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Argyll back ‘in good order’

TO SEVERAL hundred sailors and families, only one ship beginning with the letter A mattered on Friday December 3... ...and it wasn’t Ark Royal. While most media eyes were focused on Portsmouth Harbour and the passing of the aircraft carrier, 180 miles away with fewer cameras, but no less pride and certainly no more notches on the thermometer, HMS Argyll was formally welcomed back into the Fleet after a 12-month absence. The frigate has undergone a

£20m overhaul to make her the Navy’s most potent Type 23. She returned home to Devonport back in late September, but it was only at the beginning of December that there was time for Argyll’s rededication. In between emerging from

The pain and the prize T

HE Navy faces fi ve years of pain, but will be ‘re-born’ come 2015, Defence Secretary Liam Fox told sailors in Fareham.

Addressing First Sea Lord’s annual conference at HMS Collingwood, Dr Fox said Britain was – and must remain – a naval power.

that revamp in Rosyth and the rededication, there’s been a lot of work by the ship’s company and engineers from Babcock to prepare Argyll for her fi nal inspection – which she passed. There’s also been a good slice of sea time, largely off the west coast of Scotland. The trials sandwiched a fi ve-day visit to Liverpool, allowing Merseysider CO Cdr Paul Stroude to bring his ship home. With Argyll in the middle of

– “in particular the current one” – had been tough for the Senior Service, some “poor decisions” had been made, and the Fleet had shrunk “considerably”. The minister added: “I know the decisions such as the reduction in the frigate fl eet, on the Harriers, and the Ark Royal – particularly given the fantastic service these ships and planes have provided over the years – are particularly painful for the Navy. “Will the next few years be

Navy at the end of this process is signifi cant.” Dr Fox pledged that from

trials, there wasn’t time to open the gangway to the general public, but she could host selected guests, including the Mersey Naval and Maritime Society, Rossendale Aviation Society and the World Ship Society. And so to Devonport on a

bright if chilly December day and rededication in the presence of Lady Levene of Portsoken who launched F231 at the Yarrow (now BAE) yard in Scotstoun 21 years ago.

She inspected a 24-strong ceremonial guard formed by members of the ship’s company before Chaplain of the Fleet the Rev Scott Brown led the service of rededication.

diffi cult? Undoubtedly. “But the prize for the Royal

2015, the Royal Navy would be “re-grown... centred around cutting edge people and cutting edge war fi ghting capabilities. “The Queen Elizabeth carriers,

the Joint Strike Fighter, the Type 45s, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, the Astute-class submarines – all will be leaders in their fi eld and represent the most capable high-technology platforms the Royal Navy has ever had.” The minister told his audience

He conceded that recent decades

Helvellyn’s angels

RESCUERS from HMS Gannet faced a particularly tricky mission in the Lake District when the cold snap caused chaos.

The Search and Rescue fliers from Prestwick were scrambled after a walker fell 300ft off England’s highest peak. The woman, a student from London, had been walking with a group of friends on Helvellyn’s notorious Striding Edge when she lost her footing in the fading light. Forty minutes later a Gannet Sea King was overhead – but the rescue was far from routine. There were so many groups

of walkers and climbers on the Cumbrian mountain that it proved difficult to locate the injured student. “There were probably about eight or ten different totally unrelated groups of climbers on the mountainside in that area, many wearing head torches.” said winchman PO ‘Wiggy’ Wigfull. “With the arrival of the helicopter they all looked up, which made it diffi cult to fi nd our casualty.”

● Dr Fox chats with HMS Enterprise’s ship’s company on the survey vessel’s bridge in Bahrain Star visitor for starship

that First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, had “fought hard” for his Service as the details of the Strategic Defence and Security Review were thrashed out. That review cost the RN her

flagship, her Harriers, all four of her

And as all such ceremonies should end, so did this one: with the cutting of a cake, courtesy of the youngest sailor aboard, 18-year-old ET(WE) Scott Leng. “HMS Argyll is ready, once

remaining Type 22 frigates and 5,000 men and women. The Defence Secretary said such short-term pain was vital if Britain’s Armed Forces were to enjoy “long-term stability”. Dr Fox told the conference that

again, to conduct operations as part of the Fleet,” said Cdr Stroude. “We are very proud of our ship and what we have achieved so far and are now looking forward to the challenges of operational sea training and our subsequent deployment. “I was particularly delighted to be able to share our ceremonial return to the Fleet with so many families.

DEFENCE Secretary Liam Fox praised the work of sailors in the Gulf region when he dropped in on HMS Enterprise in Bahrain.

Dr Fox told RN personnel on operations east of Suez that their work was vital both to the stability of the Middle East and to Britain’s long-term future.

Bahrain is the hub of RN operations in the Gulf region and home to the Senior Service’s regional headquarters, the UK Maritime Component Command, headed by Cdre Tim Fraser. As of the beginning of December


n r

the national debt to be repaid in 2011 – £46bn – outstripped the defence budget by £9bn, while the programme of military spending the Coalition government inherited was unaffordable. The MOD had to cut its cloth accordingly. The Defence Secretary said he

regretted the uncertainty caused by the defence review, not least when it came to the 5,000 sailors and marines who would lose their jobs.

“The Navy places tremendous demands on us all and the support of our families and friends has played a major part in helping HMS Argyll get back to sea in such good order.”

Le roi est mort...

...VIVE le roi... Barely were the lines thrown across and the gangways in place as HMS Ark Royal entered Portsmouth for the last time than a little celebration was taking place 180 miles to the west. For as Ark Royal bowed out, so for the first time in her seven-year history HMS Albion assumed the mantle of the nation’s flagship. It was, said her CO Capt James

Morley, a moment of “great pride” for him and his 330 sailors and Royal Marines. For the past two decades the title of Fleet flagship has been shared among the trio of Invincible-class carriers and, more recently, between Ark and Illustrious. The latter is due to emerge from refit later this year, but until she’s operational, amphibious assault ship Albion will serve as Britain’s No.1 warship. Typically, she has taken it

in turns with her Devonport- based ‘bedfellows’ Bulwark and Ocean to serve as the nation’s amphibious task force flagship, a title she has borne since early last year.

there were a dozen RN and RFA vessels in the region – 1,300 Senior Service personnel. Aside from the regular ‘churn’ of

frigates through Bahrain on their way to and from Iraq’s oil platforms, the kingdom is the base for four minehunters, plus RFA tankers and support ships on their infrequent visits to port. As for Enterprise, she’s spent much of 2010 working off Oman – in particular the east-coast port of Duqm, roughly half-way between Muscat and Salalah.

o m is

Duqm is a boom town and its port is undergoing a £1bn transformation. With the anticipated traffi c, it’s essential that

“I am acutely aware that behind each number is a person, who through no fault of their own face an uncertain future and that each person has aspirations, a career, a livelihood and a family to support,” he added.

Despite the cuts announced last October, the minister stressed that as an island nation, Britain “must remain a maritime power”. He continued: “The sea not only protects us, but, as a trading nation reliant on imports of goods and energy, the sea is a crucial artery that helps sustain our way of life and our prosperity. “We can never afford to become ‘sea blind’ – whatever other military priorities we may have in the short-term. “Keeping

lines of communications open for the global transfer of goods and

the sea lanes and

the approaches and surrounding waters are free of navigational hazards – hence the need for the best charts courtesy of the UK Hydrographic Offi ce... based on data gathered by Enterprise’s sensors.

energy is vital.” Dr Fox told the conference that one of the keys to the success of the RN in the coming decade was stressing its importance to the British people. He said that at times he felt “the

Navy is less successful, even less willing, at selling itself than the other Services”.

The Defence Secretary continued: “The work that is done by the Navy – from humanitarian relief to extracting our citizens from hot zones, from exercising with our partners to piracy prevention – these operations need

The survey vessel’s CO Cdr Jon Holmes said the work had been carried out in “testing conditions – not just the intense heat of the Middle Eastern sun, but also the annual south- westerly Khareef winds and swells.

am su

am pleased this has been recognized at such a high level. “M

“The crew has worked very hard and I m p uch

Sailors from three of the four RN Bahrain-based minehunters on board – Pembroke, Grimsby and Middleton – plus staff from UKMCC, the Forward Support Unit and RAF personnel were invited aboard Enterprise for Dr Fox’s visit. They discussed their experiences of being deployed in the region and told the MP what it would be like to be away from home over the Christmas period.

invited a Supp – p – B

they had “played a signifi cant part in ensuring safe access for merchant vessels in the Gulf of Oman.

The defence secretary told Enterprise’s sailors

“I also commend the training and exercises you undertake with our partners. It demonstrates our capabilities and forges trust. We need to continue to enhance those relationships, and forge new ones, wherever we can. “We cannot afford to disengage with one of the world’s most important strategic areas.”

to be better understood by the British public, because they won’t automatically see the link between these and how they benefi t the infl uence of Britain in the wider world.” He told delegates that the Navy not only had to put the case for sea power, “but to demonstrate it to the British people regularly”, because the future would require the RN “more than perhaps in recent decades”.

The minister has spent a lot of time with the front-line RN and RM recently – in Bahrain with HMS Enterprise (see above),

in Taunton welcoming

40 Commando (see page 15), in Scotland visiting HMS Vanguard returning from a deterrent patrol. These visits were, he said, an

important reminder that “it is not ships or planes or submarines, but our people that make the Royal Navy great. “To all of them I send my

home around the world.”

“More than 23,000 ships pass through the Gulf of Aden each year, so the charts th

that Enterprise helps to produce are of b

benefi t to mariners from the UK and a

Using the Sea King’s spotlight and with the help of a mountain rescue team the casualty was located and the airlift to safety could begin. In pitch darkness. And temperatures of -11˚C. It was too dangerous on the

icy slopes of the mountain for Wiggy to unhook after being winched down 150ft. He stayed on the wire and walked up the treacherous mountainside to the casualty.

treat a casualty on fl at ground in daylight on a sunny day, but throw in the slope, weather and darkness and it all becomes quite a different matter,” said Wiggy. The climber was given pain relief before moved on to a stretcher, ready for transfer to the Sea King; the downwash from the helicopter’s blades not only kicked up the snow on the ground but took the ambient temperature down to around -30˚C.

Once safely on board the helicopter, the casualty was was transferred to hospital in Whitehaven with a suspected fracture to her leg.

Exposure for Gloucester

THE Fighting G fl ew the fl ag for Britain and her industries when she attended one of South America’s main nautical showcases.

Valparaíso in Chile for the week-long Exponaval, a mixture of naval conference and defence fair.

diplomatic and naval delegates, industry, plus the general public.

backdrop for UK defence firms to promote their wares, among them BAE Systems and Rolls- Royce.

admiration and my thanks on behalf of the nation we all represent.” ■ You can read the full speech at (we shortened the convoluted MOD web address for you...).

(Le) crunch meeting

THIS may look like a picture of a lot of men in suits sat around a table... ...but the chaps on the left are the Navy

Board, led by First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, those on the right are their French counterparts, headed by Ami- ral Pierre-Francois Forissier, and this is an historic meeting between the two Navies. The two Fleets are working more closely

Fighter arrives circa 2020). But the agreement will embrace all

three Armed Services of both nations as they look to share training, equipment, technology, and logistics. In the maritime arena, on the table (if

following the Treaty for Defence and Secu- rity signed by David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in November. Much of the coverage surrounding the

treaty involved the use of France’s aircraft carrier and her fast jets (with the axing of the Harrier, Britain has no fi xed-wing air- craft to operate at sea until the Joint Strike

you’ll excuse the pun) is the ability to deploy a UK-French carrier strike group, develop a joint doctrine, train together and work on a common supply chain. “The UK and France share many com- mon interests – our Navies already work closely together on a broad range of is- sues,” said Admiral Stanhope. “In light of the recently-signed treaty, it makes sense to consider how we can develop that.”

As for the ship’s company, they laid a wreath at the Chilean Naval Memorial and took part in the Santa Barbara gun run.

received during the week was outstanding,” said the destroyer’s Commanding Officer Cdr David George. “We’ve been able to throw the doors open and pay our respects in return.”

“The hospitality Gloucester Gloucester served as the The exposition draws HMS Gloucester sailed into “It can be hard enough to

crowds departed, the ship remained in Chile’s famous port for another week for some much-needed TLC, notably re-painting the hull and upper- deck to prepare it for another thrashing courtesy of the South Atlantic.

 Gloucester goes a-gunning, page 13

Gloucester is away over the winter – or austral summer – as Britain’s patrol ship in the Southern Hemisphere; she’s due back in Portsmouth this spring.

With the expo over and the

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