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Gdynia to join us

ON THE left is Her Majesty’s Ship Penzance. On the right is Her Majesty’s Ship Walney. The ‘stunning’ background is provided by the Polish

port of Gdynia. It was the duty of the ship on the left to replace the ship on the right as Walney handed over duties with NATO’s Standing Mine Counter-Measures Group 1 to her sister from Faslane. Walney – earmarked for paying off this year – was asked to join the NATO force at short notice and plug a gap... ... which she did with aplomb

Picture: LA(Phot) Simmo Simpson

It certainly is Stanley...

cup of tea… … but HMS Portland’s ET(ME) Leqetta is jumping for joy on the steps leading up to Stanley’s famous whalebone arch. Either that, or he’s trying to keep warm. For the fi rst time since arriving in the South Atlantic, the Type 23’s

permitting, ferried sailors ashore. Some made a beeline for some of Stanley’s sights (Christ Church

NOW a six-month deployment to the Falklands in the depths of the austral winter might not be everyone’s

ship’s company have visited the islands’ capital. The ship anchored in Port William Sound for four days and, weather

Cathedral, the museum, gift shops, war memorials to the battles of 1914 and 1982, the odd hostelry). Others fancied a spot of sporting action: Portland’s golf team took on Stanley Golf Club – played on a course described by the ship’s team captain CPO Les Willcock as “unique” in conditions which were “very blustery” (not entirely uncommon in the Falklands…). The more adventurous Portlanders made for Mount Harriet – scene

of fi erce fi ghting between 42 Commando and Argentine forces in the closing stages of the 1982 confl ict. The toughest challenge today’s generation faced was abseiling down the mountain face as part of team-building organised by the Hillside Adventurous Training Centre in Stanley. Meanwhile, back on board the frigate, those sailors not ashore were explaining to Falkland Island leaders what a Type 23 brings when it comes to safeguarding Britain’s South Atlantic possessions. 23s are infrequent visitors to these parts (typically, though not

exclusively, the role of South Atlantic patrol ship falls to veteran Type 42 destroyers), so CO Mike Knott and his team gave the islands’ chief executive, senior magistrate and senior policeman (the latter is also head of the prison service… fi re service… customs… emergency planning… security… and defence force) a tour of the warship and capability demonstration. Portland sailed the following Monday and embarked the Commander

British Forces South Atlantic Islands Cdre Phillip Thicknesse. The commodore met a large cross section of the ship’s company and was given a demonstration of the capability Portland brings to existing military assets in the Falklands. Almost immediately after arriving, the Type 23 was in the thick of

for five months according to the group’s Polish commander, Cdr Krzysztof Rybak, taking part in four operations and three exercises in three seas (North, Baltic and English Channel). Cdr Rybak personally thanked Lt Cdr Des Donworth and the men of Walney before they departed for the waters of the Clyde. Where she received a rapturous

welcome from friends and family, to the sound of the Band of the Royal Marines Scotland playing Rod Stewart’s Sailing. Walney’s summons to action for the 139-day deployment came at short notice when a sister ship had engine problems.

Lt Graham Boulton, Walney’s Ops Officer, said: “Every one of the ship’s company worked flat out to get the vessel ready. “If I had to sum up the challenges of the deployment then I would say that they were three- fold.

Among the families waiting on the jetty were seven members of one family, waiting for AB Sam Sheppard, the youngest sailor on board. Mum Jane said: “It’s difficult being away from Sam for such a long period, but his grandad was ex-Navy so it must be in his blood. “He’s my boy and


Poland, France, Sweden and Russia.

Lithuania, Denmark,

Baltops proved to be a real pot pourri of naval warfare – air defence, surface defence, force protection and mine warfare training.

“First there was the engineering challenge – our marine engineers worked extremely hard to keep the ship operational and really did an amazing job of keeping her running.

“Secondly there was the matter of the short notice, and the crew played a blinder to get us the stores we needed to go to sea. “The third challenge was coping with being away from our families.”

I always miss him, and as youngest on the ship you can’t help but worry.” She added: “But it’s a job he adores and he wouldn’t change it for the world. “It brings a tear to your eye to see him in uniform.” Once Walney had turned her nose homewards,

was time for Penzance to step up to the mark on Baltops (a contraction of Baltic Operations). That saw the small minehunting task group joined by elements of the US Sixth Fleet, plus military fi repower from Germany, Latvia,


Soviet rule. There Penzance and her fellow minehunters were charged with clearing the way for an amphibious landing by searching the bay for underwater explosives. The NATO group found

several live underwater explosive devices which were destroyed with the assistance of the Estonian Navy. Germany’s FGS

somehow found its way into Gulf of Finland waters.

Service pay frozen following Budget

the fi ght, taking part in war games with the Falklands’ constant naval guardian, HMS Clyde, plus the Roulemont Infantry Company (Kings Royal Hussars), 148 Battery and an RAF Hercules. The battery provided naval gunfi re support offi cers and spotters ashore to coordinate rounds hurtling out of Portland’s 4.5in main gun. With the ‘enemy’ subdued, the infantry stormed ashore via sea boats from Clyde plus a landing craft from 460 Port and Maritime Troop to secure a beachhead and advance in land. As for the Herc, it and maritime reconnaissance aircraft based in the

Falklands worked with the Type 23 as she was subjected to a simulated air, sea and submarine attack on ships in Falkland Sound. ■ Portland pays her respects, page 22

THE announcement in late June by Chancellor George Osborne of the new government’s first Budget included a freeze on pay for public sector workers over the next two years – and this paralysis of pay will also affect Service personnel.

The decision of a two-per- cent rise from the 2010/11 award of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body is unaffected. The MOD will be working closely with the AFPRB over future developments and charges such as food and accommodation. Anyone earning £21,000 or

less will still receive a pay rise of at least £250 over the two- year hiatus.

The doubling of the Operational Allowance remains to recognise the work of the men and women of all three Services working in front-line theatres.

The freeze on public sector pay is one of a raft of measures being introduced in what has been dubbed ‘the Austerity Budget’.

The Government has described its stance as “tough but fair”, and a decisive move to tackle Britain’s record debts.

Belfast celebrates new Naval link

AFTER the honour of shepherding the little ships in the waters off Dunkirk (see page 11), HMS Monmouth made for Belfast and the city’s maritime festival. The crux of the event in

was cemented by an official lunch and evening reception onboard Monmouth for senior Northern Irish and military figures. Although the Black Duke’s visit

Northern Ireland’s one-time shipbuilding centre was the celebration of the city’s ties with Britain’s newest warship. D37 – HMS Duncan for those who don’t speak pennant numbers – will be affiliated with Belfast once she’s launched later this year.


bound with two cities; Dundee was confirmed last year, the RN and Belfast civic leaders used the maritime festival to announce the second tie.

The celebration of the new link

As with all the Type 45 Duncan will be

to Belfast was largely a formal affair, the Type 23 frigate’s ship’s company got ashore for fun, frolics and er, footie. Monmouth’s football team took on the Police Service of Northern Ireland, while those nautically-minded made for Newtownards Sailing Club. Back on board, the gangway was opened to visitors,


groups of schoolchildren and local organisations – in all more than 1,000 people visited over the weekend of the festival. With ceremonial duties now

done, Monmouth has resumed her more typical role. She’s presently hosting trainee navigators.

miles east of Tallinn, and once the home of the Red Navy when Estonia was under

The ships made for Hara Bay,

about 30

Strike it unlucky

LIGHTNING never strikes twice, so the saying goes. But what about thrice if you’re HMS Gannet? In one day? Barely one mile apart? Britain’s busiest Search and Rescue unit found itself called to three lightning strikes in an afternoon as the Lake District was battered by a ferocious summer storm.

A Sea King from the Prestwick- based unit was already bound for the Lakes to pick up someone with a shoulder injury when it was diverted to deal with the fi rst strike victim.

He had been walking at Lad

Hows, between Keswick and Buttermere, when he was struck repeatedly by lightning. Keswick Mountain Rescue team reached the casualty and determined he needed airlifting off the hillside. The SAR fl iers duly obliged.

Barely had the injured walker been collected than the Sea King picked up a new task: two ramblers had been struck by lightning barely a mile away on Crag Hill.

They too were picked up, plus a third uninjured walker, and taken with casualty number one to an ambulance waiting in nearby Buttermere.

And then the radio crackled into life again. Another rescue, this time on Whiteless Pike, just above Buttermere. Once again the casualty was safely picked up and handed over to the medical authorities. And lest we forget the

unfortunate person with the shoulder injury… the Sea King resumed its original tasking, collected the casualty and ferried him to hospital. “The weather conditions were

Rottweil also deal with a TMB-2 – a Soviet WW2 anti-tank mine – which

very tricky – each time we arrived on the scene, we weren’t really sure what we were going to fi nd,” said observer Lt Tim Barker. “It all went well – even if it was a little on the scary side at times.” Meanwhile in Cornwall, Gannet’s sister rescuers, 771 NAS, accomplished two of the fastest life-saving sorties in the squadron’s proud history – and again in the space of 24 hours. The Sea King was scrambled to rescue a sportsman who suffered a heart attack at Helston Cricket Club – just a mile from Culdrose.

Within 13 minutes of the call coming into 771, the casualty had been landed at Royal Cornwall Hospital in Treliske, 14 miles away... well within the crucial ‘golden hour’ stressed by doctors. The following morning the same crew were airborne for a second ‘medivac’ (medical evacuation) – another heart- attack victim, this time a German holidaymaker in Coverack. “To speed up the transfer and aid the patient’s chances, we landed the Sea King in the garden right in front of the bed and breakfast – which certainly woke up any of the guests who were still asleep,” said aircraft commander and pilot Lt Cdr Martin Shepherd. The tourist was ferried to the same hospital, this time in 18 minutes. ■ PLANS to replace the red- grey Sea King as part of a fundamental overhaul of Search and Rescue provision around the UK have been put on ice by the government. Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Danny Alexander mothballed or cancelled billions of pounds of projects which his department decided were unaffordable, did not represent good value for money, or where did not refl ect the government’s priorities. A consortium, Soteria, was due to take over all helicopter rescue duties in the UK by 2016 in a £6bn revamp of SAR services. Naval and RAF aviators would

still fl y rescue missions, but operate alongside civilian aircrew in non-military Sikorski S92A helicopters. Mr Alexander told Parliament

that the replacement SAR helicopter project would be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

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