Lyme's Fantastic Four

Topic: People Storyline: RFA Lyme Bay

Driving forward the next generation of the RFA are Deck Cadets India Syms and Jenny Kavanagh Blatt, alongside Engineering Cadets Taylor Charlton-Burgess and Natalya Fletcher.

The four trainees are just some of the 13 women serving in RFA Lyme Bay, deployed to Bahrain in support of Operation Kipion and especially the RN mine warfare mission east of Suez.

Joining the ship for her final sea-going rotation of training, 21 year-old India, from the New Forest in Hampshire, will shortly return to City of Glasgow School to complete her training and qualify as an Officer of the Watch in November following an intense period of examinations by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

She joined the RFA aged 18 after completing an International Baccalaureate. “The RFA has given me the opportunity to turn something I love into a career. I love being at sea, it’s something I enjoyed before joining, but never considered it as a career whilst at school.

“Because of my watch pattern, I get to see sunrise and sunset every day – out here in the Gulf they can be really spectacular. My job is to keep the ship navigationally safe, but if I’m not on the bridge, you can usually find me getting involved in other serials such as Replenishments at Sea, gunnery exercises and Flying Stations. Celestial navigation is definitely the best part of my job.”

Kavanagh, from Fareham, Hampshire, is on her first sea-going rotation. She joined the RFA in June last year after studying French and Portuguese at the University of Southampton, and passed out of Dartmouth in August before heading to Warsash Maritime Academy for her professional training.

“The best part about my job is variety – no two days are the same,” said 24 year-old Kavanagh. “Some days I’m keeping watch on the bridge, others I’ll be carrying out maintenance and even painting.

“The opportunities to travel are excellent – travelling the world and getting paid for it, what’s not to like? I was excited to come out to Bahrain, particularly for my first ever trip.”

After studying A-levels in biology, chemistry and physical education, Engineering Cadet Charlton-Burgess joined the RFA in 2019 and for the past three years has been in training as a marine engineer.

The 21 year-old from Leicester knew from her early teens she wanted to be an engineer, the only question then was: where and what. The RFA stood out – it is heavily involved in humanitarian and disaster relief and also, as part of the Royal Navy, would allow her to continue her football career, having previously played for Leicester Women’s Football Club.

“The best part of my job is getting hands-on and learning every day. On my last trip, I was trusted to maintain the fuel purifier. As a cadet, that’s a big responsibility so early in my career and one I’m immensely proud of,” Taylor said.

For fellow Engineering Cadet Natalya from Waterlooville in Hampshire, working on one of the largest ships in the Royal Navy is a world away from her first exposure to engineering.

Natalya completed a BTEC in Engineering at school and, at the time, hadn’t considered a career in engineering. Fast-forward a couple of years, Natalya was working at McDonald’s and drew upon that BTEC repeatedly when the milkshake machine broke down.

 “I really enjoyed being the go-to person to fix it – you don’t realise quite how important that machine is until it’s no longer working!” Natalya said.
“From there on, I knew a career in engineering was for me. There’s something incredibly satisfying about being the person to get things going again – if you can fix a McDonald’s milkshake machine, you can fix an RFA Bay-class ship.”

Captain Angus Bissell, RFA Lyme Bay’s Commanding Officer, said: “It’s a pleasure having the cadets onboard; they work incredibly hard and I’ve no doubt they’ll be fantastic leaders and role models for future generations of the RFA. I wish them every success in their RFA careers.”

The best part about my job is variety – no two days are the same.

Jenny Kavanagh Blatt