Oxford URNU undertake Damage Control training

Eleven Officer Cadets from Oxford University Royal Navy Unit recently made their way down to HMS Excellent in Portsmouth for damage control training.

Oxford URNU undertake Damage Control trainingHome to the Royal Navy's Phoenix Damage Repair Instruction Unit (DRIU - pronounced 'drew') they would be subject to a simulation of a damaged ship, taking on large quantities of water whilst the listing to 15 degrees either side, with intermittent light.

The DRIU provides essential training to all members of the Naval Service before they embark on a ship at sea.

Thus, anyone anywhere on board a ship has the confidence and training to safely and effectively enter a flooded compartment and begin to control the situation saving vital time instead of waiting for a specialist team before any damage control can occur.

To give the Officer Cadets a chance the first part of the morning was spent learning about the Royal Navy's primary damage control equipment; everything from hammering wooden wedges into place to stem and stop leaks through to how to move a large aqua prop around and between moving decks safely secure a hole in the deck. 

It was fantastic to see the Unit working well as a team and getting stuck in with their characteristic enthusiasm

Lieutenant Will Jones, Commanding Officer of Oxford URNU

The idea of all this being to slow, stop and then secure any hole in the ship to save a compartment. It was amazing to see the effectiveness of, what appears to be, quite rudimentary techniques and equipment when properly utilised and how this has been used successfully in the Fleet.

From here, the Officer Cadets faced their first challenge of donning dry suits to protect them from the cold water they were soon to face. After only a couple of rectified inside-out suits the Officer Cadets warmed themselves with a hot 'wet' (cup of tea) and had their final health and safety brief before putting on high visibility jackets and helmets.

With a mixture of nerves and excitement the group took up station in the Fire and Repair Party Post (FRPP) where they listened to a simulated missile strike over the pipe system. Battling through high power water, they discovered a flooded compartment, Mess Deck 3L. Greeted at the bottom of the ladder by 4ft and rising water the group split into 4 teams to deal with a variety of water ingress points.

After initially stemming holes in the bulkhead, which needed multiple wedges to be split, a hole in the deck requiring one Officer Cadet to dive under the water held down by another to get a wedge in place and securing a bowing and leaking hatch the call was piped in - "BRACE BRACE BRACE"... a second missile strike!

Again, the Officer Cadets split into teams with some conducting new primary damage control measures and others moving to the secondary stages of doming or bracing a repair.

Once it was judged that flooding in the Mess Deck had been stopped and the areas of damage had been secured the DRIU then drained its near 5ft of water in matter of seconds.

The debrief for the Officer Cadets praised their teamwork and resilience throughout the morning as they worked together and trusted each other by pulling their 'oppos' back above the water or supporting them against a bulkhead in the face of a high-pressure water stream to carry out damage control.

Officer Cadet Tom Murphy, Oxford URNU said: "Even after the adrenaline had worn off the Officer Cadets continued to comment on the fun and excitement as well as a little bit of the stress of the experience. They are all raring for a second go, either with the URNU or in future naval careers."

Lt Will Jones, Commanding Officer Oxford URNU said: "It was fantastic to see the Unit working well as a team and getting stuck in with their characteristic enthusiasm".

Oxford is one of 15 URNUs located across the UK offering opportunities to 750 undergraduates from the country's leading universities.

The URNU's mission is: "To develop an understanding of the Naval Service in undergraduates, so that those who go into civilian employment are positive advocates thereof and to facilitate a Naval Career for those who choose one."

The URNU is a chance to experience military life without commitment and gain new skills applicable to all walks of life.