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Squadron rocks

THIS year is the 25th anniversary of the Gibraltar Squadron, but rather than celebrating with a large cake, LS ‘Itchy’ Iche and AB ‘Sharpy’ Sharp (pictured right by Cpl Ralph Merry RAF) marked the occasion by running 25 Rock Races on consecutive days.

The Rock Race is a three-mile road race which starts at the tower in the dockyard and finishes at the top cable car station, climbing some 1,600 feet along the route. The race has been run by visiting ships’ companies for many years, with race records being kept since the early 1980s. (The quickest time was set in 1983 at 17 minutes and 29 seconds and has yet to be broken.)

● HMS Ocean’s CO Capt Keith Blount joins the crew on the Race for Life

Picture: LA(Phot) Guy Pool

Pink tint to life at sea

THE steely fl ight deck of HMS Ocean was turned into a sea of pink and taffeta as the ship crossed the Atlantic on her way to Auriga, with nearly 100 of her company taking part in the national Race for Life charity fun run.

Many of the runners chose to wear fancy dress for the run, which was organised by Officer Cadets Lucy Ashton and Rachel Turner, and raised more than £500 for cancer charities. Twelve laps of the flight deck were required to reach the 5km target in HMS Ocean – while their colleagues in HMS Chatham, raising money for the same cause, needed to run 24. Fifteen women from the frigate raised £700 while the frigate was alongside in Limassol, in Cyprus. Chatham’s clubz, LPT Kelly Gooch, said: “We are on our return from a hard-working seven-month deployment and the weather conditions were extremely hot, so the girls did very well.”

Ditch spins dits

AFTER a lifetime on the Jungly helicopter circuit George Ditch had more good dits than most, so how better to spend his leisure hours than writing them down and turning them into a book? By popular request from his

works on Chinooks at Boscombe Down.

family and friends, George turned the accumulated experience of his 23 years in the Fleet Air Arm into a book called Laughing Kitbags, which went on sale earlier this year.

hand some incredibly funny incidents that have had me in stitches so after leaving the RN, I set about jotting down the funnier side of Jack at work and play. “Amazingly, the manuscript

George (real name Ian) retired as a petty officer Air Engineering Technician after a service career which included Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War and Lebanon. “Having spent most of

my working life on the Jungly helicopter circuit I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet some tremendous officers and sailors alike,” said George, who now

He added: “I’ve seen at first

was proof-read by a number of publishers and to my surprise and excitement I found one that was keen to publish.” The book was launched in

Yeovil, where George lives, and is available through Waterstones or can be ordered online through Amazon or Authorhouse at about £12.88. Signed copies by the author can be purchased directly at A portion of the profits will go to Help for Heroes. ■ See review on page 45

Charities join forces

NATIONAL Armed Forces Day in Cardiff saw two maritime charities unite – albeit temporarily, as the Royal Naval Benevolent Trust (RNBT) and Seafarers UK seized the opportunity of their adjacent pitches. The RNBT were there to publicise its work to those who might benefit from their grants; and Seafarers were there as the fundraising charity for all nautical charities. So it seemed a natural reaction for the staff to link the marquees for a united display, showing the public how closely the two charities work together. Seafarers explained to visitors about their fundraising, and then RNBT told them about how this money would help their beneficiaries. As one caller said: “What a good idea! I’ve just bought goods from one

charity, which is going to help the one next door.” For more information on the RNBT, please visit

in brief ssafa

The Squadron’s ‘25 Rock Races in 25 days’ event ran until July and raised more than £2,000 for Help for Heroes. Many other members of the wider Forces community took the opportunity to run up the Rock in the heat of a Gibraltarian summer – some were even said to have enjoyed it.

Other 25th anniversary events this year will include divisions, a ceremonial sunset and an official reception before the squadron enjoys a traditional Gibraltar run ashore.

Standing on top of the world

WE reported back in May that two friends of Lt John Thornton, a Royal Marines officer killed in Afghanistan in 2008, were setting out to climb Mount Everest to raise funds for

a charity set up in his memory. At the end of that month Matt Snook and Pete Sunnucks sent a text to friends and family saying simply “We’ve done it”. The pair had achieved their life-long ambition to stand on the summit of Mount Everest ‘and touch the roof of the world’. Matt, 24, and Pete, 27, are the first Help for Heroes team to reach the summit of Mount Everest. They set an ambitious target to raise £100,000 to be split equally between two charities, Help for Heroes and the John Thornton Young Achievers’ Foundation. This was set up to honour the life of John, a

close friend of Matt and Pete. The charity aims to encourage and help young people to ‘climb as high as they can dream,’ an ideal which John wanted as his legacy. Growing up in Bournemouth and attending the

same Air Cadet Squadron in Ferndown, Dorset, Matt and John shared the same aspirations, to join the Royal Marines and one day climb Mount Everest. They met Pete in the Air Training Corps and became lifelong friends, sharing a passion for the great outdoors. Over the years the bonds strengthened, which helped them cope with their loss. Before departing for Everest Pete said to his friends “This climb is for John”. Weeks after John’s death, whilst studying for his

finals at Swansea University, Matt received orders to deploy to Afghanistan as a reservist with 45 Commando RM. Months later, Matt found himself serving on the

front line. This seven-month deployment confirmed his desire to sign up to the RM full time. On his return Matt together with Pete set about

working on their Everest Expedition, to do their utmost to help the heroes on the front line and carry John’s legacy to the top of the world. Throughout his journey to the top of the world

Matt wore John’s climbing harness, in honour of his friend. But at one point early on in the expedition Matt’s dreams lay hanging in the balance. Less than two weeks before the precious summit

weather window, and only days after reaching base camp, it was touch and go as to whether Matt would complete the climb at all. He had been casevac’d to hospital in Kathmandu with a suspected case of pneumonia, other complications and “one of the worst stomach bugs I’ve ever experienced”. Despite a dark couple of days for Matt, alone in a foreign hospital and Pete clawing his way up to the legendary North Col head-wall uncertain of Matt’s condition and an anxious time for friends and family back home, all were overjoyed that after some medication, rest and gentle persuasion of the doctors involved, Matt was declared medically fit and allowed to continue with the expedition Out of 19 climbers who began the expedition, only four finished it. Following their return to the UK Matt and Pete

have been continuing to fundraise for the two causes, Pete has been progressing his application for a place at Sandhurst and Matt is awaiting confirmation of a place on Young Officer Training at Lympstone, following in John’s footsteps to become an RM officer. To find out more about the climb and to donate go to

■ SSAFA Ted, the furry ambassador for the tri-Service charity, has been visiting HMS Belfast, in London, to mark SSAFA’s 125th anniversary. So far the intrepid bear has been on a trip around the US taking in the Grand Canyon, Yosemite National Park and the fleshpots of Las Vegas. Coming back to Blighty, he was lucky enough to join cadets on the official RAF flypast of Buckingham Palace, to mark the Queen’s official birthday in June.

Now those jolly jaunts are over his next tour of duty will be visiting the troops in Afghanistan. Ted comes from a large family of SSAFA bears who are available to buy for £25 at with all proceeds going to SSAFA. The bears are 12.6-inches in height and come with a bronze SSAFA cap badge on their beret, commemorative dog tags and a special 125 tour badge. The shoulders of their combat jackets carry the charity’s anniversary dates, 1885 and 2010.

■ FAMILIES who have lost relatives during the confl icts in Iraq and Afghanistan met in Edinburgh to remember them at a two-day conference run by SSAFA’s Support Group for Bereaved Families. The group of parents, partners, children and brothers and sisters wore t-shirts which carried the words ‘Honouring the Fallen’ and a picture of their relative when they visited Edinburgh Castle to pay their respects at the Scottish National War Memorial. The support group has members

all over the UK and moves its events around the country to give everybody who wants to an opportunity to attend. It also helps families exchange practical information and advice about repatriation ceremonies, next-of-kin issues and inquests.

■ SSAFA is working with Kent Police to help reduce the number of Armed Forces personnel who end up in prison or in the criminal justice system. Current research estimates that one in ten of the prison population is made up of former military people. Kent Police are the first police

force in the country to address the problem and are working with SSAFA to begin a custody project.

Custody sergeants will ask detained people if they are ex-military as part of a pre- release risk assessment. If so, they will provide them with a Military Support Leaflet and liaise with SSAFA to provide a caseworker.

Gloucester sailors rally to help

TRAVELLING the world’s oceans is sometimes not enough. At least that’s been the conviction of two sailors in HMS Glouces- ter, LET(ME) Dougy Clutter- buck and ET(ME) Olly Buckland (pictured right), who during the ship’s Falklands’ deployment last year hatched an extraordinary idea to raise money for charity. As Navy News went to press,

they were setting off for the gruelling 2010 Mongol Rally from England to Mongolia, one of the poorest countries in the world, to fundraise for charities.

Red ensign remembers

ON SEPTEMBER 5, the Sailors’ Society will plant hundreds of Red Ensign fl ags with messages commemorating the men and women of the merchant navy (the 2009 memorial pictured above). Veterans will lay wreaths at the Merchant Navy Day Service in Trinity Gardens on London; and the flags will mark the lives lost at sea or the people currently serving away from home. Contact the Sailors’ Society for a free Red Ensign pack so that your flag can be planted along with the others to remember seafarers of yesterday and today. To get your pack, email or call 023 8051 5950.

the two sailors set off on their journey a third of the way around the earth, and in a car that has an engine of just one litre. Starting from England, Spain and Italy, the rally finishes in Ulaanbaatar about four weeks afterwards. It’s between 8,000 and 10,000 miles, depending which route the teams take. “We are crossing the two biggest land-locked countries in the world, so we need to be fully prepared for survival in a way that we haven’t been used to before,” said Olly. He added: “We have done a lot of

Along with three other teams,

research, prepared for mountains, deserts and dirt-tracks, but some people are yet to be convinced that we’ll make it!”

The team intends to raise money for five charities, including the Christina Noble Children’s Foundation,

which helps

Mongolian children, many of whom live without families in manholes and on the streets of the capital, Ulaanbaatar. The other four charities are YMCA Fairthorne Group, Riding for the Disabled, The Spring Centre and The Willow Trust –

the latter two are affiliated with HMS Gloucester.

The team has had strong backing from the ship, with the CO and other heads of department encouraging sponsorship. You can follow their progress on

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