The Royal Navy currently has a dozen warships and auxiliaries in the Gulf region and Admiral Sir Trevor Soar KCB OBE, Commander-in-Chief Fleet recently defied snow and freezing temperatures in the UK to pay a pre-Christmas visit to the 1,300 personnel stationed in the region.
The Royal Navy is undertaking a range of roles in the region such as anti-terrorism and maritime security, either in support of national interests or in cooperation with regional and international partners.
Admiral Soar was able to visit a range of vessels, including frigates, mine hunters and Royal Fleet Auxiliaries. He also toured operational headquarters, met with support staff and visited naval personnel deployed as part of Operation Telic in Iraq. Admiral Soar said:
As people in Britain enjoy their Christmas meal, I hope they will spare a thought for the sailors, Royal Marines and support staff in the Gulf who will be working for their interests over the festive period, as they do 365 days-a-year, in support of maritime security and freedom of the seas.
One of those ships, HMS Cumberland, will be honouring the new agreement between the UK and France during Christmas.
The Plymouth-based frigate will provide support to the giant French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle on Christmas Day which is on deployment providing fast jet air-support to combat troops fighting in Afghanistan over the festive period.
HMS Cumberland has taken time out from her maritime security patrols in the Gulf to work with the nuclear-powered French ship which is acting in support of the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan.
HMS Cumberland’s Christmas duty affords her crew little opportunity to relax and enjoy the festivities, although, in traditional fashion, roast turkey and all the trimmings will be served to the sailors by the ship’s captain and officers.
The crew of the ice patrol ship HMS Scott will be also be far from home in Cape Town for Christmas as they continue their patrol.
The Plymouth-based ocean survey ship has completed the opening leg of her deployment to the South Atlantic. Only a month ago HMS Scott left Plymouth on a cold November morning and after braving storms in the Bay of Biscay, crossed the Equator in contrasting tropical conditions.
Whilst the UK suffers with freezing temperatures HMS Scott’s crew bathed in sunshine at a more than reasonable 28C. Despite the unorthodox conditions the ship’s company has celebrated the festive period in the usual fashion with mince pies and a carol service featured just before Christmas.
Santa (Petty Officer Jim Stevenson) paid an early visit to the ship to ensure gifts would be received, but ended up breaking his ankle on the upper deck and was treated in the ship’s sickbay with a broken ankle.
Luckily for him Leading Medical Assistant Michelle Trotter and colleague Chantal Smith patched him.
Other ships in the Navy’s fleet will be closer to home this Christmas. After a busy 2010 HMS Ocean is back in Plymouth and despite a busy maintenance schedule officers recently found the time to turn the tables on ratings and serve a traditional Christmas lunch to the crew.
As well as the lunch, where officers served and cleaned up after junior and senior sailors, a host of seasonal activities were organised, including a dance and carol service.
With most of the ship maintenance work on hold over the Christmas period, the majority of the ship’s company will be heading off to take some well-earned leave with their families and friends.
Also taking some well earned leave are the crew of HMS Penzance which returned from operations just last week.
The Sandown Class Mine Counter Measures Vessel (MCMV) returned to her homeport of HM Naval Base Clyde on Friday, 17 December 2010, just in time for Christmas.
For the last six-months the ship has been touring Northern Europe as part of the NATO Standing Mine Countermeasures Group One, working alongside six other nations during exercises and mine clearance operations:
Being part of NATO’s Standing Mine Countermeasures Group was a real privilege,” said Lieutenant Commander Steve Brown, Commanding Officer of Penzance. “The navies who were involved are among the best Mine Countermeasures nations in the world, and competition was very stiff to claim first place.
The deployment was enormous fun and a hugely rewarding experience - our activities went a long way to making the seas safer.
After doing an outstanding job for the past six months, it’s good to get back home for Christmas and to be welcomed by family and friends.
The crew has worked extremely hard and is ready for a well-earned rest. I’m sure they will enjoy the festive season.