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16 NAVY NEWS, JULY 2009
● To boulder go... Sutherland’s sailors celebrate painting the rocks
overlooking Eriboll
Sutherland’s
age of rock
THERE’S a rock theme to things involving the good
ship Sutherland this month.
High above Loch Eriboll – roughly 70 miles north of Inverness near
the northwest tip of mainland Scotland – some of the greatest names in
naval history are spelled out in boulders: Valiant, Swift, Whirlwind, and,
most poignantly, Hood.
The loch was once a natural anchorage for the Fleet and off-duty
sailors would climb the western shore to spell out their ship’s name 6ft-
high in boulders on the hillside.
The tradition died out post-war with the loch no longer regularly
visited by HM ships, but Sutherland revived it, joining the illustrious
stone armada back in 2002.
Since then the rocks have taken a bit of a pounding from the Scottish
elements, so with several tins of paints, sailors headed up the hillside to
daub the boulders white once more.
“It was a long trek from the ship to get to the loch, but worth it for the
amazing scenery, the friendly locals, and the chance to contribute to a
piece of naval history,” said LWEA ‘Ash’ Peres, one of the painters.
(The stones can best be seen, according to locals, from the lay-by on
the A838 near the disused quarry at Port-na-con on the western shore
of the loch.)
Although Loch Eriboll was a popular anchorage for the RN, HMS
Sutherland chose to berth in Invergordon for her visit to the Highlands
– her fi rst in four years.
That meant a three-hour journey to the stones and other towns in one
of Britain’s largest – and least populated – counties (the largest ‘town’
boasts just 1,200 inhabitants).
The various messes aboard the Type 23 are named for the remote
Sutherland communities of Dornoch, Golspie, Durness, Lairg, Rosehall
and Kinlochbervie, all of which received a visit from the sailors during
their weekend in the Highlands.
And some of the locals headed in the opposite direction (for some it
meant a 250-mile round-trip) to tour the frigate; they were among more
than 600 locals who crossed the gangway to look around the Type 23.
On the sporting front, Sutherland’s footballers lost out 5-1 to Tain
Thistle FC of the Ross-shire Welfare League (currently they’re riding
second in the table), while the rugby union side drew 12 apiece with Ross
and Sutherland RFC.
Right, back to rock... rock legend, in fact, one Roderick David
Stewart.
Rod – or rather Rod’s doppelgänger Paul Metcalf – hopped aboard the
frigate during a brief break from Operational Sea Training.
The real Rod is holding his only UK concert this year just up the road
from Devonport at Home Park, home to Plymouth Argyle.
To promote that July 2 gig, his lookalike spent some time aboard the
frigate – and reminded the ship’s company of the Scottish rocker’s iconic
hit Sailing, indelibly linked with the RN thanks to the documentary
series Sailor.
Most of Sutherland’s ship’s company are too young to remember
Rod’s 1975 No.1 (in fact most of them were not even born...).
But when’s that ever stopped matelots camping it up (clubz especially
from the pose on the photograph taken by LA(Phot) ‘Chilli’ Carney)?
As for the ship, she’ll be done with OST by the end of this month and
after summer leave will conduct maritime security operations.
Fremington steels 702
IT’S important in the
heavily in use as it was here). … Which is exactly what a time on Dartmoor to discuss
middle of a war to get
All eight trainees – three the 702 team used it for. The the training.
your priorities right.
observers and fi ve pilots – are student fl iers were charged That training included a spot
undergoing their year-long with planning combat sorties at of SERE – Survive, Evade, Resist
So while the skies are
operational conversion training very short notice – lifting loads, and Extract – in the woods near
buzzing with enemy jets, there
having already learned the nuts picking up and dropping off the camp with ‘downed’ aircrew
are downed aircrew needing
and bolts of rotary fl ight. troops – while Hawk jets from expected to avoid capture (think
rescuing in the woods, the foe
And that conversion training FRADU buzzed their Lynx. Behind Enemy Lines minus the
is closing in on the ground,
includes ‘overland support’ “That gave the student Hollywood kerfuffl e…).
nothing matters more than
– the ability to operate te ppilots the chance to carry i Not everyone in Fremington is
collecting your thoughts over a
from a makeshift base se oout their newly-learu ned hostile, thankfully. Certainly not
nice cuppa.
ashore, ferrying troops ps evevasive manoeuvres pupils from the village primary
Ok, perhaps we’re stretching
around, landing in very wwhich tested the school who were invited to
things a little, but learning the
confi ned areas, fl ying constitution of even tour the Lynx and watch some
basics in the fi eld – the ability
in formation hugging the most seasoned of of the helicopters arriving and
to start a fi re and cook food –
the terrain, all while instructors,” said Lt departing the camp.
means the more complicated
there are threats in Adam Rudkin. Dartmoor and environs
tasks fall into place.
the skies and on the Once stomachs are not renowned for their
Four helicopters from 702
ground. had settled back on especially clement weather
Naval Air Squadron – the Lynx
Fremington Camp, the ground, students, and so it proved again. That
conversion unit – decamped
about fi ve miles west of f mmaintainers and said, the maintainers ensured
from their usual home at
Barnstaple, provides the instructors tucked into a all four Lynx were 100 per cent
Yeovilton to Fremington on the
ideal location to test all this. varied diet of burger and beans, serviceable throughout the
south bank of the Taw in north- It was built in 1943 to prepare corned beef hash and biscuit exercise – despite being a good
west Devon. for the impending invasion of brown courtesy of the 24-hour 70 miles from all their usual kit.
For three days eight trainee Fortress Europe and housed ration packs. “It was a busy fl ying
aircrew were tested on their American wounded evacuated As for that cup of char, well programme and the detachment
ability to operate over the land from France the following year. that was brewed after one of was a success – enjoyable, yet
– not typically the domain of In the closing months of the students had rustled up tiring,” said Lt Rudkin.
702 or its front-line equivalent the war it became the School a fi re. It was downed by the “It was also a great success
815 NAS – assisted by nine of Combined Operations and senior man in the Fleet Air Arm, for the engineers. The
staff, two dozen maintainers since the 1970s, it’s served Chief-of-Staff (Aviation) Rear helicopters few over 30 hours
and a bowser detachment (the as a general purpose training Admiral Simon Charlier, who in wet weather, away from
Lynx is a thirsty beast when it’s centre… joined the 702 detachment for squadron support.”
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