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Ag-a-dir, dir, dir Masters
to the north,
of all they
to the south
AFTER the calm(ish) waters
of the Mediterranean, HMS
THE trophy cabinet aboard HMS
Ledbury faced Nature’s wrath as
Richmond is at bursting point
she returned to the Atlantic with
with the third ‘gong’ in a year.
her NATO task group.
Joining two anti-submarine
And despite the rough weather
awards (one for active, one for
(and quite a lot of Stugeron
passive hunting) is the Fleet
handed out by the coxswain)
Electronic Warfare Effectiveness
it didn’t stop the task force
conducting exercises, RAS-ing,
The Portsmouth-based frigate
and practising damage control
was fitted with brand-new
as they edged down Morocco’s
electronic surveillance kit when
Atlantic coast.
she headed to the Gulf last year.
The destination was Agadir, a
That new equipment meant
fairly infrequent port of call for
new roles for two leading hands
warships – and one lapped up by
aboard; they challenged every
the Ledbury sailors.
merchant vessel approaching
The Brits made a bee-line for
Iraq’s two oil platforms – a vital
the souk to haggle for trinkets
task ensuring the security both
and gifts, then tucked into some
of Richmond and other Allied
local cuisine.
vessels as well as the structures
The weekend in Agadir
provided respite from the rough
The feedback the frigate’s
autumn weather – but only for so
electronic warfare team provided
long. Next stop: Vigo.
– positive and negative – proved
The force was treated
invaluable to the rest of the Fleet,
(intermittently, thanks to the
hence the Electronic Warfare
cloud cover) to the spectacular
trophy for 2007-08.
sight of a meteor show as it
headed up the Portuguese coast.
If the clouds sometimes hid the Look back
work of the gods, they could not
hide the work of man.
For as Ledbury (750 tonnes) in Angus
● HMS Lancaster’s Merlin 501 breaks away from the Khawr
arrived in the north-west Spanish
Al Amaya oil terminal during rapid roping exercises
port, she found herself dwarfed
Picture: LA(Phot) Brian Douglas, FRPU North BARELY a month after coming
by the legendary QE2 (70,000t), home from the Gulf, HMS
which in turn was rather Montrose was back at sea – this
overshadowed by the world’s time bound for Scotland.
largest cruise ship, Independence The ship paid her visit to her
of the Seas (155,000t). namesake town in six years to
Ledbury is now conducting exercise their ‘freedom of Angus’
clearance diving and mine – an honour bestowed on the
warfare training in waters closer frigate in 2002.
to home. Sea Cadets from Dundee’s
TS Duncan joined the Type 23
College days
warship for the passage north
IRAQI sailors and marines joined frigate
Forces in Iraq and it’s clear that they have a huge amount
from Devonport – a home
HMS Lancaster in the northern Gulf in
of enthusiasm to see the recovery of the port moves in the
Montrose herself will not see for
FOUR warships (HM Ships
Bulwark, Argyll, Somerset and
continuing efforts to hand the baton of
right direction,” said salvage engineer John Curley who’s
some time as she’s about to enter
helping to rid Umm Qasr of three decades of detritus.
Gloucester), two auxiliaries
maritime security to the young Navy.
a lengthy refi t.
The good folk of Umm Qasr waited more than five years
(RFAs Fort Austin and Mounts
Lancaster has recently taken over from HMS Chatham
The three-day stay in the
to see British warships again after the port’s liberation
Bay) plus the Royal Marines
as the RN’s constant guardian of the two oil platforms
historic small Scottish port
in 2003.
laid on a ‘show’ for some 600
which account for circa 90 per cent of Iraq’s wealth
saw the sailors march through
They didn’t have to wait quite as long for the next
comrades in arms and VIPs off
(and two per cent of global oil production).
Montrose’s town centre
Plymouth and around Devonport.
It is a task which one day will be performed chiefly
accompanied by the Band of HM
A couple of months after HM ships Blyth and
Staff College Sea Days are a
by the Iraqis (last month there was a mix of American,
Royal Marines, before the Provost
Atherstone became the first RN vessels in Umm Qasr
long-running demonstration –
British, Australian and Singaporean vessels patrolling
(Scottish mayor) of Angus, Ruth
since the war, Ramsey and Chiddingfold also headed
previously held off Portsmouth,
the head of the Gulf).
Melville, took the salute.
up the Khawr abd Allah to work with the Iraqi Navy.
but now staged in the West
To that end, a dozen Iraqi personnel joined the Red
The following day, the gangway
Atherstone and Blyth’s visit had been fleeting, so
Country – for students at the UK
Rose frigate on patrol – the first of numerous exchanges
was opened to visitors for a tour,
fleeting in fact that they did not stay overnight at the port,
Defence Academy in Shrivenham
planned during Lancaster’s deployment.
while the ship’s company also
unlike Ramsey and the Cheery Chid.
(the Army and RAF run similar
They watched the Lancastrians deal with fires and damage
caught up with their affi liates,
That overnight stay meant there was enough time for the Chid
events to showcase their abilities).
control, then joined a fire-fighting team as they effected a re-entry
including Angus Riding for the
Chariots to dun running kit for a, er, run around the base.
As far as the RN and RM
to a flame-filled compartment...
Disabled, which benefi ted to the
After commemorating Remembrance Day (see pages 28-9), the
are concerned, their four-day
...which is something the Brits had to do on passage to their
tune of £945 thanks to sailors’
duo hosted the Iraqi sailors who will crew their new patrols
presentation ranges from anti-
operational area when there was a small fire in the gash sh
fund-raising efforts during their
boboat, due to arrive in 2009.
submarine warfare and air
compartment (it was quickly dealt with).
Gulf tour-of-duty.
AAfter watching various demonstrations in Umm Qasr
attacks to boarding parties, beach
The Iraqi sailors spend most of their time patrolling the the
That tour-of-duty saw the
itsitself – launching and re ecovering the ‘yellow submarine’
landings and disaster relief.
two oil platforms, Al Basrah and Khawr al Amaya, and nd
biggest drugs bust by a British
mimine disposal vehicle, plus fire-fighting drills – the Iraqis
Royal Marines from 40
inspecting tankers using them, while the marines defend
warship in the Middle East this
ssailed with the two British ships back down the KAA.
Commando, 4 Assault Squadron
both structures.
year (carried out in horrendous
They were charged with defending the warships
(HMS Bulwark’s permanent
Of the two platforms, the Al Basrah is more modern
conditions, too) when more than
during a force protection exercise and took part in
green beret unit) and 539
and less battle-scarred – but in the northern Gulf,
ten tonnes of hashish (cannabis)
officer of the watch manoeuvres in the challenging,
ASRM provided the littoral
such descriptions are relative...
were seized.
narrow waters of the outlet to the Gulf.
and shoreside part of Sea
It is, says ‘Nic the doc’ – aka Lancaster’s Surg
“We’re fortunate to have
And at the other end of the Gulf... HMS Blyth
Days, bolstered by the 105mm
Lt Nic Dodds – “a cross between Waterworld and
such strong relationships with
left Bahrain for a thorough ‘shakedown’ after some
howitzers of the commandos’
Moonraker and buzzed by incessant flies”.
Montrose and Angus,” said Cdr
maintenance alongside, testing all the machinery – and
gunners, 29 Commando
He received an ‘SOS’ from the marines on ABOT
Andy Hogben, the ship’s CO.
the people who use it – to ensure that everything and
Regiment Royal Artillery.
when one of their comrades fell ill (the sister platform a a
“To exercise our freedom and
eveveryone do what they should do.
Sea Days are the largest such
few miles away is better equipped to deal with the sick).
renew our ties with our affi liates
For Blyth, the shakedown meant passage to Dubai.
military demonstration in Europe
The surgeon ended up escorting the poorly marine – he was
and to visit Montrose was a
Although Blyth and her Operation Aintree partner HMS Ramsey
and are co-ordinated by the staff
suffering from stomach pains – in Lancaster’s sea boat to KAAOT,
pleasure and privilege. It was a
have been based a relative stone’s throw from Dubai in Bahrain,
of the Flag Officer Sea Training.
where an American medic was able to help him back to full
fi tting conclusion to this phase of
visits to the UAE metropolis have been pretty rare during the
the ship’s life.”
duo’s two-year deployment.
This was a relatively routine medical case, but for the
Montrose is now in Rosyth at
Albion revamp
In fact, more than half Blyth’s ship company had never
doc, it gave a real insight into the complex operation going
the beginning of a multi-million
been to Dubai before – so the visit was highly anticipated.
on at the head of the Gulf.
pound overhaul which will see
Good to know, then, that expectations were met.
AS ONE amphibious leviathan “Warships abound – American, Australian, Iraqi,
engines, machinery, weapons and
“Entering the port was an exhilarating experience,” said
emerges from a refi t (see Singaporean,” he says.
sensors revamped.
navigator S/Lt Dan Fearn who guided Blyth past the
opposite page, bottom), another “There are vast oil tankers and, in separate sectors. growing World Project – luxury residences on artifi cial
begins a multi-million-pound dhows fishing, shepherded by coalition forces. islands shaped like the globe.
“As you near them, you suddenly appreciate the
Gone fi shing
overhaul. “Dubai’s skyline was an impressive sight. Even
HMS Albion will be out of sieze of the oil platforms we are protecting – and through all the dust and haze the world’s tallest FLIERS from HMS Gannet
action for the next nine months more particularly the massive behemoths which are building, the Burj Dubai, stood out.” plucked two fi shermen to safety
as she begins her first spell in the oil tankers. It’s staggering to buzz past one.” Which is not entirely surprising as it’s 2,320ft high when fl ood waters threatened to
dry dock. It is easy to become transfixed by the tankers, but (and still growing). engulf them.
The assault ship will receive they are not the only large merchant vessels in these Blyth spent four days in Dubai – plenty of time for The two anglers had headed
improved communications waters. the ship’s company to catch the sights, shopping malls, out on to a small island on the
systems, aviation facilities and At least 20 ships head for Umm Qasr every week – and restaurants and hostelries. The most popular attraction upper Clyde near Motherwell.
there’ll be quite a bit of work the figure is rising. proved to be the Atlantis Water Park – a palm-shaped island Torrential rain caused the river
done in her welldock. Back in March 2003, the arrival of RFA Sir Galahad was which juts out in the Gulf. to rise rapidly – cutting the pair
Living quarters for the trumpeted by the Allies as one of the great humanitarian As you’d expect from a water park, there are plenty of slides off and requiring the intervention
ship’s company and the Royal achievements of the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein’s – except that the ones at Atlantis run through a shark tank of the Prestwick-based rescuers.
Marines embarked forces, regime. (thankfully the slides are enclosed so Jaws can’t snap at “Despite the really unpleasant
including mess areas, heads, Five years down the line and Iraq’s principal port the funseekers). weather – very gusty wind,
laundry, plus the main galley has celebrated its busiest month (October) since it was “Dubai was excellent,” enthused ET(ME) Douglas pouring rain and even a bit of
also get a makeover. re-opened – well over 100,000 tons of cargo (principally Eddie, the newest member of Blyth’s ship’s company. thunder and lightning thrown
And finally... the ship is rice, wheat and sugar) were unloaded. “The nightlife was second to none and the modern in for good measure – this was
having her bottom scraped. The vessels still face a tricky journey up the Khawr- architecture is unrivalled by anything I’ve seen.” a very routine rescue for us,”
The anti-fouling paint on the abd-Allah to reach the port. The fun over, Blyth has put back to sea to prepare said pilot Lt Cdr Andrew ‘Tank’
hull is being replaced with a It is still strewn with wrecks from years of conflict in for a minehunting exercise working with the US Navy. Murray.
more environmentally-friendly the Gulf – but that is changing. Salvage experts have Blyth and Ramsey are in the fi nal days of their The stranded fishermen were
coating. In all 26,000 litres been called in to clear the most obstructive hulks deployment. picked up without a hitch and
(5,700 gallons) of paint will be which are blocking access to some of the berths, work They are preparing to hand over to sister ships HMS safely returned to dry land at
applied to the 176m-long hull which will take them around 15 months. Grimsby and Pembroke (see page 9) before beginning Wishaw, where the emergency
by workers at Babcock Marine “I have nothing but the utmost respect for the British the long journey home to Faslane. services were waiting to take care
in Devonport. of them.
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