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A combined British and French naval fleet used their helicopters and landing craft to evacuate civilians to safety.

HMS Ocean, HMS Bulwark, Hartland Point and French assault ship FS Dixmude staged the evacuation in what you have probably guessed was a mock humanitarian crisis. A dozen helicopters and 250 Royal Marines were also involved.

The use of Corsica as a ‘war-torn’ island was billed as a major test of the ability of British and French militaries to work side-by-side. For the past week, around 2,000 British and French sailors, soldiers, flight crew and marines have been engaged on Exercise Corsican Lion.

The exercise is part of the effort to create a Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, an amphibious task group which the British and French military can form to respond to international crises.

The fleet spent three days training off Corsican coast before the active phase of the exercise.

According to the Royal Navy press release, at dawn on Sunday 130 Royal Marines from 45 Commando were airlifted ashore in waves from the Dixmude – British Apache gunships, Chinook and Wildcat helicopters were among those supporting the effort – so they could secure the evacuation site where 40 British and French sailors playing the part of evacuees were waiting to be saved. With the perimeter secure, the ‘civilians’ were brought back to Dixmude and Bulwark by helicopter and landing craft.

The task group is presently scheduled to return to Devonport in December.

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