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14 NAVY NEWS, MARCH 2009
637
The versatile Viking
FOR much of the past
decade, HMS Ocean
was often seen to be the
busiest ship in the surface
fl eet.
Wherever there was conflict,
unrest, tension, Ocean could be
Class: Bay-class Landing Ship
found.
Dock (Auxiliary)
The same could be said today
Pennant Number: L3006
of the versatile Bay class which are Builder: Swan Hunter, Wallsend
being used for much more than
Laid down: October 1 2001
their original role of supporting
Launched: July 18 2003
amphibious landings.
Commissioned: December 17
The leading ship of the class,
2006
Mascot: Vik the Viking
RFA Largs Bay, epitomises their
Displacement: 16,160 tonnes
all-purpose nature.
Length: 176 metres (577ft)
She has done what she was Beam: 26.4 metres (32.2 metres
intended to do: put troops ashore
with Mexeflotes) (86ft and 105ft
during exercises in the UK –
respectively)
South-west Scimitar in the spring
Draught: 5.8 metres (19ft)
of 2007 – and most recently in the
Speed: 18 knots (max)
Complement: 76 (plus 17
Falklands (see pages 25-27).
embarked flight)
And she has done what she
Military lift: 356 troops (can be
wasn’t necessarily designed to do: increased to 500), 1,200 linear
(successfully) catch drugs-runners
metres of vehicle/equipment
es
in the Caribbean.
space for up to 32 Challenger 2
After a seven-month deployment
tanks or 150 small trucks
there over the winter and spring of
Landing craft: Two LCVP or one
LCU Mk10
2007-08 and a spell in UK waters,
Mexeflotes: Two – transported
including Queen’s Colours, Meet
fixed to hull sides
Your Navy (the new-look Navy Vehicle deck: 1,200 linear metres
Days) in Portsmouth and a visit
Helicopters: Flight deck can host
to Leith, the ship left home last
● RFA Largs Bay docked down off West Falkland during Exercise Cape Bayonet while an RAF Sea King conducts a rescue of Fred, the ship’s helicopters up to Chinook-size;
autumn to cross the Pond once
accident-prone dummy Picture: LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts, FRPU North Temporary Air Storage shelter
more.
serves as hangar.
Propulsion: Diesel electric
Crewed by 76 RFA sailors, bol- a spell of anti-drugs patrol before three thrusters – two at the stern thrusters. the auxiliary has adopted one of
propulsion with bow thruster and
stered by 17 fliers and engineers she undergoes some maintenance which rotate 360˚ and one in the It’s not the only piece of Largs’ more colourful characters
azimuth thrusters
of 219 Flight, 815 NAS, the ship in the USA. bow – which not only drive the wizardry to impress. A computer as her mascot. Armament: 2 x Miniguns, 6 x
was intent upon stopping the drug The trip to the South Atlantic ship through the water but also system monitors the ship’s doors Vik the Viking, a diminutive
GPMG
barons once more. allowed the ship to make use of serve as the ‘rudder’. and hatches and sets off alarms bearded Scandinavian with Facts and figur
Instead, after a brief visit to her amphibious features – her The two stern thrusters drive depending on the sea state – or a golden helmet and a sharp
the USA, she found herself in the cavernous loading dock which the ship through the ocean at nuclear, chemical and biological sword – he’s actually the logo for
The town, however, has had a
South Atlantic where a ten-week can hold up to 32 Challenger 2 speeds up to 18kts; if one goes warfare threat – if any is opened the anti-litter campaign in the
ship named in its honour.
stint is drawing to a close. tanks, landing craft and Mexeflote down, Largs can still make 12kts. inadvertently, taking into account Scottish town – travels wherever
HMS Largs, a former banana
After visiting South Georgia, powered rafts. They can also be used to the 30 or so seconds it takes to his shipmates go.
boat, was used in almost every
the ship is spending a few more The ship stores enough food to maintain Largs’ position at anchor open and close a door. Largs Bay is the first military
major amphibious operation in
weeks around the Falklands before feed one person for 15,000 days... in strong currents or strong As for Largs specifically, she’s vessel to carry the name (although
WW2 as a headquarters and
HMS Manchester arrives. or all the ship’s company for more winds – using a series of monitors affiliated with the town of the there was an HMS Largo Bay, a
command vessel, including North
That will allow her return to than half a year. and sensors, computers adjust same name in Ayrshire. frigate which served between 1944
Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Normandy
her original stomping ground for
All four Bays are powered by the direction and power of the And thanks to that affiliation and 1958). and southern France.
HEROES OF THE ROYAL NAVY No.59
photographic
PO Henry Ernest Wild, AM
THE deeds of Ernest Shackleton, the fate of laying exertions and prepared for the austral THIS month’s image from the photographic archive of
his ship Endurance, are the stuff of Antarctic winter, autumn gales tore along the coast, the Imperial War Museum depicts the end of an era
legend. ripping Aurora from her moorings. – and a sight familiar to some of our older readers.
Marooned on the ice, Shackleton set out to Fastened to an ice floe, the ship was carried Junior Seaman Alan Ferguson becomes the last
raise the alarm and save his comrades, every away. It would be nine months before Aurora ‘Button Boy’ to make the salute from the top of
one of them. Which he did. broke free of the ice and another two after that – the mast at HMS Ganges. The image was taken
Each year Royal Marines recreate his incredible April 1916 – before she reached New Zealand. during a parents’ day display witnessed by
trek across South Georgia to reach safety, which The shore party found themselves stranded HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on June 6 1973.
remains no less forbidding a century later. on the ice; most of their supplies were still The previous year the school leaving age
Yet the plight of the Irish polar explorer and aboard the Aurora. had been raised to 16 and the boy’s training
his 27 comrades on the frozen continent was not Nevertheless, with great ingenuity, the men establishment became a general training
unique between 1914 and 1916. set about improvising supplies, making use facility. (Neg HU 87137)
Shackleton left the UK leading the grandly- of the detritus of previous expeditions to the ■ THIS photograph – and 9,999,999
titled Imperial Trans-Antarctica Expedition. Ross Sea. (Ernest Wild even made a form of others from a century of war and
And as the name suggests, the explorer and tobacco made from tea, coffee, sawdust and peace – can be viewed or purchased
his party set out to do what no one had done dried herbs.) at www.iwmcollections.org.uk,
before: cross the Antarctic land mass from the And despite being stranded, the party never emailing photos@IWM.org.uk or
Weddell Sea on the South American side to the thought of abandoning their original mission phoning 0207 416 5333.
Ross Sea in the southern Pacific. – to build the supply depots, unaware that
There was no way Shackleton could haul Shackleton too was trapped.
all his supplies over 1,800 miles of snow and The second season of depot building was
ice. They would run out 400 miles short of even more arduous than the first.
their destination, at the foot of the Beardmore Dissent, the weather, frostbite, scurvy, snow
Glacier. blindness all conspired against the explorers.
And so a support team was dispatched to the Rev Arnold Spencer-Smith, the expedition’s
Ross Sea to build a series of supply depots from chaplain and photographer, was the first to
Cape Evans to the glacier. succumb. Exhausted, he had to be hauled by his
On an ill-fated expedition, the fate of the ‘Ross comrades on a sled.
Sea party’, as the ten men became known, was The expedition leader was next. He joined the
the illest. chaplain on the sled, hauled by Ernest Wild and
It began badly – their ship Aurora arrived late former PO Ernest Joyce.
– and never recovered. Spencer-Smith died just 19 miles from safety.
Most of the party were Antarctic novices. Macintosh was more fortunate, reaching camp
There were disagreements with the expedition at Hut Point thanks to the efforts of Wild and
leader, Aeneas Mackintosh, a Merchant Navy Joyce.
officer. The motor tractors which had been The two men had hauled their leader 100
landed proved an utter failure. miles; they had carried the reverend 350 miles,
Nevertheless, in two months, the Ross Sea dragging him for 42 days. In all the party had
party succeeded in establishing a series of spent 162 days away from camp, trudging
depots – inadequately provisioned admittedly – across 950 miles of Antarctic wasteland.
from the Pacific to the Beardmore Glacier. Mackintosh subsequently died in a bid to
The cost was high. Ten dogs had been lost. reach Cape Evans – against the advice of his
Confidence in Mackintosh’s leadership was comrades – while Wild, Joyce and a third explorer
low. And PO Ernest Wild had been forced to waited two more months to successfully make
surrender part of one toe and even the top of an the attempt.
ear to frostbite. They were rescued by Shackleton the following
Adventure was in the Wild blood; Ernest’s January, 1917. Only then did they learn that
brother Frank made five trips to the ice on their leader had never made his cross-Antarctic
various expeditions (including the ill-starred journey – and all the depot laying had been in
Trans-Antarctica attempt). vain.
Ernest Wild, however, was a career sailor, It would be more than six years before Ernest
more than two decades in the Senior Service. He Wild was gazetted for his “gallant conduct” on
volunteered for the Ross Sea party as a ‘general the ice... by which time he was dead.
assistant’. It would be his first and only trip to He fell victim to typhoid while serving with
Antarctica. HMS Biarritz in the Mediterranean in March 1918
As the shore party recovered from their depot- and died in hospital in Malta.
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