Thousands of Ukrainian “combat casualty replacements” are being trained in England
The UK has started to turn the first thousand Ukrainian recruits into frontline soldiers at four bases across England, safe from Russian missile fire, it can be revealed.
The new troops, operating in groups of around 200, arrived from Ukraine every day to take part in a specially condensed training program offered by British soldiers. They will then return home to fight the invading Russian forces.
British commanders are aiming to have 2,400 recruits rotating through the course at any one time as they mobilize to meet the target of training up to 10,000 Ukrainians every 120 days.
With Ukraine losing up to 200 soldiers every 24 hours in its war against Russia, the ability to generate manpower is vital. They are “combat casualty replacements”, said a senior officer.
Completing the training program in the UK gives recruits the chance to learn from British soldiers and – importantly – protects them from the threat of Russian attacks.
A Ukrainian training center was hit in an airstrike last month as a number of trainees prepared to make their journey to Britain, a Ukrainian officer has revealed.
“We think that [a] The Russian military organization knew that we were preparing to go to the UK to study and prepare our soldiers and that’s why they carried out an airstrike on our base,” said the 26-year-old lieutenant, who asked remain anonymous.
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He was speaking at a military training camp in northwest England where British soldiers are teaching around 600 recruits basic infantry skills as part of the new training mission.
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The Ministry of Defense asked Sky News and other news organizations to keep the location secret for security reasons.
Ben Wallace, the defense secretary and potential candidate to become the next prime minister, visited the site on Thursday to meet recruits and speak with commanders.
“Training matters,” he said in an interview during the trip. “When you’re at war and you’re against Russia, you have to make sure you can be the best you can be and that’s the process we follow here.”
“A lot of recruits had never touched a weapon before”
He signaled that the UK could offer to train even more than the target of 10,000 recruits.
“If Ukrainians ask for more, we will be open to more,” Wallace said.
When asked how much, he replied, “We could do thousands and thousands.”
With speed being a priority given that their country is at war, Ukrainian recruits are turned into infantry at a much faster rate than any peacetime British recruits.
It usually takes six months to complete basic infantry training for soldiers in the UK; Ukrainians are expected to complete the course in a matter of weeks.
They are taught a range of skills, especially how to shoot straight, how to survive in the open, and how to deal with blast and gunshot wounds.
Aged 18 to 60, many recruits had never touched a weapon before.
They are civilians who only made the decision to join the army in the last few days and weeks. The majority of recruits were men, but a unit would be made up of 20% women.
One of the new entrants was a 34-year-old e-commerce manager.
“I was sitting in my office and relaxed and used to drink my coffee, go about my routine all day and everything changed since February 24,” said the rookie, father of one.
“It’s taken time to make sure my family and loved ones are safe, but right now I’m ready to stand up and do my best to protect everything that’s precious to me.”
“Extraordinary levels of motivation”
British coaches said Ukrainian motivation levels were extraordinary, with the new troops working from 6 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. every day, seven days a week.
Sky News saw a group of trainees learning to load AK rifles, while another group took turns firing live ammunition at targets on a shooting range.
British instructors, paired with Ukrainian interpreters, shouted orders to fire at cardboard cutouts of soldiers placed about 200 yards across a field.
“Ready!” shouted a trainer as the rookies lay on the ground with guns pointed.
“Ten shots, center target, shoot at your own pace!” said the coach, urging the Ukrainians to let go.
A second instructor said their aim was pretty poor initially, but after a few days the majority of shots – around 80% – were hitting the right spot.
“For these guys, this is the first time some of them have touched a weapon system, so I’d say they’re either on par or getting there,” the Lance Corporal said. Philip Lourens, 28 years old.
Like a number of instructors, he took part in a training mission the UK provided to Ukrainian forces in Ukraine before Russia launched its all-out war earlier this year.
The Lance Corporal has signaled that he would rather help in Ukraine again than remotely.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s not up to me, but I would love to hang out with them. We see them as brothers in arms here. We would see them as brothers in arms everywhere.”
Principle of “survive to adapt”
The ratio of instructor to trainee that the UK can offer is around 1:10 or 1:15 – much higher than what they would receive in Ukraine.
The training is provided by the 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Justin Stenhouse.
He said it was essential to teach recruits how to deal with the two main threats they will face on the front line in Ukraine: Russian artillery and trench warfare. This meant the course was built around the principle of “surviving to adapt”, Brigadier Stenhouse said.
“So that in the first few weeks of fighting they learn as quickly as they can, the attacking spirit, and actually they can trust their basic training, we understood that this will keep them alive and enable them to go into battle,” he added.