Dereham girl training for war in Africa

A former Litcham High School student is preparing for fighting in Afghanistan in the deserts of Africa. Twenty-year-old Maxine Webb is due to spend five weeks in the East African Savannah training with the Germany-based 3 Royal Horse Artillery, currently attached with 2 Royal Anglians.


A former Litcham High School student is preparing for fighting in Afghanistan by training in the deserts of Africa.

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Twenty-year-old Maxine Webb is spending five weeks in the East African savannah training with the Germany-based 3 Royal Horse Artillery, attached with 2 Royal Anglians.

The gunner, who joined the Army in 2007, has already spent a week in the hot and harsh terrain as part of Exercise Grand Prix.

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Its aim is to replicate the realities of military operations in a hot climate with temperatures of 40 degrees. Troops have to consume six litres of water a day to keep hydrated.

Maxine's job is operating a 105mm light artillery gun and she has served in Afghanistan.

"The heat is full on and there has to be lots of hard grafting but we are getting the job done," she said. "I am one of only two girls in this job here, but it isn't a problem."

Maxine, whose parents Mark and Katherine live in Dereham, took part in a range of live-firing exercises offered from the newly built forward operating base - FOB Rock - at Archer's Post.

Located in a remote area, Maxine was positioned behind a reinforced wall and responded to enemy attacks firing shells from the 105mm light artillery guns.

Her main responsibility was ensuring the gun was targeted correctly - if she was so much as a millimetre out, it could result in a shell being fired more than 100 meters off target.

She said "It's tough and there is quite a lot of pressure, as the accuracy of these guns is all down to me - in real operations it could be the difference between hitting an enemy compound or a civilian school, but I haven't made a mistake yet and being here is a good opportunity to prepare yourself for what conditions are like in Afghanistan.

"In the scenario here we were on rest and suddenly the camp came under fire, we retaliated firing the guns into the enemy positions in the surrounding rocks and mountainous area."

Actors were used to help soldiers learn to deal with foreign cultures and they also worked alongside the Kenyan Army.

In one exercise scenario infantrymen had to help protect a convoy travelling to a village to meet a witch doctor and the local elders - surrounded by an array of giraffes, elephants and gazelles.

Maxine, whose brother Pte Alistair Webb is an infantryman in 1 Royal Anglians, said: "I have really enjoyed being here.

"We are working in realistic conditions and of course it's great to see all the wildlife - the other day I saw a group of baboons."

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