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Cold Response HMS Walney HMS Ocean HMS Sabre/Scimitar


RFA Largs Bay

HMS Chatham

HMS Dauntless HMS Astute

FASLANE HMS Gannet HMS Archer ROSYTH HMS Ark Royal 800/801 NAS

Firefl ies




Special Duties Sqn


HMS Ajax HMS Exeter

HMS York HMS Clyde HMS Scott RFA Wave Ruler

Plus one ballistic missile submarine on patrol somewhere beneath the Seven Seas

HMS Monmouth HMS Lancaster HMS St Albans HMS Atherstone HMS Chiddingfold HMS Middleton HMS Pembroke HMS Grimsby RFA Bayleaf RFA Lyme Bay RFA Cardigan Bay

HMS Dasher HMS Pursuer

Vikings/845 NAS/846 NAS/ 857 NAS/FDG/MASU

Fleet Focus obviously we’ll begin around round-up of affairs nautical in Scotland.

A FLEETING glance at the map above shows the concentration of Naval effort at present lies east of Suez...

And why not, because the men and women of HMS Gannet deserve it; the search and rescuers haven’t just beaten existing records for call-outs/lives assisted, they smashed them in 2009

(see page 6).

Gannet aren’t the only rescuers in the news: RFA Wave Ruler rushed to help an ill sailor, 300 miles off the Falklands. The tanker served as a ‘lily pad’ for an RAF SAR Sea King based in the South Atlantic islands (see page 5). And in Haiti RFA Largs Bay has delivered several weeks of food to thousands of people cut off by January’s terrible

earthquake (see pages 10-11).

Right, now we can head to the Middle East. HMS Atherstone has been hunting mines (but found a fishing trap); HMS Monmouth and St Albans traded places in Bahrain; HMS Lancaster enjoyed more than a fortnight in Dubai; RFA Lyme Bay played host to British and UAE marines; and HMS Chatham has taken over as flagship of NATO’s anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden (see

pages 8-9 for a round-up).

(see page 13), while in the North Sea flagship HMS Ark Royal played host to the Naval Strike Wing for the first time in more than five years (see pages 14-15). HMS Westminster has emerged – literally – from refit in Devonport, eased out of the frigate shed to begin trials (see page 6).

The other focal point of naval activities in foreign waters this winter has been northern Norway and the latest round of Cold Response exercises, aimed at testing NATO forces’ response to conflict, in a, er, cold climate. Your players this year included

HMS Ocean and Albion, 845 and 847 NAS, 45 Cdo, RFA Wave Knight and Mounts Bay (see pages 24-5).

Ships didn’t have to go to Norway to find a bit a bit of snow and ice. In home waters, HMS Archer’s winter programme has been upset by the weather; her ship’s company found the basin which is her home filled with growlers (see page 4). HMS Walney’s been called upon to take part in a short-notice deployment with NATO’s minehunting forces (see page 4). In home waters, HMS Astute’s conducted her first true dive

Triumph, back at sea after five years and £300m of work (see


Also emerging from overhaul in Devonport is hunter-killer HMS

Meanwhile at Boscombe Down... the Special Duties Squadron is training Afghan helicopter pilots (see page 16). The recent powerful earthquake which struck Chile resonates loudly in the history of the RN; 70 years ago, the men of HMS Exeter and Ajax helped the people of Concepción when the port

was devastated by a shock. Their story is told on page 23.

That’s not the only echo carried across seven decades. Sailors and Royal Marines on Cold Response paused to pay their respects to the men of 1940 who died in the two Battles of Narvik. The story of those brave sailors is told in our

commemorative supplement (see the eight-page pullout in the centre pages).

HMS Sultan witnessed the end of an era, or rather end of an ERA, the very last class of artificers – tiffies in everyday Jackspeak – to pass out, bringing the curtain down on a trade born in the days of the ironclads (see page 34). Another era ending is the rule of the Firefly, the basic trainer for RN pilots for the past two decades. It made its final flight with

703 NAS (see page 7).

Holland days for Ocean

The big bang practice

... BECAUSE it’s quite clear from this impressive

image (captured by LA(Phot) Dave Jenkins of

FRPU East) that the lads of Southern Diving Unit 1 have the theory well and truly mastered. Disappearing in a column of water, sand and mud several hundred feet tall, this is the demise of a German parachute mine unearthed by dredgers working in Portland Harbour. The detonation of the 720kg (1,600lb) wartime device was delayed for two days by adverse weather. Finally, the five-strong dive team from Devonport were able to raise the mine with a specially-designed lifting bag, then tow it outside the breakwater at Portland. And then... boom. “It was a difficult operation – mainly because of the weather,” said CPO Kas Kasapi. “We were there for three days, diving at night

Helmand. PO Ward ‘Sharky’ Peers, LS Lee Jackson and ABs Phil Brierley and Ian Rowe replace their comrades PO Jai ‘Digger’ Gardner, LS Ian ‘Higgy’ Higgins and ABs Les Cockerton and Chris ‘Jumper’ Collins in theatre. The divers are chiefly based in Camp Bastion working with 21 Field Squadron Royal Engineers.

But their mission also takes them out to forward operating bases in Sangin, Banji and Kajaki, and they will join soldiers on foot patrols. If that’s not enough, the team will be called upon to train troops in the Afghan National Army on the art of searching for, identifying and disposing of explosive ordnance.

and through the day. In the end, though, a good result – there was no damage and everyone was safe.” ■ MEANWHILE up the road in Portsmouth... A four-strong team from the Fleet Diving Squadron, based on Horsea Island is heading to Afghanistan right about now, replacing comrades who’ve spent the past six months dealing with unexploded ordnance and improvised explosive devices – the latter are the principal threat to the safety of Allied troops on the ground in

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The new team has spent the past six months working alongside the Royal Engineers to prepare for their Afghan role.

“Now that we’ve completed our specialist training with the Army, we feel we’re fully prepared and are keen to get out there, complete our tasks to the best of our ability – and then return to our usual duties with the Navy,” said Sharky.

“Our operation’s entirely land-based which is somewhat unusual for us as an RN team, but we realise that training the Afghan Army is vital in helping the country get back on its feet, so our presence will be worthwhile.”

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THE men and women of the Mighty O let their (admittedly fairly short) hair down in the Netherlands after fi ve frozen weeks in the fjords. The reward for HMS Ocean after her exertions in northern Norway on Exercise Cold

Response (see the centre pages)

was an operational stand-off in Europe’s busiest port, Rotterdam. From there it’s but a short train journey to the Dutch metropolis of Amsterdam... and a sizeable proportion of the helicopter carrier’s ship’s company took advantage of the proximity to sample the sights. Others preferred to reflect on past sacrifices by visiting the Operation Market Garden battlefields and cemeteries around Arnhem, a battle immortalised by the book/film A

Bridge Too Far.

The more athletic members of the Mighty O’s ship’s company rose early on the second day of the visit. Twenty-nine sailors joined more than 10,000 competitors in Den Haag for a half marathon and 10k run. Cdr Dave Mahony was the highest-placed Ocean runner in the half marathon, fi nishing 342nd out of a fi eld of 6,601 with a time of 1h 25m. Cdr Steve Ward was the fi rst Mighty O over the line in the 10k race, placed 690th out of a fi eld of 5,331 athletes on 47m 54s. The return journey from

Norway also saw Ocean call in at Rosyth to offl oad troops and equipment.

Although the stop-off was

brief, it was long enough for some of the ship’s company to be given a tour of Babcock Marine’s facilities to see progress on the future carriers. “Both rudders and the two

massive aircraft lifts are almost complete, but the highlight of the visit was the opportunity to step on board a section of the ship’s hull,” said Lt Cdr David Pickles, Ocean’s senior air traffi c controller.

“Constituting a mere 0.33 per cent of the completed vessel, the sheer size of the section gives a clear impression of just how big the ship will be.”

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