Fan Dance (exercise)
"Exercise High Walk", more commonly known as the Fan Dance, is part of the Fitness and Navigation phase of the selection process for the United Kingdom's Special Forces, as well as 16 Air Assault Brigade's Pathfinder Platoon. In the past it was used as a test on P Company during the Brecon Beacons Steel Bayonet phase (although a different route) and is still used as part of the Platoon Sergeant's Senior's Course at the Infantry Battle School, Brecon, Wales. The Fan Dance is a 15-mile (24 km) load bearing march (in military parlance, a Tactical Advance to Battle or TAB) that typically takes place at the end of the first week of the selection course. It is used as the first major indicator of whether a candidate has the physical and mental aptitude to complete the selection course.
The candidates are divided into two groups and each starts from opposite sides of Pen y Fan, a 2,907-foot-high (886 m) peak. One group starts at Torpantau railway station in Taf Fechan Forest, the other at the Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre. Each candidate carries a 45-pound (20 kg) Bergen backpack, a rifle (a further 10 pounds (4.5 kg)), food and 4 one-litre water bottles (an extra 10 pounds (4.5 kg)). The candidates climb Pen y Fan's west slope (facing Corn Du) and then descend on the far side, known as Jacob's Ladder. The rest of the route follows the old Roman road before going back on itself for the return leg. Candidates are allowed four hours to complete the march in summer, and 10 hours in instances of adverse winter weather conditions. The Fan Dance is a DS (Directing Staff) led group march but is essentially down to the individual's own effort. The Special Forces Selection Fan Dance takes place bi-annually, with a winter and summer version.
In 2013, three candidates for the Special Forces died attempting the Fan Dance. In 2016, following an inquest into their deaths, the UK Ministry of Defence was given Crown Censure for their deaths. The report on the incident by the UK Health and Safety Executive concluded that "failure to plan, assess, and manage risks associated with climatic illness during the training" resulted in the deaths of the three men, and heat illness suffered by ten other candidates. Two junior officers subsequently faced a court martial over the incident, but were acquitted in September 2018.
- Curtis, Mike: "C.Q.B.", 1997
- McNab, Andy: "Immediate Action" 1995
- "MoD to be censured over SAS Brecon Beacons deaths". The Guardian. 2 March 2016.
- "Men acquitted after fatal SAS march in Brecon Beacons". BBC News. 18 September 2018.
- The Fan Dance, BBC Radio 4