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s and Netherlands

New life. New hope. Flowers and trees in bloom. Lambs scampering around the fields. And for

THE advent of spring means many



University Royal Naval Units

peppered around this sceptred isle, it means the annual spring deployment (well, it couldn’t really take place in any other season with a title like that...).

After the trials and tribulations of winter, when many of the Archer-class boats which serve the university units undergo their yearly overhaul, it’s time to take the craft back to sea in earnest during the break in students’ semesters. Perhaps fittingly, the deployment of the Varsity

boats – HMS Tracker (Oxford) and HMS Raider (Cambridge) – was for the most part conducted in tandem.

Their spring tour encompassed Dover, Ostende, Vlissingen

(better known to Brits as the Dutch

“To set the scene: one ship, ten students, 14 days. This marked the fi rst opportunity for Oxford

port of Flushing), Antwerp, Cowes, Lymington, and Dartmouth (Tracker’s odyssey continued in company with Trumpeter in Jersey – see


We’ll let Tracker’s Acting Mid Susie Adam tell the Tracker-Raider story.

URNU’s new students to take part in a deployment; six of them duly took up this challenge, backed up by three seniors and Lt Milne, who joined HMS Tracker for this phase to continue his Specialist Fleet Time.

The evening of the fi rst day found the students gathering in a TV room deep inside the wardroom of HMS Nelson. But were we loafi ng? Of course not, we were getting stuck straight in with the chart work for the next few days.

The following day provided our fi rst taste of the sea with the fi rst passage, along the coast to Dover, which allowed the students to brush up on their visual fi xing. Dover is affi liated to HMS Tracker, so we were delighted to be able to invite the mayor, mayoress and councillors to experience a few hours onboard the ship at sea and to fi nd out what we do and about the Royal Navy in general.

It was also good to pass on some of our knowledge to CCF cadets from nearby schools, who joined us for the afternoon.

● A Kate Winslet moment (minus the outstretched arms... and the Titanic... and the Atlantic... and Leonardo DiCaprio... and iceberg) aboard HMS Puncher as she passes HMS Belfast in the Pool of London

Jack Petchey.

After the formal ceremony, Puncher was opened to senior military figures, plus families of her students, giving them a rare opportunity to see where their offspring live and work during the spring and summer deployments. From London it was on to the not-quite-so-

bright lights of Eastbourne, Puncher’s affiliated town, where the emphasis was more on training and education, carrying out a life-saving exercise with the Sussex town’s RNLI lifeboat.

For HMS Biter (Manchester and Salford) there were the extremes of metropoleis and remote islands.

On sailing from her home port of Liverpool, the P2000 made for Bangor in Northern Ireland, where close links were established with students from Queen’s University, Belfast. The next two weeks were spent operating in

and around the Firth of Clyde, including time in Campbeltown, East Loch Tarbert, Largs, Glasgow and Troon. A crew change in Faslane coincided with the start of Joint Warrior 101, allowing the cadets to see NATO warships exercising as Biter commenced her return passage to the Irish Sea.

The deployment was largely spent in company with HMS Raider, the ship of Cambridge URNU. This gave us a golden opportunity to learn some tactical comms, a task to which the students applied themselves enthusiastically. At no time was this more evident than in the River Schelde, en route to Antwerp, when the comms team were able to effi ciently send messages to Raider and make the appropriate reports to the navigator and captain. One question remained unanswered: why does everyone suddenly sound really posh as soon as they become the voice operator?

Over the course of the deployment, every student had multiple opportunities to plan and carry out pilotages both in and out of ports. In addition, the senior students were able to try their hands at berthing and unberthing the ship. There were also many exercises in which all students were involved, such as man overboard, fi re and replenishment at sea.

Despite her bond with seats of learning in the capital, HMS Puncher is based in Portsmouth. So her spring tour began on the Thames with a four- day visit to London.

A week packed full of events began with a visit to the boat by potential officer candidates who sailed with Puncher to gain experience of the Royal Navy and the opportunities of a career in the service.

The P2000 was later joined by some of her

affiliates who joined Puncher for passage up the Thames.

That ended at HMS President, where the ship staged an evening reception, attended by members of the Little Ship Club, London Maritime Volunteer Service, several staff from RN establishments around the capital, and members of the University of London Air Squadron, who had joined the ship as part of an inter-Service exchange. The next ceremonial event was the commissioning of the Sea Cadets’ new boat, TS

For many of the students, the highlight of the deployment was time in company and a ‘crosspol’ with HMS Manchester, Biter’s affi liated warship. The two ship’s companies traded places off the Isle of Arran.

The students enjoyed tours of the Type 42 and the Busy Bees looked around Biter (which probably didn’t take too long).

Some of the Biters had the opportunity to con Manchester during Offi cer of the Watch Manoeuvres.

The last stop of Biter’s deployment before heading back to the Mersey was Silloth for a two- day visit. The small Cumbrian port and resort is the P2000’s affiliated town. Biter’s visits here are few and far between (indeed you can count the number of RN ships to visit since the war on one hand...) so a sizeable number of Sillothers fi led aboard. With the four-week tour done, it was back

to more usual waters for Manchester Military Showcase. Biter headed up the Manchester Ship Canal to Salford Quays, where she was open to the public and hosted prospective matelots from the city’s Armed Forces Careers Office.

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