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

Alumni Sports Day

Saturday brought anticipation for many as the 0900 start drew near and the teams convened at the Talybont Hockey pitch. Wales URNU and their alumni were in force and good spirits ready for the first match.

Wales URNU and Bristol played their first match with A/OC Nightingale scoring the goal which clinched the 1-0 victory over Bristol. Bristol and WURNU alumni then took to the pitch where Bristol won 1-0. To finish the hockey, Wales URNU took on their Alumni and came away with a 2-0 win. Here A/OC Nightingale had scored again with OC Newton scoring the other goal. Hockey team captain OC Munson reflected that: “the team played very well with great communication throughout. We’re looking hopeful for sports weekend!”. Following this successful start to the day, Wales URNU hopes were high for the remaining matches.

All parties made their way to Blackweir pitches, so the rugby could begin. WURNU, as keen as ever, started with some pre-match exercises. Out of the two matches played, the combined Alumni/Bristol team won against Wales with a 31-0 victory, although not as resounding as the 84-7 victory the alumni scored against the WURNU team in the following match. The team did manage to score one consolation try when A/OC Moore scored from a pick and go; which was then converted by A/OC Nightingale. Rugby team captain A/OC Withers said: “as disappointing as it was to lose, we have to remember it was our first game, and we were up against some great players. We now know what needs to be improved, and by sports weekend we’ll be ready!”

Bucketball followed the rugby and was played in true WURNU style with the motto “If they can take it, you can give it” emanating clearly. Unfortunately, a WURNU win was not seen, although some great ‘contact’ games were played with OC Myrans being sent off for her tackling prowess. Alumni won 6-4 to WURNU, Alumni 11-0 to Bristol and Bristol 6-3 to WURNU.

Leaving the rugby pitches with many just a little muddy, we returned to Talybont for the final matches of the day. Arriving in good time for the 1400 start, meant the teams could have a well-deserved stop at the social before proceeding to the netball.

WURNU, keen again, started with some shooting and practice passes in their pre-match warm up. Alumni and Bristol ‘kicked-off’ the netball with Alumni winning 11-9. It proved a very interesting match for the WURNU team to watch, identifying the opposition’s game play. Primed and ready for action WURNU tackled (although not literally – it is a non-contact sport after all) their alumni and played a strong game. Although the WURNU team suffered a 4-7 defeat, their hopes were high for the match against Bristol. This next match was especially close, with goals scored in rapid succession by both teams. Bristol clinched it by 8 goals to 6. Team Captain A/OC Davies said: “they were two close matches against strong opposition. We improved every half, and the only weakness these games showed was our lack of practice as a team. There were some really good individual performances from the girls, everyone has improved massively since our first training session, in particular those who haven’t played for a while. On the whole, a good practice run for sports weekend, which highlighted things to work on, but also had a lot of positives to take away. I’m very proud of the whole team!”

With the sports over, the day progressed into the evening social which was a great chance to catch up with and get to know the alumni as well as the Bristol team. Starting in the North Star, progressing to O’Neill’s for dinner followed by Bierkeller and of course the infamous Live Lounge to bring the evening to a close.

Fortunately, this weekend only saw one (known) injury with A/OC Pugh-Evans ‘losing’ a knuckle. Of course, any losses were purely tactical in order to lull Bristol into a false sense of security for Sports Weekend. Thank you to everyone who made this such an enjoyable and successful day of sports, and to A/OC Cleaver for organising. The WURNU students are definitely all looking forward to what should prove to be a brilliant weekend of sport and competition in just a couple of weeks where hopefully we will come away victorious.

A/OC Killick

 

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.

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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.

Sports Report – A/OC Withers, Rugby Captain & Sports Rep

This year’s sports season started off at the universities’ Freshers Fayres, where many talented individuals from various sporting backgrounds were encouraged to sign up, and are now a vital part of Wales URNU. The recruits are very keen to get stuck into the variety of sports the unit has to offer, including: rugby, netball, hockey, sailing, rowing and bucketball.

The Rugby team in particular has gained some valuable players, resulting in a strong starting seven, who will be sure to put up a good fight at the URNU Sports Weekend. Unfortunately, due to the few females recruited this year the netball team has suffered with low numbers, however the team still contains players that put up a star performance reaching the cup finals last year, so should not be underestimated! The hockey team has also gained some new players with experience at county level, which are sure to build on the skills of the team which largely remains unchanged from last year.

Training this year has gotten off to a great start, particularly with Rugby. Within a few training sessions, the team is up to scratch with all the moves and calls, showing great promise for the upcoming tournaments. Lending a hand as always is Club Captain Lt Jim Hawkins, who recently organised a training session with Jimmy Deane, a seasoned Bath first team rugby player, and founder of ‘Sporting Family Change’. For this the team travelled down to Bath to train on a 3G pitch, where our handling, scrummage and rooking skills were put to the test.

With University workloads starting to mount up, and a much busier URNU schedule, training from all teams has died down slightly, but fitness sessions are routinely taking place, with regular circuits sessions at Roath Park and Swansea Waterfront. A few students have also been selected to attend the ETL (previously the Small Ship’s PTI) course next term, which aims will give students a greater knowledge and understanding of leading fitness sessions.

Preparations for the January Alumni Sports Weekend are well underway. This annual event has now run for three years, and pits current Wales URNU students against alumni and Bristol URNU for a successful day of sports, in which Wales URNU emerge victorious, ready for a great night out showing our guests what Cardiff has to offer.

Not long after the Alumni event is the annual URNU Sports Weekend held in Portsmouth. This will see all 14 URNUs across the country bring their A-games and mascots to compete for silverware and bragging rights in numerous sports. It is a very competitive and social weekend, and by far one the most enjoyable experiences you can have in the URNU.

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.

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Summer Deployment 2015 – OC Munson, SMid

It has been a busy summer for WURNU students and the crew of HMS Express on their annual Summer Deployment, which this year took students from charity garden parties in sunny Cardiff, to fashion shows in Liverpool, through the picturesque Caledonian Canal, and down the east coast of the UK to windy Portsmouth for the Americas Cup.

The first day of this busy deployment found ten OCs hosting guests and selling raffle tickets at the annual British Warships Association Summer Garden Party at Hensol Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan. The event included a performance by the City of Swansea Pipes and Drums Band, a Field Gun demonstration by local Sea Cadet unit TS Cardiff, and a show from a barbershop quintet. Upon completion, the students departed Cardiff for Liverpool to join Express.

The 0630 wakeup call took a little getting used to for the students who, until two days ago, had been enjoying the luxury of late morning lie-ins. Yet everything ran smoothly with ship’s company getting used to the new students and the students meeting the new CO (Lt. Matthew Harvey) and DMEO (LET Chris Barker). The transit to Conwy, North Wales in company with Bristol University’s HMS Dasher went smoothly, and the first day ended with circuits led by the XO, whilst the Dasher students looked on in sympathy.

It was only three days into the deployment before the students prepared to host the first VIP of the trip: Commander Stevens (Cdr U). Cdr Stevens had planned to join us for the morning of our journey to Dun Laoghaire in the Republic of Ireland, before transferring to Dasher. However the weather had other ideas, and once the swell picked up the Commander decided to stay and enjoy a buffet lunch on board Express.

The following harbour day in Dun Laoghaire, a mere half an hour train ride from Dublin, was spent getting ahead of the chart work game, before a mass migration to the Guinness Storehouse and Temple Bar to celebrate XO’s 24th Naval Birthday.

On departure from Ireland, a personnel swap occurred between the two P2000s to vary the students’ experience, and a Fire Ex was conducted at sea with five students shadowing Ship’s Company in preparation for when they would have to conduct the exercise themselves. Finally, after a quick scran onboard, the students headed out into Douglas, Isle of Man, for a social joined by Ship’s Company and Dasher.

Almost as if she had never left, Express sailed back to Liverpool for a harbour day, meeting up with some students from Liverpool URNU, whose ship HMS Charger was on deployment in the Baltic.

In the midst of the forecasted “heatwave”, Express found herself open to visitors. The waterfront teemed with members of the public, admiring the classic cars which were part of the 175th Anniversary of Transatlantic Passenger Travel by Cunard Cruises, and the WURNU students embraced the role of tour guides explaining what the URNU does and showing visitors around the small but mighty ships.

In the afternoon, as part of the celebrations, the combined force of 20 URNU students took to the runway showing off the latest fashion in URNU-chic for the “Very Big Catwalk” Guinness World Record Attempt for most models on a catwalk. The existing record of 3,083 people held by Mexico was beaten by Liverpool and a whopping 3,651 people!

The next few days found Express back in Douglas en route to Belfast and on to Port Ellen where the students sampled some genuine Scottish Whisky under the direction of the MEO on his birthday. The next leg of the journey took the ship to Tobermorey and Fort William, where the CO of Wales URNU (Lt Buffy Slayman) and TO Thomas joined the students on the slow passage through Neptune’s Staircase at the beginning of the Caledonian Canal until the crew change at Inverness.

The day following the end of deployment meal consisted of preparations for Captain’s Rounds and the crew change handover to the next batch of students, who jumped right into chart preparations for the transits to Buckie, Aberdeen, and Leith.

Due to an unfortunate bout of bad weather as both Express and Dasher attempted to leave Leith, both ships were forced to turn back and were confined to an  additional harbour day in Leith which allowed students to explore Edinburgh Castle, cook up a BBQ on the quarterdeck, and see a bit more of the city outside of Grassmarket.

The second attempt at leaving Leith proved a much greater success, and the transit to Newcastle proceeded smoothly.

As the ship had missed two days of sailing, it was all hands on deck to get down to Portsmouth in time for the Americas Cup, so the students banded together to get all the charts completed for the 13 hour transit from Newcastle to Greater Yarmouth, and then on to Brighton – the last stop before reaching Portsmouth.

It was a startling realisation upon arrival in Portsmouth that there were only four days left of the deployment (however Ship’s Company were excited to go on leave). Yet the arrival in Portsmouth meant that everything had to be squared away and ready to host VIPs, including Commander 1PBS Pincher Martin, Rear Admiral Surface Ships Tony Radakin, and Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Sir Philip Jones.

On each day, HMS Dasher led the Parade of Sail during the Americas Cup trials, and Express brought up the rear, patrolling the small boats spectator area with a fantastic view of the racing.

Unfortunately, the UK heatwave ended before the racing did, and the final two days of the event were called off. So after heading to Gunwharf Quays for a final deployment meal, Ship’s Company and the students of Wales URNU said their goodbyes and went their separate ways after a fantastic time away.

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

Social Report – A/OC Moore, Social Sec

Wales URNU has been kept very busy since the start of the new academic year, initially with recruitment taking place in the space of three days and four universities and later with acquaints, mess dinners and training weekends. But there has still been time to continue the “work hard, play hard” tradition of the unit.

After a few initial nights out with the new recruits to the hallowed space that is Live Lounge, the first major social event of the year, aptly dubbed “Welcome Drinks”, took place in early October.  The theme for this year was Cowboys and Indians, with the senior students as the cowboys (and girls) and the new intake as the Indians.  The night started in the Flora, and then continued through the remainder of the pubs in Cathays, eventually ending in Live Lounge yet again.  This was a great night for all involved, and provided a good opportunity for the senior students to properly get to know the new intake and vice-versa.

This was followed on 27th October by HMS Cambria’s annual Trafalgar Night Mess Dinner, where our very own SMID became Mess Vice President.  This dinner is always an interesting experience for the new recruits, as it is their first real taste of the social aspects of the Royal Navy.  Nonetheless, all acquitted themselves extremely well, and a good time was had by all, particularly in the bar afterwards, with a large number of WURNU recruits taking part in the traditional mess games.  Another first for the new WURNU intake came at the New Entry Weekend in early November, organised with Bristol URNU at HMS Flying Fox. This provided an opportunity to improve inter-URNU relations with our local unit, and, by all accounts, the WURNU contingent performed excellently, both in the day-to-day exercises and at the social in Bristol on the Saturday night, although some may have enjoyed themselves too much, if that is possible!

In mid-November, CPO Steph Cahill, the MEO of HMS Express for just over two years, left the ship and the unit for his next draft. So in true Wales URNU fashion, the Unit and the Ship’s Company saw him off in fine style with a meal and a final night out in Live Lounge.

Later on in the month, the unit took on the University of Wales Air Squadron in a fiercely contested paintball match, which, after WURNU fought back from an initial 2-0 deficit, ended as a well-fought draw.  Although the weather could have been better, this did not dampen spirits, and an enjoyable afternoon was had by all, with several members of both units meeting up in Cardiff for a few drinks later in the day.

At the time of writing this article, the unit is looking forward to its annual Secret Santa drill night and Christmas jumper social, to be followed the next week by the Christmas Ball; both of which should be very fun occasions.  Looking ahead to the New Year, there are several plans in place, including: the Alumni Sports Weekend Social and a visit to Playzone in Swansea for their adults-only night.  And of course, there is the Martinique Mess Night Dinner to look forward to and so the social life of the unit will continue to thrive throughout the year.

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