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GLOBAL REACH Victoria falls in

– RFA Fort Victoria (34,000 tons) – delivers pallets of supplies to the destroyer USS Jason Dunham to allow the American warship to continue her work safeguarding the most powerful surface ship afloat, carrier USS John C Stennis.

Royal Fleet Auxiliary – except with a different ship providing the all-too- often-unsung logistic support to the international naval effort in the Indian Ocean and Gulf. Fort Vic has recently taken over from tanker RFA Wave Ruler (she arrived home in Portland in early January) with Combined Task Force 53. If that number doesn’t ring any bells

2013 opened as 2012 ended for the

BUSINESS as usual somewheres east of Suez... The largest ship in the Naval Service


she’s officially classed as a Fleet Replenishment Ship – we call her a ‘one-stop’ supply ship, a sort of floating supermarket meeting all the Navy’s needs. There is always an RFA vessel assigned to CTF53, and during her four-month attachment to the force Fort Vic’s predecessor Wave Ruler was in constant demand.

it’s because it’s an unsung American- led naval group dedicated solely to meeting the supply needs of the many warships from many nations involved in the massive counter-piracy/terrorism/ smuggling/people-trafficking effort, described in short by military figures as ‘maritime security operations’. The task force’s operating area is

vast: from the sands of Egypt through the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa, Indian Ocean north of a line drawn roughly from the southern border of Somalia to Karachi in Pakistan, plus the entire Gulf.

The tanker clocked up more than 27,000 miles, as she sailed to meet up with coalition ships for 52 replenishments at sea (better known by every sailor simply as a ‘RAS’). In doing so the tanker delivered 2.9 million gallons of marine fuel – enough to fill the tanks of nearly a quarter of million Ford Focuses… if they ran on marine fuel – and 119,000 gallons of aviation fuel (sufficient for a ‘mere’ 10,200 Ford Focuses…). “The service provided by RFA Wave Ruler was first-class,” said Lt Cdr David Noon, the only non-American on the staff of CTF53; he sorts out the logistical requirements for all non-US ships.

for a RAS from any non-US ship, the

Slotting neatly into this force – which includes US Combat Logistics Force ships, Strategic Sealift, Special Mission ships and logistics aircraft – Fort Vic is working hard to maintain the great reputation the Royal Fleet Auxiliary has earned over many years in the region.

The ship has just completed a multi- million-pound refit in Dubai which will help to carry her through to the end of a four-year deployment east of Suez. Fort Vic carries a mix of ‘wet’ (fuel for ships and aircraft, water) and ‘dry’ (food, spare parts, ammunition)

Wave Ruler. The arrival in theatre of RFA Fort Victoria has been seamless and, within a very short time, she has provided outstanding support to all ships.”

Not that Fort Victoria is simply a ‘one-trick pony’

Last year she was the flagship of a highly-successful Royal Navy/Royal Marines counter-piracy surge. And in a couple of months she’ll be

delivering supplies.

repeating that mission – to a degree. This time she’ll be home to a battle staff from the Singaporean Navy as they take the reins of CTF151, the dedicated pirate-busting force in the Indian Ocean and off the Horn of Africa.

Picture: MCM2 Deven B. King, US Navy

“Whenever I received a request requesting

unit always sought

Arctic heroes’ belated medal

SEVENTY years after they took part in the worst naval journey in the world, veterans of convoys to Russia will finally receive government recognition for their deeds. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the belated casting of the Arctic Convoy Star – a full campaign medal to be worn with pride alongside other decorations for service in WW2 such as the Atlantic, Burma or Pacific Stars. His decision follows more than ten years of lobbying by the dwindling band of veterans – thought to number between 200 and 400 and all now in their late 80s at their youngest – who claimed delivering vital supplies to the Soviet Union from 1941-45 not only tipped the balance against the Nazis, but had never been properly recognised by Whitehall, even though Churchill himself acknowledged it was “the worst journey in the world”. Arctic veterans have always stressed that their campaign was entirely different from that in the Atlantic (keeping Britain’s sea lanes open): different aims, different conditions – and should have been recognised with a specific medal, not the Atlantic Star which was awarded when hostilities ended. The four-year struggle to provide material to support the Soviet war effort cost the lives of around 3,000 sailors and merchant seamen – over 100 civilian and military ships were lost, with the nadir coming in the summer of 1942 when convoy PQ17 was mauled by the Luftwaffe and nine U-boats. Following a review by senior diplomat Sir

John Holmes last year, which recommended the government act as quickly as possible given the age of veterans, Mr Cameron told the Commons that campaign medals would be cast both for the Arctic men and also Bomber Command crews, similarly ignored at the war’s end.

“I‘m very pleased that some of the brave men of the Arctic Convoys will get the recognition they so richly deserve for the very dangerous work they did,” the premier told fellow MPs. Criteria and details of how to apply for the medal are being drawn up by the Cabinet Office. We will publish them as soon as they are confirmed.


SSAFA Forces Help supports the whole Forces family, which is why George went on our Short Break for Children with Additional Needs and Disabilities. This gave George a great adventure holiday and gave the rest of his family some well deserved respite.

To find out more about how we help our Armed Forces community: Registered Charity No. 210760 Est. 1885. Scotland No. SC038056 FEBRUARY 2013 : 7

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