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Where Saints in glory stand
THE last act in the long and proud career of Her Caribbean, evacuating the populace of Montserrat in
Majesty’s Ship Southampton was played out in 1995 when Chances Peak volcano erupted.
Portsmouth on a beautiful, crisp late winter’s day. And she was on hand with tanker RFA Grey Rover
With ship’s company past and present, 13 former to intercept a vessel carrying £350m cocaine in 2006
commanding officers, civic dignitaries, affiliates and – just two highlights in a 27-year career.
CINC Fleet Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope on the jetty, the Perhaps it was fitting that Southampton’s final
venerable destroyer was formally decommissioned. major deployment, which ended just before Christmas
Thus did the curtain come down on a career with 2007, was to the South Atlantic.
the Senior Service which began in dramatic fashion. Since then she has been used for navigational and
The Saint was launched in January 1979 and gunnery training around the UK, joined the Tall Ships
commissioned in the autumn of 1981. at Rouen and paid a farewell visit to her namesake
Her trials and work-up were cut short by the city along the Solent.
Falklands conflict and she was dispatched to the By then, the destroyer had clocked up more than
South Atlantic at the war’s end. 700,000 miles on her odometer.
Southampton’s CO on that first deployment in Southampton’s CO for that final deployment and
1982 was Capt Sam Salt – returning to the islands exercises around the UK was Cdr Richard Morris.
just weeks after his previous Type 42, HMS Sheffield, “We’re sad to see her go,” he said, “but we’re
had been fatally wounded by an Argentine Exocet encouraged that in the same base we’ve got HMS
missile. Daring – the real future of the Navy.”
“When we were there, it was still a dangerous Picture: LA(Phot) Owen King, FRPU East
environment, so the ship’s company had to learn
fast,” the now retired rear admiral said.
“Learn fast they did – and they proved what an
asset the ship could be.”
She proved to be an asset, too, in the
Frosty and
Rising to the
Skill, tenacity and diligence...
AFTER fi ve months out of action
THE “immense contribution” made by the of Fleet Forward Support (Air); the Materials to the repair of aircraft and restoration of vital
SAILORS from HMS Ledbury
thanks to a spot of maintenance,
RN’s ultimate ‘fi xers’ has been recognised with Integrity Group who ensure that a helicopter’s operational capability in support of combat
took advantage of a period of
HMS Hurworth is warming up
a commendation from Britain’s second most working parts and fuselage do not fail is the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
TLC for their ship to head to
for future duties.
senior admiral. other – received a Commander-in-Chief Fleet It continues: “At a time when UK forces
Herefordshire and their namesake
While the UK endured one of
CINC Fleet Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope Commendation... from the man himself. are facing unprecedented challenges in
market town.
the most bitter winters for two
singled out the men and women of the Mobile Admiral Stanhope toured MASU’s facilities, environmentally harsh and operationally-
The ship’s company spent
decades, the Hunt-class warship
Aircraft Support Unit (MASU) – ‘the RAC discussed the team’s ongoing work around dangerous circumstances, the resolve and
two days in Ledbury – between
was out and about off the south
and AA for military helicopters’ – for their the globe, inspected some modifications the effectiveness of the MASU teams serve to
Gloucester and Hereford –
coast shaking off those overhaul
efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular. engineers are working on for front-line units, make them exemplars of outstanding loyalty
catching up with locals and,
The task of the air engineers based at and presented Afghanistan operational service and professionalism.”
more importantly, restoring RN
The tail end of 2008 saw
Fleetlands in Gosport – with a permanent medals to CPOs Burton, Corcoran, Davidson Since 2005, MASU repairers have carried
sporting pride.
the minehunter undergoing
detachment in Kandahar – is to provide on-the- and Parker and PO Davenport who had out just short of 150 structural repairs to
Last summer, the inaugural
improvements to her fi re
spot repairs to helicopters above and beyond recently returned from theatre. helicopters – making them airworthy again for
Ledbury Challenge Cup was
detection system (no need to
what engineers with a specific unit or squadron Their work in Afghanistan has frequently operations, and have even fixed a few RAF and
contested by Ledbury Town FC
guess what that does), revamping
would be expected to provide. taken place under enemy fire – and in Allied fixed-wing aircraft.
(who play in the premier division
the junior rates’ accommodation
On top of that, the MASU experts devise temperatures of 50˚C in high summer and The unit’s citation concludes: “MASU’s
of the West Midlands (Regional)
and fi tting Seafox, the successor
modifications to military helicopters to meet below freezing in the winter. overall contribution far outweighs the sum of
League) and HMS Ledbury
to the ‘yellow submarine’ mine
‘urgent operational requirement’, such as a The admiral also presented CO Cdr Nigel its individual parts, whilst its esprit de corps,
(who, er, don’t).
disposal submersible.
chute to get rid of spent Minigun shell cases Higgins with that commendation, which reads, professionalism, technical skill, tenacity and
The locals triumphed 4-2
After a series of harbour tests
on Chinooks. in part: diligence are the foundations upon which this
(on penalties) in that inaugural
and drills, Hurworth left Pompey
For all this, and more, MASU – one half “MASU has made an immense contribution critical capability is built.”
encounter, leaving team manager
for, er, more tests and drills (fi re, ET(ME) Sean ‘Bootstrap’ Blaker
fl ood, injuries – the usual gamut as sick as a parrot.
of calamity caused by assessors
Blue is the new red
Well, now he’s over the moon,
from the Flag Offi cer Sea for the return match saw the
Training). matelots, led by PO(WEA)
With the FOSTies (a) satisfi ed Matthew ‘Bruce’ Lee, scrape a
and (b) gone, the ship could
YOUR eyes do not deceive you and
6-4 victory on a very muddy New
conduct engine and weapons tests
yes, the year is 2009, not 1969.
Street pitch and get their mitts on
in typical January weather (ie
Arriving at Culdrose – and
the silver trophy.
staying there for the year to mark
Meanwhile, CO Lt Cdr Chris
“The trials were to prove the
two milestones in naval aviation
Nelson, navigator S/Lt Rob
engines work, our guns go bang
– is Sea King XV648, painted in
Garner and ABs ‘Jim’ Bowen and
and that Seafox can fl ush out
the dark blue livery in which
Sam Wisher said ‘hello’ to the
mines,” explained navigator Lt
the famous helicopter was
residents of a care home and a
James Smith.
introduced into service.
brain injury ward in the adjacent
All of which was a new
2009 marks the 100th
experience to AB(MW)s Andy
anniversary of naval
The ship enjoys links with the
Torr and Dan Phillips, enjoying
fl ight and the 40th
market town going back to the
(if that’s the right word to
birthday of the Sea
previous ship and WW2, although
describe the Channel in January)
King (it made its
strictly speaking she’s named
their fi rst spell at sea after training
maiden fl ight in May
after the Ledbury hunt… which
at Collingwood.
1969 and joined a trials
received a visit from the sailors
“I enjoyed my fi rst few days at
unit at Culdrose that
on the second day of their stay in
sea, even though I felt very unwell
Herefordshire. They dropped in
at the start,” said Dan. “I have
To celebrate the birthdays,
on the kennels, while a few more
been promised that the more time
one 771 NAS Sea King went into the
adventurous chaps went on to
at sea the better I will feel.”
spray workshop at Yeovilton and emerged dark
follow the hunt.
His young shipmate added:
As for the ship, she’s
“Working with Seafox was good
The original paint scheme was eventually phased out in the mid 80s in favour
undergone some maintenance
fun – I was glad to have fi nally got
of grey for the pinger squadrons and red and grey for SAR formations.
following several months away
some practical experience of mine
But XV648 will remain dark blue throughout the anniversary year as it
with NATO at the end of last
fl ies SAR missions from the Cornish air station. It will also be appearing at
year, plus improvements to her
They and the rest of
numerous Fly Navy 100 events and air shows throughout the year.
high pressure air and electricity
Hurworth’s ship’s company have
Across the Services, 96 Sea Kings continue to fl y on Search and Rescue,
generating systems.
plenty of that ahead. There’s
airborne surveillance and commando troop carrying missions.
Next up is a spell of OST
Operational Sea Training to come
Since 1969, the Sea King fl eet has clocked up 1.3 million hours (more than
(aka ‘beasting’ according to the
in Scotland before the sailors
148 years…) in the service of the nation.
Picture: LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins, RNAS Yeovilton
ship’s company) under FOST in
head to the Gulf. Faslane.
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