All smiles for HMS Prince of Wales sailors as dogs visit carrier

Topic: Fighting armsSurface Fleet Storyline: HMS Prince of Wales

Sailors on board HMS Prince of Wales were all smiles when treated to a break from their busy schedule in the form of four paws, furry coats and wagging tails.

The cuteness overload came courtesy of Norfolk-based charity Mutts with a Mission who visited the aircraft carrier while she was alongside in the United States preparing to start F-35 Lightning jet trials.

While embarking several hundred members of the fighter jets team, the ship hosted the charity whose main mission is to boost morale among military personnel and help break down barriers caused by the stress of being on operations.

The dogs are all in training and were accompanied by their handlers with the charity providing service and facility dogs to the United States Navy.

Two dogs, Ike and Sage, are currently on USS Gerald R Ford and USS Wasp as part of the ships’ welfare teams. They are handled by either the ship’s chaplain or a member of the Welfare Team, alongside a handler provided by Mutts with a Mission.

Twenty-four-year-old air engineer AET Harry Thomas, on his first deployment, said: “I wanted to keep them all. They made me feel like I was back at home. I’ve got two dogs at home and made me realise I miss them.”

Leading Survival Equipment Technician Kelly Boddie added: “They just bring joy, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing.”

“Hosting this visit on HMS Prince of Wales, you could see our sailors’ eyes light up when they were petting the dogs and even some tears being shed,” said Merlin helicopter pilot Lt Phill Fordham.

“I have followed Mutts with a Mission over the past couple of years, since they placed the first full-time facility dogs on US carriers.

“The charity have been incredibly supportive of this visit and I hope this can be the first step towards a similar programme in the Royal Navy.”

The dogs offered a welcome break for HMS Prince of Wales’ crew who have been busy preparing for F-35 trials since leaving their home port of Portsmouth in September.

Their hectic schedule will continue as she now prepares to push the boundaries during flight trials on the east coast.

Once the trials start, both the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers will be operating the fighter jets as HMS Queen Elizabeth operates with NATO and Joint Expeditionary Force allies in the Arctic.

They just bring joy, it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing.

Leading Survival Equipment Technician Kelly Boddie