HMS Illustrious joins Navy’s Philippine aid mission hot on HMS Daring’s heels

Prime Minister David Cameron today ordered HMS Illustrious to make for the Philippines to help out in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. The helicopter carrier heads east with destroyer HMS Daring just a day away from the worst-affected area ready to begin her relief mission.

Helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious is now heading for the Philippines to bolster Britain’s aid effort following Typhoon Haiyan.

Prime Minister David Cameron has just announced Illustrious’ dispatch to the islands, breaking off from a counter-piracy patrol off Somalia to make the 4,500-mile journey to the Far East.

There she’ll join HMS Daring – which is now about a day’s sailing from the region mostly affected by the natural disaster, Tacloban – as well as two RAF Globemaster transporters flying out from the UK packed with humanitarian aid.

It will take around ten days for Lusty to reach the disaster zone. When she does, her Sea King, Merlin and Lynx helicopters will be able to move people and consignments of aid around the country until the infrastructure can be repaired.

And like Daring, the carrier will also be able to offer humanitarian assistance including supplies of fresh water and food and the provision of medical and engineering teams.

Illustrious had been deployed east of Suez with the UK Response Force Task Group, which was specifically formed following the 2010 Defence Review to react to global events at short notice.

In addition to helicopters and her 650-strong ships company, the carrier has the Royal Marines if Juliet Company 42 Commando embarked.

As a result Capt Mike Utley, the carrier’s Commanding Officer, said his ship and ship’s company had the right equipment and the right training to offer assistance.

“The young sailors and airmen in my crew have seen the news reports coming in from the Philippines and no one is in any doubt of the scale of the task ahead of us, but all want to help in whatever way they can.

“I am very proud indeed of the way they have reacted to this.”

He continued: “We are used to operating with embedded teams from the army and the RAF.

“In addition, we have repeatedly proven our ability to work with other nations including the United States and civilian aid organisations with whom we expect to see a lot of interaction.

“As always, we will be ready for anything.”

As for Daring, which is spearheading the Royal Navy’s initial response – codenamed Operation Patwin – she has embarked an expert from the Department For International Development, which is co-ordinating the UK’s overall response to the disaster, to guide the ship’s actions.

Once within range of the affected areas, the destroyer will use her Lynx helicopter to help identify places where she is best able to help.

The ship’s company of the Portsmouth-based destroyer have been using the three-day journey from the Malay Peninsula to the Philippines to hone their first-aid skills, take stock of the aid and food they have aboard, and plan what they’ll do once they reach the disaster zone.

CPO Cy Curzon, from Lower Swanwick near Fareham, will be helping to direct relief – using his experience of three previous natural disasters (a volcano in Montserrat and hurricanes in Aguilla and St Lucia) to guide his actions.

“It was not a pleasant experience for any of us really and I expect those that are going ashore will be in for a bit of a shock.

“The training the Royal Navy provides is really, really good – it helped me in my previous experiences.

“Aside from the enormity and scale of what has happened there is also the smell that hits you – and you never forget it.

“This time I will be in the operations room but I will make sure I am available if anyone needs to talk to me about any of it, especially as I have already been there and understand what they are speaking about.”

As well as the physical relief Daring can offer, her chaplain Roman Catholic priest Fr David Yates is preparing to offer spiritual and moral support to those affected and help them through the grieving process.

“I have had 23 years experience as a priest and have a lot of experience in helping bereaved families.

“I have also worked as an assistant hospital chaplain so I will be able to take some of that experience with me when speaking to people ashore.”

The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country so Fr David will have links to the church and will be able to support at funerals.

“At the end of the day these poor people were someone’s loved one and it is important that everything we do is with the utmost respect for those concerned,” said the 49-year-old from Bolton.

At the end of the day these poor people were someone’s loved one and it is important that everything we do is with the utmost respect for those concerned.

Father David Yates