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● Whatever happened to the Likely Lads?... All smiles from two of HMS Sutherland’s junior rates as the frigate returns to Devonport Pictures: LA(Phots) Steve Johncock, Dan Hooper and Martin Carney, FRPU West

It’s goodbye from us... ...but it’s hello

A WAVE for loved ones aboard HMS Montrose as she departs Devonport bound for pirate-packed seas east of Suez. While most of the Fleet was gathering in home waters for summer

YOU wait for months on end for a warship to come home…

leave, not so the Type 23 frigate – or, for that matter, veteran destroyer HMS Gloucester; both vessels deployed for foreign shores last month. Montrose is making for the Horn of Africa and Somali Basin to join a NATO-led task group on maritime security and anti-piracy operations. It’s the frigate’s first tour of duty since a nine-month refit in Rosyth and nearly a year of working up (which ended with a rather jolly families’ day shortly before deployment to thank loved ones for their support during the demanding training period – and for the support they’ll give during the six or so months that Montrose is away). As for the Fighting G, well it’s as if 2009 is being repeated. The

destroyer left Portsmouth last summer for a stint in the Falklands... and left Pompey this summer bound for the same destination. After a winter of maintenance following her 2009 South Atlantic

exertions, the destroyer spent the spring preparing for the repeat mission, including a test firing of her Sea Dart missiles and a spot of Operational Sea Training off Plymouth for which the ship – celebrating her 25th birthday this month – won a ‘very satisfactory’ endorsement from FOST (who don’t hand out such grades willy-nilly). Aside from relieving HMS Portland and safeguarding the Falklands and South Georgia, Gloucester will pop across to Brazil and Chile and take part in naval exercises with South American navies. The Fighting G will also be fl ying the fl ag for the RN and the British defence industry at Expo Navale in Valparaiso, Chile, at the end of November; it’s a gathering of warships, leading defence fi rms, senior offi cers, analysts and maritime experts. Gloucester won’t be back in the Solent till March, so numerous members of the ship’s company celebrated Christmas before the destroyer sailed. “Once we leave our focus has to be on operations but the support

that we get from our families is so important to helping us carry on,” said CO Cdr David George. “We all made the most of precious time with them in the last few

weeks. As much as they are thinking of us, we’ll be hoping that they keep safe and sound too, and we’ll continue to stay in touch through letters, phone calls and emails.”

Picture: LA(Phot) Dan Hooper, FRPU West of days. … and then six arrive in a matter

As befits the Navy’s traditional summer leave period, a sizeable proportion of the deployed returned home to cheers, tears, smiles, waves and, if they were lucky, even a glimpse of sunshine. The bulk of the Exercise Auriga task force completed their exer- tions in the United States and Canada, HMS St Albans brought the curtain down on six months in the Gulf and HMS Chatham’s seven-month pirate-busting stint off the Horn of Africa ended. Hundreds of families and

friends and a Royal Marines band were waiting for the latter in Devonport. The Type 22 served as flagship for Cdre Steve Chick and his NATO Standing Maritime Group staff and led Operation Ocean Shield (as the name suggests the task is to safeguard shipping and grapple pirates). ‘Up and At ’Em’ disarmed one pirate group in the Gulf of Aden, destroyed two skiffs after intercepting a bunch of suspected pirates off Tanzania and – in company with USS Cole – destroyed a ‘fl otilla’ of three pirate craft in the Indian Ocean. The ship’s Lynx fl ight from 815

● Return of the Saints... Waves and smiles as HMS St Albans arrives back in Portsmouth

NAS saved the lives of all 23 souls aboard the stricken MV Dubai Moon after a cyclone hit her. And Medical Offi cer Surg Lt Sarah Droog provided urgent medical treatment to a seriously- ill crew member of a Liberian- registered tanker off Oman; he was subsequently

(medically evacuated) using Chatham’s Lynx. “This was exactly the kind of challenge that I joined the Royal Navy to experience,” said ex-deep ET(WE) Daniel John, enjoying his fi rst taste of life as a skimmer. “Chatham’s my fi rst

“There were some highlights and achievements when we engaged and saw off the pirates. Kerrie and I are now going on holiday – it will be the best ever.” For his Commanding Officer,


Huntington, quality family time also beckons... with an extended family. Waiting for him on the jetty was ten-week-old William Huntington (plus his mum Angela, brother James and sisters Eleanor and Elizabeth) – the fi rst time father and son had met. “My wife has been amazing,

surface unit after fi ve years as a submariner, and though I enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine, as ever, I am looking forward to getting home and spending time with my family and friends.” Such sentiments,

understandably, were echoed by his 250+ shipmates. “This was an especially hard

deployment for me because, for the fi rst time when away on a ship I had a girlfriend to come back to, so I missed her a lot,” said ET Alan Wormald, who spied his other half Kerrie Wright and her son Aidan waiting for him as Chatham returned.

Cotswolds and to see family in North Wales and Cumbria where I grew up.” Chatham’s CO wasn’t the only captain afforded the opportunity of holding his newborn son for the fi rst time.

the household and all our young children while pregnant with William,” said Cdr Huntington. “So she deserves a rest and we will all go on holiday to the

looking after Cdr Simon n g

of Sutherland’s ship’s company; he celebrated his 17th birthday while the Type 23 was away with the Auriga task group. “I’ve loved being part of Sutherland’s ship’s company – I’ve seen places in the world I have only dreamed of and learned a great deal from my fellow shipmates,” said the teenager. His family was among a 300-strong contingent who gathered under

S –


overcast skies to welcome HMS Sutherland home.

THE weather was no better (in fact it was probably worse) 180 miles away as the Auriga task group fl agship, HMS Ark Royal, and her trusty escort, HMS Liverpool, returned to Portsmouth. Their arrival marked the

was to work out in the US Navy’s ‘carrier gymnasium’ Seaboard and ranges).

Simon Ancona. “The East Coast of the United States is literally tailor- made to support our needs.” Yes, says Ark’s CO Capt John

So has the force pumped iron? Yes, says the commander, Cdre

Clink: “Flying from the sea is complex, exciting – and takes a great deal of teamwork and effort. I think we can be justifi ably proud of a job well done. “Ark’s had a successful

formal end of Auriga 2010 – four months of top bombing involving British and US Marine Corps jump jets which used Ark as their launch pad. The fi nal stages of the exercises

JAMES Payne was a mere fortnight old when HMS Sutherland, commanded by his dad Cdr John Payne, sailed up the Hamoaze after four months on the other side of the Atlantic. Slightly older than young Master

Payne is ET(ME) Chris Wojcik, one of the most junior members

saw the carrier group – Ark, Liverpool, RFA Fort George and USS Barry – link up with the UK Amphibious Task Group – Albion, Ocean and RFA Largs Bay plus 3 Commando Brigade – and the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (over 8,000 US sailors and marines) for a full-scale assault exercise involving land, sea and air.

Liverpool, charged with the age- old duty of escorting the fl agship. It can, at times, mean being tied to an invisible leash but, says the Crazy Red Chicken’s CO Cdr Ollie Hutchinson, the veteran Type 42’s made the most of it. “People who join the Royal

deployment – it’s thanks to the hard work of the ship’s company that we’ve achieved so much. It’s all very fi tting for a ship which is celebrating her silver jubilee this year.” Slightly older than Ark (indeed the oldest surface ship in the Fleet) is HMS

For the RN, the aim of Auriga (Eastern

Navy do so for the promise of going to sea, seeing the world and experiencing a varied and unique career. Liverpool’s delivered on that promise.

“The last four months have been extremely challenging, but they’ve also been rewarding and

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