Stuart adds Army combat boat handling to his Dartmoor waterway skills

Laura White
Laura White

Stuart Ross admits he has a ‘dream job’ as a leatsman looking after 200-year-old Dartmoor waterways that power a small hydro-electric plant.

But weekends are just as fulfilling for the 39-year-old from Princetown who has been learning to handle a powerful Combat Support Boat as an Army Reservist with 165 Port & Maritime Regiment in Plymouth.

Stuart, a 39-year-old Lance-Corporal has been a Reservist since 2002, when he joined 168th Pioneer Regiment, and he was mobilised for Op Telic in Iraq the following year.

After the Pioneers were disbanded, Stuart transferred to 165 Port & Maritime which was in the process of being re-roled from a transport regiment.

“Apart from the Army skills of teamwork, leadership and other military things I learned with the Pioneers, this is an entirely different skill set. I’m a Class 3 mariner which involves boat handling and learning about navigation.

“Even on a Friday night after a week working in all weathers, I enjoy getting back into the swing of things with my mates in the Regiment.”

Stuart, who studied countryside management at Bicton College in East Devon, is employed by South West Water to maintain leats feeding Mary Tavy hydropower station 10 miles from his home at Princetown.

“The ones I look after once powered watermills and kept the mines dry,” he explained. “Nowadays they produce electricity. It’s the same principle and the same job that guys would have been doing 200 years ago.

“I keep the water flowing by removing weed and other debris and dredging the leat, then doing a bit of stonewalling and bank building.”

Other members of 165 Regiment have just returned from annual training camp in Cyprus. They have deployed there twice in the last four years in support of the UN peacekeeping operations.

Reservists with 165 Regiment work alongside Regular counterparts at 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, at home and around the world.

As part of the unit’s port operator role, Reservists learn vessel stowage skills, including driving forklift trucks, and how to manage and run a port.

In addition to its HQ at Derriford, 165 Regiment has other sub-units in Bodmin, Southampton, Banbury (Oxfordshire) and Aylesbury (Buckinghamshire).

The Regiment is constantly involved in operations and sends soldiers on deployment around the world, most recently to Jordan, Canada, Germany, Norway, France, Afghanistan and the Falkland Islands.

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