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7 Regiment complete the Mongol Rally

6 soldiers of 7 Regiment RLC recently completed the Mongol Rally ‘ an adventure that starts with a lap of the historic Goodwood racecourse, and finishes in the Siberian town of Ulan-Ude, over 7,000 miles away.

The Rally does not dictate a set route, but instead lets teams get as lost as they want, in as much trouble as they dare, and break down as many times as the vehicles decide. The cars used in the Rally must be completely unsuited to off-road terrain (absolutely no 4x4s), and have an engine size of no more than 1.2l. The 7 Regiment team, Where Eagles Dare, travelled in 2 Suzuki Swifts (combined engine size under 2l), and not only made it to the finish line, but also drove back to their base in Kendrew Barracks afterwards. Mechanical failures were a common feature from the word go, starting with excessive amounts of talcum powder blowing through the fans, and finishing with the scrapping of one of the vehicle’s battery, without replacement!

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Europe
After an afternoon ferry to Calais, the long slog through the civilised world began. Where Eagles Dare must have looked much more civilian than we thought ‘ German police quickly found the team and instigated a drugs search, though after learning that the 2 scrapheap cars in front of them were going to get to Mongolia, they decided we were already crazy enough ‘ and probably had no need for drugs. Mechanical faults were few and far between initially ‘ limited to windscreen wipers falling off on the autobahns, random fault lights and rattlings. The cheap tents bought for the Rally leaked like sieves, but we eventually limped into Latvia, ready to cross into Russia on day 7.

 

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Russia
After losing a day to the border crossing, Where Eagles Dare started their way through the most gargantuan of countries. Only an afternoon could be spared for Moscow ‘ which was enough time to get on to Red Square, visit the famous cathedral and sample some Russian Imperial vodka.

We were dreading the infamous Russian (lack of) hospitality, but were pleasantly surprised by how warmly we were welcomed ‘ the state of the cars endeared us to most who saw them! Just outside the remote town of Chelyabinsk, we spotted the perfect mascot for the team: A 1m tall statue of an eagle, or as we preferred to think of it, an Orzel! After some moving around of stores, there was enough room on the roof of ‘Paddy’ to mount ‘Harriet’ the Orzel, and there she stood proud for the remainder of Rally, braving all weathers and shocks.

The further east we traveled, the more sparse civilization became. In between population centres there were vast plains of nothing, as far as the eye could see. We eventually crossed the Yablonoi mountain range, which was without doubt ‘bear-country’. Coated in a blanket of dense forest, the scenery was stunning and almost uncomprehendingly large ‘ we passed numerous questionable looking ‘breakdown’ situations; all males, all trying extremely hard to wave other cars down. The feeling of being jack lasted less than a second ‘ each broken down car had a second vehicle around the corner, again full of males ‘ ready to take our valuables off our hands.

As we started heading southeast, towns became even more of a rare occurrence, and after treating ourselves to a final steak in Barnaul, we well and truly said goodbye to towns. The roads deteriorated and the terrain got steeper as we entered the Altai mountain range, the last in Russia. The wild nature of the region became yet more evident; approaches by groups of hard-looking blokes with gold teeth demanding money to camp on their ‘territory’ didn’t even raise an eyebrow. We reached the border, and hit a wall rigid bureaucracy. That was Day 16.

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Mongolia
After losing 20 hours to the border, the cars roared into Mongolia. Free of the political sensitivities of Russia, the Regimental flag was hoisted next to Harriet, and the back seat passenger swapped his seat for the roof of the car. The tarmac ended, and gave way to dirt tracks that had an endless ‘wriggly tin’ effect, making driving at anything over 20mph bone-shatteringly uncomfortable. The jerry cans were filled with fuel in Olgiy (the first Mongolian town), and a rudimental tourist map bought to get us across the country. The town, like all in Mongolia, had a disorganised conglomerate of tracks which bled into one, that entered the town, and another that left it. We literally pointed the car at the rising sun, and started driving.

The tracks proved to be unreliable however. Often they would abruptly end with no warning, sometimes a matter of feet before a river crossed the path of the would-be road, sometimes they petered out so we would keep following our path, kidding ourselves that it would begin to look more like a motorway soon. The up-side of the country was that once we had decided we had gone wrong, we could point the car east (determined only by the sun), and start driving crosscountry, cutting our own path!

The ground wrecked the cars from start to finish. Late one evening, our track abruptly ceased and became a river. The river crossing concluded when Paddy had burnt out his clutch, and an Italian journalist who happened to be passing used his 4×4 to drag our sorry cars to the other side. The next day the VMs got to work, and in 4 sun-baked hours, the car had been dismantled, a new
clutch fitted and Paddy was back on the road! In a couple of days, both cars had lost their bumpers, the fuel tanks had been pierced numerous times, a wishbone had been broken off (then welded back together, and then replaced by an improvised wishbone made from bits of metal in the cars), the front end of Paddy had been crumpled, and both cars had mean-looking skulls attached to their grills!

Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia and the unofficial finish line of the Rally, was spent in relative
luxury…AKA a bed. From here, we headed to the Mongolian border with Russia, approximately a
day’s drive northwards. After a night spent fixing yet another fuel leak, and an accidental fire (thanks to Pte Charlesworth and the 20l of fuel he didn’t want), we arrived at the edge of Russia. LCpl Whiston decided the cars were looking too healthy, and reversed into a lamp post, costing Paddy his rear windscreen, and the next day we attempted to cross the border itself. Once into Russia, it was best effort to the finish line in Ulan-Ude, Siberia.

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The Finish and Recovery
We rolled into Ulan-Ude, knackered and battered, late at night. We found somewhere to sleep, and waited for the morning when we could bask in our own glory. The finish-line ramp was in front of a huge statue of Lenin’s head, and once both cars were mounted, the victory cigars were lit and the basking began. The plan to start driving straight back lasted as far as the Rally-affiliated pub and their free beer, and another night was lost to Ulan-Ude. The drive back began in earnest the next day, pausing only for a dip in Lake Baikal, home to 20% of the world’s surface freshwater, and from there-on-in, it was nothing but heading for the sunset and the UK. Shortly into the return journey, Paddy’s battery melted; determined to get him home and not let him die on the road side, we push-started him countless times, and finally decided it was time to bin his battery, and rely on electrical jumps. After 4 days of hard driving, 3900 miles were covered and Russia was finally behind us. Following a well-earned rest period, the team smashed over Latvia into Riga, and boarded a boat headed for Stockholm, giving us 15 precious hours of rest, all the while covering plenty of miles! Once successfully jump-started off the ferry, the cars easily covered the drive to Dunkirk, and the final morning leg from Dover to Cottesmore, on 21 Aug, Day 33!

The Royal Logistic Corps

The Lifetime Achievement award goes to....Lt Col Fiona Gordon’s sporting career spans nearly 30 years where she has represented both the RLC and Army, as well as her running club, at cross country, athletics and trail running. Such achievements are worthy of recognition but, equally impressive, has been her dedication, energy and leadership that has inspired, encouraged, and mentored hundreds of athletes, particularly women, to participate in sport. These factors epitomise the very essence of the Lifetime Achievement Award.During her career Col Fiona has won over 60 individual titles (from unit to national master’s level) in all running disciplines ranging from 400m to an 86-mile ultra-marathon; as well as multi-terrain duathlons. In her younger years, she was twice selected to represent the Army at the Inter-Services, at a time when there was only one team of six. As a Corps sportswoman, there can’t be many (if any) athletes who, not only still finish in the top five in their Corps, but then go on to represent their Corps at the Inter-Corps Championships every time. Perhaps equally unique, she is also possibly one of the few left in the Corps that were awarded their Corps colours (for both cross country and athletics) following its formation in 1993. And, remarkably at age 51 she still finished 4th RLC female at the Corps and Inter Corps Championships. ... See MoreSee Less
The Hemming Belt is awarded to.....This season has been a Royal performance from LCpl Megan Reid culminating in her being crowned as the Scottish National Champion. She began boxing after joining The RLC in 2013 and she won an RLC title in her first season as a boxer. Thereafter, she entered the Army Individuals' Championships that same year where her natural talent shone through and she was crowned champion. Given her Scottish heritage, the following season she entered the Scottish Championships, and was narrowly beaten in the final, no mean feat for her third boxing season. Her performance in the final was outstanding and resulted in her first international call up, representing Scotland in the Great Britain Championships. LCpl Reid returned to the English Championships in 2017, this time going one step further and gaining a Silver medal. Since then she has represented The RLC, Army, UK Armed Forces and Scotland at the highest level in the European Championships and twice at the World Championships. LCpl Reid has represented the Corps and the Army with a style that most boxers and other sportsmen and sportswomen aspire. She is a credit to her Unit, The RLC and the Army and a role model for all aspiring athletes and soldiers. She has achieved so much in such a short space of time where, looking to the future, her Gold at her National Championships means that she is the unrivalled queen of RLC Boxing and is duly nominated for the award of the Hemming Belt. ... See MoreSee Less
The Lifetime achievement award goes to.....Cpl Keleni Drummond has been a Corps and Army sportswoman since she joined the Army in 2001 at the age of 21. Her military sporting career began on the Rugby pitch, but it did not take long for Basketball and Netball players to scout her for their respective teams; she has played all three sports at Corps level from inception. By the time of her assignment to 17 Port and Maritime Regiment in 2007, Cpl Drummond had represented the Army at Rugby, Netball and Basketball. Sadly, during an Army Rugby fixture against the Farnborough Women's Team she was badly injured and had to take a break from the pitch to focus on rehabilitation. Dedicated and focused to recuperate, by 2009 she was back fighting fit and switched her focus to both Netball and Basketball. Cpl Drummond’s sporting successes are numerous and varied where, in addition to representing the UK Armed Forces Basketball Team from 2016 - 2018, she captained the Corps Netball Team from 2012 - 2014 leading the RLC to Inter-Corps victory three years in a row, including representing the Army during this period. In spite of her previous injury Cpl Drummond put her rugby boots back on in 2019 to re-join the Corps Team in winning the Inter-Corp Rugby 10s, 15s and the Palestine Cup. She continued her successful leadership streak and captained the Army Masters Netball Team to success at the 2020 Inter-Services Championships. Corporal Drummond is one of the most decorated multi-sport sportswomen in the Corps. In her 20-year career to date she has competed at Regimental level in countless sports, but has truly flourished as a Corps, Army and UKAF player in Rugby, Netball and Basketball. Cpl Drummond represents the very best of her generation and fully deserves recognition for The RLC Sports Awards Outstanding Achievement category. ... See MoreSee Less