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Baltic wrecks discovered

THE wrecks of three Royal Navy warships lost in a forgotten war against communism have been discovered after nearly a century. Cruiser HMS Cassandra and minesweeping sloops HMS Myrtle and Gentian were sent to the Baltic in 1918 and 1919 as part of British efforts to prevent the Red Army swallowing up the newly-independent Estonia. All three vessels were lost to mines off the island of Ösel (today Saaremaa) in the Gulf of Riga – Cassandra before she could even make her mark, Gentian and Myrtle on the same day in July 1919. Twenty-fi ve men were lost. Part of Myrtle’s wreck was found in the late 1930s – the mine (a relic from a fi eld laid by the Germans during the Great War) broke the ship’s back and her stern sheered off. Her missing bow section, plus the remains of the other two ships, have never been found – until now.

The wrecks were located by EML Ugandi – until six years ago HMS Bridport. The Sandown- class minehunter was sold to Estonia, revamped and fi tted with new weaponry and kit (including side-scan sonar) and handed over to the Baltic nation last year. It was that new kit which

A quick lick of paint...

PAINTING the Forth Bridge is one of those Herculean tasks with which lazy journalists like to compare major projects. And we’re no exception... because the paint job just begun on the Navy’s next- generation aircraft carriers makes maintenance on the world-famous rail crossing look like a cakewalk. Seventy-fi ve times more paint will have to be applied to HMS Queen Elizabeth than to the Forth Bridge – 1,500,000 square metres (16 million square feet) in all, or enough paint to turn Hyde Park grey.

Both HMS Queen Elizabeth and her sister Prince of Wales are being built in sections at six yards around the UK, with the fi nally assembly due to take place at Rosyth.


located the three ships – based on co-ordinates recorded by the crews of the Baltic task force 90 years ago. Lt Cdr Ivo Võrk, Chief-of- Staff of the Estonian Navy, said those positions had proved to be “surprisingly precise” – but it still took 21st Century technology to formally identify the three wrecks, which lie in water between 200 and 330ft deep.

Ugandi’s commanding offi cer Lt Cdr Villu Klesmann said he was “quite confi dent” that all three British ships had been found. Cassandra was part of a task force of more than 20 British warships dispatched to the Baltic to help Estonia maintain her fl edgling independence; Estonians used the Bolshevik Revolution to throw off the Russian yoke… but the Red Army was determined to restore Moscow’s rule. The light cruiser struck a mine

From the sonar imagery,

With a multi-million pound contract now signed between BAE Systems and Ship Support Services Ltd, painting those sections – every bulkhead, every deck, every engine and machinery space – can begin. It will take SSSL nine years to apply the special coating of paint to both ships, but once done they’ll be able to take a break for a decade as the paint’s expected to withstand the ravages of the elements for ten years.

● Cdre Martin Westwood, Assistant Chief of Staff Aviation, inspects the MASF guard of honour aboard RFA Argus Picture: LA(Phot) Martin Carney, RNAS Culdrose

MASF step forward

ONE of the Navy’s key behind-the-scenes teams stepped into the limelight

as it was commissioned. With RFA Argus and Falmouth Docks as the backdrop,

at night in December 1918 as she steamed off Ösel in company with the rest of the force. Despite the darkness, the Baltic cold and the threat of more mines, all but 11 of her crew were saved. Myrtle and Gentian barely had the chance to make their mark in the Baltic Campaign (known by Estonians as the War of Liberation). They arrived with the 1st Fleet Sweeping Flotilla in July 1919 and were lost on the same day, July 15, during clearing operations in the Biorko Sound. Six sailors from HMS Myrtle and eight crew of Gentian died. A handful of dead from the two minesweepers are buried in the Estonian capital, Tallinn.

Royals backed by Sir Trevor

VETERAN broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald will emerge from retirement next month at a charity concert for the Royal Marines. The former News at Ten

anchorman will narrate Eternal Voices – a concert at Exeter Cathedral inspired by the sacrifices of the living and the dead in Helmand. The concert on November 20 sees the Band of HM Royal Marines perform with soloists such as librettist Ben Kaye, and the 80-strong Exeter Festival Chorus, with proceeds going to RM charities. Eternal Voices is a five-

Maritime Aviation Support Force (MASF) formally stood up, receiving offi cial recognition to stand alongside ships and squadrons. The force, based at RNAS Culdrose,

front-line duties around the world at short notice – be it helping earthquake victims in Haiti to hunting pirates in the Indian Ocean.

provides sailors for the

Naval Support Unit a couple of decades ago to provide engineers for Sea Kings operating from auxiliaries.

“drawn up on the back of a fag packet” – the small team has ballooned to some 230 sailors,

name was changed three years ago to refl ect the unit’s changing role) typically provides a three-

extends beyond simply supplying RFAs with engineers for Sea King fl ights. Today MASF (the

whose remit From those beginnings MASF grew out of the RFA

dozen-strong team for RFA Argus, the aviation training ship, and detachments of around 12 sailors for Fort George and Fort Victoria when they deploy. Aside from engineers there are handlers, medics, aircraft controllers, meteorologists, survival specialists,


patrol ship HMS Clyde. “Everywhere there’s a Royal Navy presence, there’s MASF,”

Band enjoys the ’hai life

YOU can never have too many images of the Navy’s fi nest musicians stood in front of a giant fl uorescent cube half-way around the world. The musicians come courtesy of the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood. Half-way around the world is Shanghai. And the giant fl uorescent cube? Well that’s a ‘seed cathedral’ (obviously) – the centrepiece of the British pavilion at the world’s biggest trade fair.

The Shanghai Expo 2010 is the latest (and largest) ‘world’s fair’ – events which have been showcasing the very best of nations’ industries and culture since the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London.

A century and a half later and the exposition has mushroomed to embrace some 190 nations, many of them erecting elaborate pavilions at a two-square-mile site in China’s largest city. The participating countries also stage national days, for them the cultural highlight of the exposition. In the UK’s case, national day was a mixture

of awards ceremony (for businesses), speeches (including one from the Duke of York), high culture – the fi rst performance of a ballet by British and Chinese dancers, plus a 21st-Century re-imagining of Swan Lake – and a closing ceremony in the evening led by the RM Band. The backdrop for Royal Marines’ performance was the ‘seed cathedral’, a 70ft-high cube which contains thousands of seeds from plants as part of a bio-diversity project. The outside of the cube comprises in excess of 60,000 acrylic rods, each 24ft long, which act like fi bre-optic cables and light up at night. The Expo runs until the end of the month, by which time an estimated six million people will have seen the British pavilion. Picture: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

work, in the Falklands with

women can be found in Afghanistan, in the Gulf, in the Indian Ocean supporting

anti-piracy And MASF’s men and logisticians.

said CO Lt Cdr Tony Dunn. “We are unique – a body of highly-trained

people available

for deployment where and when needed to support RN operations worldwide.

“The majority of my 230

personnel are deployed – often at a few days’ notice.

“There are a lot of people

who’ve not heard of us – it’s very much been a case of unsung heroes.” Apart from Haiti, MASF –

motto auxilio ad alta, reach the heights with help – has served as a ‘one-stop manpower shop’ to bolster numbers on some key RN deployments such as Taurus to the Far East last year and Auriga to the USA this summer.

“It used to be regarded as a bit of a sleepy hollow, but that’s not the case now,” said CPO(AH) Mick Eley. “You used to go on the back of an RFA, now you can go on any ship. Everything’s on a much bigger basis.” Cdre Martin Westwood, Assistant Chief of Staff Aviation, was

guest of honour at the

commissioning ceremony, which – in fi ne RN tradition – saw Lt Cdr Dunn’s wife Jo cut the commissioning cake with MASF’s youngest sailor, NA Samuel Fry.

Sample the life O’Brian

LOVERS of the fi nest nautical fi ction can return to the days of sail with an erudite weekend in Portsmouth devoted to the late, great Patrick O’Brian. The Irish author brought

Nelson’s Navy to life through his Jack Aubrey novels (one of which was turned into the movie Master and Commander starring Russell Crowe). The Patrick O’Brian weekend, hosted by the National Museum of the Royal Navy, celebrates his life and work with lectures, a special guided tour of HMS Victory and the chance to dine on her lower gun deck featuring contemporary meals, courtesy of the Lobscouse and Spotted Dog cookbook, a companion volume to O’Brian’s novels. Speakers at the three-day event (March 11-13 2011) include renowned maritime artist Geoff Hunt and Mr O’Brian’s stepson and biographer Count Nikolai Tolstoy. There’s also a visit to Jane

Austen’s House at Chawton; two of the Pride and Prejudice novelist’s brothers served in the Georgian Royal Navy. The weekend costs £475 (excluding accommodation, although the museum has negotiated preferential room rates with local hotels). Details, including a booking form, can be found at patrickobrian/index.html or from Giles Gould on 023 9272 7583.

Supporting independent living for our ex-Service community

No Veteran Should Be Homeless

That’ s what SVR’s founders believed in 1910 and why we are still here today.

movement work by British Composer Award winner Adam Gorb and is interspersed with news headlines. The concert will also feature

SVR supports ex-Service men and women who are homeless or in need. Every year we help over 300 veterans of all ages in our residences in Dundee and Edinburgh. Regardless of age or length of service, if we can help a veteran, we will.

Dignity, privacy and

the Wootton Bassett March, composed by the Royal Marines to commemorate the role of the Wiltshire town in honouring the nation’s fallen in Afghanistan. Tickets, priced £10 and

£12, are available from www. or 01392 432309.

respect for our residents are our principle objectives. Could you help us to help veterans in need?

For more information about the work of SVR or to donate visit or call 0131 556 0091

Scottish Registered Charity No. SC015260

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