36 NAVY NEWS, OCTOBER 2010
A ferry good practice run
NAVAL, maritime and emergency services in the Solent joined forces to practise dealing with a major incident at sea. Exercise Solfire sought to test the ability of port authorities in Portsmouth and Southampton, plus Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, the Coastguard and MOD Police to cope with a fire on an Isle of Wight car ferry.
WE THOUGHT this image might catch your eye.
This is Lt Cdr James Ashton (based at Abbey Wood) pausing on a ridge on the Allalinhorn which rises to 4,027 metres (13,200ft – or 2½ miles) in the Swiss Alps.
The officer was one of 15 sailors and Royal Marines who took part in the two-week expedition to the mountains around the village of Saas Grund with 100- plus RAF and Army comrades for some serious AT. The RN has a dedicated Alpine adventurous training
centre (formerly Bavarian Surprise, now the Naval Outdoor Centre Germany) aimed at injecting a bit of grit into the Service’s 35,000-plus personnel. But scaling the Allalinhorn and its sister peaks is hardcore adventurous training – with one eye fi rmly on
In the scenario played out in Portsmouth Harbour, the ferry had collided with a fuel tanker and caught fire, while ‘oil’ had spilled from the tanker. Firefighters were transferred by tug on to the ‘crippled’ ferry where around 50 volunteers played the role of passengers/ casualties.
One ‘casualty’ was later transferred by MOD Police launch to a Coastguard helicopter.
UK’s busiest harbours (nearly 120,000 shipping movements a year – ferries, merchantmen, warships, yachts) while Southampton handles seven per cent of all the country’s waterborne trade. The Solfire (Solent Fire, if you hadn’t already guessed) plan is tested every year with the Queen’s Harbourmaster Portsmouth, Associated British Ports Southampton and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency taking it in turns to run the exercise.
Portsmouth is one of the the front line.
“Nobody should be exposed to their fi rst real risk on the battlefi eld,” explains Lt Col Simon Hall RM, who led the 2010 expedition of 130 mountaineers for the Joint Services Alpine Meet. “On this you are achieving things you cannot achieve on an exercise: racing up a mountain ridge in bad weather is a real danger which has to be overcome.” The aim of JSAM, now in its third year, is to see how far people – irrespective of rank – can go safely, but still with that element of fear. In the case of this year’s expedition it meant working above the clouds from a tented base camp, up at dawn and climbing or trekking past nightfall, dealing with crevasses and coping with glaciers thawing at the height of summer. The rewards? Stunning views for a start, but that’s
just the beginning. The rest of the Service should reap the true benefits.
“This is high-level adventurous training, training up instructors, pushing people to the limits, to understand risks – and to make people appreciate their limitations,” says Cdr Guy Buckingham (RNHQ Merseyside) a qualified Alpine Mountain Instructor who led a team of Service personnel through the Himalayas on last year’s Fortitude Expedition.
“The system has been good enough to me, this is my chance to put something back in.” The next JSAM, run under the umbrella of Joint Services Mountain Training Centre, is lined up for June 2011.
Only experienced mountaineers should apply via www.ahrc.co.uk
With thanks to Soldier Magazine
This year it fell to QHM Cdr Steve Hopper to direct the response from the Marine Response Centre in Portsmouth Naval Base. Aside from the practicalities
of firefighting at sea and rescuing casualties, the plan also tests the ability of authorities to handle the considerable media interest such an accident would provoke.
THE TIME OF YOUR LIVES October 1970
1970 October 1980
THREE Royal Navy warships sailed up the Yangtse to Shanghai as part of the British Far East deployment, 30 years after the frigate Amethyst escaped down the river under Chinese gunfire. This time the three, destroyers Antrim and Coventry, and frigate Alacrity, were welcomed by
MIG fighters flying overhead in salute and girls and sailors waving flowers, flags and banners proclaiming eternal friendship between the Chinese and British. Crowds lined the banks of the river to watch the three ships, and a red and white banner was
stretched across the waterfront with a warm (if misspelt) message welcoming ‘HMS Conventry’. Lavish entertainment was provided, with endless banquets and toasts, and a dance with the catchy title: The Girl Shipbuilders and Sailors are Joyfully Singing and Dancing in Celebration of the Coming Maiden Voyage, Showing their Firm Determination to Establish a Powerful Navy.
NAVAL forces were strengthening in the Gulf, as warship and support vessels from multinational forces gathered in response to the Middle East crisis triggered by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in August. Type 42 destroyer HMS Gloucester was allocated to the Armilla patrol as an extra destroyer, frigates Brazen and London left Devonport for spells in Portland before sailing for Gulf duty, and destroyer Cardiff was sent back on Armilla only weeks after leaving. The Hunt-class mine counter-measure ships Cattistock, Hurworth and Atherstone, were sent as a contingency measure in case of mine-laying, along with support vessel HMS Herald. In the Gulf area itself destroyer York and frigates Battleaxe and Jupiter continued their patrol work in the fierce heat.
deterrent but the name change signalled a broadening of duties to take in additional maritime protection and security tasks. The title Comacchio had been given in memory of one of the Commandos’ most famous actions of World War 2, which provided the Corps with its only VC of the conflict, surprisingly. The VC was awarded posthumously to Cpl Tom Hunter of C Troop, 43 Cdo, (pictured right courtesy of the Royal Marines Museum) who charged enemy positions, firing a Bren gun from his hip, to allow the company to continue its advance when his unit was pinned down by enemy troops at Lake Comacchio in April 1945.
ONE of the best-known names among Royal Marine units changed on October 1 2000 when Comacchio Group became the Fleet Royal Marines Protection Group. Comacchio Group’s primary role was to protect Britain’s nuclear
We fl ick back through the pages of Navy News to see which stories were drawing attention in past decades...
‘TOOTHY’ Wong, the sailors’ tailor in Singapore, was celebrating 40 years of sartorial business in Sembawang village, near the naval base. There was a certain ritual to the fittings: customers at Toothy’s open-fronted shop were always
offered a cold beer, conversation and a cigarette before any measurements were taken. Toothy’s nickname, the paper explained in the cheerful non-PC fashion of the day, came about because of his slightly protruding gold-capped teeth. Toothy, properly named Wong Kwee Yong, was famous for fine tailoring from Chatham to the Caribbean and wherever there was a run ashore, his suits would be pressed into service. Customers who returned to his shop years later were surprised to find that Toothy, himself a lean, fit and ageless man, would shake his head reprovingly at their increasing waistline inches. “Toothy will not let you down,” it was said, and orders were invariably delivered on the day promised.
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