Unit History: BATUS
The British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS) is a unit located at the vast training area of Canadian Forces Base Suffield in Alberta, Canada. BATUS is generally regarded as the British Army’s largest armoured training field in the world and it can accommodate live-firing exercises up to the brigade level.
The Suffield area was first utilised by the British forces during the Second World War. A British chemical weapons testing facility was located in French-controlled Algeria, however, upon the conquest of France by Germany, the facility was lost. The British could find no suitable location in the UK and thus an agreement was signed between Canada and the UK to allow the Suffield area to become available to British scientists for testing. Consequently, British and Canadian forces employed the area for a variety of experiments. Upon the end of WWII, the British departed the Suffield area and it was formally taken over by the Canadian Defence Research Board.
In 1969, Colonel Gaddafi orchestrated a coup in Libya, and duly took control of the country and proceeded to, after negotiations, close down British military installations located at El Adem and Tobruk, and additionally American installations located near Tripoli. This presented the UK with quite a dilemma as there were no suitably expansive areas to allow the British Army to undertake armoured warfare exercises on a suitably large scale in Europe. Thus, in 1971, a 10-year lease was signed between the British and Canadian Governments that authorised battle group training to take place in the Suffield area by the British Army. In January 1972 the British Army Training Unit Suffield was formally established. In July the first live rounds were fired by the 4th Royal Tank Regiment Battle Group. In 1981 the lease for Suffield was extended and in 1991, the lease was again extended. In 2006, on the expiration of this lease, the British and Canadian governments concluded an agreement that will allow British forces to maintain their training practices in Canada indefinitely .
Just over 30 Challenger 2 tanks, numerous armoured personnel carriers (APC) and 29 (BATUS) Flight Army Air Corps are allocated to BATUS. A single regiment is dispatched to Canada on a 6-month deployment to perform the role of ’enemy’ for the 6 regiments that annually take part in a variety of exercises that last for approximately 6 weeks. It provides invaluable training for the British Army that they would otherwise mostly not experience.