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Close look at liner

IN OUR last edition we reported on the annual National Training Weekend of the Maritime Trade Operations (MTO) branch of the RNR, held in Hampshire. One activity involved visiting

a luxury cruise liner – and this is Sub Lt Mark Tooth’s account: “Members of the MTO branch of the RNR visited the MS Independence of the Seas at her home port of Southampton as part of a programme of contact between MTO and the merchant shipping community. “The Independence of the

Seas, a Freedom-class cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises, is a 15-deck cruise liner specialising in year-round European itineraries as well as Atlantic crossings to visit Florida and the Caribbean.

“At 339 metres long and 154,000 tonnes, Independence of the Seas is one of the six largest cruise liners in service – and nearly 60 metres longer than the new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers being built for the Royal Navy, which measure 280 metres long and 65,000 tonnes. “The RNR personnel, led by Cdr Ron Wray, were taken on a tour of the ship by Staff Captain Rune Erikson, starting with the state-of-the-art bridge, which spans 40 metres.

“The Independence of the Seas, berthed next to the Southampton Boat Show, provided the perfect position to view the panorama of smaller vessels on show, including Sunseeker yachts down to Topper sailing dinghies.

“At 63 metres high the cruise

ship towered above all other vessels in Southampton Docks. “With a crew of 1,360 and accommodation for 4,370 passengers – many of whom were boarding that afternoon in preparation for sailing – the ship was a hive of activity.

Reward for loyal support

A LONG-SERVING Maritime Reserves support worker has been rewarded for his loyalty. Trevor Hunter was presented with the Imperial

Service Order Medal for a long, meritorious Civil Service career with naval reservists. Trevor, an administration officer for the past

17 years at HMS Vivid, the Maritime Reserves unit in Plymouth, received the medal on his retirement from the Civil Service. The medal, awarded to personnel who have

served more than 25 years and who have put zeal and interest into their job, was presented by Cdr

Ian Pethick (left of picture), the CO of Vivid. Cdr Pethick said: “After 17 years working with us here at HMS Vivid, Trevor deserves a well- earned rest.

“It has been a privilege to work with Trevor and he thoroughly deserves his medal for all his hard work, conscientiousness and for always maintaining his sense of humour.” Trevor said: “I enjoyed everything about my

job at HMS Vivid, especially the banter and camaraderie and I am overwhelmed to have received this award for doing a job I enjoyed.”

A RESERVIST from HMS Sherwood in Nottingham is the

first RNR rating to be mobilised to Afghanistan in an

Information Operations role. LS Derek Parsons, aged 44, from Ripley in Derbyshire, spent much of 2012 mobilised with 15 (UK) Psychological Operation Group (15 POG), including six months on active service based at Lashkar Gah in Helmand Province. 15 POG is

responsible for

providing support to British Forces and is part of 1 Military Intelligence Brigade. As a tri-Service unit, it is

formed from specialist personnel drawn

from across the UK’s

Armed Forces – both regular and reserves. “Being the

first Royal Naval “The Independence of the Seas

has its own internal shopping ‘promenade’, offering a variety of shops, bars and restaurants – and leading into an array of entertainment the RNR could only dream of on Royal Navy ships. “There is a two-storey theatre

seating 1,200 which hosts a show every night as well as a cabaret lounge and ice-skating rink. “For passengers looking for an unusual wedding there is the Skylight Chapel, at the very top of the ship, which can seat 40 guests. “For those looking for a more sports-based holiday, the ship boasts the H2O Zone, an interactive water park, as well as a climbing wall, Flowrider for surfing, volleyball, basketball and a mini golf course. “After two hours of visiting all the main decks, Cdr Wray and his team left Staff Capt Erikson with the herculean task of boarding thousands of passengers and crew before making ready to sail later that afternoon.”

Reserve Information Operations Rating to be mobilised gave me a real sense of achievement,” said LS Parsons. “I was proud to be working in Afghanistan with 15 POG; we worked with a number of military and non-military agencies to undertake a variety of projects,” Before deploying to Afghanistan

LS Parsons completed compulsory Royal

training to develop his Afghan cultural awareness,

Navy pre-deployment hone his

military skills and improve his fitness in preparation for his land- based role.

Although he found his pre-

deployment training first class, LS Parsons explained that nothing could prepare him for his arrival at Camp Bastion.

“The dust hangs in the air like fine talcum powder and gets everywhere and inside everything, but the biggest challenge was coping with the climate,” he said. “It was really cold – Afghanistan

was not supposed to be cold!” However, as his operational

tour continued the intense heat that LS Parsons had expected came to Lashkar Gah.

“Standing 24-hour guard duties

was really uncomfortable in the dry, dusty heat,” he said. “To keep hydrated I had to

l LS Derek Parsons, pictured in Afghanistan last year

drink 14 litres of water a day on average.” Long working days in the heat and dust, combined with the noise of helicopter movements throughout the night and the daily call to prayer at 4am, all took their toll.

Despite the stress on his body

and mind, some aspects of life in Afghanistan brought excitement. “Helicopter

transfers were

something of Boy’s Own stuff and I always enjoyed them,” said LS Parsons. However,

the need to wear body armour and always carry

a weapon ensured that he never forgot that this was no comic book adventure. “Even when off-watch my rifle

was never more than an arm’s length away – whether I was eating in the mess, at the gym or sleeping.” The arrival of casualties was also

a tragic reminder of the realities of conflict in Helmand Province. but there were also some highlights. “It was great to be interviewed by the BBC on Armed Forces Day in June, because it meant that people knew we were there – and that really mattered,” said the

Derek makes mark in Helmand Province

l Lt Henry Watts receives his Lord Lieutenant’s Commendation certificate from Mary Prior

Flying Fox volunteers commended

NINE of Bristol’s most outstanding

then-junior rating. “And I was really chuffed to be

informed that I had been selected for promotion to petty officer.” While serving in Afghanistan Derek knew that he was not only supported by the other members of 15 POG, but also from a distance by his family at home in the UK. “My family have backed me throughout my reserve career, and without their constant support my time in Afghanistan would have been even more challenging,” he said.

“Their relief when I arrived safely back at RAF Brize Norton at the end of my tour was overwhelming.” Back in the UK, and settling back into normal routines, LS Parsons reflected upon his tour of duty in Afghanistan with pride. “I am pleased to have supported the local Afghan people, who were genuinely grateful for the assistance we provided,” he said. “I am particularly proud to

have represented the Royal Naval Reserve so far from the sea and to have been the vanguard for the ratings in the Information Operations specialisation.” In civilian life Derek Parsons is a field installations manager for Anglian Home Improvements – and a keen ballroom dance teacher.

He is married to Nicola and

they have three children. He continues to serve in the

RNR, at Sherwood, and to train within the information operations specialisation. His promotion to petty officer will be effective this year. Sherwood is one of 13 RNR

units, five satellite divisions, and three specialist units across the UK.

The RNR supports the Royal

Navy in meeting its ongoing tasks, both at home and abroad, in times of war, conflict, tension and peacetime, and some reservists – such as padres, doctors, nurses and Merchant Navy officers – are recruited specifically for their civilian skills.

Commodore completes his tour at Sherwood

THE Commander of the UK’s Maritime Reserve Forces has completed a programme of visits to all Maritime Reserve units by making his first visit to HMS Sherwood in Nottingham to meet RN and RM Reservists based there. Sherwood is the home of the Royal Navy in the East Midlands and the RNR unit for reservists across the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and further afield. It

Detachment of RMR Merseyside. Cdre Gareth Derrick RN attended the

is also home to the Nottingham

unit’s annual review and Roll of Honour, where he presented medals and awards to reservists in front of gathered civic dignitaries, employers and families. “I am very pleased to be at HMS

long overdue, but it has been worth the wait. I have now visited all RNR and RMR units. “On behalf of the Navy Board I would like to thank you, and your families and employers, for your excellent support. “I can assure you that all of your efforts

34 FEBRUARY 2013 :

Sherwood,” said Cdre Derrick. “This is my first visit to Nottingham and is

are appreciated by all senior members of the Royal Navy.” Cdre Derrick presented CPO Samantha

Martin with the Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire’s Certificate for Meritorious Service. The award is made in recognition of exceptional service by a volunteer and ranks in precedence just after honours bestowed in the New Year and Birthday Honours lists. “I was thrilled to have received this

award – and it was fantastic to have been presented with it by Cdre Derrick,” said CPO Martin.

“I just get on with my job and do it to the best of my ability, so to be honoured in this way is lovely.”


Cdre Derrick following his mobilisation to Helmand last year (see above). “I am really proud to have represented

LS Derek Parsons was awarded Afghanistan Campaign Medal by

the Royal Naval Reserve in Afghanistan, so far from the sea, and to have helped the local Afghan people,” said LS Parsons. “To have been presented with my campaign

medal by Commander Maritime Reserves was a real honour.” Cdre Derrick also presented the Reserve Service Medal to


Surg Cdr Brendon McKeating in recognition of his long and efficient service of proved capacity in the Reserve Forces. Cdr McKeating, who joined the RNR

after serving as a regular, is a former CO of Sherwood and Head of the RNR Medical Branch. For the past eight years he has also been Chairman of the British Medical Association Armed Forces Committee. Awards were also made to members of

Gilbert Towle Sword; AB Jonathon Browne received the Chief Radio Supervisor Hall Trophy; and AB Sarah Newby picked up the Commanding Officer’s Trophy. Cdre Derrick used his visit to talk about

how changes to the Reserve Forces in the Government’s Future Reserve 2020 (FR20) Strategy will affect the Maritime Reserves. “We

expanding Reserve Forces and doing more with them,” he said. “There will be more opportunities for high-quality training with the regulars and more opportunities to serve alongside them on exercises and operations, but we will protect the nature of Reserve Service.” During

Sherwood’s ship’s company in recognition of their service and performance. Lt Jeff West was presented with the

that will come into effect this year were also announced, and Sherwood’s CO Cdr Martin Clegg, thanked reservists for their commitment and contribution during 2012. “This has been an exceptional year for HMS Sherwood with a number of our reservists supporting the Windsor Armed Forces Muster and Thames River Pageant celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. “A large proportion of our ship’s company

were also mobilised for Op Olympics – the security operation for the London Olympic Games,” he said. “Meanwhile my Recruiting and Outreach

are committed to significantly

team and Initial Naval Training staff have worked extremely hard to promote HMS Sherwood and the Royal Naval Reserve and to attract and train new recruits.”

the evening six promotions

awarded the coveted Lord Lieutenant’s Commendation for Meritorious Service at a ceremony held at the Merchant Venturer’s Hall in Clifton. The awards,

by the Lord Lieutenant of the County

currently Mary Prior – honour the commitment many individuals make to the county’s Reserve and Cadet Forces.

and City of Bristol –

awards were Lt Henry Watts RNR, a member of HMS Flying Fox, the Royal Naval Reserve unit in Bristol. Henry joined the unit in 2006, where he quickly completed his training to become an Amphibious Warfare Officer in only three years. During his career as a

reservist, Henry has undertaken a demanding front-line mobilisation in Afghanistan.


dedication to the RNR, and said: “Henry plays a pivotal role in the unit, and it’s often remarked how he leaves a lasting impression with his superb diligence and tenacity.” Commenting on the ceremony,

Brig Tony Dalby-Welsh, Chief Executive of the Wessex Reserve Forces and Cadets Association, said: “Each recipient of the Lord- Lieutenant’s awards is a credit to their unit and community. “These incredible people should be very proud of their achievements, and are all very worthy of

good work they’ve done for the Reservist Forces.

these, it would be impossible to offer such a valuable service to young people in the region.” Another member of Flying Fox, Lt Cdr Steve Yates RNR, was similarly honoured by the Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, Dame Janet Trotter. The officer was presented with


certificate at the University of Gloucestershire’s Fullwood House.

Cycle ‘tour’ aids hospice

A LEADING Hand from HMS Flying Fox joined members of his family on a charity cycle ride. LS (Sea) Sean Townsend RNR, together with his son, daughter and 17 members of his team from sponsors Itec, took part in the St Luke’s Hospice Tour de Moor event late last year, cycling a 15-mile route across the Plym Valley and Dartmoor to raise vital funds for the Plymouth charity. The event aimed to raise £60,000 to help St Luke’s to continue the service they provide to patients with terminal illness and support to the patients’ families. Sean Townsend, an analyst for said: “Taking part in the


Tour de Moor has been a fantastic experience. The route was pretty challenging – some of those hills were very steep indeed!” The Itec team are already making plans to return this year – some are even considering the endurance 35-mile route. “Without individuals such as recognition for the

He has also taken a leading role in unit recruitment, looking into new channels to engage with the youth of Bristol. His CO, Cdr Susan Jameson commended

Henry’s Amongst those receiving the given annually volunteers were

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