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THINGS must be bad if you look upon Ant and Dec as saviours.


latter courtesy of CH Luke Netto... by day king


But at 5.30am, in the middle of a tropical rainstorm, with the prospect of mud, creepy crawlies, an assault course, more mud, some booby traps, even more mud, the sight of the two (rather irritating) TV presenters might have been encouraging. Right idea. Wrong jungle. Ant and Dec are in Australia. I’m a matelot, get me out of here was in Ghana. Twenty-one matelots from HMS Portland volunteered to spend time at the Ghanaian Jungle Warfare School, deep in the Ghanaian jungle, when their frigate visited the African nation. It


to reach the Seth Anthony Barracks at Akim Achiase, where instructors introduced the sailors to the art of jungle ambush, explaining: “The jungle is neutral, Junglers need to be able to live, fight or die hard.” There followed a booby trap demonstration which underlined the difficulty of operating and fighting in this harsh environment – compounded by a tropical downpour. When the heavens had been emptied, Ghanaian trainees and teachers, plus sailors, gathered around a large bonfire for some grub (rather than grubs), dits, dancing, and drumming (the


took a four-hour drive


galley, by night king of the sticks as percussionist band).


in Portland’s


day, the sailors were awake and ready for a 5.30 start on a run followed by an assault course. “It was at this point that I was looking round for Ant and Dec to ‘get me out of here’, but I’m glad I cracked on,” said AB(WS) Kelly Doyle. “Running through the local villages with the rest of the trainees all singing, and the locals cheering us on, was something that was so uplifting and something I’ll never forget.” We did not, of course, dispatch a £100m cutting- edge warship to Africa so a few sailors could have a rumble in the jungle.


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of Tema – one of the last on a six-month grand tour which took her to South America and the Caribbean – was aimed at helping to train Ghanaian naval forces. A group of 30 Ghanaian sailors joined the frigate alongside for ‘static’ demonstrations of what Portland does.


No, Portland’s visit to the port Long before sunrise the next of


the


And then the visitors witnessed a board and search scenario played out by the Type 23’s RN/RM boarding team. The next day the visitors were back, this time sailing with the frigate for a more lively boarding demonstration in the Gulf of Guinea.


As Portland sailed the trainees witnessed a ‘quickdraw’ exercise – testing the ability of the ship’s company to respond to a suicide attack, here in the form of a Ghanaian rib. The training


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briefings and an account from Portland’s boarding officer, Lt Paul White, of his experiences. It was then the turn of the Ghanaian trainees to put into practise everything that they had learnt in the previous couple of days.


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Under the watchful eye of the instructors, they boarded the patrol boat GNS Anzone, playing the role of a merchant vessel.


“Everyone had a turn handling the hoses and banging wedges into the flood boxes, resulting in some very wet but happy trainees,” said CO Cdr Mike Knott.


moved on to more technical aspects including


legal then


seven months away. Waiting for Portland in the Canaries were some 50 friends and families of crew members who sailed with the ship for the last 1,600 miles of the frigate’s deployment. They witnessed the good (the Remembrance Service in the ship’s hangar) and the bad (a rather sporty crossing of Biscay) of life at sea before Plymouth Hoe came into view.


And so ended a deployment which missed the British summer (there wasn’t much to miss), crossed the equator on both sides of the Americas, caught quite a lot of snow in the Falklands, and saw a lot of South America (courtesy of Chile and Peru), a smidgin of the Caribbean (a shortish visit to Cartagena), and a little of Africa.


great deal, not only enhancing peace and stability within the South Atlantic and West African regions, but also contributing to the fight against cocaine trafficking and narco-terrorism,” said Cdr Knott.


That wasn’t quite the end of Ghanaian involvement with F79. Four officers remained on board for the penultimate leg of Portland’s 32,000-mile odyssey, the passage from Tema to Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. The sub-tropical Spanish islands were the 11th – and last – nation visited during the ship’s


“Portland has achieved a


”After travelling over 32,000 miles and visiting 11 countries you cannot put into words how wonderful it is for the crew to meet up again with their families who have not seen them for such a long period of time. I am always so proud of how the ship’s company deals with the strain of being away from their loved ones.”


pictures: la(phots) simmo simpson, gaz weatherston and dan hooper


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