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Commando Helicopter Force
HMS Dasher
HMS Brocklesby
HMS Pursuer
Taurus task force
HMS Richmond
3 Cdo Bde/Vikings/845 NAS/
HMS Manchester
846 NAS/847 NAS/Fleet FS(Air)
HMS Sabre/Scimitar
HMS St Albans
Cdr Martyn Skeer
HMS Northumberland
HMS Portland
HMS Lancaster
HMS Atherstone
HMS Chiddingfold
HMS Echo
HMS Ramsey
HMS Blyth
HMS Grimsby
HMS Ark Ro
HMS Pembroke
RFA Cardigan Bay
RFA Wave Knight
HMS Gannet
800/801 NAS RFA Largs Bay
HMS Clyde
HMS Endurance
TON Plus one ballistic missile submarine on patrol somewhere beneath the Seven Seas
FFleet Focusleet Focus
THIS sight – HMS Lancaster’s Merlin heading towards
the Khawr Al Amaya oil terminal at sunset – is now
but a memory for the men and women of the Red
IF EVER there is a month which demonstrates the varied
After six months on patrol around the two platforms (and five
global mission of the Senior Service it is this one.
months in defence watches), the Type 23 frigate should be back in
Pirate chasing in the Indian Ocean. Amphibious operations
Blighty – Pompey to be precise – right about the time you’re reading
in the Falklands and home waters. Survey work in the Far East.
Combat and peacekeeping in Afghanistan.
Midnight on February 3 was the moment the warship relinquished
We ought to, and we shall, begin in Afghanistan where a
her duties as guardian of the platforms which are responsible for so
series of bold, calculated strikes by 3 Commando Brigade – in
much of Iraq’s GDP.
particular 42 and 45 Commandos – smashed Taleban drugs
Not once during the six patrols of the tip of the Gulf were the two
factories, headquarter compounds and deprived the insurgents
platforms threatened by terrorists and foes intent upon damaging
of at least £50m income (see pages 16-17). Vital to all RM
them – and destabilising Iraq itself. More than 300 vessels and craft
operations in Helmand and Kandahar is the contribution made by
were quizzed by Lancaster to ensure pumping from the two huge
Royal Marines Reservists. We look at their role on pages 22-23.
offshore ‘filling stations’ proceeded safely.
HMS Lancaster has bowed out of protecting Iraq’s oil
The last patrol proved to be particularly demanding. For besides
platforms, handing over duties to her sister HMS Richmond (see
keeping an eye out for potential enemies, Lancaster also had to
right). Richmond received a mauling from winter storms in the
contend with not one but two teams of inspectors.
Bay of Biscay, as did her sibling HMS St Albans, sailing to the
A mobile FOST team tested all the ship’s company to ensure that
Med to assume NATO duties (see page 9).
Lancaster was as on the ball as she was during Operational Sea
NATO duties are finally over for HMS Roebuck, which served
Training, while the Naval Flying Standards Flight were keen to see the
as the flagship of an international minehunting force until
embarked flight from 829 NAS at work in their natural environment.
handing duties to the Danes (see page 9). An RN presence in the
“With the end of our sixth and last patrol, there was cause for
group is maintained, however, in the shape of HMS Brocklesby
quiet reflection on what the ship’s company has achieved during the
(see opposite).
deployment,” said CO Cdr Rory Bryan.
If you really want to go minehunter-spotting this month, go
“The ship has helped to maintain the integrity of Iraq’s territorial
to Bahrain where there were four Sandowns – half the force –
waters and helped enable millions of barrels of oil to have been safely
meeting up. HMS Ramsey and Blyth are heading home after 2½
years in the Gulf... and HMS Pembroke and Grimsby are taking
“We’ve also played a key role in helping to train Iraqi sailors and
their place (see page 8).
marines to allow them to work towards taking responsibility for
To the south, sister 23s HMS Northumberland (under an EU
protection of the platforms.”
force led by the RN) and HMS Portland (under a new US-led task
Lancaster’s place is being taken by HMS Richmond which ran
group) keep the pressure on the pirates in the Indian Ocean. See
into the same monstrous seas upon leaving Portsmouth as her sister
pages 11-13 for a comprehensive round-up.
St Albans endured (see page 9).
Just leaving UK shores is the Taurus 09 amphibious task group,
Not surprisingly, Richmond was glad to reach the Rock, allowing
led by HMS Bulwark and including HMS Ocean. The RN-RM-
a few cosmetic touch-ups, eradicating the rust streaks left by the
FAA force geared up for its deployment to the Mediterranean
Biscay battering.
and Far East by invading Cornwall (see page 15) and it is taking
The frigate briefly hosted CINC Fleet Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope
a Gucci new gunboat to play with (see page 24).
who sat down with the ship’s company to chat about their impending
HMS Manchester is bound for the Falklands via Portugal and
Gulf tour of duty and to listen to some of their concerns.
Cape Verde (see page 9). The destroyer takes over from RFA
He left the ship convinced the sailors were “well-motivated” and
Largs Bay, paying her inaugural visit to the islands to take part
in Army-Air Force-Navy exercises (see pages 25-27). She’s also
He added: “The positive attitude I encountered clearly bodes well
our ‘ship of the month’ (see page 14).
for the deployment and I have no doubt that Richmond will meet the
HMS Endurance is about to ‘piggy back’ home from the South
challenges Telic will place before her with grit and professionalism.”
Atlantic after her engine room flood (see opposite), but things are
Some of that grit was evident on the football pitch in Gib with a 4-3
rather brighter for her fellow hydrographic squadron companion
victory ground out against HMS Edinburgh.
HMS Echo which has just arrived in Jakarta on the latest stage of
Picture: LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherston, FRPU North
her mammoth five-year survey deployment (see page 8).
At home, the heavy winter snowfall demanded the bravery of
HMS Gannet’s fliers in and around Loch Lomond (see opposite).
The weather was rather kinder to HMS Illustrious and
Ark Royal which both visited Loch Long (not at the same
time) to load/offload ammunition respectively. Ark subsequently
continued around the Scottish coast to Scapa Flow for a rare
visit by a carrier to the great natural harbour (see page 10).
Bowing out after more than a quarter of a century’s service
is HMS Southampton which was formally decommissioned in
Portsmouth. She hands the baton of air defence to HMS Daring
which entered Pompey for the first time on a very murky January
day (see pages 2-3).
And finally... You will no doubt have read about strategic
missile submarines HMS Vanguard and Le Triomphant colliding
during their respective patrols. We cannot add any more to
what has already been said – officially and unofficially – but we
can say that the strapline on the foot of the map above remains
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