Friday, 1 May 2009

Stanford Training Area: MoD builds Darwishan in England's green and pleasant land

In the dark days of the Second World War villagers living in 30,000 acres of quiet Norfolk countryside (2% of Norfolk in fact) were evicted from their homes and farms to make way for the Army's Stanford Training Area (Stanta). The rolling fields and pastures were considered ideal for preparing Allied troops for the up-and-coming assault on German-occupied Europe. During the Cold War the Stanta training facilities were updated in line with the need to prepare for war with the Soviets and the mock village of "Eastmere" was built, presumably to mimic an East European kolkhoz. These facilities were also suitable for training troops prior to their deployment to Northern Ireland.
Now in the age of the War on Terror, the MoD has revamped the training area once again and has spent £14million on building a Middle Eastern landscape complete with villages, Afghan tribesmen, bazaars, mosques and hamams - the smell of cooking food wafts through the streets and even synthetic aromas, such as rotten meat and camel dung, are pumped out from aromamatics. Rumour has it that tons of sand had to be from the Maplin sandbanks, transported on massive barges up the East coast and dumped on the Norfolk fields to form a desert terrain. It is also reported that hundreds of palm trees were purchased from Saudi Arabia and transplanted onto the artificial sand dunes.

Every British soldier sent to Afghanistan - an estimated 11,000 a year - will train at the facility. The first troops to experience the meticulous level of detail, 11 Brigade, are set to arrive in two weeks' time. They are bound for Afghanistan. General Sir David Richards, Commander in Chief Land Forces, praised the camp. "These new training facilities mean that we will be giving our soldiers the very best chance to succeed in today's complex operations and return home safely."

... and just to be on the safe side: Ian Levett of Natural England said: "Natural England has worked in close partnership with the Military on this project to ensure that they have been able to fulfil their responsibilities towards nature conservation at the same time as providing their training needs. "