Exercise BRUTUS: Annotation X607

Section Battle Drills with RAF Regiment Instructor, Moggie Morris, Proteus
STF, Weapon Training with the new SA80
Exercise BRUTUS 'Deep Heat'
Brutus TAB
Brutus Trench Phase
Brutus Trench Phase
NBC-Drinking drills
NBC-Drinking drills
Landrover Site Move
Vehicle Anti-Ambush drills
Vehicle Anti-Ambush drills
Advance to Contact
Brutus - POW handling
NBC Casualty
NBC Casualty First Aid and CASEVAC
TCW Camouflaged FFR Landrover
Radio Detachment Site and guards
Radio Detachment Site and guards
LMG detachment Hare Hill
LMG detachment Hare Hill

Every person serving on Tactical Communications Wing in the 1970s, 80s and early 1990s, from Wing Commander to an Aircraftsman clerk was expected to undertake Exercise BRUTUS. This was a four-week, Unit run course. As Tactical Communications Wing’s personnel were recruited from a wide variety of trades and backgrounds; some have no field experience and have never even seen a tin of composite rations, whereas others will have served three or four tours on Tactical Communications Wing. Some form of arrivals training was needed to train the newcomers and update the old hands in new and changed Tactical Communications Wing operating procedures.


BRUTUS existed in varying forms for 15 years. The aim of the course was to teach basic field and communications skills to personnel from a variety of backgrounds. These skills would enable Tactical Communications Wing staff to survive in the numerous field scenarios where they were asked to operate. At the same time, it taught Junior Non-Commissioned Officers the manpower and resource management skills required of a Tactical Communications Wing detachment commander. The course was never passed or failed, nor was it used to weed out the ‘weak and worthless’, though some attendees might differ with that evaluation. As the majority of those posted to Tactical Communications Wing during this period were volunteers, professional pride took most students through the more trying aspects of the course. 

The biggest myth about BRUTUS was that it was a nightmare of physical torture and pain. There were parts where the going was tough however for those with a reasonable level of fitness it was considered not too traumatic. However, for the unfit the exercise was more arduous and came as a culture shock. BRUTUS was run by the Standards and Training Flight of Tactical Communications Wing. The course was manned by an officer, flight sergeant, three Senior NCOs and two Junior NCO instructors. The students were split into four teams of six members with Junior NCOs as Section Commanders and second in command.

Each day started at 06:30hrs with physical training and continued with a busy programme well into each evening. As preparation for the field exercise phase in the fourth week, great emphasis was placed on physical training. A Basic Fitness Test was held on day one and physical training sessions were held daily, aiming to reduce injury later in the course and improve the fitness level of those serving on the Unit. The second week began with navigation theory and practical navigation exercises in the local area. Next came weapons training and a fire range day, in preparation for the Personal Weapons Tests that are taken every six months after the course. The first two weeks of the course were spent at RAF Brize Norton, the second two at Proteus Training Camp. Everyone posted to Tactical Communications Wing had to complete the course, from the Leading Aircraftsman Clerks to the Commanding Officer. Except for the section commanders and second in commands, all relinquished their rank while on the course – in fact, the higher the rank the lower the status. Many a Flight Lt or Squadron Leader found himself digging trenches, carrying the heaviest weapon, and making the tea – the worst cups of tea ever tasted in the RAF have been made at Proteus Camp.


The first week began with Station and Tactical Communications Wing arrivals briefings followed by a visit to the fire section for the Operational Deployment Training. The remainder of the week was spent introducing the students to Tactical Communications Wing vehicles, equipment, and procedures such as Electronic Warfare, Battle Code and communications security. The week ended with a HF/VHF communications exercise to put the classroom theory into practice.


The second week looked to provide the student with a better understanding of the fundamentals of providing tactical communications in a deployed, often hostile field environment. This included, prisoner of war handling and legislation, first aid, map reading, BATCO, basic radio theory using clansman radios and mast erection. The comprehensive Nuclear, Biological and Chemical programme went much further than the standard station Operational Deployment Training packages of the time with students taught the theory of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical threats, reporting, protection and first aid. They had the opportunity to practice the drills in a series of injects including reaction drills, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical first aid casualty fakes and operational decontamination of equipment in a CS gas environment. The second week ended with a final Basic Fitness Test and an attempt at the ‘confidence’ course for the final time. After which The Friday of week two saw the final preparation of vehicles, stores, and personal kit prior to the deployment to Proteus Training Camp. The Landrovers and other vehicles were then positioned for departure outside the STF and HQ building. That evening student would then pack any additional equipment deemed to be required and then look to get some sleep, or in other cases a swift visit to the ‘Eagle or Beehive’ in Carteron.


The following Saturday at 0600 with weapons collected, rollcall made, and last checks carried out and the convoy formed, the exercise departed. On arrival at Proteus training camp, Allerton, and accommodation identified, the students carried out the assault, or ‘confidence’, course which was designed to demonstrate the need for teamwork on the days ahead.

During this phase of the training more responsibility and pressure was placed on the section commanders taking the course. The development of leadership styles needed in a field environment and the use of formal orders was emphasised. To get accustomed to carrying weapons in the field, all routines at Proteus Camp had to be always carried out with weapons within arms-reach. This made showering and other necessary functions difficult but did instil the ‘lost a limb’ feeling. Should a weapon be forgotten for any reason, the Directing Staff found various ways of ‘reminding’ the transgressor.


The objective of the third week was to familiarise the students with fieldcraft, tactics, navigation, first aid and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical training now that equipment and weapon familiarisation was out of the way. The field craft and tactics package included camouflage and concealment, target indication, guards and sentry procedures, basic fire and manoeuvre drills, section formation and field signals, anti-ambush drills, site clearance and the dreaded trench construction phase – always a chance for the officers to get their hands dirty and blistered! The students were given every opportunity to practice each skill, often with the assistance of ‘Captain Adrenalin’ who usually made an appearance, chiefly in the anti-ambush drills. The battlefield first aid programme was included to ensure the safety of personnel who are often detached in isolated locations. A lot of theory was taught during these lessons, but again a practical element was included with a series of ‘casualty fakes’ injects, whose reactions often shocked the unwary; this often led to some good-natured banter on return to the ‘Eagle’ or ‘Bird in Hand’. As well as doing a magnificent job providing food, the Mobile Catering Support Unit offered their services for any role-playing requirements throughout the training schedule.


The most physically demanding aspects of the course occurred during the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical training. Exercise DEEP HEAT was designed to give a first-hand appreciation of how operating in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical kit could degrade performance and speed as well as making the command and control of a team very difficult for the section commander. Each team was required to carry communications equipment and generators some 100m over rough ground and set up a command post in full kit. Once set up, a test call was made, the equipment was then taken down and raced back to the start point with advice and encouragement given by the ever-watchful Directing Staff. This experience often proved quite distressing for those who were not at ease in a respirator or who were less fit. It made a lasting impression on all those who took part over the years – in fact this was the required objective of the exercise.


The fourth and last week began with final preparations for the field phase. Equipment, vehicles, and tents were checked, and lengthy deployment orders given to the team leaders. The teams deployed into the fi eld in the early hours. To prepare the team leaders, there was a 24-hour lead-in phase where instructors advised the section commanders on the general running of a detachment, for example fi eld routine or shift rosters. The scenario for the five-day field phase had each six-man section deploying with a Land Rover and trailer, moving from site to site and setting up communication masts and antenna over a 24-hour day. The sections were responsible for guarding, feeding and supplies. Each team was moved every three to ten hours, depending on the competence and professionalism of the team, and the process of establishing and taking down a site began again, with each move being arduous and frustrating.


Throughout this time, immense pressure was placed on the section commander who needed to juggle shift rosters, site defences, communications, welfare of his men, site routine and be accountable to the ever-present Directing Staff. After the lead-in phase, a 24-hour trench phase followed. The sections met up in a central location, trenches were constructed, defensive positions were set, and site routine set up. It was during this stage that the first injects began, in the form of stand-off attacks and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical incidents.


After this stage the sections were normally at a low ebb, as they had managed very little sleep and were suffering from fatigue after digging. With the trench phase completed, the sections then moved to a grid reference where they received and checked the Vehicles, equipment and carried out system and radio checks. The teams then dispersed throughout the training area after receiving further Battle Coded messages. From this point on, each team operated independently, simulating a forward taking net of FHU, once again using field routine, convoy tactics, site clearance and ground defence, and periodically moving site. The movement of sections around the training area was interspersed with further injects such as first aid, Prisoner of War handling, ambushes, close attacks, standoff attacks, and site intruders.

A student’s perspective of a typical site move whilst on Brutus:

‘He’s only had three hours sleep in the last 24 hours, he has just come off guard and has been operating the radio for an hour when a message to move is received. After decoding the Battle Coded message, he passes it on to the rest of the team who are in various stages of sleep and activity. The time is 01:00hrs, it is raining, there must be no light shown on the site and silence must be always maintained. He’s cold, hungry, and tired, he can’t see, he gets snagged on the camouflage net and can’t tell anyone as he isn’t allowed to speak AAAARRGH!

The frustration!

The conclusion of the field phase was a final assault on the infamous ‘Hare Hill’ over the weekend, followed by a day of admin when the students cleaned the vehicles, equipment, and accommodation.  BRUTUS ended with a ‘last supper’ held at Proteus Camp where certificates and individual and team awards (both complimentary and derogatory) were presented. Students also performed sketches to exact scything and vicious retribution on the instructors. This was normally followed by a few light refreshments in downtown Ollerton.


Exercise BRUTUS 5/92, held over May/June 1992, broke new ground when a female Flt Lt became the first member of the Woman’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) to complete the course. She was a team member in every respect and got no concessions during the course, apart from being excused the daily shave in the field phase.  

The final quote summarising BRUTUS was issued by Wing Commander Dave Smith, one of the Commanding Officers during the 1980s, that sums up the general feeling amongst Tactical Communications Wing personnel during this period in the Unit’s history: ‘



‘We are not ‘steely eyed killers’ well versed in advanced infantry skills, but we are capable of living in the field and conducting ourselves in a competent and professional manner’. 



Students who successfully completed BRUTUS emerged a few pounds lighter and with a new appreciation of what being completely shattered was like. Often, they were bonded to the Tactical Communications Wing ethos for life.


Certification and Aid Memoirs

Video: Contact Wait Out - TCW Site Move