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Somer-set for success
HEN the men
and women of
HMS Somerset
formed up on
the jetty in their native
Devonport last month it
marked the end of one
chapter in the frigate’s
Vigo .............................. 1702
proud history... and the
Velez Malaga ................ 1704
beginning of a fresh one.
Louisburg ..................... 1758
Somerset was re-dedicated in
Quebec ......................... 1759
Battle Honours
her home port last month, watched
Class: Type 23 frigate
by the woman who launched her,
Pennant number: F82
Lady Elspeth Layard, friends and
Builder: Yarrow Shipbuilders,
The ceremony brought the Laid down: October 12 1992
curtain down on more than a year Launched: June 24 1994
and a half of work on the frigate Commissioned: September
– firstly a major refit at Rosyth, 20 1996
then, after leaving Scotland in
Displacement: 3,500 tonnes
April, months of work-up before
Length: 133 metres
finally being officially welcomed
Beam: 16 metres
back into the arms of the Fleet.
Draught: 7 metres
‘New’ Somerset is considerably
Speed: 28kts
more potent than ‘old’ Somerset:
Complement: 185 men and
the team at Rosyth put in new sonar
Propulsion: CODLAG; two
kit, new anti-torpedo kit, a new
Rolls-Royce Spey SM1C gas
main gun, a new remote-control
turbines, four Paxman diesels
30mm chain gun – Bushmaster,
Sensors: Radar 996 – long-
the first to be fitted in the RN ● HMS Somerset sails up the Dart on a glorious summer’s morning at the beginning of Dartmouth Royal Regatta
range 3D surveillance; radar
– and revamped her flight deck to Picture: LA(Phot) Dave Sterratt, FRPU West 1007 – high-definition
carry a Merlin helicopter. navigation radar; radar 1008
Emerging from refit with all this Somerset took her friends and the name Somerset has been ‘off’ service for nine years, although of Abraham in Quebec. – ship safety; sonar 2050 –
‘Gucci’ equipment, plus a new family to sea for a day of fun more than it’s been ‘on’; it was she only saw a single day of battle: Her career ended in 1778 when omnidirectional, hull-mounted
ship’s company, has meant a pretty shortly before her re-dedication not carried by one of His or Her February 11, 1744, as part of she ran aground and was wrecked
active sonar; sonar 2087
ferocious work-up programme ceremony. Majesty’s Ships for more than two the British fleet at the Battle of chasing a French blockade runner
– variable depth sonar; sonar
around the British Isles. She also stood guard in the centuries. Toulon. She returned to Chatham off Cape Cod during the American
2170 – surface ship torpedo
And every stage of said middle of the River Dart as the Of the four HMS Somersets, to be broken up 1746 – and was War of Independence.
defence; UAT – passive
programme has been charted RN’s official representative at the three served in the 18th Century. going to be pieced back together Two centuries later and her
surveillance; GPEOD – general
(complete with downs, as well as Dartmouth Royal Regatta (see The first was an 80-gun ship until the Admiralty cancelled the name is kept alive... by our one-
purpose electro-optical
ups) by Somerset’s present CO, page 19), an event which traces of the line, flagship of Sir George order. time foe; American re-enactors
director used for the 4.5in gun;
AIS – automatic identification
Cdr Rob Wilson. its proud history back to the mid- Rooke at Vigo Bay in 1702 when The third bearer of the name is who dress up as the ship’s
He’s compiled a captain’s blog 19th Century. he annihilated a Franco-Spanish perhaps the most famous. company of the age (they’ve not
Armament: Seawolf; Harpoon;
– basically a diary on the internet Somerset herself can trace her force. Launched in Chatham in 1748, yet managed to recreate the ship
4.5in gun; Bushmaster 30mm
– which, to date, has been read by history back rather further: the Her fighting days ended in she saw action a decade later herself, however).
cannon; minigun; general
more than 11,000 people. name has been borne, on and off, 1715 and she was finally broken in the capture of Louisburg and You can follow the ship’s purpose machine gun;
And while work-up is jolly hard by the Royal Navy since 1698. up in 1740. Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, continuing exploits courtesy magazine torpedo launch
graft, there are breaks for jolly Indeed strangely, given the By then, the second HMS then put Wolfe’s army ashore the of Cdr Wilson’s blog at system
good fun. historic county she represents, Somerset had already been in following year below the Heights Helicopter: Merlin HM1
Facts and figur
S/Lt Jack Easton RNVR and
OS Bennett Southwell – GC
NESTLING in London’s East End, the houses of – he had been decapitated. And his body was
Clifton Street in Shoreditch bore the blank-eyed, not found until six weeks later.
harrowed look that typified the Blitz-era London Easton spent the next twelve months swathed
while their inhabitants hid within the city’s air- in plaster while his body slowly repaired the two
raid shelters. broken legs, the fractured pelvis and skull.
On October 17, 1941, S/Lt Jack Maynard As he lay in his hospital bed in January 1941,
Cholmondley Easton and OS Bennett Southwell Easton was surprised to receive three cases
walked down the deserted street to the house of champagne sent by the Admiralty with the
with the smashed roof partially obscured by the instruction to listen to the radio at nine o’clock.
silken parachute canopy. The news crackled over the airwaves,
The parachute mine, holding 1,500lb of announcing that he was to receive the George
undetonated explosive, hung in the tenuous grip Cross.
of a tattered chimney pot and an old wrought- Southwell too was awarded the George
iron bedstead. Cross posthumously.
The front door could not be opened wider Easton, who had volunteered for the
than a few inches and the officer could not ordnance disposal path to escape the
squeeze in to deal with the German bomb. tedium of training at HMS King Alfred,
So in pragmatic mine-disposal fashion, he stayed in the Royal Navy and stayed
climbed over walls and through windows to get in the mine-disposal line.
to the mine through the house’s back window. He was appointed to the trawler
Once inside, Easton set to work with Southwell base at Dartmouth, where he
passing to him his tools through the doorway. took command of motor
The magnetic mine, almost 9ft in length, was minesweepers no.6 and no.22.
held in the cat’s cradle of its own parachute’s The GC winner led a mine-
lines as the officer began the delicate work of sweeping flotilla amid the
dismantling the fuse... traumas of D-Day – when
... until the trickle of dust overhead turned to he was injured again by
a roar as the chimney collapsed, dropping its a German oyster mine
deadly burden in one jolt. exploding under his ship.
As the brickdust billowed, Easton’s senses After the war, Easton
were alive to only one thing – the sound of the returned to his life as a solicitor
mine mechanism whirring into life. with the family firm William
He bellowed a warning to Southwell and Easton’s in London.
forced his way out of the nearest doorway,
running at full pelt to the only cover within range
as the scant seconds on the timer ticked away
to oblivion.
Hurling himself at the air-raid shelter on the
roadside, the flare of the explosion blinded
Easton then the roar deafened him before he
lost all senses to unconsciousness.
As sight, sound and sense slowly drifted back
to Easton, he found himself shrouded in bricks
and rubble, his head pressed tortuously into his
legs, his body racked in pain.
Later he said: “To this day I do not know how
long I spent in my grave. Most of that time I was
“The conscious moments were of horror and
utter helplessness.”
The massive mine destroyed six London
streets in its shattering explosion.
Rescuers eventually dug Easton out of his
rubble-strewn tomb; Southwell was not so lucky
012_NN_Oct.indd 1 18/9/07 18:42:46
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