Tracking is a vast subject and is not all about following the footprints in the sand. I am not a tracker, I class myself as track aware. The following is true and the ground conditions were 60% easy / 40% moderate, there was no ground I considered hard to track over.
In the summer of 1992 whilst working with my battalions reconnaissance platoon, we took part in a three week exercise acting as an enemy force for D Squadron 22 SAS. The training was in Scotland, and was predominately forestry with some small areas of open heathland. Our mission was to protect a RAF operational radar site and communications mast. D Squadrons mission was to observe us for a minimum of ten days, then destroy the radar and mast sites. Eight men were based at the mast site with the remaining twenty-two at the radar site.
We used to send out four-man clearance patrols both day and night at random times. We worked on a rough time scale of one hour for every five hundred metres we wanted to cover. When you are looking for sign of your enemy whilst moving tactically, you don’t want to be in a hurry. Sometimes we would patrol slower, the ground and situation dictates your speed. In my four-man team I was lead scout, on two separate occasions I found discarded kit that had been misplaced by the enemy. With out going into great detail, both items were cleared for VOIED’s ( booby traps) The first item was a used foil boil in the bag, it had been rolled up and taped together. My deduction was that it came out of the soldier’s kit by accident, as there were areas of flattened grass where four men and their kit had been. Lesson one: always clear your areas, BUT, maybe it was dark and torches are generally not an option. The second item was a right angle torch, this was found in a drainage ditch on the approach road to the radar site. The proximity of the find led me to deduct that an enemy soldier had crawled up the ditch in order to close target recce our gate defences, in order to see if a “David Stirling raid” was an option. Lesson two: secure your kit, BUT, **** happens.
Whilst on another clearance patrol I came across ground sign of a four man patrol. We tracked them for approximately two kilometres down grass rides and through conifer plantations. As I worked my way through a spruce plantation I spotted them laid up thirty metres ahead of me. We shook out into a well rehearsed formation and “bumped” them, they did not return fire. We then bugged out pretty sharpish, we rallied, then put in a snap ambush in case of supporting patrols in the area trying to follow up and hit back. Nothing happened so we patrolled back to the radar site. On all three of these occasions I / we were debriefed by the D Squadron Sgt Major. We were congratulated for our “training kill” and he confirmed my deductions for the items of kit I found. He promised that both soldiers would pay a heavy bar bill for there misdemeanours, along with a quite word in the ear.
The reason I wrote this is not to big up myself or my three mates, I wrote it to make a point. Most people have heard of 22 SAS, so, even when your reputation proceeds you. Even when you are highly trained and experienced. Even when you go to great lengths to hide you’re passing. WE ALL LEAVE SIGN.
P.S. They killed us with an air strike.