8 NAVY NEWS, FEBRUARY 2009
SIX thousand roaring spectators, the glare of spotlights, “the world’s coldest hardened aircraft shelter” and a
the adrenaline pumping. And best of all, the chance to track that was just a little bit too short to practise on.
beat the Crabs. So there you have it. A makeshift team. Two days’
A scratch RN-led team of fi eld gunners stepped out training in less-than-ideal facilities. Yes, it was all set up
into the lion’s den of Birmingham’s National Indoor for a famous underdog victory.
Arena for the 20th anniversary military tattoo, fi lling a And we’d like to tell you that experience triumphed
last- minute void left by the Army. over youth. But we’d be lying.
With the Glasshouse (aka the Military Nevertheless they opened their account with a triumph
Corrective Training Centre over Cosford – and discovered that the indoor arena’s
in Colchester) unable surface made the race “something akin to fi eld gun on
to provide a team, the ice,” said systems engineer ‘Mickey’ Rooney.
call went out around the Proof of that came on the second day of the event;
Services for a replacement – the limber took on a life of its own and performed a
with just two weeks to go. powerslide down the track when the Abbey Wood team
The gauntlet was picked up (largely failed to connect to the gun for the run home.
but not solely by RN personnel) at So defeat, yes, but far from an ignoble one – and an
Abbey Wood who ‘borrowed’ legendary experience none of the 18 runners will forget.
fi eld gun trainer Lt Mal Tonge from “The excitement and build-up of tension as the two
Portsmouth and headed to RAF Cosford crews waited to march on is impossible to describe with
for a mere two days of training. hearts thumping and passion rising,” enthused Lt Cdr
The (admittedly considerably younger) Charlie Deal, Abbey Wood fi eld gun offi cer.
RAF chaps – the Abbey Wood team’s “You have the roar of a 6,000-strong crowd, the pride
opponents come race day – of being part of a crew, the feeling as you march out into sound for
gave the 18 Bristol gunners the arena – and the competition are right beside you.
(actually drawn from all “Both crews were very much a credit to the Services
over the military, including and the fi eld gun ethos – rivals on the track, comrades
Culdrose and Catterick), above all – came to the fore once again.”
FOR most ships, one’s enough.
Two is a rare luxury.
And three, well three is just
No, we’re not talking about
Shredded Wheat at breakfast
time but ship’s bells – and HMS
Illustrious now has three.
For aside from the one cast for
the current carrier when she was
built nearly three decades ago,
there are two ‘newcomers’ aboard
the famous fl at-top.
Actually, we say ‘new’, but both
are more than six decades old.
The Portsmouth-based strike
carrier has been presented with
two bells once prominent in her
The fi rst was the original bell
of Illustrious IV; it was damaged
by shrapnel (pictured above by
Illustrious’ LA(Phot) Darby Allen)
when the carrier was dive-
bombed by the Luftwaffe whilst
delivering aircraft to Malta.
The damaged warship was sent
to the safety of Norfolk, Virginia,
Picture: LS Chris Browne
for repairs – where she spent
several months, plenty of time to
cast a new bell.
She returned to the
Mediterranean and continued to
serve with distinction until being
dispatched to the Far East for
the fi nal onslaught against the
Japanese Empire, during which
time she was severely damaged by
The ship eventually paid off in
1954 and was broken up in the
late 50s in Faslane, but her two
The original eventually ended
up at the Fleet Air Arm Museum,
where it had the power to move
veterans to tears, director Graham
Mottram explained as he loaned
the bell to the present-day Lusty.
One of the ship’s chaplains was
reduced to tears when he saw the
bell; it reminded him of the men
he committed to the ocean after
the enemy attacks.
“I don’t know of an artefact
that I’ve seen affect a veteran in
such a dramatic and emotional
way,” said Mr Mottram.
The second bell was held
by the Association of British
Insurers; its director general,
Stephen Haddrill, handed it over
to Illustrious’ CO Capt Steve
“It’s a great honour to have two
signifi cant pieces of Illustrious’
history on board,” said Capt ● The diving team prepare a comrade before he plunges into the chilly waters of Loch Laggan, nearly
900ft above sea level Chick.
“They emphasise the proud
specialist legal advice
history and tradition that the
name HMS Illustrious carries.
“Ships bells have always been
to forces personnel Divers with altitude
a focal point for the ship and are
still used for christenings.”
Suffered a Military Injury?
THINK of sport at altitude. by PO(D) Richard Walker, using the Open Space
Bob Beamon leaping majestically through the Diving System kit.
We deal with all types of injury claim involving
thin air of Mexico City, Gordon Banks making The reason?
that save. Perhaps a trek through the Himalayan There’s always the possibility that naval divers
We can assist you with your claim under the
foothills or a climb to Macchu Picchu. might be called on to recover a downed helicopter,
new AFCS and advise you on whether to
A Scottish loch in the depths of winter oddly a car that’s careered into a lake, perhaps some
THE ‘ghost fl eet’ of aged
pursue your claim in the civil courts under our doesn’t seem quite as enticing. weaponry ditched by an aircraft, searching for
destroyers in Portsmouth
‘no win no fee’ specialist military legal And this wasn’t a question of sport but bodies or even improvised explosive device (ie Harbour has fi nally dispersed.
potentially a matter of life and death as the leading bomb) disposal.
HMS Cardiff, Newcastle and
seaman divers professional qualifying course (for Diving at altitude poses extra challenges –
Glasgow had been awaiting their
the record, the 89th) headed to Loch Laggan in the and dangers – for the frogmen, compounded at
fate in Fareham Creek since
Highlands for the RN’s fi rst altitude diving in more Laggan by the relatively inaccessibility of the spot
being paid off in 2005.
than 20 years. the team wished to dive on.
Nigel Burn and Gilbert
contact With no buyers willing to take
The loch, about an hour’s drive north-east of The road ended a good 400 metres from the
Blades are well known for
Nigel Burn or Tean Butcher on the vessels as working ships,
Bank Street, Lincoln LN2 1DR
Fort William, is the largest freshwater lake in the water’s edge, which meant the divers had to lug
the trio are being broken up (or
their Courts Martial
Tel: 01522 512345 between 9am - 5.15pm
United Kingdom. (technical term) all their kit manually to the loch.
‘recycled’ in modern parlance) in
expertise throughout the
or for Military Discipline Matters only contact
It also sits 272 metres (890ft) above sea level. For all the cold, for all the physical and technical
UK and Europe. Nigel Burn Mob: 07775 860608 after 6pm But what’s the big deal? diffi culties, the men came back from Laggan Newcastle and Cardiff were
Well, we’re glad you asked. Altitude diving incurs beaming.
towed out of Portsmouth at the
We can also advise on:
extra decompression penalties – the amount of “They said it was the best thing on the course,”
end of 2008.
time it takes to decompress to ensure that divers said course offi cer Lt Shaun Mckeever. “It was
Glasgow, which survived an
don’t suffer from the bends. cold, it was challenging, but the guys loved it.”
Argentine bomb passing through
In simple terms, the guys planned and conducted Indeed, the offi cer hopes after the 20-year
her during the Falklands War, was
a 30-metre (98ft) rummage around in chilly Loch hiatus, altitude diving will become a permanent
the last of the sisters to head to
Wills Loggan as if they were carrying out a 42-metre fi xture in the leading seaman diver’s course.
(137ft) dive into the ocean. For more details on the clearance diving branch
Tugs hauled her out of
A LEADING SPECIALIST IN MILITARY LAW
Four diving serials were carried out by the in general, contact WO(D) Steve Strange at the
harbour, watched by a smattering
trainee air supervisors and their overseers, led Defence Diving School on 023 9222 4037.
of veterans on Round Tower.
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