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16 NAVY NEWS, AUGUST 2010 Picture: Cpl Ralph Merry, RAF


Sailing into the gathering storm


’chuting stars over Gib


YOU want me to leap out of the back of a Herc from several hundred feet into the ocean and save a stricken submariner? An inquisitive look from a member of the RN’s fabled Submarine Parachute Assistance Group as the aptly-named Exercise Gib Splash reaches its most dynamic (and photogenic) phase. The specialist rescuers decamped from their Gosport home to the Rock (they try to get there once a year) to practise the art of offering immediate assistance to submariners who’ve escaped a subsmash. The aim is to jump from the back of a C130 into the sea and create a ‘fl oating village’, where SPAG’s specially-trained medics and experts in submarine escape and rescue can help deeps as they pop up on the surface. The SPAGgers are at six hours’ notice to move whatever day of the year and have a Hercules on permanent stand-by to go at RAF Lyneham. It’s unlikely the waters the assistance group leap into will be quite as welcoming as the Med admittedly...


During the week-long exercise, the fl oating medical centre was quickly established off Gib’s Western Beach (next to the airport) where several ‘survivors’, each suffering from a different medical problem, were recovered from the sea. As well as testing the medical staff, Gib


Splash rehearsed the skills of underwater radio communications and boat crews, whose job it was to pull the survivors out of the water and to get them back to the medics as quickly and safely as possible.


“This is the most important part of the exercise and it went off brilliantly,” said Lt Cdr Gary Tregunna, Offi cer in Charge of the Submarine Escape Training Tank. “We got everything out of the exercise that we wanted to. They were especially good at setting up the fl oating village – within an hour of arriving at the beach, they were ready to receive casualties.” The other key test of the week in the Med was practising the tricky art of parachuting into the sea.


IF YOU think it’s all sunshine and plain sailing east of Suez, well here’s evidence to the contrary, courtesy of


the good ship Northumberland. Despite the approaching Cyclone Phet, which


The better weather in Gibraltar (compared with Blighty) meant the SPAG team could conduct seven ‘drops’ – for some new members of the group this was their first leap. “The weather here guarantees that we can carry out at least fi ve parachute drops and the calm, deep water is ideal,” Lt Cdr Tregunna enthused. “The proximity of the airfi eld to the sea means that we have a shorter turnaround time than anywhere in UK. “In addition we rely on the excellent support we


get from Gibraltar Squadron, the Gibraltar Defence Police and from RAF Gibraltar.”


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was barrelling its way around the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, the frigate’s photographer, LA(Phot) Caroline Davies, climbed to the crow’s nest at the top of the main mast after Northumberland had refuelled with the USNS Yukon to capture this sombre image. Also undeterred by a spot of bad


weather were the airmen of 829 Naval Air Squadron who clambered into their Merlin for some winching drills on Northumberland’s forecastle. The Devonport frigate is conducting anti-piracy patrols east of Suez. But in such weather, the pirates and their skiffs scurry for safety. Instead, the ship’s company practised search and rescue drills (pictured below, again by LA(Phot) Davies) – and you only carry out search and rescue missions when the weather’s less than clement. Thankfully Phet abated and the Type 23 could resume her three-week anti-piracy/anti-terrorist/ anti-smuggling patrol (aka Operation Calash) before turning south for the idyll of the Seychelles. The frigate arrived at the main island of the


former British colony – Mahé – in time for the Seychelles 17th National Day (June 29). For the first time in the islands’ independent history, a platoon of British sailors took part in


the National Day Parade through the streets of the capital Victoria. The Northumbrians joined comrades from the


French Army and Indian Navy as well as Seychelles Defence Forces, security services and youth groups conducting a march past in front of the islands’ president James Michel and Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma in slow time – a drill unfamiliar to many of the participants.


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After a speech by President Michel, there was another march past by the assembled Servicemen and women, this time in quick time.


patrols, many of the ship’s company have had sufficient off-watch time to complete the theory side of PADI diving qualifications... ...which allowed them to complete the practical side of the course in the Seychelles and achieve ‘open water’ diver status courtesy of a local diving school. For shipmates who preferred rather drier sporting activities, the rugby squad achieved an impressive 49-31 victory over an invitational XV (it was mainly South African ex-pats who accepted the invitation), but the ship’s cricket team suffered a heavy nine- wicket defeat to Victoria CC.


the Brits could be found touring the INS Trishul – a Talwar-class Indian frigate which is a counterpart to the Type 23s – or taking a dip in the crystal blue Seychelles waters. During Northumberland’s demanding


When not marching around Victoria,


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