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Top guns and top tunes for HMS Kent

HMS Kent headed to Gibraltar for a fortnight’s gunnery to test 13 trainee principal warfare offi cers from HMS Collingwood. The two weeks in the Med came at the end of the gunnery phase of students’ extensive course.

It meant long days for the

prospective PWOs… and long days for the ship’s company. But at least there’s a big bang at the end of it.

“This is an integral part of principal warfare offi cer training,” explains Kent’s gunnery offi cer, Lt Andy Winterbon. “It’s the culminating assessment of the ‘gunnery phase’ and brings together fi re support for troops ashore and the use of the medium-range gun against sea-going surface targets.

“It also provides PWOs with sea-going training in wider force protection, which is essential for the defence of the ship.”

The 4.5in and 30mm were heavily engaged – the former on naval gunfi re support, the latter proving to be the arch nemesis of the ‘killer tomatoes’, the red infl atable targets fl oated on the ocean’s surface. There was so much shooting that the frigate stocked up on ammo when she put into Gibraltar for a weekend’s break. Gib was Kent’s fi rst port visit since she came back from six months in the Gulf in November; she was blessed with beautiful weather for the brief interlude in gunnery. There was a sizeable number of early risers aboard the frigate to run to the top of the Rock for the traditional Rock Race. After another week of top gunning, the ship sailed back to home waters and the 13th Dartmouth Music Festival. Kent served as guardship for the musical weekend, while the gates of Britannia Royal Naval College overlooking the picturesque town were opened to the public to give them a rare glimpse at the spiritual home of the Senior Service’s offi cer corps.

Great Scott, she’s back

IN the fading light of a fi n

e spring day, a tug guides HMS Scott into Devonport fresh from the survey ship’s inaugural

visit to Antarctica.

With HMS Endurance, the RN’s usual annual visitor to the frozen continent out of action courtesy of a severe fl ooding incident in late 2008, it fell to Scott to perform the role of surveyor of icy waters. The 13,500-ton survey vessel is typically used to map out deep ocean routes, but fi lling the Endurance gap led to a new mission.

Although not an icebreaker, unlike the Red Plum, Scott can cope with ice up to 80cm (30in) thick. Her sonar fi t means she

can survey the deepest waters in continuous lines up to 400 miles long.

dropping in on numerous isolated British Antarctic Survey bases and research stations,

en us ic

collected data from 3,000 square miles of ocean in the Bransfi eld Strait (between the South Shetland Islands and Antarctic peninsula for the uninitiated). When the Antarctic work season came to an end, the ship made for Simon’s Town in South Africa where some maintenance was carried out after her polar exertions, while the ship’s company was rotated (a system which allows Scott to be at sea eight out of every

the ship h Indeed, between ten days).

m m

That rotation and ‘lean manning’ means there are normally just 52 men and women aboard at any one time… and also means everyone has to chip in with duties aboard. And we mean everyone.


sailors received navigation and weapons training courtesy of a mobile team from the Flag Offi cer Sea Training who fl ew out from Devonport. From

Simon’s Town, Scott While in South Africa,

Commanding Offi cer Cdr Gary Hesling could be found brush in hand sweeping ice off the upper deck, while XO Lt Cdr Philip Harper helped out with upper- deck husbandry.

h the

made her way up the west coast of

work and gathering hydrographic/ oceanographic data home.

Africa carrying out survey all the way

“The varieties of conditions the ship experienced were not without their challenges,” said Cdr Hesling.

company have demonstrated fl exibility and a truly global reach.”

vessels, Scott’s ship’s

“From dodging icebergs in the Antarctic, to threading their way through small Sierra Leonean fi shing

on the Hamoaze, Scott will be at sea again shortly, visiting Cardiff to take part in 100th anniversary commemorations of Capt Scott’s departure on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole.

After a short break back home

Picture: LA(Phot) James Crawford, FRPU West

Carl’s courage commended

DIVER Carl Thomas, who made three desperate efforts to stem the fl ooding of Antarctic patrol ship HMS Endurance, earned the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery for his selfl ess actions. The leading hand fought against a raging torrent in the engine room of the Red Plum for more than 45 minutes when it fl ooded in December 2008. Carl, who is now based at the Fleet Diving Unit at Horsea Island, was the last man to enter the compartment – and the last hope of stopping the ingress of water in Endurance as she struggled in the Strait of Magellan.

“I had been given a brief from the chief engineer on what I needed to do to stop the fl ood,” said the 28-year-old. “It was a challenge to see in

the engine room because it was fl ooding so fast and all the lights were going off as well. “I was nervous but all my adrenaline and training kicked in because I knew that we needed to stop the leak to stop the ship sinking. That made me more determined to get in there. “The force of the water meant I just couldn’t get to the valve and when I came back up they shut that compartment completely.” The flooding caused the survey ship to lose power. Out of control, Endurance was in danger of foundering but her anchor finally caught and stopped her from drifting towards land. The ship was eventually carried back to England and is awaiting her fate in Portsmouth. As for Carl, he subsequently

returned to the Antarctic with HMS Scott, which took Endurance’s place last season (see


It was aboard Scott that he

learned of his QCB, which was presented by CINC Fleet Admiral Sir Trevor Soar when the diver returned to the UK. The citation says Carl “demonstrated outstanding courage and fortitude in the most hazardous conditions. “Throughout every stage of this emergency, your selfl ess bravery and unwavering commitment were remarkable and in the fi nest traditions of the Service.” Carl has now volunteered for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Hello, goodbye in the Falklands

RUSH hour in Mare Harbour – two sleek grey messengers of death and a couple of tugs. In the foreground, HMS York prepares to leave the Falklands, her six-month deployment coming to an end... ... and in the background HMS

Portland, about to relieve Britain’s fastest destroyer of her South Atlantic responsibilities. It is, York tells us, “a considerable time” since a 23 and 42 were at the military port

not least in part because it’s typically 42s which conduct South Atlantic patrols, but also because the handovers are often conducted with the outgoing ship already homeward bound.

in the Falklands...

the British commander in the Falklands, Cdre Philip Thicknesse (who helped liberate the islands back in 1982). He and his staff used the destroyer’s fo’c’sle as the perfect backdrop for a group photo. Also dropping in on the destroyer before her 9,000-mile homeward journey were the MOD’s civilian chaplains

faiths such as Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, Islam and Hinduism. How many Servicemen and women are followers of these religions? Well, we’re glad you

who represent

Picture: PO(AWT) ‘Dutchy’ Holland, HMS York

Before making a bee-line for Blighty, York helped out the Falklands’ constant guardian. During the brief stretches HMS

Clyde’s alongside in Mare Harbour, the patrol ship draws her power from a shoreside generator. It caught fire, so it fell to York to feed the River-class vessel some juice in the form of 200kw electricity. There was another reason for Clyde being delighted to see the destroyer: aboard the former is gun maintainer LET(WE) Anne Musselwhite;

CPO(MEM(M)) Paul Musselwhite, York’s chippy. The couple enjoyed a rare few hours together while both warships were alongside. In the final days of her spell in the Southern Hemisphere, York hosted

aboard the latter

a visit to the Falklands to see the work of the military in this distant relic of Empire. That visit coincided with the Type 42 being alongside, so the civilian chaplains – who work alongside their military colleagues – toured York to experience life aboard a warship and talk with members of the ship’s company. And so to home. The handover

asked: there are 581 Buddhists, 134 Jews, 1,005 Hindus, 176 Sikhs and 809 Muslims across the three Forces. The chaplains were paying

with Portland was brief and by mid-morning, the Fastest 42 was heading for Portsmouth via Fortaleza in northern Brazil, Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, and finally Lisbon. She’s due to embark families for the final leg of the journey, arriving back in the Solent on June 11.

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