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More praise for Liverpool

FOR the fi nal couple of months of her long and illustrious career, the trophy cabinet of HMS Liverpool positively bulges thanks to her exploits off Libya last year. No British warship was

involved longer in the campaign to support the free peoples of Libya, pummelling pro-Gaddafi shore batteries, directing the strike missions of NATO aircraft and helping to draw a dragnet across the Gulf of Sirte to prevent arms reaching Libya’s then dictator. The Portsmouth-based

Picture: LA(Phot) Kyle Heller, FRPU East

Mine mission for Ledbury

WHILE HMS Daring enjoyed most of the media coverage (and not a little wild speculation), the fi rst ship to deploy in 2012 slipped out of Portsmouth Harbour two days before the 45’s departure.

Royal Navy’s account for the year by sailing to take her place alongside similar allied vessels in a NATO mine warfare force in the Mediterranean.

destroyer, which decommissions next month after just shy of 30 years’ service, spent more than six months in support of Operation Ellamy.

Med have rightly earned her the Fleet Destroyer Effectiveness Award which was handed over to a delighted Commanding Offi cer, Cdr Colin Williams, by Rear Admiral Duncan Potts, Rear Admiral Surface Ships. “I am immensely proud of being part of this tight-knit family of hard-working professional mariners. We have proved the versatility and fortitude of the men and women of this ship’s company – and the Royal Navy,” said Cdr Williams. “I am privileged to accept this

award on behalf of my ship’s company for their outstanding efforts throughout the course of last year, be it successful training, High Seas Firing and, of course, our participation in events off Libya.”

gunnery feats inter alia, Liverpool was also presented with the Grytviken Above Water Warfare Trophy (presented to CPO(AWW) Darren Acres on behalf of his shipmates). And just for good measure the comms department earned the Communications Award (presented to PO(CIS)s Scott Blackburn and Paul McQueer) All these trophies are in addition to the special award the Crazy Red Chicken received at The Sun Military Awards just before Christmas… and the Desmond Wettern media award for the best frigate or destroyer projecting a positive image of the Senior Service… and she was runner-up in the electronic warfare trophy.

Thanks to her impressive Her sustained actions in the

Fort Victoria delivers another clear message

A LYNX fi res fl ares over a mother ship as a chase to bring the criminal activities of one pirate action group to an end reaches a dramatic conclusion.

The 13 men in the dhow ignored the flares. They ignored shots across the bow from the commando snipers

helicopter; fountains of water flew up into the air as bursts from the guns rippled into the Indian Ocean ahead of the vessel. They did not ignore two boats crammed with heavily-armed Royal Marines commandos who made their intentions very clear.

strike another blow against Somali pirates in the ongoing international naval effort to curb modern-day buccaneering. Support ship Fort Vic is home to a specialist Royal Navy counter- piracy task force and is operating under the banner of NATO’s counter- piracy mission, Operation Ocean Shield. She and American destroyer USS Carney

After a spell alongside for maintenance and leave for her 240-strong ship’s company, Liverpool has resumed her duties for the fi nal few weeks of her active career. She spent fi ve days on the Thames in London at the end of last month, will be in her namesake city from February 29 until March 5 for an emotional farewell, and is due to join much of the Fleet, Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm in northern Norway for the regular Cold Response Arctic war games. Throughout she’ll proudly fl y the Fleet Destroyer Effectiveness fl ag. Her career under the White Ensign formally comes to an end on March 30 with a decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth Naval Base.

Knights to the rescue

ALL ten souls aboard the sinking pleasure boat Princess Melisa were plucked to safety by the crew of the tanker RFA Wave Knight as they rushed to respond to the boat’s mayday call in the dark off Oman. The tanker, which provides fuel and sustenance to Royal Navy and other Coalition warships operating in the region, found the 70ft boat taking on water and in danger of capsizing in rough seas after her hull was holed. Wave Knight’s boat recovered the captain and his nine crew of Indians and Kenyans, all a little shell-shocked by their ordeal. They were subsequently

transferred to an Omani Coast Guard vessel off the country’s north-east coast.

4 : FEBRUARY 2012 And thus did RFA Fort Victoria in the back of the

Offi cer in Charge of the Fleet Standby Rifl e Squadron aboard Fort Victoria. “Through our weapon sights we could see

there were about 13 pirates, mostly gathered in the area of the bridge. We quickly boarded and secured the vessel before mustering the pirates on the bow.” Capt Gerry Northwood, the naval offi cer heading the task force on Fort Vic, said the “fi rm and positive action” his team had taken “will send a clear message to other Somali pirates that we will not tolerate their attacks on international shipping.”

The capture of the dhow was the second success in four days for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary force. Earlier that same week, the one-stop supply ship made sure there was no way into the major shipping lanes for the Liquid Velvet, a large chemical tanker from which Somali pirates could have launched attacks on passing merchantmen. The 12,000-tonne vessel was

were sent to investigate a dhow which was believed to be in the hands of pirates and had been sailing in Indian Ocean shipping lanes. In a combined show of force, both RFA Fort

seized by pirates in November last year – since when the 23 crew have been held for ransom; their captors have asked for as much as £5m (US $8m) for their release.

In mid-January pirates forced the crew to put the vessel to sea to use it as a mother ship.

essel to sea

Victoria and USS Carney manoeuvred towards the dhow, with the aim of encouraging her to comply with the counter-piracy forces. These actions should have been intimidating,

it as a

given the size of the two military vessels – the American destroyer bristles with fi repower, while Fort Victoria is more than 650ft long, weighs 32,000 tonnes and carries a specially- trained commando boarding team – but the pirates were determined to carry on with their activities. That led to more forceful action from Fort

Vic, which sent her Lynx aloft. When even that failed to deter the action

group – a dhow with a small skiff in tow – Royal Marines in RIBs boarded the mother ship.

The pirates surrendered as the commandos secured control and rounded them up on the forecastle: 13 Somali pirates were found to be on board together with a selection of weapons. “The moment of going on board the dhow

was tense as we knew there were pirates on board who had refused to stop despite our warning shots,” said Capt James Sladden RM,

It got 90 miles from the Somali coast before Fort Vic intercepted it. The auxiliary repeatedly circled the Liquid Velvet to push her back and also sent up her Lynx helicopter as both a deterrent and to assess the situation on board.

Once Liquid Velvet had returned to her anchorage RFA Fort Victoria stayed in the immediate area to ensure the pirates, who were armed with machine guns and rifl es, did not make another attempt to sail out.

“Once the pirates were stopped there was

never a chance that they were going to achieve anything as we could take down any efforts they made,” Capt Northwood explained. “This was a potential mother ship in terms of it having enough pirate paraphernalia on board to launch attacks on other ships in the area.

“We have been putting the pirates under a lot of pressure by taking down their dhow action groups so they are starting to get desperate.” He continued: “It was a risky decision to sail Liquid Velvet out as it is currently in the latter

stages of ransom negotiation. “While it is a good platform for them to

cover a lot of ground to fi nd another mother ship, if they were to lose the ship to us then they would be out of pocket in a big way. “This was a very successful operation – if

we had not intercepted Liquid Velvet when we had, then these pirates would have posed a very real threat to international shipping in the Indian Ocean.” Liquid Velvet remains in the hands of the

pirates, sadly. Not so the dhow liberated by Fort Victoria

following the sea chase with the Carney. Just days after being in the clutch of pirates,

it was handed over to the Yemeni authorities to return to its rightful owner. The dhow had belonged to 27-year-old Awadh Barasheed from Mukalla, one of Yemen’s principal ports. The catches it brought in supported not just Mr Barasheed’s family, but those of his brothers as well.

It fell into the hands of pirates last May, since when it had been held at a known pirate camp – and made forays into the Gulf of Aden. “I would like to thank the Coalition Forces and specifi cally the British Navy (Royal Navy) for retrieving my dhow from the hands of the criminal pirates,” said Mr Barasheed. “This dhow is the only source of income for me, my brothers and our families.”

His boat was handed over to his agent and the captain of Yemeni Navy

ship 1031 in international Royal Marines-Royal

waters in the Gulf of Aden, while the chairman of the Dhows Owners Association of Mukalla, Saleh Bayumain, passed on his gratitude to the Royal Navy- Fleet

Auxiliary team

aboard Fort Vic – not just for liberating this craft, but for the ongoing efforts to strangle the piracy scourge. He thanked the “dedicated and noble crew members” of the “British Naval Ship” He continued: “My thanks also extends to all the maritime forces who patrol the area and fi ght piracy, they have helped us on many occasions and provided help in terms of food, water, fuel and mechanical support.” That wider effort brought considerable successes last month; over a ten day period in mid-January,

five pirate groups were

disrupted in the Gulf of Aden, while more than 50 suspected pirates face the prospect of prosecution for their alleged actions.

Westminster ‘itching to get going’

CHASING pirates and keeping the sea lanes east of Suez open for the next seven months is the Navy’s ‘capital ship’: HMS Westminster.

sister, HMS Somerset, which has been away from home since the late summer of 2011 – and has scored some notable successes against pirates. Westminster headed to the Middle East and Indian Ocean battle-hardened from her experiences during her most recent deployment. Ten months ago, the ship sailed at very short notice during the opening days of the Libyan Civil War; she was called upon to support the UN Security Council’s embargo on arms to the Gaddafi regime and prevent the dictator’s navy sortie up the coast to bombard towns and civilians. Since then the frigate has undergone a couple of months of rigorous pre-deployment training off Plymouth in some pretty

The frigate left Portsmouth in late January to relieve her

challenging weather conditions as 2011 drew to a close. Many of the ship’s company who deploy to the Middle East are still on board from the mission off Libya, including Operations Offi cer Lt Cdr Andy Brown. “We learned a lot last year on our successful involvement in the Libyan operations and we will carry that experience forward to our next mission,” he said. “The ship’s company are excited about the deployment ahead and we are all determined to make it a success.” Her Commanding Offi cer, Capt Nick Hine, added: “It takes a tremendous amount of effort to get a complex and sophisticated warship ready for operations and I am extremely proud of my ship’s company for the work they have done in getting us to this point; but operations are what the Royal Navy is all about and we are itching to get going.

“We sail into a region of heightened tensions and great challenges and we are ready and up for it.”

HMS Ledbury opened the

The force – Standing Mine Countermeasures Group 2 – is sailing the length and breadth of the Middle Sea practising the art of hunting mines and other underwater explosive devices. It is practice which paid off in full in 2011. The last time a Portsmouth-based minehunter – HMS Brocklesby – served with the NATO force she found herself ‘in the thick of it’, clearing mines for real off Libya to keep the sea lanes to Misrata open (and, lest we forget, Faslane’s HMS Bangor replaced her later in the confl ict and performed similarly sterling work).

over, the group will resume its more usual mission – a mixture of exercising, goodwill visits in a multitude of ports on the Mediterranean shore including stops in Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco, and the hunt for historic ordnance left by wars past. To prepare for her role with

With the Libyan mission now

the NATO force, Ledbury spent much of 2011 in training. The 31-year-old Hunt came out of a maintenance period in March then went through the rigours of Operational Sea Training – which prepared the 40-plus ship’s company for deployment. More recently, the ship joined

British and international warships for a two-week war game in north-west Scotland, Exercise Joint Warrior, and found time to reaffi rm bonds built up over the past three decades with her namesake town in Herefordshire.

You’ll need to Klingon in these seas...

HAVING left the UK in November, survey ship HMS Enterprise is now enjoying the experience of an austral summer as she updates charts of the South Atlantic. We use the term ‘enjoying’

loosely, for the waters in the hemisphere of the penguin aren’t kind, even in summertime. The Devonport-based

hydrographic vessel is gathering a wealth of data from the Southern Ocean, eventually feeding it back to Taunton, where Admiralty Charts are produced – the world- standard guides for seafarers. Before there could be any thought of collecting information, however, the ship had to ‘tie in’ tide gauges – it can be likened to the zero on a ruler and is key to giving data a baseline so that it can be matched to existing information. With everything set, the Navy’s star ship (sorry) began collecting bathymetric data in earnest, aided by up to 18 hours of daylight at the height of summer at such southern latitudes. “Once it starts you really get an appreciation of just how much data is collected by the ship as it ‘hoovers’ up the returning multibeam echo sounder pings,” explained Lt Tim Hall RNZN, one of Enterprise’s hydrographic offi cers. “The only thing that can stop us is the weather…” Which didn’t take too long in

the South Atlantic… “Within four hours the wind and sea can go from calm and pleasant to near-gale conditions, lumpy seas and stormy skies. “The four-metre waves soon

proved too much even for our sophisticated data-gathering suite and we sought the shelter of harbour – so too it would seem had a pod of killer whales.”

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