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Carrier piece takes shape

YET another piece of the giant jigsaw which is Britain’s future carriers has slotted into place with the fi rst steel cut in Portsmouth for HMS Queen Elizabeth. Defence secretary Bob

Ainsworth and First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope pressed the button to begin work on a 6,000-ton segment of the 65,000-ton warship at the BAE Systems facility in the naval base. Over the coming months

Viking leader awarded MC

A COMMANDO who saved numerous lives under fi re has been awarded the Military Cross – one of the nation’s highest awards for gallantry. WO1 Matthew Tomlinson has

shipwrights, steelworkers, engineers and technicians will construct a section 70m long and 40m wide (229ft and 131ft for those of you who prefer imperial measurements) which will house machinery, stores, switchboards and some living space for her 1,450 crew and embarked air group.

Once completed, the section will be shipped to Rosyth where a dry dock has been enlarged so the various segments, provided by six yards around the UK, can be built.

world’s land mass within 500 miles of the ocean, the carriers will provide unparalleled access and fl exibility. They are vital joint assets for the future of defence,” Admiral Stanhope told guests at the cutting ceremony. “The two ships of the Queen Elizabeth class will be the largest and most powerful warships ever built for the UK, each equalling four acres from which to project airpower anywhere in the world.” BAE Systems Surface Ships’s

“With eighty per cent of the

been recognised for his bravery when his fi ve-strong convoy of Vikings from 3 Commando Brigade’s Armoured Support Group was subjected to concentrated enemy fi re near Bashran, Helmand Province, in May last year. The lead Viking in the column was partly blown up by a mine, causing the remaining vehicles to halt. That prompted a sustained attack from insurgents using rocket propelled grenades. Ignoring his own safety, the senior non-commissioned offi cer left his Viking and ran 50 metres to the stricken vehicle, which was on fi re, helping to evacuate the troops in the back.

Not only did the troops have to avoid the fl ames and the possibility of the 4,000 rounds of ammunition exploding in the damaged Viking, but they had to dodge Taleban fi re and deal with the the ever-present danger of a second mine. During this intense fi re-

boss Alan Johnston added: “This is a very proud day for our workforce here in Portsmouth and comes on the back of our work on the Clyde, where another large part of the carrier’s hull is already taking shape. “The designing and building of ships of this magnitude is a massive engineering feat and a real testament to skills harnessed in our industry across the UK.” Portsmouth becomes the fi fth

fi ght, WO1 Tomlinson directed return fi re at the insurgents and attended to the seriously- injured driver of the damaged Viking with the help of soldiers from the Queen’s Royal Hussars who were being escorted by the Vikings.

SPRING, according to a few lazy TV commentators, has sprung. But not in Scotland. Yes that’s ice. And yes that’s

HMS Archer going nowhere. The time.

yard to begin work on Queen Elizabeth as part of the £4bn replacement carrier programme (yards in north Devon, Newcastle, Glasgow and Rosyth are already beavering away). One fi fth of that sum will be spent in the carrier’s home port.

have already been delivered to Rosyth while a bow section was due to leave the Appledore yard in north Devon for the Forth as Navy News went to press.

Some sections of the fl ight deck

1 2010. The place. Aberdeen Harbour. “Trust us,” says Archer CO’s Lt Michael Hutchinson. “There was not a green shoot in sight.”

Actually, appearances are

deceptive in this case. That is ice (with a topping of snow), but the sea in harbour is not actually frozen. What you see here are “bergy bits and growlers” carried down from the Cairngorms by the River

7.30am, March

Dee… which empties into the North Sea in Aberdeen.

River ice or not, it closed the harbour. Indeed,

several sea days this year courtesy of the coldest winter in three decades.

Archer’s lost

“She’s looking good for her age – despite the cold. Her old Rolls-Royce tank engines seem to like the cold,” says Lt Hutchinson.

returned from Christmas leave to fi nd two inches of

ice on the P2000’s upper deck and the berthing lines frozen to their cleats.

northerly vessel serving Aberdeen’s universities. She celebrates her

Archer is the RN’s most The ship’s company

for her ship’s company who’ve had to learn to wrap up warm and gulp down their wets whilst

they’re still hot. A wet left any longer than a few minutes is likely to have frozen in the sub-zero conditions.” Luckily, the Archers are a hardy

bunch and won’t let a trifl e like snow and ice deter them. So far

“That’s not the case 25th birthday this year.

this year, the boat has spent a fortnight on the Forth hosting Sea Cadets, students, the Combined Cadet Force,

leaders, prospective matelots and Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy. The latter joined Archer to escort HMS Illustrious up the great river for refi t. Later this month – when things have hopefully warmed up a soupçon – the P2000 heads out on Exercise Hunt Ness, her Easter deployment through the eponymous loch, down the Caledonian Canal and on to Oban and the Western Isles… then back again.

Picture: Lt Michael Hutchinson

ExCeLent show for Cattistock

HMS Cattistock headed to the capital to demonstrate her prowess in mine warfare to the world.

The Portsmouth-based warship spent three days at the ExCeL centre in London’s Docklands, where nearly 100 exhibitors from two dozen lands were displaying the latest marine kit. Staged every two years, Oceanography International is billed as the world’s premiere showcase of marine science and technology. And right at the cutting edge of said technology is Seafox, which has been introduced across the RN’s mine warfare fleet in place of the old ‘yellow submarines’ – remote-controlled mine disposal vehicles. Seafox is much cheaper – and quicker – to operate than the old submersibles. Small drones are dispatched by the mother ship to destroy mines at depths of more than 300 metres (1,000ft). A live camera feed allows the ops room team on the ship to identify a suspicious object, while Seafox’s fitted charge can be used to destroy the mine (and itself) to neutralise the threat. As well as showing what Seafox is capable of, the ship’s divers also carried out demonstrations during the conference. Aside from industry experts, the Hunt-class ship hosted Sea Cadets and potential Senior Service recruits.

Rumours of my demise...

DON’T write the good ship Walney off just yet.

She may be earmarked for deletion this year (one of two RN vessels to face the axe under a shake-up of the Forces announced at the end of last year), but the mine counter-measures vessel was called upon to deploy at short notice to northern European waters with NATO.

And it would have been rude to not answer the call... So the Faslane-based Sandown headed off for five months to join NATO’s Standing Mine Counter-measures Group 1.

And after a battering from the winter storms (freezing conditions, gale force winds, rough seas, lots of ice), the dive team plunged into the icy waters of the North Sea to deal with a WW2 mine packed with 500lb of explosives off Lowestoft.

by Poland’s Cdr Krzysztof Jan Rybak aboard his flagship ORP Kontradmiral Xawery Czernicki – named for the wartime leader executed by the Soviets at Katyn – allowing for some interesting interaction among the multinational group.

So there’s been some testing of officer-of-the-watch manoeuvring skills, gunnery firings, simulated attacks by air and sea, a little towing. The net result, says Walney’s Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Des Donworth, is that the group has “proved itself a capable and compatible unit”. The force has most recently been working off the Danish coastline with German, Swedish, Danish, Belgian, Dutch and Polish forces.

A short time later and with a 4lb charge attached to the ageing weapon, the mine was no more, detonated in a controlled fashion.

The hunt for ‘legacy ordnance’ has become a mainstay of NATO mine warfare operations in recent years under the banner of Exercise Beneficial Co-operation.

There are five ships currently attached to the NATO force, led Poland. After playing hard, it was back to working hard, next stop

“The transit into the Baltic has provided some breathtaking scenery, although the dense fog lining our route south somewhat hampered the view,” said Lt Cdr Donworth.


And when in Denmark, why not pay a visit to the capital... which Walney did. As well as enjoying the sights of one of Europe’s more attractive cities, there was the chance to catch some Six Nations action courtesy of local

reservists, civic

While the fi re in the Viking was spreading and ammunition inside was exploding, they continued to administer medical care to the driver using the battered vehicle as cover. WO1 Tomlinson continued to risk his life by searching for the Royal Marine who had been manning the gun turret on the damaged Viking. He found the turret had been blown some distance away with the Marine still inside, but sadly dead. “I know that if my Viking had been hit, then I know the lads would have acted in exactly the same way,” the senior NCO said of his award. “They were effectively a band of brothers because they worked so well together. I was in charge of their welfare, morale and fi ghting effectiveness for seven months and I am still very proud to have served with them. The ranks of the Armoured Support Group are the real heroes.” WO1 Tomlinson is now serving with 1 Assault Group Royal Marines in HM Naval Base, Devonport, as a landing craft advisor to 300 Marines. He has already served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his actions in the latter theatre.

 More Operational Honours, page 32

Block goes

GONE from the Portsmouth skyline is a tower block which has dominated the approaches to the city for four decades. The Edgar Evans block on

the north end of Whale Island has been home to senior ratings and non-commissioned officers based at HMS Excellent since the mid-60s.

enjoyed superior accommodation in a new mess, which features en-suite cabins and top-of-the- range facilities more in keeping with the needs – and expectations – of 21st Century senior rates. Diggers moved into the old block in late February and began to pull it down.

When opened by the Duke of Edinburgh back in 1964, the block was hailed as accommodation of the future and was the first to be named for a senior rating (PO Evans died on Capt Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole) rather than an admiral.

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