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8 NAVY NEWS, JANUARY 2011


Commcen closes


● HMS Kent in Rosyth all circuits


AND so another treasured slice of Naval history is no more. With the signal CM1 Desig


Staff, Col Jim Mitchell, to issue the final signal, and AB Luke Gough – the youngest member of the five-strong RN team – to transmit it around the globe. The comms centre traces its roots back to 1870 when the Falmouth, Gibraltar and Malta Telegraph Company laid a submarine cable, establishing a permanent link with the UK, which the Admiralty quickly utilised, sending comms specialists to man the new centre. By World War 1 cable was complemented by wireless and ‘aerial farms’ sprouted on the upper Rock while a formal Naval Communications Centre was established in Admiralty Tunnel. A generation later and another


All – ‘I am closing down on all circuits’ – 140 years of signalling from the Rock came to an end and Gibraltar’s communications centre closed down. It fell to Gibraltar’s Chief-of-


Are there any takers for the new P Squadron?


PROTECTION with a capital P – that is the offering from the Royal Navy’s newest squadron. P Squadron ‘belongs’ to the Fleet Protection Group RM at Faslane, and provides force protection teams for RFAs, strategic roll-on roll-off ferries (SRRs), minehunters and survey vessels (SVs) operating in high-threat areas. Until September RFAs and SRRs were protected by squads of RN augmentees or reservists, while mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) and SVs provided their own protection.


But on September 1 P Sqn assumed that responsibility.


With a strength of 145, the squadron is designed to generate 11 12-strong teams, although currently they range in size from six, led by Leading Hands, to 13, led by Senior Rates. The squadron is now seeking high-


Servicemen and women served at Commcen Gibraltar,


war saw Gibraltar become the eye of the Mediterranean hurricane, with a tri-Service team manning circuits round the clock to deal with operations in North Africa and the Western Mediterranean. That joint nature of the base (reflected in the Joint Operational Communications Centre title) persisted post-war as Gib maintained its strategic position. At the peak of operations 150


technology and automation saw personnel numbers fall, such that by 2008 it had moved to the Tower, the HQ of British Forces in Gib. Now, with a team of just five RN comms staff, the decision has been taken to relocate to Faslane. A rum barrel was hauled out to mark the occasion, with former Officer in Charge Lt Cdr Geoff Alexander


communicators past and present. “From submarine


raising a toast to


through wireless and radio to computer-controlled digital systems,


communications staff have maintained a


said Col Mitchell. “They have provided the Admiralty,


and commanders with the highest standard of military communications. “We salute the passing of the Communications Centre.”


Flag Officers Royal Naval


telegraph, automated


constant watch,” but


calibre individuals keen to take on a second career strand in parallel to their branch progress.


Kent on Kent, SNO on snow


BEAR with us – this might get


confusing... Pictured above is HMS Kent. Pictured right is Kent, and it also depicts SNO on snow. So what we had in Rosyth was


SNO on snow, Kent on Kent, Kent on snow on Kent or SNO on snow on Kent. Or any other combination, really. Let us explain.


HMS Kent is in the capable hands of Babcock, who are starting an extensive refit of the frigate. While in refit, her Commanding Officer is actually the Senior Naval Officer (SNO) on board – in this case the Marine Engineer Officer, Lt Cdr Matt Kent. Now, in days of yore admirals


would have referred to such a ship as ‘the Kent’, and her CO as


BRNC forges Chinese link


CDRE Jake Moores, the Commodore BRNC, spent a week in China on a formal fact-finding visit looking at naval training in the country. On the commodore’s agenda were visits to the People’s Liberation


Army (Navy) HQ in Beijing, the Dahlian Naval Academy and the Naval Engineering University at Wuhan. The Dahlian Academy has around 1,000 midshipmen training in the


warfare specialisation, while a similar number of engineering students attend the Wuhan facility. “During this official visit to China I was struck by the warmth of hospitality and openness between our two navies,” said Cdre Moores. “This visit was mutually beneficial and will hopefully lead to a stronger link between BRNC and the Dahlian Academy.”


simply ‘Kent’. So when the yard on the Forth


was hit by the cold snap at the end of last year, she had snow on her decks – hence the snow/SNO Kent/Kent tomfoolery. “As


you can imagine, my


surname has caused a few raised eyebrows,


particularly amongst


our visitors during numerous capability demonstrations conducted during the past year,” said Lt Cdr Kent. One visitor was Princess


Beatrice, who wondered how one got a ship named after oneself – particularly as her aunt, the Countess of Wessex (also present), is the sponsor of HMS Daring. The SNO also mentioned


that the frigate visited her ‘home county’ last September, “which


meant Kent on Kent in Kent...” Babcock’s £20m refit


programme includes the fitting of Sonar 2087, a Mk 8 Mod 1 4.5in gun replacement, an uprated command system, the Seawolf Mid-Life Upgrade, the installation of a new IT system, automatic 30mm guns and new gas turbines, as well as work on the living spaces, galley and air-conditioning. There will


also be routine


maintenance of equipment, repairs and renewal of hull coatings. Throughout the period the ship


is run by 41 personnel, mainly engineers with a handful of logisticians and seaman specialists. The ship’s company should


move back on board in August with a view to leaving Rosyth late this year.


According to Lt Cdr Rich Witte, the


first Officer Commanding: “For those who wish to develop or improve their leadership and military skills there are huge advantages in joining P Squadron. “The aspiration is that the squadron will be recognised as being manned only by those individuals who have the intellect, physical fitness, leadership and ‘grit’ to deserve early recognition for promotion.


“As the squadron matures, there


will be scope to release individuals for professional leadership training, adventurous training and military training with the Royal Marines, with the aim being to deliver back to the Fleet a more rounded and capable Serviceman who can be trusted to lead and fight.” The squadron, said Lt Cdr Witte, is essentially no different to a ship’s company.


“It requires volunteers from AB1


to WO1 and suitably experienced lieutenants to be troop commanders for troops of 44 personnel,” he said. “The troop commanders are essentially heads of departments, troop senior ratings are DEPCOs and junior ratings work the various commitments, be they RFAs, RRs, MCMVs or SVs.” The need to chop and change between types of ship – and particularly for service on small ships – means certain factors have to be considered, including fitness and susceptibility to chronic seasickness; levels of maturity, confidence and other qualities expected of an individual in the next highest rate; good disciplinary record; and freedom from significant welfare or Divisional issues that will prevent an individual from deploying. Training covers three phases: Stage 1 is FOST-delivered individual training at Collingwood and Raleigh; ABs have nine weeks of team member training with rifles, machine guns and Miniguns; leading hands also train on these weapons as team leaders, and learn to plan training and manage trauma, risk and incidents. Senior rates will complete the same


training, and also learn Divisional Officer skills.


Stage 2 is largely FOST-delivered platform familiarisation.


Stage 3 takes place once deployed and is planned and conducted by team commanders.


A typical deployment cycle over an 18-month assignment could include: An


initial two months integrating Picture: LA(Phot) Tel Boughton, FRPU East Edinburgh goes Dutch


WITH the weak autumn sun glinting off the clouds, HMS Edinburgh edges out of a basin in Holland’s principal naval base.


Den Helder was the first foreign port of call for the Fortress of the Sea since her £17.5m revamp and recommissioning. The veteran destroyer is in the middle of an intense period of work-up, ahead of the acid test – Basic Operational Sea Training, beginning this month. Den Helder is the home of


the Dutch Fleet (on the left of the photograph is one of the Netherlands’ Rotterdam-class


assault ships – progenitors of the Bay-class vessels of the RFA). Given the long-standing bond


between the two nations and navies, the Dutch proved to be fine hosts for Edinburgh’s sailors, including challenging their visitors to a rugby league match – except that Edinburgh didn’t have a team; PO Stu Copeland had to rustle up a side. For a XIII which had never trained together, let alone played together, the Brits didn’t fare too badly (but they did lose). Barely an hour away from Den Helder is the Dutch capital; in the suburb of Watergraafsmeer can be found the vast Nieuwe


Ooster Begraafplaats


Eastern Cemetery – where more than 300 Britons


– New are


remembered for their efforts to liberate the Netherlands from the Nazis in World War 2. A detachment from


Edinburgh paid its respects at the small Commonwealth War Graves section of the cemetery. They were joined for


Armistice Day commemorations by children from the British School of Amsterdam, who sang hymns and watched a flypast by vintage aircraft. It was, said CO Cdr Paul Russell, “a very moving” experience.


with FPGRM; three separate month- long sessions on live firings and pre- deployment training (OST and Joint Warrior) spread throughout the assignment; four months deployed to an RFA; three months at R1 readiness – 24 hours notice to move from the UK – to support MCMV operations; two month- long sessions of leave,


adventurous


training and RM military training; two months deployed to an SRR and a final two months of professional courses prior to return to branch. Lt Cdr Witte said the opportunities to broaden their professional experience over


a range of ships and tasks, to


attain a high level of fitness and to get practical leadership experience means they will return to their branch “more confident, more experienced and more employable.” He added: “For those who enjoy the


‘green’ aspects of training, opportunities will be made for them to go for Royal Marines and Specialist selection.” Anyone interested should approach their Divisional Officer in the first instance, and further details will be available in a DIN to be issued early this year.


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