Canalathon 2016 – 10th September 2016

On the 10th September 2016, seven members of Wales URNU and two training officers set out on a 35-mile endurance race along the Monmouthshire, Brecon, and Abergavenny canal. We entered a competitive team and a social team. The first part of the challenge was a 5-mile canoe section which started at a drizzly Pontymoile. Both teams started out strongly despite of the weather (and a slight lack of canoeing experience) and finished within several minutes of each other. A strong start for Wales URNU.

Lieutenant Roberts, our team manager and motivator was waiting for us at the next stage with bikes, ready to take on the 17-mile mountain bike stage. This proved to be our strongest stage, powering along the canal side. It being flat may have been the reason for this being our strongest stage, however we all preferred to put it down to skill and practice. During this stage the heavens opened and despite being soaked through we all continued and put in good times despite mud constantly flying in our faces and encountering a few low bridges which posed a slight problem for the competitive team who had an average height of about 6ft. Ninety minutes and 17 miles later we reached Llangynider where we were met by Lieutenant Roberts who gave us all some much-needed refreshments which had been kindly provided by Mrs Roberts. The flapjacks were especially popular!

After fuelling ourselves with Soreen and dried fruit we set out on the 11-mile run which wasn’t our strongest event, perhaps from a slight lack of training, but each team supported each other, we even witnessed the slowest overtake as we spent 10 minutes alongside another team as they tried to run past us, but were also equally as tired. Finally, after bad weather all day the sun had started to come out and we were welcomed at the finish line two hours later by glorious sunshine, with the competitive team finishing 7th out of 16.  After 35 miles, we were certainly all ready to go back home for tea and medals.

Overall the day was a fantastic experience with everyone having enjoyed themselves. Special thanks go out to Lieutenant Roberts for giving up his day to support us, and making sure we were at the right places with the right kit and keeping us well fed and watered! Thanks also go out to Navs who also gave up his day to support us all.

Wales URNU will be returning for the Canalathon 2017.

Summer Flying Acquaint – 13th to 16th July 2016

This summer I had the amazing privilege to fly Grob Tutors over a four day acquaint. I was chosen to take part in this acquaint because of my interest in aircraft and joining the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) as a pilot after university.

Upon arrival I was greeted by another 7 URNU students from across the UK and we got settled in and got to know each other. The next morning, we were up early to be taken for kit fittings and a tour of the building. That afternoon we were hoping to get up flying however due to the poor weather conditions we couldn’t, so instead we had a tour of the hanger and went through safety maneuvers should we have to evacuate the aircraft mid-flight.

The next day the weather had picked up so we all got chance to go up and have a go at flying and the instructors catered to all of our interests so the lesson was personalised. This meant if you had more interest in navigation techniques or aerobatics they’d focus on those specifically, but if you would rather get a general overview of all flying techniques they’d accommodate for that as well. I had a particular interest in aerobatics and expected to be flown around doing loop the loops and wingover, but instead my instructor did an aero once and then allowed me to have a go doing it myself which was incredible!

I spent the next three days practicing my aerobatics as well as being allowed to take off, land and taxi the aircraft across the runway. Due to the weather not being the best on some days, we couldn’t fly as much as we wanted; however we did get several private tours around the historical hangers looking at all the aircrafts used for the air tattoos, looking at the Sea Vixen and Swordfish as well as Sea Harriers and the Sea Fury. This was really interesting and we got the chance to sit in some of these aircraft and have a play with the buttons.

Overall the whole experience was incredible and experiencing it with other URNU students from across the country made it even better.

RNAS Yeovilton Acquaint – 21st July 2016

Captain Eric ‘Winkle’ Brown was a figure highly revered in flying circles not only by the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) branch of the Royal Navy, in which he spent his career, but also by the Army Air Corps and Royal Air Force for being a flying ace both in WW2 and as a test pilot. Captain Brown flew in excess of 487 different types of aircraft in his career, including the different variants for those 487; he sadly died at the grand age of 97 earlier this year. Such was the reverence felt for this remarkable man that the Fleet Air Arm (FAA) wished to memorialise Captain Brown by holding a special Commemorative event which was held at RNAS Yeovilton on 21st July.

This coincided with a two week acquaint involving members of every URNU in the country.  Zack Tabor and I (Natille Apted) were very privileged to attend and to be part of Yeovilton’s working life. We met up with three members from London URNU and one from Oxford URNU who have become firm friends.

The first week comprised of tours around the different squadrons and departments of the base which gave us a unique insight into how the FAA operates. This provided us with the opportunity to fly in a Merlin Mk3 over Glastonbury; sadly we were too late to see any festival bands, however it gave us a thrilling perspective on the dynamic and varied role of operational flight and how it supports surface and sub surface objectives within the Navy.

We experienced time in the Lynx simulator where I acted as Observer and we landed on HMS Queen Elizabeth no less, thanks to the impeccable piloting skills of our one and only Zack Tabor who I think must have been a bird in a previous life!

The Second week was extremely exiting for the URNU group as we engaged in work in preparation for Captain Brown’s event. This meant us being part of the organisational team (OT) and engaging in that age old military role of “Fetch and carry”, which would have meant that if we were scouts we would have received our “Logistics badges”.

We also aided the full time Royal Navy team in making important organisational decisions which lead to us receiving an increased level of trust from the OT to such a degree that they left me to edit footage for the local BBC news broadcast covering the event.

The event itself was nothing short of thrilling where we pulled together in the common cause of making the day work; we were tasked to mingle as hookers and statues (Naval Term for welcoming committee & hosts)  a role that I personally enjoyed.

We had the opportunity to converse with Retired pilots and Commanding Officer’s within the FAA. The day consisted of afternoon tea with speeches, an opportunity to look at aircraft in the static display area and finished off with an air show.

One experience, I will never forget, was when I greeted a gentleman standing by the Augusta Whirlwind Mk3, in the static display area, and he said to me “what are you doing with my aircraft”? To which I replied “I don’t know sir, but I will find out for you”. He then said “Boy I flew this exact aircraft I thought they chopped her into cans”!

The day was an excellent experience in order to celebrate the professional life of a flying legend whose record stands on its own and some say will never be broken.

Martinique Dinner – 12th February 2016

On the evening of Friday 12th February, Wales University Royal Naval Unit held its annual Martinique Dinner within their home base, HMS Cambria.  This traditional Naval Mess Dinner takes place each year, in recognition of the Battle Honour held by the first HMS EXPRESS, which took part in the Battle of Martinique in 1808.

Preparations for the dinner started months in advance, with each member of the Martinique Division (one of the 3 Divisions within Wales URNU and the one nominated with organising the Mess Dinner) allocated a different role.  The event was given an attention to detail that could have redefined “military precision”.  The day before the dinner, the team descended on HMS Cambria and, within a few hours, the Drill Deck had been transformed from an empty space into a dramatic setting, with a parachute suspended from the ceiling and White Ensigns and Welsh flags adorning the walls.

 

On the morning of “the big day”, members of the unit arrived early and busied themselves to ensure that the finishing touches were completed in good time; the silverware gleamed and the unit was spotless.  After changing into uniform, the traditional photographs were taken and it was then time to receive guests.  Pre-dinner drinks gave the students a fantastic opportunity to network with serving members of the Armed Forces, each with their own unique experiences to share.

The food that was served was of an exceptional standard and the external catering company, Cresta Caterers, did a fantastic job ensuring that proceedings ran correctly.  After numerous toasts, the guest of honour, Commodore Kyd, the future Commanding Officer of the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, gave a speech, providing an insight into the future of the UK’s carrier strike capability.  It was quite a coup for WURNU to have got such a distinguished Officer to speak at the dinner.  After the speeches, the guests were invited to the Wardroom bar, while the drill deck was cleared and once again transformed, this time into a dance hall, with the help of a local DJ.

The dinner was clearly an outstanding success, with praise received from every quarter.  Here’s to next year – let’s hope it is as well received as this one.

Mine Warfare Acquaint

Tuesday 8th December 2015- Wednesday 9th December

On a wet Tuesday afternoon, seven of Wales URNU’s most adventurous officer cadets embarked on an adventure to acquire a greater insight into the world of Mine Warfare.
Meeting prior to 1600, six of us awaited the arrival of OC Green in the transport and it was clear to all that excitement was in the air. After nearly losing our voices due to the amount of singing taking place on the journey, we finally arrived at Fort Blockhouse, just in time for a three-course dinner in the Wardroom.
Before settling into our rooms for the night, it was agreed that we would explore the bar conveniently placed on the ground floor of our accommodation. There, we bumped into a familiar face who had previously given a charismatic presentation to Wales URNU the previous year regarding recruitment into the Submarine service.
At 0900 Wednesday morning, we met Lt. Hawkins in the Coffee Lounge of HMS Collingwood, where we also bumped into Lt. Harvey. Heading over to the Mine Warfare school, our forenoon was spent learning how different mines can be activated (through magnetic, pressure and acoustic mines); facts about the two different classes of minehunter (with tours of the simulators for both Sandown and Hunt class ships); and the different techniques each class uses to detect and clear any mines found, such as through the Sea Fox Mine Disposal System replacing the USA’s earlier use of dolphins. The progression of a Warfare Officer wishing to specialise in Mine Warfare was also outlined.
Whilst heading to lunch at HMS Collingwood, a past student of Wales URNU introduced himself to us. He informed us that he has recently been appointed to the position of Commanding Officer of HMS Tyne and thus our congratulations were offered (combined with the hope for another future acquaint!). Lt.  Britton, Wales URNU’s previous CO joined us for lunch, as well as other previous WURNU officer cadets.
The afternoon was spent at the Diving School whereby we were initially presented with a talk informing us of the most modern equipment being used by divers and the intense fitness tests they have to pass in order to qualify. After this we witnessed this intense training by observing the divers taking part in a dive as part of their progressive course, and were also given the chance to ask questions to other divers at the school. Upon completion at the Diving School, the Chief Petty Officer showed us some amazing footage of operations his team had taken part and also a mud run which was part of his students’ training.
Many thanks must be given to Lt. Hawkins for organising the acquaint, to A/OC Green for driving throughout and also to everyone else for making it such an informative and exciting acquaint to take part in.


A/OC Rowe

First Years’ Portsmouth Acquaint Dit – A/OC Hartley

During the weekend of the 22-24th January 2016, the first year Acting Officer Cadets of Wales URNU, accompanied by senior Officer Cadets and Training   Officers, drove the 2.5 hour trek to Portsmouth to see the historic dockyard and to visit a few of Her Majesty’s warships. Arriving at Whale Island under dark skies, we settled into our accommodation on board HMS BRISTOL; a Type 83 Destroyer which saw action in the Falklands War, before she was decommissioned for training uses. After a brief run ashore, we hit the hay at lights out, excited for the next day.

With ‘Call the Hands’ at 0630 followed by a speedy cleaning of our birth and breakfast at the Mess, it was on to Whale Island to see our first ship of the day, and to witness our first Colours routine, on HMS LANCASTER. The Type 23 frigate is the fourth of her class, and her Officer of the Day (OOD), was a previous Wales URNU Coxswain, who gave us a tour around a fully live and loaded weapons system, which included a full magazine of torpedoes and Sea Wolf missiles. This was followed by a look at the operations, logistics, and navigation room of the ship. We were even privileged enough to have a peek in the Captain’s cabin. After this, we went on to the mine countermeasures vessel, HMS CATTISTOCK, which is one of the most expensive ships per cubic metre due to glass reinforced plastic hull designed specifically for the Hunt class ships. Her Coxswain, a previous diver for CATTISTOCK, explained the different array of tools and machines used to carry out their vital role, and taught us a valid point on how it is worth using and destroying machinery such as the Sea Fox (estimated at £50,000 each), rather than risking the loss of a ship which cost millions.ports1

Next on the list of ships to visit, and with a massive amount of excitement, was HMS DAUNTLESS, the second of the Type 45 Daring class destroyers. Simply walking onto the ship was staggering, especially taking note of the angled walls of the ship to reduce visibility from radar systems. The OOD took us through the flight deck, the bridge of the ship, and into the operations room, which was breath-taking! It was a clear example of the true strength of the warship, and the seeing that all personnel were truly committed to the well-being of their ship was fascinating. Finally, to conclude the warship tour, we boarded HMS ECHO, an Ice Patrol and Survey ship. Even though she was far smaller than the previous ships, it was still fascinating to see how important ECHO’s role was to the RN, and that by mapping out the oceans we are able to know more about the seas in which we traverse.

With some time to spare after our grand tours, we drove the short distance to view the grandeur of HMS VICTORY at the Historic Dockyard. Although we were unable to have a look inside the ship, reading the facts dotted around her was a hugely informative experience. To further add excitement, just beyond HMS VICTORY was another Type 45 destroyer: HMS Duncan. The comparison from old to new was an impressive sight.

ports2

Finishing the long day with a meal at the Mess, we woke up on Sunday morning with a quick breakfast, and packing of bags to leave HMS BRISTOL. En-route back home to Wales, we stopped for some light PT exercise, including bucketball, 5-a-side football and touch rugby.

In conclusion, with a fantastic real life experience of living on a warship, combined with four amazing tours around active warships, this acquaint has given me an appreciation of just how much variety the RN has. Many thanks to the COs and OODs of HMS LANCASTER, CATTISTOCK, DAUNTLESS, and ECHO, as well as our Senior Training Officer Lt Hawkins, and Training Officer Lt Roberts. This weekend will be a cherished memory, and I eagerly wait for the time that I can return again.

URNU Flying Camp – A/OC Lazenby, Trafalgar Deputy Divisional Midshipman

The URNU flying camp is by far the best way to get a taste of what it would be like to serve in the Fleet Air Arm. Experiencing the thrills of fixed wing flight, with all of its turns, rolls, loops, and formation flying – there really is nothing more exciting for those who are looking for a career in the FAA.

The camp consists of two, five-day camps where you will be lucky enough to experience life on RNAS Yeovilton. The camp is run by 727 NAS who fly the Grob Tutor, the first teaching aircraft for all of those who are applying for either Pilot or Observer. The camp is designed to give you a taste of what the Grading (initial training/selection stage for Aircrew) would be like and to give you as much exposure to the kind of things you would be expected to learn during this stage of your training.

All of the URNU Students arrive on the Sunday evening where you are assigned a cabin in the mess on HMS Heron, where you live amongst full time officers of the RN. This is a brilliant place to socialise with the other students on the course, as well as mix with those who are serving. You can get so much out of these evenings, just by asking around with any questions/queries you may have if you’re thinking about joining – all of the staff and officers are extremely accommodating and willing to help and talk to you.

When the course kicks off on the Monday morning, the students are met by the squadron Ops officer and taken over to the Survival Equipment store on the Air Station. You are all given flying suits, boots, gloves, thermals, and helmets. On completion it’s straight over to the squadron to begin a session of safety briefs. Once briefs are complete, the students are then assigned a number and the flights begin!

Each flight is around 45 minutes and in this time you will be taken through the very basics of flight, how to fly the aircraft straight and level, up to performing aerobatics, circuits, navigation exercises and formation flying with the other Grobs. This is by far the most fun I have ever had! There is nothing like flying around in a little bubble, with the controls in your hands! Imagine a rollercoaster, that you get to choose where you go. The Qualified Flying Instructors are hugely professional, most of whom have served and can show you just what you can do with an aircraft in the sky. Between them they have tens of thousands of hours in the air, so do not hesitate to ask them whatever questions you have. Safe to say, the flying that you will get to do with 727 NAS is nothing like commercial flying! For the duration of this course, you will be able to fly the aircraft for the vast majority of the time. The only time the Instructors take the controls from you is during the first few take offs and landings, as well as to demonstrate to you the maneuvers they would like you to carry out. There is nothing more adrenaline pumping than putting together your very own aerobatic display, thousands of feet above the Somerset and Dorset countryside!

As we all know too well, the weather can be unreliable, but this is no problem for the squadron. When you aren’t flying, you are given the opportunity to visit other squadrons and departments around the station. This gives you opportunities to visit the various helicopter squadrons, including the new Wildcat squadron and training facilities, the Electronic Warfare Branch, the Fighter Controller and Air Traffic Controller schools, the infamous Dunker trainer, Lynx Squadrons and the Merlins: and Sea Kings of the Commando Helicopter Force. Every single department looks after you extremely well, offering a small presentation on what they do, as well as a look around the Gucci tech that they have. It’s hugely interesting and fascinating to see what all the different departments have to do in order to make up the Fleet Air Arm. Visiting the departments also gives students and those looking to join an opportunity to make connections in the FAA, and a massive insight in to what life is like whilst serving. All of the personnel give you honest opinions on what it’s like, and a great idea of the various training pipelines for all of the jobs and positions that you may be interested in joining.

I cannot fault my time living on RNAS Yeovilton. It is by far the best experience I have, where I made many friends who I will remain in contact with. I have been lucky enough to go back down to 727 NAS to work for them over the summer when they are running courses, and I hope to maintain this job over the coming years. They have fully fueled my ambition to join up as a Pilot, and go out of their way to help me with getting experience in the air and living in a squadron. I would highly recommend this camp to anyone thinking about or planning on joining the Royal Navy as a Pilot or Observer. You learn so much about what life is like, and experiences like this are worth their weight in gold!

URNU Flying Camp 2nd-7th August 2015 – MID Hendery, Dunkirk Divisional Midshipman

Having returned home from the Alpine Training Centre, Bavaria fewer than 24 hours previously having done 2 weeks of various Adventure Training activities, Midshipman Hendery RNR (Wales URNU) headed to Yeovil to settle into HMS Heron ready for a week of flying.

After a quick breakfast on the first day the 8 lucky URNU students were met by the Ops Officer of 727 Naval Air Squadron, Lt Matt Harding, who ferried all course members to the Squippers (Survival Equipment Fitters) section where everyone was issued flying suits, boots, gloves and helmets.  Fully laden with their new kit they crossed the airfield to the “Flying Side” and were welcomed by the CO of 727, Lt Cdr Jim Ashlin.

Having been introduced to his instructors for the week, Nick Watson, a retired Air Marshall who hasn’t been seen out of the cockpit, OC Hendery recapped on his previous experience; flying the Grob Tutor at RAF Wyton, and quickly found himself experiencing climbing and descending turns, straight & level flight, stalling characteristics/recovery and was straight into circuits (take-off/rolling and landing) all on his first flight.

During down time between sorties the students planned several activities namely the visit to the FAA museum just down the road from the station, as well as attending visits to 845 NAS where they had a tour the new Merlin helicopters.

The course instructors always ensured as much “stick time” as possible in the aircraft and gave the students an introduction to the RN flying grading syllabus.  They also appeared determined to try and make the students ill with aerobatic after aerobatic, thankfully it can be reported that none of them succeeded in this venture.

For the final sortie the students were treated to a formation flying experience.  Tail chasing proved to be the pinnacle of this flight and the students got to experience the concept of “dog fighting” and “closing onto the enemy”.  Formation flying proved to be a fine art and students experienced the challenge of trying to stay in one position 6 metres away from an aircraft 5000’ above the ground; no easy feat!

All in all the flying camp was a huge success for all and an amazing experience, not just with regards to flying, but also the general introduction to life both in the FAA and as an RN Officer.  The week was facilitated by a dedicated and enthusiastic team of instructors and staff of 727 NAS, to whom all of those who attended were hugely grateful.

fly1

New Entry Adventurous Training Weekend 2015 – A/OC Davies, AT Rep

On the weekend of 20th-22nd November, eleven members of Wales URNU piled onto a minibus at HMS Cambria, and headed down to Piers Cellars, near Torpoint for the New Entry Adventurous Training Weekend, kindly organised by London URNU.

After some temporary confusion over our exact whereabouts in the Cornish countryside, we arrived at Piers Cellars, just in time for dinner – some delicious ration packs. We got to know some of the other URNU’s who had already arrived, and spent the rest of the evening in the local pub.

Call the hands was at 0600, and after breakfast we began the morning navigation exercise. We were split into teams, and set off. We had several questions to answer that corresponded to points along the route. It was a great opportunity to talk to members of other URNU’s, and to practice our navigation skills, along the 9km route. We took turns leading the group, and some teams completed PLTs along the way. There was a very welcome wets stop, and ample time for team selfies.

Although it was windy and cold on the hill tops, we also had some beautiful views of the Jurassic Coast.

We returned to Piers Cellars for lunch, and the special treat of some hot Cornish pasties. We had about an hour in which we took the chance to practice our skits for the Sods Opera that night.

After lunch was the raft building PLT. Each URNU fielded a team, and had 30 minutes to build a raft, take it across the sea pool, rescue a team member, return, and disassemble the raft. Two teams competed at a time, to introduce some friendly competition! Inevitably, it started raining and hailing halfway through the challenge. We were one of the last teams to go, and after much deliberation about what the best raft design would be having watched the other teams, we set about building our raft. After a flurry of tying ropes and frantically throwing our raft together, we put our raft to the float test. Technically, it did float, but it was questionable whether it could actually be called a raft, as once it hit the water it quickly disintegrated. The water was far colder than we anticipated, and quite took our breath away! We rescued A/OC Green, and disassembled our raft as quickly as possible, beating the team that we were pitched against.  We then quickly rushed back to the hot showers, to prevent the onset of hypothermia!

In the evening, there was a BBQ, live band, and the Sods Opera. The odd shower didn’t stop the merriment, and the band soon had all of us on our feet dancing. WURNU performed a creative masterpiece entitled, ‘A day in the life of Wales URNU on deployment’, starring PO Jones, OC Jones, AO/C Jones, and Sian the Sheep. It was a fantastic night, despite a few attempts at stealing the Welsh flag.

We were all relieved to hear that early morning phys on Sunday morning had been cancelled due to the weather. After a short lie in, we cleaned our accommodation and set off to Britannia Royal Naval College. We got our little bit of sea time on the ferry across to Plymouth. All those who had completed their swim test attended a church service at BRNC, whilst all others did their swim test. We then had a tour of BRNC, which inspired a lot of pride, especially for those who hadn’t visited Dartmouth before. After a short stop off in Dartmouth for a walk around and a visit from A/OC Killick’s parents, we started the long drive back to Cardiff.

New Entry Weekend – A/OC Pugh-Evans

Beginning University and leaving was always going to be a step into the unknown; will I make friends? Will I enjoy the course? What societies shall I join? And so on. Within two weeks, I felt that I’d made the right decision with the course I had chosen and had made friends, but I was still scratching my head about what society I could become a member of. Never would I have thought of joining a Royal Navy unit, but here I am, and it’s so much more than I expected it to be and it was just the beginning!

Twenty-three newbies were split into two groups, with ten staying on our P2000, HMS Express, and the rest staying at HMS Cambria, partaking in various activities during the evening catered for by our Seniors. This included lectures on: discipline, teamwork within the URNU, and what we could expect over the coming year. An early night was needed with call to hands at 0630 hours the next morning.

After a hearty breakfast, which was gratefully cooked by our Coxswain and a couple of my fellow students (who had been up since 0530), we were shipped via minibus to HMS Flying Fox in Bristol for a day packed with activities. This was an opportune moment to grab some more sleep, and the quietest we were for the next 24 hours! On arrival at Flying Fox, we were divided into groups which also included students from Bristol URNU. We were briefed by HMS Flying Fox’s Coxswain who explained to us how the day would transpire, and what we could expect.

My group’s day began with firefighting, where we were given a demonstration of how the varied apparatus worked and in what situations they would be vital to fight a fire on ship. We were also given the opportunity to don firefighting clothing and feel the numerous layers there were, and then try the various apparatus for ourselves. I was personally in my element as I have previous experience in firefighting but it was very interesting to see different equipment and how it has been tailored for the Navy’s requirements.

The second session consisted of parade training. Although I was accused of being crazy, this was definitely my most enjoyable session of the whole day. We were put through our paces and learned new things during this session, which I am sure will prove invaluable for future events. We had the opportunity to march to music as well, as we were due to be participating in various Remembrance parades across Wales. On a side note, it was mentioned around the base that our marching skills were better than those of Bristol URNU, but these were only rumours of course!

After a lovely buffet lunch by the kind staff at HMS Flying Fox, it was time for an action packed afternoon. We began with chart work where we were given an introduction to the different aspects of a chart by TO Winder. This consisted of how to decipher a chart and determine latitude and longitude, a compass rose, buoys and more! This was very interesting and was nice to refresh what I already knew and learn new things that would be useful during the time we’ll have on HMS Express. Swapping with another group, we were given the opportunity to try out the P200 Bridge Simulator they have created at HMS Flying Fox. Working in groups of three, one of us steered, another on radar, and the third being the Officer of the Watch. This was a fascinating exercise, which gave us an insight of what to expect when we would be on ship and working the bridge. Some were better than others, and a few of my colleagues became a little too acquainted with rocks and other ships!

After a quick wet, we were due a close encounter with something else that was wet…. very wet: the infamous, much anticipated Swim Test. At the local swimming pool we were briefed on what was expected for us to pass the test: two minutes of treading water and then a 50 metre swim in 6 minutes. All in full length boiler suits! This was a tough test, especially as the pool was only 1.2m and myself being a lanky measure of 1.9m, so treading water without touching the bottom of the pool was something of a challenge! Thankfully everybody was successful in passing this test and it was then a nice break waiting for the others to finish (which happened to coincide with the Rugby World Cup Final).

The highlight of my weekend, was staying aboard HMS Express on Saturday night, and transiting back to Penarth Marina on Sunday morning. Call the hands was at 0645 to square away our cabins, have breakfast, and be in rig ready for leaving harbour brief at 0815. I was on the Flying Bridge for the briefing which gave myself and two of my colleagues the opportunity to witness ship’s company go about their everyday business. It was a very foggy and an ice cold morning, and we locked out of Bristol at 0900. As we passed underneath the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the fog cleared to give way to bright blue sunshine. But it was short lived because as soon as we hit the open sea it was back to the fog. During the passage back, we were shown the different roles each member of ship’s company were responsible for. I shadowed Navs, where I was shown how the radar worked and the method in which he would give the OOW a report of any new contacts that we were likely to encounter. As we were approaching Cardiff Bay, Lt Harvey asked if I would like to take the wheel and have a try at the steering the ship! I can promise you that I had not envisaged being allowed to do this at the start of the weekend and if I’m honest I was a tad nervous. It was very insightful to have CO saying orders and having to repeat back to him and steer the ship to whatever bearing he had ordered. I greatly enjoyed this and hope to have plenty more opportunities to go on ship over the next three years.

All in all this was a fantastic weekend and I feel very privileged to be part of the  select few chosen to be part of Wales URNU, which I believe, is the best URNU by far