Saffas in Uniform: Mischa Dubr

Saffas in Uniform: Mischa Dubrovo | Royal Marine

After excelling at the extremely demanding team sport of rowing at St Benedict’s College, Mischa decided to make a career of teamwork by signing up for the Royal Marines, which first meant passing what is arguably the working world’s toughest physical challenge.

Saffas in Uniform: Mischa Dubr
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The ‘before’ photo: Mischa Dubrovo, ex-Durbanite and St Benedicts old boy, about to endure one of the supreme physical and mental challenges in the world

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After excelling at the extremely demanding team sport of rowing at St Benedict’s College, Mischa decided to make a career of teamwork by signing up for the Royal Marines, which first meant passing what is arguably the working world’s toughest physical challenge. 

What is your current rank and age?
My rank is Marine (Mne) and I am 23 years old. 

Why the Royal Marines?
I heard about the reputation that the Royal Marines had, and I researched a bit more to get an idea of how challenging it was. The more I researched, the more interested I became. I compared the basic training program to other branches, but always found that the Royal Marine basic training seemed longer and more physically challenging. Thus, I decided to give it a go! 

Is this the toughest basic training in the world?
I cannot compare the Royal Marine basic training to any of the Eastern countries, however I do know that the Royal Marine basic training course is the most mentally and physically demanding basic course in the entire western world. 

What are the steps needed to apply to the Marines as a South African?
It is quite simple really – make a phone call to the application office, get the forms posted to your home address and fill in the forms from there. However, the academic and physical tests to get selected for training all need to be completed in the UK. Only once an applicant has passed each academic and physical test successfully in the correct order is the applicant accepted as a recruit and is ready to begin the 32 weeks of basic training. 

What experiences in your life would you say helped you prepare for the rigours of training?
I came from a family that struggled financially which gave us no choice but to be mentally tough during certain day-to-day challenges. I also rowed for my high school (St Benedict’s College) which is the second most difficult endurance sport in the world, as well as played rugby. Both sports gave me a great sense of teamwork as well as cheerfulness in the face of adversity. 

Could you take us through the basic steps required to receive your green beret?
The 32 weeks of training culminate in four Commando Tests. These are the final proof that a recruit is ready for his green beret and can start as a Royal Marine Commando or continue to Young Officer training. These four tests are done within the space of seven days. The commando tests are as follows:

Photos of the tunnel course from
  • 1. The Endurance Course (Saturday)

You will work your way through two miles (3.2 km) of tunnels, pools, streams, bogs and woods, then run four miles back to camp, all while you’re in combat equipment (21lbs/9.5kg) and carrying a weapon(10lbs/4.5kg), and all in less than 73 minutes. When you get back, you’ll have to get six out of 10 shots on target in a 25 metre shooting test.


  • 2. The nine-mile/14 kilometre speed march (Monday)

You need to complete this in 90 minutes, while carrying your equipment and a rifle.

GB Lightweight Men’s Rowing Squad
Images courtesy MoD
Soccer AM visit CTCRM
Images courtesy MoD
Ultimate Commando Test
Images courtesy MoD
Photos of the Tarzan course from
Images courtesy MoD
  • 3. The ‘Tarzan’ assault course (Tuesday)

An aerial slide, ropes course, assault course and 30-foot wall, which you will need to complete in 13 minutes, while carrying your equipment and a rifle.

Photos of the 30-miler course from
  • 4. The 30-mile/48 kilometre march (Wednesday)

A 30-mile march across Dartmoor, which you will need to complete in under eight hours with heavier equipment (weighing 13kg) and a rifle. Officers must cover the same route in seven hours.

Which of these were the toughest for you?
The toughest one for me was definitely the 30 miler. With 12 miles left to go both my knees were swollen and cramped up, but when a person is that close to the light, it’s amazing how much strength one will find inside themself. 

How many of those who started the course were still there at the end?
We began with 54, and out of those 54 there were only 19 that passed. 

Lympstone is very different from Johannesburg. What do you miss about SA?
Geez, waar begin ek?! The weather was a big thing for me. Being born in Durban I was used to the warm humidity of that part of SA. Another thing I miss a lot is the easygoing culture that we display and live by as a nation, and also obviously my loved ones. 

Are you a first-generation serviceman?
Within the British armed forces yes, but there were men in earlier generations from my family that served for the SA military. 

How are you treated by the public while in uniform? Is there a difference between the British public’s attitude in London and large cities versus that in rural areas?
The attitude towards people in uniform is the same from around the nation. The general public are not our greatest fans by any means. Which is weird because in the US, the majority of the public show a great support towards their servicemen and servicewomen. 

Do you receive Armed Forces discounts? Are these plentiful, or rare?
I’d say every 1 in 3 shops has a military discount option, which does help keep the wallet a bit thicker. 

If you were PM for a day, what would you change to make your job better?
I would do my best to get better combat equipment, vehicles and electronics. 

What has been the most rewarding single experience you’ve had in training/in the Marines so far?
The best feeling for me was definitely celebrating my pass out parade with my family. They were always behind me no matter what, but having them physically there with me on the day of my pass out parade was absolutely priceless.

What is the biggest misconception about your job amongst people you know, or amongst the broader public?
People outside the walls generally think we are all violent, blood hungry, angry convicts, which is pretty far from the truth. 

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32 weeks later, a newly-minted Marine M Dubrovo
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Mischa at home with Lesle, his mother and greatest supporter throughout

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