Dozens of steely fitness buffs put on an impressive display of physical and mental resolve in a charitable Commando-style showdown on Exmouth beach.
Competitors adept in the fitness phenomenon CrossFit came from gyms across the South West to compete in the inaugural Re-Org Commando Beach Assault on Saturday. Spectators gathered to witness the spectacle throughout the afternoon which involved a series of gruelling, high-octane Royal Marines inspired fitness challenges on and off the beach.
The event marks the centenary year of the Zeebrugge Raid which occurred on April 23rd 2018, during the First World War and is one of the Royal Marines’ major battle honours.
The event was organised by Royal Marines Physical Training Instructor, Corporal Tom Merriman from Exmouth in aid of the Royal Marines Charity and Exmouth based military mental health organisation Rock 2 Recovery.
Rock 2 Recovery is a not-for-profit organisation supported by the Royal Marines Charity and was co-founded by Jason Fox, from Plymouth, one of four instructors on Channel 4’s SAS: Who Dares Wins and former Royal Marines’ sniper Jamie Sanderson and now has six UK-wide clinics including in Exmouth. Both men’s own battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder inspired them to set-up the organisation.
“Events like this are great fundraisers while helping to connect military personnel with the community,” said Jamie, who spent 18 years as a sniper with deployments to Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Afghanistan twice, and has a more sobering message about veterans’ mental health care:
“Most of the people we see have been through the clinical mental health care system and tried medication,” he continued. “They’ve done everything they should and could do, and many of them have found two things; firstly they’ve had to wait too long, sometimes a year, for an appointment, and secondly, the approach doesn’t help them.”
Jamie explains that while the trauma technique of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is used by the National Health Service, a similar and, in his opinion, more effective technique, called Integral Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT) is not yet mainstream.
“A lot of veterans get discharged, as I did, having tried all the options available, but aren’t better,” Jamie added. “We want clinical mental health care to work, and this has to be the first approach, but when, for some people, it doesn’t, we are here.”
Also on the beach was The Old Soldier, representing the fictional odyssey of a wayfaring First World War sergeant suffering from shell shock, who has come home to present day English soil from the trenches of rural France. The project was the idea of a photographer and historian also with experience of PTSD, former Royal Marines sergeant Al Webb and Dan Elliot who were also at the event. Juxtaposed against the backdrop of modern day society, the Old Soldier is an evocative figure representing the organisation’s message, with the story played out on the Rock 2 Recovery Facebook page and via its own site, www.oldsoldiermedia.com.
Rock 2 Recovery works closely with the Re-Org Foundation which was co-founded by Cpl Merriman and provides a platform for serving personnel and veterans to help combat the challenges of mental and physical disabilities through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and functional fitness.
“Physical fitness has always been part of my life and helped me stay focused and keep strong mentally,” added Cpl Merriman. “I want people to realise that this could work for them too. Both Rock 2 Recovery and Re-Org receive funding from the Royal Marines Charity so this is our way of saying thank you.”
By guest writer Fran McElhone
Words and images by Fran McElhone at mettleandmirth.co.uk