range supervisor, had opened a long, muddy section of the course and that proved much more fun. This was very entertaining and the REME and ourselves were kept very busy extricating some of the wheeled participants.
All too soon we had to call it a day and with fading light we returned to camp. There wasn’t going to be any activity on the Bank Holiday Monday, as it was a loading and travelling day.
Many of the vehicle owners had come from as far away as Kent, Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland.
The purpose of the exercise was to raise money for Help for Heroes, The British Legion and Scotty’s Little Soldiers. All those who attended paid their own transportation costs, as well as an entrance fee.
Plans are already underway to have the event in 2020 and open it to wheeled soft skin vehicles.