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● Send a gunboat... (Above) Northumberland’s sea boats head for the MV Victoria to escort her into Bosaso (centre) while seamen specialists
stand watch on the upper deck (above right)
(Iron)men of valour
TWO and a half million people were
And in that second home, the Tumaini Of course, good deeds do not always require
able to eat for a month thanks to
Children’s Home has become dear to the hearts money.
the efforts of HMS Northumberland,
of the ship’s company. It received a visit from Sunday, May 14 1989, was one of the darker
40 Northumbrians – led by AB ‘Tiff’ Ridge – days in the modern history of Naval aviation.
guardian of ships delivering aid to
over three days. The more DIY-minded sailors All nine crew and passengers were killed
fi xed taps and toilets, painted, plumbed, laid when HMS Brilliant’s Lynx crashed in the
Six vessels have been safely shepherded into new drains, tiled walls and painted some more.
Kenyan bush outside Mombasa.
port in the turmoil-stricken African state as the The less-skilled at fi x-it jobs spent their time
Two decades later HMS Northumberland’s
frigate resurrected an old Royal Navy skill – playing with the youngsters. sailors returned to Kenya to pay their respects
convoy duty. The home provides care for the under fi ves both to the tragic nine and others who have
Northumberland has been charged with who are either infected with HIV or have been given their lives in defence of freedom on and
fending off pirates and safeguarding ships of the left orphaned by the disease. off the shores of east Africa.
UN World Food Programme in the fi rst The plight of these children prompted A memorial to the Lynx dead was originally
naval operation run by the European an the ship’the s company to organise an erected on the site of the crash, but with the
Union, Operation Atalanta. ironman contest (iro the logo is pictured land up for sale and the monument possibly
After the successful escort of the the belobelow, if you were wondering) – a quarter at risk of vandalism, it has been moved to the
(very sluggish) MV Semlow just before ore maram thon, 13½ mile bike ride, the chapel at the Mission to Seamen in Mombasa.
Christmas, the warship picked up the same distance on a rowing machine, The mission’s padre was presented with two
(slightly less sluggish) MV Jaikur II then another quarter marathon on replacement White Ensigns to hang beside the
to accompany the aid ship into the running track. memorial.
Mogadishu. The 500-mile escort It began at dawn when the “While the victims of the crash were from all
duty took four days, but the Jaikur temperature was ‘only’ 24˚C branches of the Service, the loss of a helicopter
II arrived safely. (75˚F). It ended around mid- and its crew is always particularly mourned,”
True convoy duties began in late day, by which time it was around said Northumberland’s fl ight commander Lt
January when the frigate received
35˚C (95˚F) with most of the Stuart Bainbridge.
● Portland’s fl ight deck offi cer pauses to enjoy sunset over the
orders to escort four merchantmen
ship’s s company cheering on the 11 “I am grateful for this opportunity to pay my
Horn of Africa during night fl ying exercises
– MVs Sea King, Victoria, Ryong ng
aatthletesh . respects to fellow pilots who so tragically lost
Picture: LA(Phot) Alex Cave, FRPU East
Gang II and Kwan Mo Bang – up the east
The fi nal quarter marathon was not a their lives.”
African coast from Mombasa.
lot of fun, said Cdr Simpson (one of the 11 Relatively close by is the Commonwealth War
Sea King left the convoy in the Somali capital
competitors). Graves cemetery where the Northumberland
Mogadishu. The remaining three steamers were
“It ended up being a sort of walk-waddle sailors could be found in an act of remembrance
guided around the Horn of Africa – and into
with water almost constantly. Still, 18 laps later, for 99 men from all three Services.
the ‘lion’s den’ of pirate activity – to Bosaso and
we fi nished with a fl ourish and it was over, “It was pleasing to see that the cemetery
Berbera on Somalia’s northern shores.
legs like jelly, body craving water and sugar,sugar, was was well-maintained and, despite the
Northumberland went to action stations
but we felt great. A real achievement,t,” he heat, some time w as taken by crew to
approaching both ports, sending her Royal
added. wander among the gan raves in quiet
Marines boarding teams from the Fleet
Some of those who didn’t take parartt contemplacon tion,” said Lt Cdr Rob Kitt,
Protection Group RM and sea boats out to in the ironman took to the fi eld for or the frthe igate’s weapon engineer offi cer.
protect the merchant vessels before they were a game of Rugby 7s against a local al “Many of the sailors were
met by UN and Somali security forces. side – “who all seemed to be about surprised at the number of trades –
The mission lasted ten days, but by its end 6ft 10, built like brick outhouses some long gone now – which were
Northumberland had ensured that almost and Olympic sprinters to boot,” represented, from blacksmiths to
44,000 tonnes of food had been delivered to Northumberland’s CO observed. NAAFI canteens.”
UN agencies for distribution in Somalia. Add to that a pitch which possessed And sometimes, you just need
Two out of fi ve Somalis rely on hand-outs all the bounce of concrete and you have to let your hair down. In place of the
to survive; the deliveries from the six vessels the makings of a hefty defeat. traditional fl ight deck movie, enter the
protected by the British warship is enough to We’d like to tell you the ship’s footballers fl ight deck Guitar Hero ‘rock-off’ – basically
feed 2,550,000 people for one month. fared better (on a pitch no less forgiving) in air guitar, minus the air, but with a computer
“I am pleased to say that, like our previous temperatures close to 40˚C (104˚F) in the guitar… Competitors wield a mock-up ‘axe’
escort missions, this one was successful – and shade… had there been any shade, that is. But (to use the correct rock terminology…) which
without incident,” said Cdr Martin Simpson, we’d be lying. records how many ‘notes’ the player hits.
Northumberland’s CO. Good job there was a barbecue, beer and a “It involves absolutely no talent or knowledge
“We remain committed to our humanitarian good old singalong with the Mombasa rugby of guitar playing whatsoever,” explained
and security mission and the benefi t it brings to team to bring the day to a close, by which Northumberland’s CO.
the people of Somalia in their time of need.” time around £5,000 had been raised for the It does, however, demand a lot of theatrics,
Good deeds aboard Northumberland are children’s home. headbanging (child of the 80s – Ed) and
not restricted to convoy duties. “I know that the memories and the enormous practice. Few practised more than XO Lt Cdr
The Kenyan port of Mombasa has become spirit of the children, staff and Kenyans will stay Tristram Kirkwood apparently; he bought the
a second home to the frigate during her six- with us forever. It really has been an honour for game in Dubai and clocked up plenty of hours
month deployment. us to help,” said Cdr Simpson. in the ‘studio’… only to end up fi fth.
new anti-piracy force
“Every boarding is different for their “superb contribution and And while Northumberland a substantial handout from the
and understanding each other’s support”. simply play at being rock gods, ship’s welfare committee in their
capabilities helps us to improve It is the senior American offi cer’s Portland go ‘one louder’ (in true pockets allowed the budding band
our own skills.” aim to “make it unpleasant to be in Spinal Tap fashion...). to buy their instruments.
While the Brits were clambering the pirate business”. But like Rear Enter LET ‘Blakey’ Blakeburn There was then the small
around the Mahan, the Americans Admiral Jones, (lead guitar), LS ‘Stavros’ problem of fi nding (a) time and (b)
were clambering around Portland he concedes
determined to ‘secure’ her.

Farell (rhythm guitar), Mne space to practise in between pirate-
that “there are It’s pleasure ‘Coops’ Cooper (bass), chasing duties and Portland’s daily
Lt Griffi ths’ US counterpart, just not enough
Ensign Ian Townsend, agrees that
to be able to
AB ‘Sherlock’ Holmes routine.
Navy ships out (vocals), Logs ‘Scouse’ But practise they did and with
sharing techniques will help the there to cover demonstrate Thorogood (keyboard) fi ve songs perfected they stepped
task force in the long run. 1.1 million
“Training with Portland’s
the Royal Navy’s
and Lt ‘Flatcap’ out on stage (sometimes known
square miles.” Rogers (drums; he, as the fl ight deck) to wow the
outstanding team of professionals Three ships, commitment to er wears a fl atcap on audience, kicking off with the
was a valuable experience,” he is of course,
keeping the sea
stage…) – known distinctive opening chords of
better than collectively as Day Tripper, running through a
You don’t have to be an none. And the lanes open. Not Under little Oasis, Radiohead and Jimi
American armed to the teeth to intention is
get on board HMS Portland. there. And the
– Cdr Tim Henry

Command (the Hendrix, before closing with Ben
musicians E King’s Stand By Me.
Rear Admiral Terry McKnight, force will grow. had ditched With the repertoire of fi ve songs
CTF 151’s Commanding Offi cer, “A coalition of nations has come the proposed names Portland exhausted, NUC left the stage
toured the frigate and chatted to together off the coast of Somalia Rocks – too cheesy – and Portland “leaving the crowd wanting more”,
the Brits at the front end of the to begin a process which will, over Stones – too heavy). like all good rock bands.
war on piracy – notably the ops time, see these seas return to being Little more than a month ago Their ‘manager’, Lt ‘Kenny’
room team, boarding party and a safe and secure thoroughfare for Not Under Command didn’t Dalgliesh, is hoping to book the
ship’s fl ight. global trade,” said Cdr Henry exist. A trip to a reasonably-priced fl ight deck for more gigs as the
All received the admiral’s thanks emphatically. music shop in Abu Dhabi with ‘Fix the Rudder tour’ continues.
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