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We have spent the last 2 weeks being put through our paces by the staff of the Flag Officer Sea Training.  We were alongside for one week and then spent 5 days at sea putting the theory into practice.  Called ‘Preliminary Sea Training’, the period is designed to check out our routines, our ability to deal with peacetime incidents and an opportunity to be exposed to new skills that will stand us in good stead as we start to develop T45 warfighting ability. 


While alongside, the Staff gave us a series of briefs and ‘table-top discussions’ on the necessary skills.  No surprises in any of this, but it sets a base-line so that when we are actually dealing with an incident at sea, we all know what we are expected to do.  The most testing part of the training was the Harbour Fire Exercises.  We had a small one on Monday and then progressively bigger events on Tuesday and Wednesday.  Notwithstanding that over 90% of fires are put out by the person finding the fire, we need to be able to operate in the worst case.  We did well on Mon and Tue, but didn’t crack the standard on Wed, requiring a re-sit on Thursday. 


For those that were not specifically on duty for the exercises, the choice was to go ashore or join in.  Unsurprisingly, the Ship’s Company decided en masse to go ashore and the opportunity to meet up and relax in the local hostelries in Plymouth was irresistible.  Additionally, the football and rugby teams had a run out against HMS CUMBERLAND.  We lost both, but, for the second game for the football team and the first for rugby, there was a lot of promise.  ARK ROYAL in both sports next week, so that should be a walk over!!


We spent last week at sea.  Monday was an intensive audit called the Material and Safety Check -70 members of Staff crawled over the Ship looking at the material state, routines and we conducted some relatively basic serials.  Basic, yes, but a few unexpected defects managed to make them more difficult than we had hoped. Nevertheless, we did OK and were told that we were in good shape…..despite about 1500 items that needed to be put right!  The next few days tested us in navigation in fog, man overboard, machinery breakdowns and many other skills.  Once again, the big serials were in damage control and fire fighting, culminating in a ‘Collision and Grounding Exercise’ simulating a slightly apocalyptic scenario if we hit an oversized container adrift in the water.  Fires and floods all over the ship in order to see whether we can deal with a series of incidents, prioritising them and maintaining the ability to continue to navigate safely.  Some superhuman efforts by many…often the least likely member of the Ship’s Company…. ensured that we saved the Ship.  For me, the most exciting serials were our first Replenishment at Sea – just the ship handling parts of driving alongside a tanker at sea so that we could hook up fuel or stores rigs to replenish our stocks.  Sitting 50m alongside a tanker focuses your mind.  Finally, our first helicopter embarkation underway and an opportunity to test our ability to operate and deal with aviation emergencies.  Great to see one of the Ship’s major weapon systems being operated ad to prove that we really are a warship not just a trials platform!! 


We leave Plymouth with increased confidence that our preparations and routines are in good shape and that we can operate the Ship safely and effectively during the rest of trials.  Another hurdle over, we can now start the process to develop our ability to fight Type 45 in all its aspects. 

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Photo of Paul Bennett Paul Bennett

(Currently: Moving Onboard HMS DARING)

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