Vic Goddard, the head teacher of Passmores Academy from the hit Channel 4 series Educating Essex, got an unusual visitor last year: a rough tough Marine Major who wanted to know if he should allow Channel 4 to film the harsh – and secretive – world of Marine training.
The visitor, Major David Tyce from the Royal Marines press office and an active combat soldier, asked Goddard whether he should allow the cameras from the Two Four Productions team into the sensitive world of the Marines’ only training centre at Lympstone in Devon.
Two Four is the company behind Educating Essex and Educating Yorkshire, the two successful so-called fixed rig show shows which lift the lid on school life using hidden cameras. They use the same technique in Royal Marines Commando School.
“I went to speak to [Goddard] to get his reassurance just so I could pass that reassurance on,” Major Tyce told RadioTimes.com.
“It is an invasive process,” said the soldier who added that that the Marines corps receives a request “on a weekly basis” to film at Lympstone.
“It took a long time to reassure people, particularly at Lympstone, that this wasn’t going to be Big Brother, cameras on 24/7 just hoovering up vast quantities of meaningless rubbish.
“[My job was to] try to persuade people at Lympstone that we were in safe hands here.”
Asked whether there were moments in the finished series he was not happy with, Tyce admitted that there had been “some issues” but added: “We didn’t have editorial control but nor would we want it. This is not a programme [made] by the Royal Marines.”
The eight-part documentary placed hidden cameras in scores of areas of the training centre last January and February, a period comprising roughly nine of the 32-week training process.
Touted as the most revealing glimpse into life inside the Royal Marines in it’s 350-year history, it shows a group of young men trying – and sometimes failing – to pass the exacting training process and become one of around 6,000 Royal Marines Commandos currently serving today.
At one point a hopeful is shown fighting back tears after failing a physical test and his commanding officer later observing: “These people are going to Afghanistan to shoot people in the face. If they cry because they fail a gym test I have no patience.”
Some trainees refused to be filmed for the documentary while some scenes had to be censored on security grounds.
“There are guys in special forces who worked with us who don’t want to be on camera,” said Major Simon Tucker, the liaison officer between the Marines and the producers at Lympstone.
Tyce said the film was important in showing what the Marines did and how they were trained, especially now the life of the Corps was changing following the withdrawal from combat operations in Afghanistan.
“This is not a recruiting video he said,” pointing out that the Marines probably did not need to make one as applications are oversubscribed.
Around 10,000 potential recruits apply for the first stages of the process of joining the Royal Marines with around 680 qualifying for the coveted Green Beret each year.
Royal Marines Commando School starts airing on Channel 4 in July
Ben has worked as a professional journalist specialising in TV and the arts for nearly twenty years. After a two year stint on local newspapers in the mid 1990s, he spent more than 5 years as the broadcast reporter at the Stage newspaper. Following that he enjoyed staff reporting positions at the Sunday Mirror and the Sunday Times breaking stories and writing features before settling as a full time freelance writing for an array of newspapers and magazines - but mainly for the Guardian, Evening Standard, Broadcast, Independent and the New Statesman where he wrote a column.