SWINDON acted as a warzone for apprentice army majors this week, with students from the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom training in the town.

Students on the Intermediate Command and Staff Course at Shrivenham, from the army division of the Joint Staff College, descended on the town and its rural surroundings on Wednesday and yesterday, working through various planning exercises.

The students and their course leaders spent time on the airfield at the decommissioned RAF Wroughton, the car park in Carfax Street and at Lawns park.

The town is not only used by the defence academy because of its proximity, but it has a terrain suited to the operations the course leaders are trying to prepare their students for when it comes to the real thing.

Colonel Charles Calder, one of the course leaders, said: “They are at the start of the phase of operational planning and we have brought them out to the Swindon area, where we can look at theoretical tactical problems.

“They have to come up with some solutions as to how they would approach a military situation.

“It’s close to home, but Swindon is very good for us. You have a good view of the urban terrain, high-rise buildings, terraced houses and industrial real estate. We come here once every three months and do similar work. The students seem to enjoy it, with getting out and about on operations.”

The 30-week course currently includes 180 students, who were deployed to Swindon across the two days.

The group in town yesterday began their course in September and expect to finish in April.

Ade Clayton, one of the students in Lawns yesterday, said: “This is a tactical exercise without troops.

“We spent some time in the classroom, planning operations around this area.

“We went through all these exercises before Christmas, but today we are working it out on the ground, seeing how it all stands up.

“This is quite a good area because it is quite rural around Swindon.”

The group does not base Swindon on any particular real-life battleground. It is used as a virtual platform for the types of issues which might be thrown up in the future.

“Five years ago it might’ve been Iraq or Afghanistan, but these are finishing now, so the army is dropping back to a contingency approach,” said Ade.

“We are trying to make ourselves agile enough to operate anywhere in the world, if necessary.

“These are random scenarios, based on threats we could face in combat.”