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Astute lessons acted upon

LESSONS have been learned and steps taken in the wake of the tragic shooting aboard HMS Astute in 2011. Procedures involving armed guarding on ships and submarines in harbour have been tightened. In addition, the maximum amount of alcohol sailors are allowed to drink in the 24 hours before going on duty – ten units – has been halved to five. No alcohol is permitted at all in the final ten hours before duty. The changes were recommended by two Service Inquiries, published following the two-week inquest into the fatal shooting of Lt Cdr Ian Molyneux, killed during a visit by the submarine to Southampton in April 2011.

Southampton Coroner Keith Wiseman heard considerable evidence of a heavy drinking culture and was told that AB Ryan Donovan may have drunk as much as 20 pints of cider and lager, plus cocktails and double vodkas in the 48 hours before going on duty. While Astute’s duty officer considered Donovan fit for duty, subsequent toxicology reports suggested he was still over the drink-drive limit at the time of the shooting.

The junior rating subsequently fired his SA80 rifle in Astute’s control room, shooting dead the boat’s weapon engineer officer Lt Cdr Molyneux, firing seven rounds in 13 fateful seconds. Lt Cdr Molyneux was posthumously awarded the George Medal for attempting to stop Donovan, who was jailed for 25 years for the officer’s murder, as well as the attempted murders of Lt Cdr Chris Hodge, CPO David McCoy and PO Chris Brown.

Mr Wiseman said he would write to the Navy with a number of recommendations, including asking for it to consider random breath testing – a move welcomed by Lt Cdr Molyneux’s widow Gillian.

Recording a narrative verdict

Caribbean (k)nights

ENJOYING sunnier climes while it’s brass monkeys here is tanker RFA Wave Knight. She’s spending the first half of 2013 joining the international fight against the drugs trade in the Caribbean as well as being on hand to help out should any natural disasters strike the region (the hurricane ‘season’ begins on June 1). Wave Knight takes over from

fellow Royal Fleet Auxiliary Argus which carried out the same mission – Atlantic Patrol North – in the second half of 2012. She sailed west – the first

Sailors’ bravery in Torbay tug rescue

THESE are the final moments of the


vessel Emsstrom, sinking off the Devon coast with HMS Severn and a tug in attendance – the aftermath of a dramatic night-time rescue by sailors from the fishery protection ship and

frigate HMS Lancaster. Their combined efforts couldn’t

save the 80m (262ft) vessel – but they were able to prevent the tug which had been hauling her from foundering after a night-long battle against the elements. Sailors from the two warships struggled in dark,


“I can only hope that these recommendations will be fully implemented and improvements will become evident across the Service and Ian’s death will not be in vain,” she said outside court. “My intention is not to put an end to sailors’ runs ashore and I fully understand that many traditions are deeply embedded in Naval life. My wish is to focus attention on the consumption of alcohol and the carrying out of safety-critical duties.” Even before the shooting

aboard Astute, work was already under way to improve alcohol awareness across the Naval Service – particularly before carrying out safety-critical duties. This work is complemented by the introduction of legislation as part of the Armed Forces Act 2011, which will permit testing for alcohol (breath, blood or urine) in support of disciplinary proceedings against any individual conducting safety-critical duties. Releasing the details of the

Service Inquiries – one dealing with armed guarding in general, the other the background to the fatal shooting – Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Phil Jones said all but one of the 39 recommendations those reports made had been, or were being, introduced, including alcohol education and policies. “This was an appalling and unprecedented incident,” Vice Admiral Jones said. “The Submarine Service is a tight-knit community of professionals, all supported strongly by their families. Lt Cdr Ian Molyneux was a much- admired and respected member of that community and he is sorely missed.

Mrs Molyneux, her family, and those others affected by this tragic event.”

The Service Inquiries can be read at government/publications/ release-of-the-reports-of-two- service-inquiries-following-the- shooting-incident-onboard- hms-astute-on-8-april-2011. “Our thoughts remain with

conditions to plug a hole in the damaged hull of Christos XXII and pump out tons of water to save it from sinking off Hope’s Nose, near Torbay.


They fought against the English


hammering wooden wedges into a foot-long gap, caused when the Emsstrom rammed into the tug as she towed her from Germany to Turkey.

The RNLI’s lifeboats from Exmouth and Torbay had been first to respond to the SOS and took off most of the tug’s crew. But their pumps were unable to stem the influx and the Christos XXII was in danger of foundering. At that point Severn and Lancaster, which was sailing from her home base of Portsmouth to Plymouth, arrived on the scene. Both warships sent sailors

across in their boats, and while the damage teams went aboard the tug to try to save it, the sea boats moved around the 70m (230ft) hull of the Christos XXII to try to locate the gash, while the Lancaster team, led by chief stoker

CPO ‘Chelsea’ Halsey, went into the bowels of the stricken craft to do the same. “It was very cold, there was

very little light and they were going into an unfamiliar space,” said Cdr Steve Moorhouse, HMS Lancaster’s Commanding Officer. “It was quite a demanding job for everyone.

“They found a reasonably- sized gash in the engine room, hammered soft wood into it. The water was cold, waist deep and at times the sailors had to duck their heads under to get the wedges in.” While they were struggling against the

Channel, Severn’s

diesel pumps were in action. The temporary repairs the

sailors carried out managed to stem the tide, while the pumps got rid of 70 tons of water an hour to stop the Christos XXII sinking. Because of the fumes in the enclosed room and the temperature of the water – hands became numb with

cold and

unable to grasp the hammers – the sailors were rotated over the six or seven-hour rescue mission, and hot food was sent across to keep up their energy levels. “The team came back very cold and tired but high on adrenaline and big smiles on their faces at a job well done,” said Cdr Moorhouse. “There’s no doubt in my mind

that the tug would have founded without the Royal Navy’s efforts. “Our training really made a difference. Chief Halsey said that working in the flooded engine room was just like being in a replica of the DRIU. “You hear a lot of mayday calls off the South Coast and more often than not they don’t turn into anything. We quickly realised this

HMS and HMAS Type 26?

THE Royal and Royal Australian Navies could work together to build the frigates of the future thanks to a treaty between London and Canberra signed by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and his Australian counterpart Stephen Smith. Part of the closer co-operation between the two Commonwealth

nations will see whether the design of the RN’s next-generation frigate – the Type 26 ‘Global Combat Ship’ – could be shared with the Australians. The RAN’s Adelaide-class frigates are coming towards the end of their

lives, just like the RN’s older Type 23s which are due for replacing at the end of the decade. Design is already well under way on the Type 26s which are intended to be capable of multiple tasks courtesy of what naval architects call a ‘flexible mission space’ with equipment for a specific mission: sea boats or unmanned air, surface and underwater craft. Like their predecessors, they’ll be fitted with air defence missiles – the Sea Ceptor system currently under design – a medium calibre main gun, the latest radar and sonar sensors, and there’ll be a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter on the flight deck. It’s a design which could also meet the needs of the Royal Australian

Navy, Mr Hammond said visiting HMAS Stirling naval base, the frigate Perth and submarine HMAS Farncomb. “Areas of potential co-operation include future frigates, with the Royal

Navy’s Type 26 design, a cutting-edge blueprint that could be the first of many opportunities for future collaboration,” he added. “In times of budget pressures for all nations, it makes sense to maximise economies of scale and work with our friends to get the best value for money on all sides.”

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was the real thing. We helped as any mariner in the world would do in the same circumstances.” Just three days later, the crew of the frigate HMS St Albans stopped the stricken fishing boat Lady Ellen being dashed on the rocks of Rame Head in Plymouth Sound, towing it to safety before a pilot boat helped the vessel into Plymouth. St Albans had been

just a

couple of miles away when she picked up a mayday from the 18ft fishing boat, whose engine

had failed close to the Cornish headland. She had started to drift perilously close to the rocks. The Saint sent her sea boat with

marine engineers aboard away to possibly restart the engines or, at the very least, tow the Lady Ellen away from the cliffs. They found the tiny fishing boat

would require more substantial repairs in Plymouth, so hauled her away from Rame Head and passed the tow to pilot cutter Tamar Racer to take the Lady Ellen back to the Barbican.

Naval Service vessel of 2013 to deploy – after a lengthy overhaul in the hands of Cammell Laird in Birkenhead, who revamped her engine, cabins and mess decks, enhanced her air conditioning system and generally spruced up the 12-year-old tanker following her most recent deployment, a stint in the Gulf and Indian Ocean supporting the large-scale maritime security operation. For this deployment Wave Knight has loaded specialist stores to help countries in the event of a natural disaster. “Following a particularly

busy regeneration period, Wave Knight’s ship’s company has risen to the challenge of a short notice change of programme and we are now fully-prepared – and looking forward to an extended tour to the Caribbean,” said Capt Ross Ferris RFA, the 31,000-tonne tanker’s Commanding Officer. “Our flexibility and capability is ably demonstrated by Wave Knight’s action-packed programme.

operations East of Suez and this year’s operations in the Caribbean, and with a major refit en route, 2013 promises to be no less busy and satisfying.”


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