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Next Tuesday, May 31st, marks the Centenary of the outbreak of the Battle of Jutland off the northern coast of Denmark, the greatest sea battle of World War I (1914-18). In terms of the fire-power of the 250 vessels in action – many of them the most powerful first class battleships of their time – it may still be the greatest naval battle ever fought, even if its results were not clearcut during the engagement itself. For Jutland subsequently ensured that Imperial Germany’s surface fleet stayed largely in port, thereby closing off seaborne sources of supply. This contributed to the inevitable outcome of the Armistice on November 11th 1918, though not until after there has been much further slaughter on land between the warring armies.

Of the many ships which were present at Jutland, only one has survived. This is the C-class light cruiser HMS Caroline, which from the 1920s onwards served as the Belfast HQ of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. She was decommissioned from this role some years ago, and there was some doubt as to her future. But her unique position as the only survivor of Jutland has seen a flurry of activity on the ship for the past eight months and more, with the Caroline getting the benefit of a €20 million Lottery Heritage grant for her restoration as the centrepiece of a Naval Museum which will start to go public from next Tuesday. W M Nixon takes up the story, and goes on to provide the unexpected follow-up of how a leading player in the Howth gun-running of 1914, a man honoured in Irish history, was last weekend celebrated in Belgium as a great British hero of World War I.

In terms of shared memories handed down through the generations, a hundred years is little enough time. But Centenaries offer an opportunity for taking stock, a time for re-shaping attitudes to acknowledge the fact that combatants in any conflict had a shared humanity, however opposed their views and objectives may have been. The recent unveiling in Glasnevin of the impressive Memorial which lists everyone killed in the Rising of 1916, regardless of which side they were on, was a significant step. And next week’s shared ceremony in Belfast at HMS Caroline, which will include the Irish Naval Service in an official capacity, will acknowledge the many Irish sailors - sailors from what is now the Republic - who lost their lives at Jutland just five weeks after the Easter Rising in Dublin.

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HMS Caroline in her original form – she was commissioned in December 1914

The enormity of the carnage and endless stalemate of the Great War, and the industrialisation of the means of fighting with the institutionalisation of those who found themselves involved, is something almost beyond our grasp today, enjoying as we do our lives of multiple choices and continually available diversions. And when you read the obnoxiously gung-ho editorials of the pro-war newspapers of a hundred years ago, cheerfully exhorting young men to an almost certain and very unpleasant death, it is to realize that the past is indeed a different country.

Yet it’s a country which we have inherited and must try to understand. To do so, perhaps the most helpful way is through a contemplation of the individual stories involved, for in total war individuality is one of the first casualties.

But the individuality of each sailor is quickly lost in the sheer weight of statistics. The death toll at Jutland may have seemed minor by comparison with the wholesale slaughter which occurred when some new army offensive was launched on the Western Front. But the figures are chilling nevertheless, with Royal Navy sustaining more than 6,000 deaths. This was more than twice the German losses, but although Britain had lost such prestige ships as the largest battleship HMS Queen Mary (she blew up with 1266 deaths – only 18 survived), the Royal Navy was still powerful enough after the battle to ensure that the German fleet was confined to port.

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From the 1920s, HMS Caroline served as the Belfast HQ of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Her accommodation was decidedly limited, so later additions included what looked to casual observers to be sheds rather than cabins.

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Work under way restoring and where necessary replacing HMS Caroline’s deck

Of the death toll in the British side at Jutland, at least 350 were from Ireland, and while it’s reckoned that 90 were from what subsequently became Northern Ireland in 1921, recent research suggests that 266 were from what became the Free State and is now the Republic, with nearly half of them being from the great naval port of Cork Harbour.

At Belfast Harbour, the personal touch will be manifest as more than 200 relatives of those from Ireland who were lost at Jutland will be attending next Tuesday’s ceremonies, whose staging will quite rightly cause us to confront yet again the sheer mindless horror of the Great War. But last weekend in Belgium, we were remembering people – sailing people to be precise – who had gone off to the Great War in an almost festive frame of mind.

In my case, involvement came through Asgard and the Howth gun-running of 1914. We all know about Erskine and Molly Childers and Mary Spring-Rice and their professional crew of Charles Duggan and Pat McGinley from Gola Island in Donegal. But it was the sixth member of Asgard’s crew, Gordon Shephard, a keen amateur sailor and personal friend of Erskine and Molly Childers, who remained something of a mystery.

Shephard’s involvement in the gun-running was an even greater mystery to his fellow officers in the British Army, for he was a career soldier of impeccable background, Eton-educated and a product of Sandhurst military academy. But he had a liberal frame of mind which strengthened as he grew older, and he was - like Childers - a strong supporter of the Irish Home Rule movement. So when it was proposed to smuggle a consignment of 1500 German guns into Ireland aboard Childers’ Asgard and Conor O’Brien’s Kelpie in response to the importation into the north in April 1914 of 24,000 German guns by the anti-Home Rule Ulster Volunteer Force, Shephard was very much involved, though he requested he be called “Mr Gordon” during it all, as the name Shephard might have alerted the authorities and jeopardised his military career.

That Shephard was part of an English social elite there is no doubt, and the Irish people involved were definitely pillars of society too. So much so, in fact, that in advance of last night’s 185th Anniversary Dinner of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire, I was told that of all Ireland’s yacht clubs it was the RIYC which was most closely connected to the gun-running. For although Erskine Childers bought his first cruising yacht, the 2.5 Rater Shulah, from G B Thompson of the Royal St George YC in 1892, and subsequently bought a Water Wag for use on Lough Dan in what was then Kingstown in 1894, he never seems to have been a member of any Irish yacht club, whereas Conor O’Brien was to be closely associated with the Royal Irish, and the 600 guns from his old ketch Kelpie were transferred to the auxiliary yacht Chotah owned by Sir Thomas Myles RIYC, who subsequently landed them on the beach at Kilcoole County Wicklow.

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Sir Thomas Myles with friends and crew aboard his sailing cruiser Faith (RIYC) in Dublin Bay in the late 1920s. In 1914, with his 60ft auxiliary-powered Chotah, he took on board the 600 guns brought from the Belgian coast by Conor O’Brien on Kelpie, and landed them on the beach at Kilcoole, County Wicklow. Photo: Courtesy RIYC

Yet apart from the fact that since 1911 this mystery man Gordon Shephard had been a fellow-member with Erskine Childers in the London-based Royal Cruising Club, with his subsequent wartime career with the Royal Flying Corps being one of great distinction, little enough was know about him until enthusiastic amateur historian Michael Branagan discovered that a Memoir of Gordon Shephard, edited by Sir Shane Leslie, had been privately printed in 1924, and a copy of it was in the library at Castle Leslie in County Monaghan.

Michael being Michael, he got himself up to the depths of Monaghan and spent what must have been the most of a day making two good photocopies of it, one of which he gave to me, and thus we both now know more about Gordon Shephard than you’d have thought possible, yet somehow he remains as elusive as ever.

For here was a young Army officer who accidentally shot himself  in the foot during some horseplay in the Mess, yet his charm and abilities were such that he was able to continue his army career despite being described by one fellow soldier as “the least military man I ever met”.

At Eton he’d been criticised by his tutor as being too relaxed in his attitude to discipline, yet when he took up cruising with great enthusiasm around the age of 20, his light hand of authority proved exactly right for getting the best out of his crews. In 1911 he was awarded the world’s premier cruising trophy, the RCC Challenge Cup, for an extraordinary voyage to the furthest point of the Baltic with his 9-ton yawl Sorata. And then in 1913 he was awarded it again for his even more famous Autumnal venture of bringing Erkine and Molly Childers’ Asgard from Norway to Conwy in North Wales via the Shetlands and the Outer Hebrides through severe storms, including a genuine Force 11.

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Gordon Shephard and Erskine Childers aboard Asgard with the Howth guns, July 1914. Although everyone else was keen to have their photo taken, Shephard reckoned that as a serving army officer, it might not be a good career move to appear full face

It was typical of the affection in which Shephard was held by his many friends that, owing to his leave running out, he’d to return to his regiment leaving Asgard in Conwy, yet not once did Childers complain about it. This was despite the fact that Shephard had been meant to deliver Asgard to Southampton. But far from complaining, Childers helped to put together the Shephard log which was awarded the cup.

When the gun-running proposal came up in May 1914, Shephard doesn’t seem to have hesitated at all in volunteering to go along. He was engaging company on board, with a nice line in humour, and in her personal log of the venture, Mary Spring-Rice records how he volunteered to cook the supper in rough weather when Asgard was wellnigh uninhabitable with the cargo of guns stowed everywhere. Shephard gallantly weighed in with the cooking of an enormous omelette. But when it was almost ready, he decided it needed an extra little something. So he tipped in the most of a tin of Lyle’s Golden Syrup. We’re told that Syrup Omelette tastes better than it sounds…..

Shephard played a key role in the actual landing of the guns at Howth, for although he’d to leave Asgard at Milford Haven for a week back on duty with the army, he was one of the few who knew the details of Childers’ berthing plans, and on that breezy July Sunday lunchtime a week later, he was stationed at the end of the East Pier in Howth for the crucial task of taking and securing the lines as Asgard came into port with the fresh wind right up her stern. Molly Childers made a superb job of the helming, but without those lines smartly made fast ashore, it could have gone very wrong. Yet thanks to Gordon Shephard on the quayside, all went like clockwork.

But within a week, the Great War had broken out, and with his military future now in the Royal Flying Corps which he had joined on its formation in 1912, his formerly pedestrian rate of promotion became meteoric. He had a magnificent war - if there is such a thing – and by 1917 at the age of 31 he had become the youngest Brigadier General in the British Army with many decorations including a Legion d’Honneur from the French for heroic service in 1915.

Yet he remained the same unassuming Gordon Shephard, refusing to become a “chateau general” despite his obvious talents in aviation innovation and strategic planning. Instead, he stayed with  his units, and regularly visited each one at their various airfields, flying himself in a little scout plane to make regular personal visits to sort out problems and encourage his pilots.

Nevertheless the war took its severe toll on him. When we look at the photo of Gordon Shephard aboard Sorata in 1911, we’re looking at a photo of a youthful 25-year-old sailing enthusiast. But when we look at the photo of Gordon Shephard when he became a Brigadier-General just six years later, we’re seeing someone who looks about 50, and a badly worn 50 at that.

He died soon afterwards in a flying accident. He’d set out as usual on 19th January 1918 to fly himself to several of his units, but just short of the first airfield on his route, his little plane came spinning out of the clouds, and he suffered ultimately fatal injuries in the crash.

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Without a care in the world. A youthful Gordon Shephard aboard Sorata aged 25 in 1911 Photo courtesy Castle Leslie

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Brigadier-General Gordon Shephard in 1917 – at 31, he was the youngest Brigadier-General in the British Army, but he had pushed himself so hard that he looked more like 50

His funeral was an impressive affair, attended by an awesome array of the top brass, yet in the huge losses of the Great War, the name of Gordon Shephard slipped from view. As he left no family, he would have been forgotten were it not for the Howth gun-running and those two impressive awards of the Royal Cruising Club’s Challenge Cup in 1911 and 1913.

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Belgium’s Royal North Sea Yacht Club at Ostend. While most of its fleet is cruisers and offshore racers, the club also has a class of vintage International Dragons. Photo: W M Nixon

This year, the RCC decided to hold a rally to Ostend to remember its many members who died in the Great War, and visit some of the battle sites of the Western Front over which Gordon Shephard had flown on many of his highly-valued reconnaissance flights. It was last weekend, and there was a gathering in the Royal Nord See Yacht Club, with a goodly part of the assembly was made up of people who’d sailed there. The pace was set by Commodore Henry Clay, who’d voyaged from Chichester Harbour in West Sussex with his wife Louise in Highlander, his little slip of an H Boat. Yet despite their cramped accommodation, the Commodore stepped ashore looking immaculate.

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Dragon manoeuvres in Ostend. Immediately beyond is the H Boat Highlander, which RCC Commodore Henry Clay and his wife Louise had sailed to the Rally from Chichester Harbour in West Sussex. Photo: W M Nixon

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Setting the sartorial example. Despite being aboard the smallest boat in the fleet, the Commodore was the neatest of the lot of us. Photo: W M Nixon

With our trio from Ireland, we’d already done the quintessential Belgian thing with a visit that day to the ancient watery city of Bruges nearby, which is even more wonderful than you’d imagine if approached in the right spirit. And then in the RNSYC we were treated to a classic Belgian fishing port dinner of majestic cod with all the trimmings, and during it those of us with some knowledge of the club’s war heroes talked of them and their eccentricities (of which there were many) and their achievements.

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Bruges evokes a sense of civilisation and peace – it takes an effort to realise that it has frequently been fought over, and the Western Front in the Great War was just up the road. Photo: W M Nixon

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There’s no such thing as OTT in Bruges – some things are just even more normal than others. Photo: W M Nixon

It had been a sweet warm evening of early summer, but next day the rain eventually set in with Belgian thoroughness - probably the best conditions in which to see what’s left of the Western Front and its hundreds of cemeteries and memorial sites and former military installations, for I don’t think you could cope with it in bright sunny weather. But pleasant little houses and hamlets are everywhere - the gallant Belgians are determined to maintain normal life as much as possible after a war which displaced 600,000 of them from their homes, such that it was 1930 before life had returned to anything like normal, and all that with the next World War just nine years down the line…….

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In Flanders Fields…..the former war zone in Belgium has hundreds of immaculately-maintained cemeteries. Every grave is kept to the same high standard, as no-one knows when some relative might call by, though many are the graves of soldiers “Known Only Unto God”. This happens to be the cemetery beside the Dressing Station where Canadian doctor John McCrae was based - he wrote one of the finest poems of the war, “In Flanders Fields”. Photo: W M Nixon 

Our journey had extra specific purposes, as two of the group wished to plant poppied crosses at graves of relatives which the extraordinarily obliging staff had located in a sea of headstones,

Then like so many before us, we ended our tour at the Menen Gate in Ypres, Lutyen’s memorial masterpiece, for the Last Post at 2000 hours on Sunday evening.

In a human and civilising touch, the Last Post is now provided by the local Fire Brigade, as most of the military have moved on, while any remaining units are only on a short posting. For their part, the Ypres Fire Brigade make a very fine job of it. The first call of the bugles came through loud and clear, and then there was a pause while various groups laid wreaths with impressive natural dignity. There followed the second bugle call, resonating majestically in the acoustic perfection of the great arch. Then despite the large crowd, for a while it was so silent all you could hear was the steady fall of the rain. And birdsong. You get a lot of birdsong in Belgium.

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The Menen Gate at Ypres – the little town was obliterated in the Great War, but when the inhabitants were finally able to return, they insisted on re-building it exactly as it had been before. Photo: W M Nixon

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The captains and the kings and their many soldiers have all now gone – and in their absence, the Ypres Fire Brigade does a very good job of sounding the Last Post at the Menen Gate every evening at 2000hrs. Photo: W M Nixon

Having been to Ypres and having seen so much that is utterly moving or numbing in the countryside about it, we wish them well, those who will be gathering at HMS Caroline in Belfast next Tuesday. It is painful to remember. But it is worse to forget.

And then perhaps, as we get used to HMS Caroline being a ship of interest to everyone in Ireland and indeed to people throughout Europe and beyond, would it be too much to hope that she could become the centerpiece of a proper maritime museum? For although the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum along the coast at Cultra do have a small collection of boats of Irish interest, some are kept in store and not displayed at all, while others aren’t looking too happy amidst a maze of agricultural artefacts. Surely a port like Belfast could provide them with a proper home?

Published in W M Nixon

#DaringDestroyer – One of the most modern high-tech UK naval destroyer's, the Type 45 HMS Dauntless (D33) is to make a first visit to Dublin Port this weekend, writes Jehan Ashmore.

Afloat understands this will be the first ever visit of a Type 45 destroyer to the Republic and follows last year’s visit of a sister HMS Duncan which made an inaugural visit to Belfast, her adopted city.

The 152m long ‘Daring’ class destroyer displacing 8,000 tonnes has a striking stealth superstructure to reduce radar signature detection likewise of a the smaller Dutch class frigate which paid a recent visit.

HMS Dauntless has an impressive array of weapons, and is notable as the first Daring class destroyer to fire the new Sea Viper missile, despite been the second in the series to be commissioned in 2010.

The Sea-Viper Missiles are the principal anti-air missile system which provides all-round defence – not just for the destroyer but for an entire naval task group. The system is to be used against all aerial threats some 70 miles away. In addition the missiles race towards its target at speeds in excess of Mach Four (over 3,000mph) using a series of tiny jets to manoeuvre, carrying out sharp turns at G forces no human could endure.

Another weapons system is the Phalanx, one of the most deadly last lines of defence for the Royal Navy. Phalanx is capable of engaging targets around one mile away, it is a radar-controlled Gatling gun which fires 20mm shells, spewing out 3,000 rounds a minute.

Mounted on the forecastle is a MK8 Gun which is featured on all Royal Navy destroyers and frigates.

She is also equipped with a Sampson radar, which is a sophisticated multi-function radar, an essential part of the air defence system for the Type 45.

Destroyers such as HMS Dauntless which has a crew of 180 can also take 60 troops and together they play an integral part in forming the backbone of the Royal Navy, committed around the world 365 days a year hunting pirates, drug runners or submarines, defending the Fleet from air attack.

In May, HMS Dauntless returned to her homeport, Portsmouth following a deployment to the Gulf in the Middle East where she spent the bulk of her time supporting US carrier operations in the on-going struggle against the fundamentalists of Isis.

In her breaks between providing air defence for US Navy flat-tops, HMS Dauntless visited Kuwait, Dubai plus Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, hub of RN operations in the Middle East.

During the four month deployment, HMS Dauntless sailed more than 47,000 miles, providing crucial support to Charles De Gaulle’s strike operations against ISIL – and before her USS Carl Vinson.

The aircraft carrier conducted maritime security patrols, reassuring the merchant traffic that the world depends on global trade.

The destroyers also participate in providing humanitarian aid after natural disasters. In such conditions the role of the stern flight deck is aided by a Chinook helicopter.

Published in Naval Visits

The Coastguard co–ordinated a multi-agency response to rescue a paraglider who crashed into a cliff on the Isle Of Arran yesterday.

Belfast Coastguard was contacted at 4pm by Police Scotland for assistance after a mid air collision between two paragliders on the Isle Of Arran. One of the paragliders managed to land but the other crashed into a cliff at Catacal about half a mile inland, sustaining injuries and suspended in an inaccessible location on the cliff.

Belfast Coastguard sent the Arran Coastguard Rescue Team and requested the Royal Navy Rescue Helicopter from Prestwick to attend. Members of Arran Mountain Rescue team were transferred to the cliff top by the rescue helicopter and will attempt to recover the paraglider using cliff rescue equipment.

Arran Coastguard Rescue Team are providing the on scene communications between airbourne and land based responders. Police Scotland and Scottish Air Ambulance are also on scene.

Published in Coastguard
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#southamptonboatshow – In addition to the boats on display and that of the tallship Pheonix visiting the PSP Southampton Boat Show will be the Royal Navy's HMS Severn (P282), which too will be open to visitors albeit for one day.

HMS Severn will be a visitor attraction next Thursday 18th September. You are invited to come board the 1,677 tonnes OPV offshore patrol vessel on that day (between 1 and 4pm) when she is berthed opposite Solent Park. It is understood that she acted as the starter ship during the Tall Ships Race from Falmouth last month.

She is the second of the River-class built by locally at Vosper Thornycroft's Woolston yard in Southampton.

The 79m vessel is based in neighbouring Portsmouth Naval Base where she is part of the Fishery Protection Squadron that inforces UK and EU laws during 275 days spent at sea annually. Other tasks for her crew of 45 can be anything from fire-fighting to disaster relief operations.

She along with her sister ships, entered service in 2003 and they replaced the Island Class Patrol Vessels, where one of the vessels was converted into a private luxury superyacht.

 

 

Published in News Update

#QEaircraftcarriers - BBC Scotland reports that Queen Elizabeth II is due to give her name to the largest warship built in the UK at a ceremony held this morning in Fife's Rosyth dockyard.

She will smash a bottle of whisky on the hull of the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth - the first of two new Royal Navy QE-class aircraft-carriers being built, the second is to be named HMS Prince of Wales.

The Queen will perform the naming ceremony at Rosyth with a bottle of whisky rather than champagne. PM David Cameron and First Minister Alex Salmond are both due to attend.

The warship - the largest ever built in and for the UK - is as long as 25 buses and can carry 40 jets and helicopters at a time. It will have a permanent crew of almost 700 when it enters service in 2020.

The estimated cost of the aircraft carrier and its sister ship is £6.2bn, well over the initial projected cost of £3.65bn.

Six shipyards in the UK - Appledore, Birkenhead, Govan, Portsmouth, Rosyth and Tyne - have been involved in building parts of the carrier.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the final major component of the newbuild was installed last year by the Aircraft Carrier Alliance which is between BAE Systems, THALES and Babcock.

Of the 37 large sections that were constructed to assemble HMS Queen Elizabeth, yards including Babcock's Marine's other shipbuilding facility in Appledore, were involved.

Currently, the Babcock yard in North Devon is constructing L.E. James Joyce, the first of a further pair of OPV 90 class newbuilds following the 'floating-out' in November of the €54m leadship L.E. Samuel Beckett (P61).

The QE-class replace the Invincible-class trio in which the 22,000 tonnes HMS Illustrious (RO6) remains the last in service albeit in the role as a converted helicopter carrier.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, HMS Illustrious paid a rare visit to Dublin Port in 2013 and was illuminated in green for the Gathering.

To read more about the QE newbuild from BBC Scotland news, plus photos click HERE and for updates click this LINK. There will also be live TV coverage from 11 this morning of the naming of the aircraft-carrier.

 

Published in News Update

#RoyalNavy - As well to yesterday's inaugural Stena Explorer (HSS) highspeed sea service sailing this year from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire Harbour, a Royal Navy inshore fast-patrol training boat followed in her wake, writes Jehan Ashmore.

HMS Express (P163) speed across the Irish Sea at some 17 knots from the Anglesea port while the HSS fast-ferrycraft surged ahead at almost 24 knots during her first crossing of the seasonal-only operated service of five months duration until 9 September.

The Archer P2000 class 20m patrol boat follows the visit of one of her 14 sisters, HMS Exploit (P127) which too made a call to Dublin Bay ports, firstly at the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club's marina in Ringsend and last week to Dun Laoghaire Harbour Marina.

The primary function of the P2000 class which form the First Patrol Boat Squadron is supporting the University Royal Naval Units (URNU) in addition they contribute to other wide range roles.

The URNU is based at HMS Cambria, a Royal Navy Reserve establishment near Cardiff and some of the patrol boats are based at Penarth Marina in Cardiff Bay.

Published in Naval Visits

#PatrolBoats – Two Royal Navy P2000 'Archer' class inshore fast-patrol and training boats will have visited both Dublin Bay ports by the middle of next week, writes Jehan Ashmore.

HMS Exploit (P127) which recently paid a visit to Dublin Port at the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club's marina was also followed by a short-hop across the bay to Dun Laoghaire Harbour Marina where she departed yesterday evening.

She had set originally off from Penarth Marina near Cardiff and made en route call to Ireland via Milford Haven. A sister HMS Express (P163) is due to Dublin Port in several days time.

Both 20m boats as previously reported on Afloat.ie called to Dun Laoghaire Marina a year ago.The pair as previously mentioned belong to the Archer P2000 class numbering 14 vessels and which form the First Patrol Boat Squadron.

Their primary function is supporting the University Royal Naval Units (URNU) in addition they contribute to other wide range roles. The URNU is based at HMS Cambria, a Royal Navy Reserve establishment near the Welsh capital.

 

Published in Naval Visits

#Philippines – The Royal Navy's helicopter-carrier HMS Illustrious (R06) which visited Dublin Port in April is heading for the Philippines to bolster efforts to help those in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday ordered that the former aircraft-carrier which was on a counter-piracy patrol off Somalia to break-off and make the 4,500-mile journey to the Far East.

HMS Illustrious has around nine days to reach the stricken nations central islands. She follows destroyer HMS Daring which is just around a day away from the worst-affected area and ready to begin her relief mission.

In addition Mr. Cameron has pledged £10m in aid and dispatching two RAF C17 Globemaster transporter aircraft which will also support the relief operation, codenamed Operation Patwi.

HMS Darling had departed Singapore on a mercy dash across the South China Sea and Pacific. The 8,000 tons destroyer was five months into a nine-month global deployment that included an international naval exercise Bersama Lima.

The Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer has a large flight deck to accommodate helicopters (up to the size of a Chinook), which will be vital for this latest disaster relief role. The destroyer's multi-purpose role demonstrates the global capability in providing humanitarian aid after natural disasters.

She is the first of the six Type 45 destroyers, each costing £1bn and they are the most advanced warships the Royal Navy has ever had built. She was launched at BAE Systems Scotstoun shipyard on the Clyde, one of three Scottish facilities to remain as centres of naval shipbuilding in the UK, following widespread cut to jobs.

 

Published in News Update

#UKyardClosure - Shipyard workers at BAE Systems, numbering 1,775 jobs are to lose their jobs in Scotland and England and end shipbuilding altogether at Portsmouth, writes BBC News.

The firm said 940 staff posts and 170 agency workers will go at the Portsmouth site, which will retain repairs and maintenance work.

Some 835 jobs will be lost at yards in Govan and Scotstoun, on the River Clyde in Glasgow, and Rosyth in Fife and at the firm's Filton office, near Bristol.
The cuts follow a drop in work after the end of aircraft carriers work.

BAE Systems employs a total of 4,400 people in shipbuilding in the UK, 1,200 in Portsmouth and 3,200 across Govan, Scotstoun, Rosyth and Filton.
The company said it had made the cuts because of a "significant" drop in demand.

The defence contractor and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have together announced measures which they hope will offset the effect of the job cuts.

Among the plans are more than £100m of investment to expand the dockyard at Portsmouth.
Three new ocean-going Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy will also be built at BAE's Govan and Scotstoun yards in Glasgow.
This could help sustain shipbuilding at the yards until work is due to begin on the Type 26 Global Combat ships.

BAE, which heads a consortium that includes Babcock and Thales UK, said it had agreed changes to the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier contract it signed with the MoD in 2009.
This would see the consortium's fee move to a 50-50 risk share arrangement which would provide greater cost performance incentives.

A statement released by BAE Systems said: "Under these proposals, shipbuilding operations at Portsmouth will cease in the second half of 2014.

For much more details on this major historic development in the British shipbuilding sector, BBC News Glasgow and West Scotland reports.

 

Published in News Update

#RoyalNavy - Howth Harbour, synonymous with Asgard's pivotal gun-running role of 99 years ago, is in the present-day a port of call for HMS Charger (P292) a Royal Navy 'Archer' class fast patrol boat, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The patrol cadet trainee boat is powered by two Rolls-Royce turbo engines. Her fleet-mates have previously called to the major Irish Sea fishing harbour with its marina of the Howth Yacht Club.

Another momentous historic event, this time by HMS Charger, took place earlier this summer, as she became the first Royal Navy vessel to visit the quays of Wexford since Irish Independence. The diminutively sized vessel measuring a mere 20m long on a beam of 5.9m was taking part in the second John Barry Maritime Festival.

HMS Archer is based at the Royal Naval Headquarters (Merseyside) and attached to the Liverpool University Royal Naval Unit. She has five full time Royal Navy crew, and sails with a Royal Navy Reserve training officer and a maximum complement of 12 students.

She was commissioned in 1988 and is one of 14 'Archer' class boats that represent the smallest vessels in the Royal Navy fleet.

Her next port of call is scheduled to be Cork city-centre quays with a berth at the North Custom House Quay.

 

Published in Naval Visits
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