10 NAVY NEWS, JUNE 2010
IT must be summer because the Black
weather... The Fleet Air Arm’s helicopter display team face one of the busiest display seasons in their seven-year history. Over the next four months an estimated four million people will catch the two Lynx in action at UK shows (you’ve already missed them at Duxford Spring and Southend, sorry). The two aircraft are also making a rare foray into foreign airspace by taking part in the French Navy’s centennial celebrations of aviation navale (their Fleet Air Arm), taking place in Hyères, near Toulon, this month. Before that rather special display (and the 19
others the two aircraft will be appearing in this year), there was the small matter of validation for the 2010 routine after four months of intensive practising.
So Black Cat Lead – pilot Lt Becky Frater – and Black Cat 2 Lt Chris Chambers – pirouetted, danced, nose-overed, carouseled and performed other choreographed moves over their home base of RNAS Yeovilton… in front of the new head of the Fleet Air Arm.
was “thrilled” by the show put on by the two Lynx, whose team name is drawn from the Jackspeak for friendly, but competitive, one-upmanship. Or perhaps that should be one-upwomanship because the lead pilot this year is the fi rst female Black Cat. Lt Frater’s an ex-geography teacher… and ex-
No pressure there then. Thankfully, Rear Admiral Tom Cunningham
Cats are in action.
Well, you’d never be able to tell from the
‘The Fighting G name lives on’
NEARLY seven decades after her passing, sailors of HMS Gloucester past and present gathered on Plymouth Hoe to honour the deeds of the wartime cruiser – and the sacrifi ce of more than 700 men. Today there are just three of the 85 survivors of the Fighting G with us.
Army Air Corps pilot. After nearly a decade with the Army’s aerial wing, she switched Services in 2006, since when she’s deployed with the Taurus task force and HMS St Albans. “To be selected to fl y for the display team is not only offi cial recognition of your ability as a pilot and instructor, but it’s also an honour to be asked to represent the Royal Navy in such a unique public arena,” said Lt Frater. “The Lynx is very agile and the Black Cats’ fan base is growing.” Indeed it is. There’s been unusually high demand for the Black Cats – whose exploits are supported by two dozen engineers and technicians – this year. More details on the team at www.ro
Picture: LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherston, RNAS Yeovilton
25 hours in a day at Gannet
IF WEDNESDAY May 19 2010 doesn’t necessarily stick in your mind, it was an unforgettable one for HMS Gannet. Indeed, it was the busiest day of the year for the Prestwick-based Search and Rescue fliers who responded to five call-outs in 24 hours. The Sea King crew of Lts George ‘Logie’ Baird, Jonathan Laidlaw and Phil Gamble, plus aircrewman PO Marcus ‘Wiggy’ Wigfull, began by transferring a casualty from Maybole to hospital in nearby Ayr. Next up was a trip across the Irish Sea to Rathlin Island off Northern Ireland for a medical evacuation, although the helicopter was turned around when other means were used. Not that it gave the crew any rest, for they were now on their way to Buchaille Etive Mor in Glen Coe: a climber had fallen 50ft into a gully 2,500 up the mountain. Lt Gamble was winched into the gully with a stretcher to rescue the
climber. Although winds were light, the Sea King had to be ‘wedged’ carefully between sheer rock faces to allow the observer to be lowered. The casualty was taken to Glasgow before the team returned to base... for an hour. Then it was off to Rathlin Island once more for a medical evacuation to Coleraine Hospital.
After a quiet night (and some kip), the crew had just 15 minutes of their 24-hour duty to go when they were scrambled again: another medical evacuation, this time from Campbeltown to Glasgow. By the time the four men were finally stood down, they’d been airborne nearly ten hours during their 25-hour stint.
Go Donny, go...
WHEN we got a phone call promising ‘exclusive pictures of Donny Osmond waterskiing to promote Armed Forces Day off Faslane’, we expected to see Mr Puppy Love tearing along...
Instead we got a waterskiing matelot racing past Helensburgh doing a Fred Scuttle impersonation. Still quite cool though...
The man on the skis is PO(Phot) ‘Donny’ Osmond of the Faslane photographic section. The man towing him at 35mph down the Clyde
on a jet ski is fellow RN lensmeister LA(Phot) Stu Hill (he’s out of shot…). And capturing the moment is another of the Neptune imagery team, LA(Phot) Brian Douglas... who’s also out of shot (obviously – Ed), on a safety boat from Neptune Sailing Centre driven by PO(MW) Smudge Smith. If it sounds simple, it wasn’t. Despite conditions being pretty good, standing
on skis in No.1s racing behind a jet ski is hard enough. Throw a fl ag into the equation and you have plenty of dunkings.
prevent his petty offi cer’s uniform being ruined by the Clyde.
Good thing, too. “I was in and out of the water for two hours,” Donny dug out his old junior rate’s No.1s to
says Donny – which explains his rather pained expression.
“I was in No.1s with a wetsuit underneath, but the uniform was soaking and the extra weight made it hard to stay upright.” “My hands and toes were freezing, but you have
to get the shot – you can’t let people down. It was a great feeling being towed at 35mph in front of Helensburgh pier.”
And hopefully his dedication to the job will spur others on to champion the deeds and sacrifi ces of all three Services past and present on Armed Forces Day, Saturday June 26. Apart from a national event in Cardiff, there are
various celebrations and commemorations across the land.
Events close(ish) to Faslane include Inverclyde Navy Club Open Day across the water in Greenock: there’s a street party, free live music, bouncy castle and face painting for youngsters, and food and drink.
Slightly further afi eld, Glasgow RHF Veterans Association is holding two days of entertainment at the Iron Horse, West Nile Street, Glasgow. More details about all Armed Forces Day events can be found at www.armedforcesday.org.uk
More details on Neptune Sailing Centre from manager Smudge on Faslane extension 3519.
shipmates – meet each year in Plymouth to mark the cruiser’s loss off Crete in May 1941. Gloucester was pounced on
But they – and relatives of
The remaining 18 shows where you can catch the two distinct-liveried Lynx are:
Aviation Navale 100 (June 10-14) Kemble, Cotswolds (June 19-20) Armed Forces Day, Cardiff (June 26) Biggin Hill (June 26-27)
British Grand Prix, Silverstone (July 10-11) Chalmondeley Pageant of Power (July 17-18)
Goodwood Festival of Speed (July 2-4) Rolls Royce Families Day (July 3) Yeovilton Air Day (July 10)
Farnborough Air Show (July 22-23) Sunderland Air Show (July 23-25) Culdrose Air Day (July 28) Portsmouth Navy Days (July 30) Bristol Balloon Festival (August 14-15) Bournemouth Air Festival (August 19-22) Guernsey Battle of Britain Display (Sept 9) Southport (Sept 18-19) Duxford autumn (October 10)
by German dive-bombers as she tried to intercept enemy transports ferrying troops to the Mediterranean island. After suffering at least half a dozen direct hits or near misses, she sank with the loss of 722 lives. The wartime cruiser earned
five battle honours in the space of 12 months. It was those deeds which earned her the sobriquet Fighting G – and praise from Admiral Cunningham. ‘ABC’ called her “the gallant Gloucester”, stalwart of his Mediterranean Fleet, a warship which until then had been “hit by bombs more times than any other vessel – and had always come up smiling.”
loss, 12 members of the current Gloucester, led by CO Cdr David
George (pictured above laying a
wreath), joined their forebears and families at the magnificent Naval War Memorial on Plymouth. “In 22 years, I’ve visited a fair few memorials, and for me the one on the Hoe is the best,” said CPO Colin Maishmann. “It’s just beautiful and I love coming back to it. There was an amazing sense of occasion.” The destroyer men and women laid wreaths, as did the veterans and members of the Fighting G Club before heading to a nearby hotel for a reception. There today’s Fighting Gs were regaled with wartime stories of gallantry and derring do, not least from 90-year-old Len Bowley. The former bunting tosser
Sixty-nine years after her
was picked up by the enemy and spent much of the remainder of the war in POW camps – although he escaped three times. “I wished I hadn’t bothered the last time. After all that trouble, the war finished only a month after I got home,” he lamented. He was presented with a framed print of the Type 42 destroyer wrapped with a cap tally and signed by the ship’s company.
“Len said how proud he was to meet us,” said Cdr George. “It was absolutely the other way around.” That was an opinion shared by the rest of today’s Gloucestermen and women. “‘Humbling’ is the word that
everyone is using,” said Lt Tom Rowley, Gloucester’s gunnery officer. “It was amazing to realise that the ship is held in such deep affection by so many. The Fighting G name definitely lives on.” Twenty-year-old AB Cameron McDonnell added: “It was a real honour for me – it’s incredible thinking that I’m the same age now as they were then.” As for the current Fighting G,
she’s spending the bulk of 2010 undergoing training after a six- month tour of duty in the South Atlantic last year. She’s due to deploy once more before the end of the year.
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