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PADI power on Chatham

● Home to mother... Somerset’s boarding party return to the frigate after honing their skills in the northern Gulf Pictures: LA(Phot) Jenny Lodge, FRPU East

The numb3rs game PRACTICE makes And you can never practise the perfect.

art of boarding operations too much – as the sailors and Royal Marines of HMS Somerset are fi nding. The frigate has just taken over

maritime security duties in the northern Arabian Gulf from her sister St Albans. And that means a lot of inspections of shipping, especially dhows, in these busy waters. The Type 23’s boarding teams conducted extensive training at HMS Raleigh before the ship departed Devonport. There was yet more thorough

drill in the eastern Med as the ship stopped in Souda Bay, Crete, home to NATO’s Maritime Interdiction Operational Training Centre. There they teach the diffi cult

arts of controlling aggressive crew, fast roping, and close quarters battle as well as giving visiting warships time on the range. The Greek Special Forces were in charge of the training sessions, which culminated in a fi refi ght and battle aboard a specialist training ship, where the sailors and green berets loaded ‘simunition’ – simulated ammunition, 9mm paint rounds – into their weapons. Time and again the Royals and

sailors rehearsed close-quarter combat in the confi nes of this specialist environment – the perfect precursor to operations east of Suez.

“The training was physically demanding – and of enormous benefi t,” said Lt Jim Harkin, Somerset’s boarding offi cer. “Crete provided us with a highly-professional training package,

allowing the team to

train in the heat, handle different weapons, and generally extract safely from most non-compliant boarding situations.” And so on to the operational

theatre... For the third time in 18 months,

Somerset made her way through the Suez Canal (but this was the first time the Type 23 had led the USS Winston S Churchill through the great man-made waterway). Once in the Red Sea, Somerset’s mission began in earnest as she ‘plugged in’ to Combined Task Force 150 and its efforts to safeguard shipping. The international task force is

responsible for helping to ensure 33,000 ships and boats – carrying, inter alia, half the world’s oil and gas – safely use more than 2.4 million square miles of sea and ocean (that’s 25 times the size of the UK) which falls under 150’s responsibility. Are you with us so far?


the infamous Bab el Mandeb strait at the foot of the Red Sea, the frigate entered a new area of responsibility, CTF 151.

Because once through

Assist Visits’ – the new name for reassurance visits, although the aim is the same: to reassure local mariners that Allied warships are present to protect them. “Somerset’s already having a signifi cant effect in the Gulf through her presence and the engagement my boarding team have had with seafarers,”

Commanding Offi cer Cdr Andrew Burns. “The reassurance we

Although it lies right in the middle of 150’s domain, 151 has a specifi c anti-piracy role across around one million square miles of sea. Since forming last year,

newish force has helped to reduce brigandage in the Gulf of Aden by some 15 per cent.


This is an old stomping ground for Somerset; she was here only last summer during the Taurus deployment when the intelligence she gathered helped analysts understand the ‘pattern of life’ in the area. So we’ve had 150 and 151.

Logically, 152 comes next. And for once logic prevails. CTF 152 covers the entire Gulf – from the Strait of Hormuz to the shores of Iraq – and will be Somerset’s home for the next three months.

Based in Bahrain, it’s the force’s mission to ensure commercial shipping in the Gulf goes about its business peacefully.

Charles Montgomery aboard (he’s subsequently taken over from Vice Admiral Sir Alan Massey as the RN’s senior personnel offi cer). He sailed from Bahrain embarked in HMS Pembroke before a mid-Gulf rendezvous with the T23.

and, in doing so, chatted with sailors about current personnel issues and wider defence matters, not least pay and the ongoing defence review.

He also witnessed the boarding team in action in earnest. In her fi rst week ‘on task’ Somerset conducted 76 ‘Approach and

The admiral toured the ship

The venue’s booked, the amusements are sorted, all we need now is YOU!

… It’s Childs play

Have you ever noticed how wonderfully per- ceptive children are?

Sometimes the world through their eyes, in all its innocence, is as honest and true as it gets.

Here at the Victory Service Club we’ve supported members of the NAVY and their families for over a hundred years and now we’d love to see the children’s views of the military world come alive on paper by entering a drawing in our latest competition.

Vice Admiral

So after receiving the reins from her sister St Albans, Somerset made for the northern Gulf. She did so with Second Sea Lord designate

“Knowing my Dad’s a hero always makes me

smile. Even when I’m tired.” Michael aged 8

“I want to be like my Daddy. He pulls people’s hands out of the rubble and

makes them better. He’s a soldier.” Cameron aged 4

Their drawing could win them a fantas- tic all expenses paid break for up to six members of the family in London. The VSC will provide the accommodation, organise fabulous days out and the travel will be sponsored by hmforces., all thanks to the scribble happy unsung heroes of the military family.

It’s their chance to say thanks to their heroes.

Whatever your child’s age we’d love to see their views of the military world come alive on paper.

Send your drawings to Jill at Victory Services Club, 63-79 Seymour Street, London W2 2HF

Closing date 30 September find out more at

Don’t forget to add your name, age and contact details!

● Fully loaded... The Royal Marines of HMS Somerset’s boarding team show they mean business

Victory Services Club, 63-79 Seymour Street, London W2 2HF Not only serving those who served, but those serving,

their families and their children. We’re here for you all. said

“My team are focused on the task in hand and ready for any eventuality in this unpredictable theatre of operations.” As Somerset settled into her 152 mission, the ship held a service of remembrance for 19 Servicemen – 11 from 40

Win a fantastic all-in prize for up to six of your family

cates the commitment of coalition forces to security and stability.

have been able to pro- vide to the local mari- time community indi-

Commando and eight from 1 Mercian Regiment – on Operation Herrick 12 (the latest roulement of troops in Afghanistan), a service organised by Lt Richard Garman RM, Pte Robin Warburton 1MR, and Somerset’s chaplain Matt Godfrey.

And on a lighter note.... While bimbling around the Gulf news came through that a trophy would soon be making its way out to Somerset. By far and away, the Devonport

warship is the fastest in the Fleet – the fastest at getting to the top of the Rock. HMS Temeraire keeps a tally of the best times ship’s companies run the infamous Rock Race, counting the first five runners crossing the line. The Somerset’s time of 2h 31m

11s was nearly seven minutes better than Kent and some 22 minutes faster than that posted by St Albans on her way out to the Gulf.

“My Grandad’s famous because he fighted in the Great Big War.” Sophie aged 6

AS WELL as chasing pirates around the Indian Ocean, the men and women of HMS Chatham have proved rather adept beneath the waves. When the ‘Up and At Em’ sailed from Devonport in January there were only 28 PADI (Professional Association Diving Instructors) and 2 BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) qualifi ed divers on board... ...and as the Type 22’s seven- month deployment nears its close, the number is 58 – and what a mixed bag it is. PADIs aboard include Commanding Offi cer Cdr Simon Huntington (who is also a keen Advanced Open Water Diver), members of the embarked Royal Marines detachment and also a number of the SNMG2 Flag Staff.

The numbers have been

swelled thanks to visits to some first-rate dive sites in Jordon, Egypt, the Seychelles, Mirbat in Oman and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

The spur for much of the increased diving comes courtesy of Chatham’s aircraft controller, LS John Ellis-Martin, who’s arranged many of the frigate’s underwater activities. “I have been diving for a couple

of years and wanted more people to enjoy the experience,” he said. “Thankfully this trip has not disappointed, seeing rare sights such as guitar sharks and manta rays.

“Even people diving for the

fi rst time have had the chance to see dolphins, reef sharks, eagle and blue spotted rays, and moray eels; this has inspired them to become PADI divers – and some have managed to become Advanced Open Water Divers through the opportunities on this deployment alone. “I have enjoyed making

arrangements for everyone who wanted to dive because it’s such an interesting sport and I’m glad more people are getting into it.”

“There’s not much on the moon,

not even a nice beach.” Jasper, aged 7

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