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Barrow boys head to Gulf

JUST days after handing over the keys to their old ship, the crew of HMS Walney will pick up a new set as they take over HMS Pembroke in Bahrain in the latest round of crew exchanges to maintain a sustained minehunting presence in the Gulf. Walney decommissioned in October, a victim (as well as survey ship HMS Roebuck) of spending cuts announced late last year. In a 19-year-career, the mine

warfare vessel clocked up 212,000 miles at sea, dropping in on 120 different ports. Aside from a short-notice

deployment to work with NATO minehunting forces, the ship’s fi nal months were spent working up to prepare the ship’s company for a six-month stint on their sister ship in the Middle East. The very final act of Walney’s career was to sail to Portsmouth from Barrow – the last port of call and the ship’s affiliated town; a good 400 Cumbrians paid their respects to the ship and its sailors one last time.

Sparkle in the rain

DESPITE the ominous clouds gathering over the Solent, this is a

sight to be celebrated. This is Her Majesty’s Ship Diamond sailing for the fi rst time under the White Ensign – the third of Britain’s six Type 45 destroyers to do so. Since arriving in Portsmouth in late September under the Blue Ensign, D34 has been alongside. She’s been formally handed over by builders BAE Systems to the RN and undergone four weeks of training and preparation before a team from FOST inspected her. They tested the 180-strong ship’s company with a ‘fast cruise’ – a day at sea... without actually leaving the jetty.

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– fi re, fl ood and the like – and, if they’re satisfi ed, they allow a vessel to put to sea for real.

The FOSTies throw everything at a ship

Aboard for the 500-mile passage from the North-West to Portsmouth were six VIPs, among them Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, the father of Walney’s CO Lt Cdr Angus Essenhigh. His ship is being sold to the Estonian Navy where she’ll join her sisters Bridport, Inverness and the first-of-class Sandown, all now flying the Estonian flag.

HMS Mersey heads home

A FRENCH trawlerman received a £2,000 fi ne for illegal fi shing after being caught by HMS Mersey.

patrol ship found the Breizh Arvor 2 was using undersized nets – which prevent young fi sh escaping and thus prevent fi shing stocks being restored – when they carried out a routine inspection in the Channel. The boat was detained and

escorted into Plymouth, where its skipper was prosecuted on behalf of the Marine Management Organisation, the government department responsible for overseeing fi shing in UK waters. During a break from fishery

duties, Mersey berthed on the eponymous river at Liverpool’s impressive new cruise liner terminal fot a visit to her affiliated borough of Sefton (about half an hour’s drive north of the city centre). Half the ship’s company found time to spruce up the grounds of St Joseph’s Hospice which supports the families of people who are terminally ill and is the chosen charity of Sefton’s Mayor. CO Lt Cdr Carl Wiseman also presented the hospice with a £200 cheque, the proceeds of the Mersey-2-Mersey charity run, which the ship’s company had completed during patrols of the UK’s fi shing grounds.

Divers blow up NAAFI bomb

NAVAL divers blew up a World War II bomb found during construction work in the heart of Plymouth.

unearthed by builders erecting a block of student flats on the site of the old NAAFI building in Notte Street.

The 70kg German bomb was

and evacuated people, experts from Southern Diving Unit 1 were called in. Lt Cdr Richard Talbot drilled into the bomb, which was in a poor state after seven decades, and poured a saline solution into the fuse mechanism to neutralise it.

move. It was taken under police escort to Millbay Docks, then out into Cawsand Bay where it was played on the seabed and blown up in a controlled explosion.

The device was now safe to While police sealed off the area ... and sparkle in Bahrain

FROM the fl ight deck of his ship, Cdr Andrew Burns watches tugs help HMS Cumberland into her berth in Bahrain.

It is a sight which means one thing for the 200 or so men and women of his ship’s company: home. After 122 days of patrolling the Gulf, the Type 23 is making for home, while her Devonport-based comrade is beginning her first stint safeguarding Iraq’s oil platforms – the two ships parted company just hours after this photograph was taken, Somerset having formally handed over duties to the Fighting Sausage. ‘Safeguarding the oil platforms’ is the ultimate mission, but over the past seven years the role of Telic guardship has evolved significantly, such that what were once called boardings are now ‘approach and assist visits’ as Somerset’s boarding team of RM/RN

personnel offered assurance and assistance to the crews of some 250 merchantmen, principally operating around the Al Basrah terminal – the newer of Iraq’s two platforms.

With the Iraqi Navy and Marines increasingly taking over protection of these structures and waters, the Telic guardship has found a much wider role in the Gulf, attaching to Combined Task Force 152 and patrolling from the Strait of Hormuz to the shores of Kuwait and Iraq on the lookout for illegal activity: people/arms/drug smuggling and potential terrorist movements. There’s also increasing ‘regional engagement’, ie working with the neighbours; in Somerset’s case that meant working with the forces of Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE during her stint east of Suez.

As for Cumberland, conducting her final deployment, there was some cheer as she knuckled down to Telic duties: 50 sacks of mail were waiting for the frigate in Bahrain – the first the ship’s company had received since a brief visit to Palermo in Sicily on the way out Picture: LA(Phot) Jenny Lodge, FRPU East

A boarding team from the

Some of Diamond’s ship’s company – – Logistics officer Lt Cdr Steve Boot and Executive Warrant Officer WO1 Thomas ‘Sharkey’ Ward – have seen all this palaver before on HMS Diamond. Not D34, but D35... the previous bearer of the name. Sharkey joined the RN in September 1979 followed one month later by Steve, both as rookie marine engineering mechanics. Their hands-on engine/boiler room training was provided by HMS

Diamond, which spent a decade at Royal Clarence Yard in Gosport as a training ship for HMS Sultan throughout the 1970s and into the ’80s until she was broken up in 1981.


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His shipmate has switched branches twice, first to reggie (for nearly 20 years), then joining the officer corps as a logistician. In six varied years as a loggie, Lt Cdr Boot has served with the UN in Cambodia, helped evacuate British nationals from the Lebanon during the 2006 crisis and completed a tour of duty with 3 Commando Brigade in Afghanistan.

In the subsequent three decades, Sharkey’s served in Leanders, T22s and T23s and HMS Cottesmore in his chosen branch, before joining HMS Portland as EWO, and now Diamond in the same capacity. H

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All of their experience should serve the double Diamonds (sorry) in good stead as the Type 45 embarks on extensive trials (although they may struggle to find a boiler room aboard...).

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Diamond’s Commanding Offi cer. “The ship’s company has worked

extremely hard over the last four weeks and passing the Ready for Sea date inspection was just reward for their efforts. The foundation is now in place for Diamond to begin operational training.” As Diamond heads off on trials so, too,

Type 45 number four. HMS Dragon – emblazoned with a huge

red mythical creature on her bow – headed down the Clyde for the first time on four weeks of initial trials off the Scottish west coast.

D35 is in the hands of a mixed crew: sailors and engineers from builders BAE Systems, RN personnel and contractors. “We’ve been looking forward to Dragon


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Those extensive trials include sea safety training, before testing her radar and ability to operate helicopters from her sprawling fl ight deck. “It’s a steep learning curve for each and every one of us – not a day has gone by without an inspection of some sort, but you can feel the enthusiasm on board, with everyone eager to get to sea and really start transforming Diamond into a front-line warship,” said Cdr Ian Clarke,

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spreading her wings,” said Cdr Ian Jackson, the ship’s Senior Naval Officer. “There is always a sense of anticipation when proceeding to sea, particularly so when the final lines were slipped and we made our way down the Clyde.

the many strands of work finally coming together to produce a ship that is ready to go to sea. Dragon is in great shape and we are proud to have worked alongside our BAE colleagues to make this happen.” Once the trials end at the beginning of this month, Dragon will return to BAE’s Scotstoun yard for continued fitting out, then a further period of trials, before she’s handed over to the RN in the second half of next year.

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h a Picture: LA(Phot) Kyle Heller , FRPU East “It has been very pleasing to see

Edinburgh’s adventure resumes

UNDER sullen Solent skies the Fortress of the Sea was formally welcomed back into the Fleet. In doing so, the curtain came

down on more than three decades of overhauling Type 42 destroyers – HMS Edinburgh is the very last of her class to receive a refi t. The £17.5m revamp,

carried out by BAE Systems in Edinburgh’s home port over an 18-month period, will see the ship through to the end of her career, three years’ hence, when she will be the very last 42 in service. Edinburgh emerged from refi t – propulsion machinery, auxiliary and weapons systems, sensors and accommodation were all enhanced, replaced or upgraded – in September, since when the ship’s been undergoing extensive trials.

the formal act of recommissioning in the shadow of HMS Victory, in front of hundreds of guests, headed by Major General Garry Robison RM, the Navy’s Chief- of-Staff (Capability).

service, conducted by the Chaplain of the Fleet, the Rev Scott Brown, there was the chance for the 225-strong ship’s company and friends and family watching proceedings to tuck into the commissioning cake. There were three people – not

After a 30-minute rededication She broke off that work-up for

two – thrusting a knife into said cake. As well as Lt Cdr Gillian Russell, the wife of Edinburgh’s CO Cdr Paul Russell, in time- honoured fashion the youngest sailor(s) helped her with the knife: 17-year-olds ABs Jonathan Thorne and Katie Hickman share the same birthday. Cdr Russell said he was delighted so many loved-ones could be in Portsmouth to witness Edinburgh’s rebirth. “The Navy places tremendous demands on us all and the support of our families and friends has played a major part in helping HMS Edinburgh get back to sea in such good order. “We are very proud of our ship and what we have achieved so far, and this is just the beginning of our adventures.” Further trials are lined up for the destroyer before she embarks on two months of Operational Sea Training in the hands of the Flag Offi cer Sea Training, after which the Fortress of the Sea will be ready to deploy once more in the spring of 2011.

Medals for Baggers

THE unstinting deeds of the Baggers in Afghanistan – in the air and on the ground – were recognised by Britain’s second most senior sailor. Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, Commander in Chief Fleet, visited the home of the Navy’s eyes in the sky to thank 854 Naval Air Squadron – just days before the unit returned to theatre. The squadron’s Airborne

Surveillance and Control Sea Kings provide invaluable support to Allied forces in Afghanistan; the helicopters’ state-of-the- art radar – designed originally to detect aerial threats – also allows the aircrew to monitor movements on the ground. 854 has completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan, taking it in turns with its sister squadron at Culdrose, 857, to keep tabs on the insurgents. The information the two squadrons gather is fed both to the UK’s Task Force Helmand and the USA’s Task Force Leatherneck – formed by the US Marine Corps – in southern Afghanistan, providing real time support to troops on the ground. Admiral Soar thanked the 854 men and women for their efforts – and their families for the support they gave – and presented 17 of their number with the Afghanistan Medal. 854 have now traded places in Helmand with 857 once more.

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