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NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011 r good

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international effort is a well-oiled machine. In Fort Victoria’s case there were some 1,000 e-mails a day flying between the ship and the mother country, plus signals, imagery, phone calls and radio conversations.

Now it’s been running for a good three years, the

procedures, plus two intensive care beds. Once stabilised after treatment,

The cooks and stewards were expected to provide ‘hotel services’ for 265 men and women every day – as well as wear other hats, or rather helmets. A sizeable number of Fort Victoria’s stewards also

provide force protection, manning machine-guns, the Minigun and 20mm Gambo; the rest serve as stretcher bearers and first aiders when the ship goes to action stations. Now you might be wondering why there’s a fully- staffed hospital aboard. Well, with the pirates being trigger happy, there was always a chance that someone – seafarers, hostages, commandos or even the pirates themselves – might be injured. So the hospital facility was staffed with 18 experts from across the RN Medical Service, plus one radiographer from the Army equivalent, the RAMC. The result was a ‘mini ER’ with the latest

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Horn of Africa is classed as an operational theatre. In theory, a team of two – one medical assistant, one emergency nurse practitioner – would deal with a casualty. In serious cases, they would pass them on to one

of two ‘trauma bays’ in Fort Vic’s sickbay, where the trauma-team – led by an A&E consultant – would quickly assess the patient’s injuries before acting. The ship has an operating theatre for emergency

X-ray kit, sterilising machines, blood banks and the like. The aim was to provide any wounded with the same care as they might expect in Afghanistan – the

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transferred ashore by helicopter, then on to the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham courtesy of the RAF. Thankfully, they didn’t have to put it into practice. Even though there was no need to patch up casualties, the hospital’s stocks had to be replenished on a regular basis – blood has a limited ‘shelf life’. Fresh stocks came via the Seychelles; the idyllic Indian Ocean archipelago has become the eye of the piratical storm, serving as the hub for naval operations in the region with all manner of spare parts, food and other essentials flown into the islands, while two out of five sailors aboard Fort Vic were changed over during port visits.

permitted some rare downtime for the engines, if not for the marine engineers, who’ve used the time in port to shut down machinery and carry out essential maintenance. Their exertions, like all aboard, ensure that the whole effort is greater than the sum of its parts. “The whole team has done a cracking job – the

ship’s been at full capacity,” says Capt Dorey. “It’s been hard work and has involved long and

far-from-routine hours.” The wider RN and RM community have been introduced to RFA operations on a daily basis... and vice versa. “Everyone in Fort Victoria can be rightly proud of

homeward bound. But not Fort Victoria. The one-stop support vessel is now in the Gulf fulfilling the role of tanker for Allied warships.

Those infrequent visits to the Seychelles have also casualties would be

what they’ve achieved, but piracy in the region will not be solved overnight,” Capt Dorey adds. Most of the Capri team aboard – and their kit – are

pictures: la(phot) al macleod, frpu north

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