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Argus takes care of it

FRESH out of her three-year refi t, RFA Argus is back in business providing the Fleet’s unique fl oating hospital. More than 180 medical staff joined the ship off the south coast for her fi rst major exercise since the £137m safety conversion and refi t which upgraded her medical facilities almost to the standard of an NHS district hospital. The ten-day Exercise Medical

Endeavour was designed to test the ship’s ability to cope with casualties, and to assess her equipment against national healthcare standards.

Naval nurses honoured

THE Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, Sir James Hawley, steps back to admire the new Naval memorial he has helped to unveil at the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas. This fine blue pearl granite tablet and attendant curved benches stand as a memorial to the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Navy Nursing Service – QARNNS in everyday Naval parlance – dedicated by naval nurses of today and yesteryear The oldest of the latter present

was 90-year-old Mary ‘Paddy’ Jackson, who joined the Service in 1944.

In 1946 she was sent to Hong Kong and sailed with SS Empire Clyde to collect injured and sick PoWs from mainland Japan. Six decades later she joined the

Navy’s Medical Director General Surg Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis and the Royal Navy’s head of nursing, Capt Helen Allkins, and others at the unveiling ceremony. There has been a joint

The tale of Midd, Chid and the Saint

CRASHING through the waves, here’s proof that the waters of the

Gulf aren’t always benign. HMS St Albans’ RN and Royal Marines boarding team head away from their mother ship to conduct a training exercise as the emphasis of their deployment shifts. For the past five or so months, the

memorial plot for the Women’s Royal Naval Service, QARNNS and the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the Staffordshire arboretum for more than a decade. But given that almost half the QARNNS are now male, it was decided the Service should have a bespoke memorial plot. After a ten-month fundraising campaign there were suffi cient funds to erect the monument, which was designed by a committee under the late Capt Claire Taylor.

do their thing (protecting those platforms)… … and the four-strong mine warfare force

Portsmouth-based frigate has been protecting Iraq’s oil platforms and providing maritime security. But with that task now handed to the Saint’s sister Somerset (see page 9), the frigate’s focusing on anti-piracy/anti-smuggling/anti- terrorism in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea as she begins the long journey back to the Solent.

good, there was a chance for a ‘family reunion’: three warships of the Portsmouth Flotilla working together. St Albans spent a day in company with Hunt-class minehunters HMS Chiddingfold (veteran of these waters) and HMS Middleton (a newcomer) conducting exercises akin to a Thursday War off Plymouth.

The new monument will be completed in the autumn with the planting of two rowan trees – selected because they’re regarded as ‘healing trees’ – on either side of the tablet. “The dedication of the QARNNS memorial is a fi tting tribute to all those who have served and continue to serve the nursing branch of the Royal Navy,” said Capt Allkins. “We are very proud of each and

every one and are delighted that we now have a lasting tribute to them.”

veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan – added: “At present QARNNS is incredibly busy on operations and is being utilised more than ever, so days like this, when we can stop to remember our colleagues past and present, are vitally important and very humbling. “There could be no better setting for our memorial dedication service than the National Memorial Arboretum and it is an honour to be here.” The nursing arm of the RN traces its heritage back to the Crimean War. Its current name was

introduced in 1902 when Queen Alexandra agreed to become President of the Nursing Staff. More than a century later, her great-granddaughter Princess Alexandra is the service’s patron.

Picture: LA(Phot) Keith Morgan, RN Photographer of the Year

Prints of thieves

SADLY we’ve run out of space for our article on Naval crime scene investigators as advertised last month; we hope to feature it in our September issues.

PO(NN) Scott Gilbert – a

Although all RN ships use Bahrain as their hub in the Gulf, exercises between them aren’t that commonplace. Generally speaking,

destroyers dispatched to the Gulf frigates and Before leaving the northern Gulf behind for

(two Sandowns, Grimsby and Pembroke, are also based in Bahrain) does its thing (keeping the region’s sea lanes mine-free). The day’s exercises began with moving through a mock minefi eld (with the Hunts taking the lead) then an air attack (time for St Albans and her Seawolf to take charge) with the threat provided by the frigate’s Merlin ‘Lola’. From villain to hero as the helicopter conducted winching drills from both smaller ships, before the exercise closed with a self- defence serial as the three ships’ sea boats pretended to be fast attack craft and went pell- mell to infl ict damage on their mother ships. “In the event of any hostilities, minehunters are usually fi rst in and last out – but they can only o f

operate under the protective umbrella

a destroyer or frigate,” explained Lt Cdr Richard Goldstone, CO of Middleton (which is pictured below leading her sister). “It was great to work with St Albans. I believe we achieved our aim of increasing our knowledge of each other’s strengths and capabilities. The men of the Mighty Midd look forward to

future opportunities to show what they can offer.”

Chid’s CO Lt Cdr Jim Byron added: “In the small ship world it’s not often that we have the chance to manoeuvre and exercise with our larger sisters. “Of course, this works in reverse, and I’m sure that this was as good an opportunity for St Albans to work with the mine counter- measures community.” It was indeed, according to her CO Cdr Adrian Pierce. “It’s essential that we seize every opportunity like this,” he added. “It’s also a welcome sight to have some of our base port ships to assist us. Such exercises are greatly benefi cial to everyone.”

Back in Bahrain, the Saint formally handed

over Operation Telic duties to her sister HMS Somerset. On this fi nal visit to the kingdom, there was a chance to grapple with local netball, football and rugby sides (draw-defeat-defeat respectively for the sailors) and a chance to relax courtesy of a Combined Services Entertainment Show. The latter was hosted at the impressive US Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain, where the backdrop to the stage used by the dancers and comedians was a series of images charting St Albans’ deployment so far.

Pictures: LA(Phot) Steve Johncock

It also refreshed the skills of the medical team, because although many have worked on Argus before, working at sea brings unique challenges.

regulars and reservists, are drawn from the MOD’s units embedded in NHS hospitals in Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Birmingham. Cdr Ian Phillips, Commanding

Offi cer of the Primary Casualty Receiving Facility, said: “We aim to deliver outcomes of treatment which equate to the best, and offer the highest level of care to deployed personnel.” He added: “Argus is a unique ship which delivers deployed hospital care to members of the Armed Forces from the sea.” Argus’s principal role was

Most of the medical team, both

formerly as aviation training ship, working with the Fleet Air Arm, but since her refi t, her main task is Primary Casualty Receiving Ship.

a ‘hospital ship’ (the rules are defi ned by the Geneva Convention and would put severe restraints on how she could operate) she has a 100-bed hospital with a four-bay operating theatre, a ten-bed Intensive Care Unit, two general wards and the full gamut of clinical support services.

The safety conversion and refi t included a new ramp to transport patients from the fl ight deck to the assessment area. She also has an upgraded CT scanner, a state-of-the-art oxygen concentrator, and new digital imaging and laboratory investigation kit.

Wolves and Westminster

THAT would be HMS Westminster, of course, and the wolves in question are prefi xed by the word ‘sea’. The Type 23 frigate is in the middle of regeneration after a £13m revamp in Devonport. Among the upgrades she

received was the latest variant of the Seawolf system.

testing, so off to the South Coast Exercise Areas.

gathering of goofers on the bridge to watch Seawolf take down towed targets off the Dorset coast, the trials were observed by the person for whom the ship is named: the Duke of Westminster, Major General Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor.

The streaming target came directly at the ship on multiple passes to test the tracking system before a fi nal fi ring run. To test the effi cacy of the

Seawolf upgrade, the forward tracker was used on the opening day of the trials, the aft one on day two.

off Dorset were 150 affi liates including offi cials from the City of Westminster, Met Police, London Underground, cadets and the Worshipful Company of Fanmakers to name but a few. The third day of showing

Also aboard the ‘capital ship’ Aside from the typical And the new system needed Although she can’t be classed

off Westminster saw the most important guests of all aboard: 250 family members. They were treated to demonstrations by the ship’s sea boat and Merlin; after the latter departed for HMS Sultan to help train rookie air engineers, the hangar hosted a hog roast.

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