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with as the two marine forces geared up for a beach landing west of Abu Dhabi. But before you can walk, you have to learn to crawl. So first up there were the basics to master for both sides: boat drills, getting into and out of landing craft, dealing with capsized RIBs, the bread and butter of amphibious operations, before weapons training and fire team tactics on the ranges of Al Hamra, plus a cliff assault. “The opportunity for both

groups of marines to work on a ship like RFA Lyme Bay is second-to-none,” said Cdr Mike Paterson, Commander of the UK Amphibious Task Force. “Purely from the fact of living

onboard a different nation’s ship, the working methodology to the different ways and means of embarking and disembarking troops provided a fantastic way of building on the cross-training already conducted.

needed some work, and there was a fresh coat of paint to apply all over the Red Rose warship.


was Day 17 when the work was completed (thanks to a little help from Portsmouth’s Superintendent Fleet Maintenance team and local contractors – you have to give Lancaster’s marine engineers a little time off...). There was a little work to do for

the logistics department too. They were trying out a new-style ‘solid support pack’ of scran. Two chacons of food were shipped from the UK, allowing the ship’s company to enjoy some of the more traditional British products not readily available in the Middle East. Mercifully, the stay in the UAE metropolis was not all work. Two groups from Lancaster

IV are just the prelude to several exercises planned between British and UAE naval forces this year.

The two weeks of Sea Khanjar

took advantage of the weather, location and facilities to undertake some adventurous training across the border in Oman, where hiking, climbing, kayaking and mountain biking activities awaited them. In Dubai itself, there was the chance to play ‘soccer’ against the USS Cleveland.

The assault ship boasts three times more sailors than Lancaster. Fortunately, they know very little about the beautiful game and were dismissed 12-0. Indeed, to drum up some decent opposition, Lancaster took on the one side they knew would offer a challenge: themselves. The junior rates took on the senior rates... and youth tri- umphed over experience, 7-3. Just down the road from Dubai, the ship’s rugby team were in action in the Sharjah 10s tournament. Playing some excellent rugby against some semi-professional sides, the sailors reached the semi- fi nals of the contest where they were knocked out by the Abu Dhabi Harlequins. So far,

so good.


SO WHAT do you do if you’ve got 17 days to kill in Dubai? Well, allow the men and women of the good ship Lancaster to explain. The frigate’s mid-deployment break allowed man and machine to take a breather after the exertions of anti-piracy/security patrols in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. For the ship, there was some much-needed TLC: one gas turbine to change, the other requiring maintenance.

engineers didn’t stop there: the starboard stabiliser, chilled water plants and diesel generators all

The Good

performances in sports which are bread and butter to Britons. But now a curveball: Gaelic football. The ship’s visit to Dubai coincided with the Gulf Gaelic Games, a two-day celebration of everything Irish organised by the ex-pats of the Dubai Celts. The tournament is well-known

in sporting circles, with teams travelling far and wide to compete. They have the added advantage of actually having played Gaelic football before... Lancastrians.

unlike the So after a quick lesson in the

rules of the game, the sailors took to the field hoping that enthusiasm would make up for lack of enthusiasm. Er, no. But they almost drew their final encounter; a late – and we’re told ‘lucky’ goal – condemned them to a third defeat.

“Lancaster’s trip to Dubai was a success, the ship looks like new and she’s back at sea on patrol,” said Commanding Offi cer Cdr Rory Bryan. “The ship’s company are a little poorer but well rested and ready to complete the rest of the deployment.”


IT’S TWO for one in the Gulf of Aden.

No we’re not talking supermarket offers but international naval task forces. It’s farewell to NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 in ‘Pirate Alley’...

And if you think there’s a distinct feeling of déjà vu about this, well you’re right.

...and hello to Standing Maritime Group 2, led by the Royal Navy’s Cdre Steve Chick aboard his fl agship HMS


Just a few months ago, the commodore was in charge of SNMG2 on anti-piracy operations in these waters, using a Type 22 frigate as his flagship. Except that last autumn it was Cornwall, now it’s her sister leading the effort.

Up and at ’Em counts the USS Cole, Turkey’s Gelibolu, Greece’s Limnos and Italy’s Scirocco in her force.

Their task, like the departing ships of SNMG1, is to ensure the safe transit of shipping through the Gulf of Aden ‘transit corridor’ – a stretch of water used by upwards of 25,000 vessels every year.

Because these waters are so busy and because of the proximity of Somalia, they have proven a rich hunting ground for modern-day pirates, until the world fi nally sat up and took notice a couple of years ago. Despite a concerted effort to halt brigandage off the Horn of Africa – there are US-led task forces, a European Union group, ships from China, India, Japan, South Korea, as well as the NATO force all committed to the mission – as of mid-March, seven merchant ships and 143 sailors were still being held for ransom by pirates on Somalia’s eastern coast.

● Trading places... HM Ships Monmouth and St Albans in Bahrain as the former comes home and the latter takes up Operation Telic duties

Picture: LA(Phot) Stu Hill


Some of the finest military band and bagpipe music played by two of the best bands in the world.

The Royal Marines play: A Life on the Ocean Wave, Famous Songs of the British Isles, A Sea Shanties Medley, Royal Salute, Crown Imperial, Evening Hymn and Sunset, and Rule Britannia.

The Pipes and Drums of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders feature:

Highland Laddie, The Campbells are coming, The Barren Rocks of Aden, Mairi’s Wedding, The Dornock Links, A Man’s A Man for A’ That, Highland Fling and The Argyll Broadswords.

Together the bands combine to perform

The Black Bear, The Soldiers Return, Chariots of Fire, Auld Lang Syne and Scotland the Brave.

Compact Disc £12.00 (incl p&p worldwide)

Cheques payable to Eastney Collection.

● SNMG2 fl agship HMS Chatham leads TCG Gelibolu (left), USS Cole (right) and HS Limnos at the rear (not pictured is ITS Scirocco)

Picture: PO(Phot) Owen King, RN Photographer of the Year

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