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Protecting our Nation's Interests

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Royal Navy’s global Christmas presence thanks to one in seven of its men and women

A traditional Christmas tree for the men of 40 Commando on active duty in Afghanistan

21/12/2012

More than 4,800 men and women – one in every seven personnel in the Naval Service – will be on active duty this Christmas safeguarding your liberty. From the mud of Afghanistan to the ice and snow of Antarctica, the ferocious Western Approaches to the sun of the Gulf, some 17 warships, survey vessels, submarines and auxiliaries, plus half a dozen squadrons, and the Royal Marines of 40 Commando are at work over the holiday period.

All have in common the separation from their loved ones which is felt most at this time of year but in the traditions of the Navy, they are determined to make the most of it
Lt Cdr Giles Palin

ONE in seven sailors, Royal Marines and Fleet Air Arm air and ground crew will be on duty this festive season – more than 4,800 men and women in all.

They are your safeguards and protectors this Christmas – from the mud of the Afghan winter to the sands of the Gulf shore, from the depths of the ocean carrying the nation’s ultimate weapon to the skies of Pirate Alley, from the snow-capped peaks of the Highlands to the frozen wastes of the Antarctic.

While you’re raising a glass to the Queen and tucking into turkey smothered in gravy and accompanied by roast potatoes and cranberry sauce (but obviously not sprouts, for that is the devil’s vegetable), one entire Commando unit, elements of six Naval Air Squadrons, and at least 17 warships, survey vessels, submarines and Royal Fleet Auxiliaries will either be on patrol or enjoying a brief respite therefrom.

Ships away over Christmas stocked up with most of the things they needed to celebrate before leaving the UK – crackers, cards, presents, decorations, frozen turkeys – while British Forces Post Office has delivered parcels and post to the four corners of the globe.

HMS Northumberland, for example, picked up 180 sacks of mail during her three-day visit to Muscat in Oman at the beginning of the month – her final collection of post before December 25 as she’s patrolling the Indian Ocean.

She’s been keeping her Royal Marines/Royal Navy boarding team honed with almost daily training exercises involving her two sea boats, plus her Merlin helicopter.

 

 

Lts Richard Dobson and Andy Warwick on the lookout for Santa and his sleigh as LPT Danny Card steers HMS Monmouth in the Gulf

Also east of Suez, her sister HMS Monmouth will be at sea on the big day. The 200-strong ship’s company have chosen not to defer or advance Christmas Day (as some ships have done) and will observe it while on patrol.

Christmas Day in a surface ship at sea is normally a reasonably relaxed affair – although watch routines are, of course, maintained as normal – with the age-old tradition of officers serving ratings their dinner maintained (and in some cases the most junior or youngest member of the ship’s company is permitted to be captain for the day).

In Bahrain, most of the 27-strong team who provide support the Navy’s four Gulf-based minehunters (Her Majesty’s Ships Atherstone, Quorn, Shoreham and Ramsey) will be getting together for a joint festive lunch. The engineers spend four months at a time in the small kingdom during a two-year draft to Forward Support Unit 2.

Lt Emma McCormick, based at Fleet HQ in Portsmouth, is flying out to spend the festive period with her husband PO Keith, who’s coxswain of the unit. She was planning to cook a traditional dinner for two… but that’s now grown to 26 as most of Keith’s team are rocking up (luckily there’s a British supermarket which sells all you need for a British Christmas… apart from alcohol, of course, in keeping with the host nation’s laws).

For me, making sure there’s a bit of normality in our lives at Christmas is very important,” Emma said. “I suggested hosting the rest of the guys for nibbles but it got lost in translation, so I’m now cooking for up to 26 which is a logistical nightmare – but probably quite fun.”

It will also be quite warm: temperatures of 20˚C-25˚C are forecast – allowing for some interesting celebrations.

A festive costume for one of HMS Ramsey's divers 

 

One of HMS Ramsey's divers dons a festive costume in the Gulf

Crews are running secret Santa onboard, the officers will, of course, be serving lunch and to top it off, Christmas on the Ramsey will be ‘al fresco’ with everyone dining under what is left of Bahrain's winter sun,” said Ramsey’s Commanding Officer Lt Cdr Giles Palin.

The Fleet's plastic ships will be generating their own festive atmosphere in the December sun of the Gulf.

For the crews of Ramsey and Quorn, it is almost time to return home – Christmas marks the last milestone before their return to the UK in mid-January for some well-earned leave. As for Shoreham and Atherstone's Crews, their deployments have just begun.

All have in common the separation from their loved ones which is felt most at this time of year but in the traditions of the Navy, they are determined to make the most of it.”

Around one in ten sailors aboard HMS Edinburgh have recorded video messages for their loved ones, as well as a four-minute whole-ship video, and a couple of quirky festive greetings (one featuring a cherry picker, another featuring a sailor dressed as a giant cracker…) which you can see at the RN’s official Youtube channel (www.youtube.com/user/royalnavyofficial )

AB Kern Toussaint, who serves in HMS Edinburgh’s logistics department, will be aboard the Fortress of the Sea as she conducts the very last deployment by a Type 42 destroyer, on patrol in the South Atlantic.

He sent greetings back to his family – including “my little man, Kenzo” – during Edinburgh’s recent visit to Simons Town in South Africa. “I miss you all a lot – although I’m having an amazing time here. It’s absolutely beautiful.

For the record deployed or on duty over the Christmas and New Year are:

  • Afghanistan: 40 Commando; the ‘eyes in the sky’ of 857 Naval Air Squadron; the specialist helicopter repair team of 1710 Naval Air Squadron, bomb disposal experts of Fleet Diving Unit along with a number of individual augmentees attached to joint units across the country.
  • East of Suez: Minehunters Atherstone, Quorn, Shoreham and Ramsey, plus their support ship RFA Cardigan Bay; on maritime security patrols: Northumberland, Monmouth, plus 43 Commando Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines; duty submarine: Trenchant; surveying: Enterprise and Scott, which left Devonport on December 21; providing stores and fuel: RFA Fort Victoria; and overseeing operations, the staff in the UK Maritime Component Command HQ in Bahrain.
  • South Atlantic: providing support and reassurance to British citizens: Clyde, Edinburgh, supported by tanker RFA Gold Rover
  • Mediterranean: Gibraltar Squadron (Sabre and Scimitar) protecting the Rock and its waters
  • Antarctica: surveying: HMS Protector
  • In the UK: search and rescue fliers of 771 Naval Air Squadron in Culdrose and HMS Gannet in Prestwick are on-call 24/7, while the Fleet Ready Escort stands ready to respond to events, as does an RFA tanker as well as bomb disposal teams in Plymouth, Portsmouth and Faslane; in addition, RN medics are working shifts in NHS hospitals around the UK and staff at the Northwood Maritime Operations Centre.
  • Submarine Service: one of four strategic deterrent Vanguard-class boats, conducting a mission the Silent Service has performed around the clock for more than 40 years.

This is our last scheduled update of 2012. May we thank all our regular website visitors for their continued support over the past 12 months.

A merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all and Godspeed the men and women of the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Fleet Air Arm and Royal Fleet Auxiliary wherever they serve protecting our nation’s interests.

 

 

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