Summer Deployment 2016 Phase 2

After meeting everyone at Luton airport we had a relatively short flight to Gdansk, Poland. Where we boarded the ship and listened to the welcoming and safety briefs and then our time was our own. We all decided to go for dinner with most then returning to ship for an early night but some staying out later to make the most of the short stay in Poland.

The next day was spent sightseeing, soaking up the Polish atmosphere and generally enjoying the free day that we had. The next destination was Klaipeda in Lithuania and after a very rough transit, which saw most students put out of action, we were all relieved to be safely alongside. Once again, when we were secured (finished work) those who were not on watch ventured out into Klaipeda to explore. For those on watch the night usually consists of ensuring all chartwork was ready for the mornings chart checks and the ship was clean and up to the required standard. 

However, as we were not sailing the next day it was a simple case of making sure all the brass work was polished and the ship was in a good condition. The following day we all ventured out to explore what Klaipeda had to offer before returning to the ship for lunch. After lunch we went out for some drinks before meeting up with the Ship’s Company and the crew and students from HMS Dasher. The night continued into the early hours of the morning and was enjoyed by all.

Early the next morning we set sail for Ventspils in Latvia and had a day of relatively plain sailing where we all took part in chartwork, being an Officer of the Watch and a Quartermaster. Unfortunately once we arrived in Ventspils it became apparent that we would be there for some time due to problems with the radar. In total we spent 6 days in Ventspils, where we educated ourselves in local history, took a tour of the town and visited a spa. Most of our time in Ventspils was spent on the beach, which was a two minute walk from the ship. We spent social days and evenings there as well as participating in some physical exercise along the beach on two occasions.

One of the highlights of Ventspils was the barbeque that was organised and carried out by the students. When we finally left Ventspils it was to sail to Kuressaare in Estonia. The transit was arduous with the decision to turn around and return being made and then unmade shortly after conditions at sea worsened. Once we arrived in Kuressaare we berthed in a small harbour called Roomassaare. Many activities were organised for us, such as pistol shooting, volleyball tournaments, HMS Express being open to the public and talking to a children’s summer camp. Once the eventful and enjoyable day was over we attended a barbeque and social in the evening before a run ashore in rig.

This was personally my favourite place that we visited and my favourite night of deployment. The free food and drinks put on for us were excellent and I felt completely welcomed, which led to a fantastic day and night.

Overall phase 2 of summer deployment was fantastic. Although we didn’t have many days sailing and missed many of the places we were supposed to visit, the people and the atmosphere surely made up for it.

Summer Deployment 2016 Phase 1

We started off the deployment by meeting at HMS Cambria where we loaded all of our gear into the unit car and the nine seater van and set off for Grimsby where we met the ship as it finished its transit down from Newcastle.

The first morning aboard ship started with an early call to hands to make the ship ready for the transit south to Lowestoft in company with HMS Dasher and her students from Bristol URNU, fair weather and calm seas helped ease the students back into the chart work and navigation we had covered at the unit.

The following morning the ship was joined by our new MEO (CPO Mark Kerton) and the next day we set off for Amsterdam, the weather picked up considerably as we started through the North Sea testing the stomachs of some of the students and was less than ideal as a first outing for our newest member of Ships Company. Unfortunately during the passage we were forced to turn back due to an engine malfunction leaving us with revised limitations that made completing the transit no longer viable.

Once safely back in Lowestoft we were able to call out an engineer and have the issue rectified. After spending the evening socialising with the Bristol students we were ready to sail for Amsterdam again the following day this time with more success and better weather, we arrived, that evening, in Amsterdam and all the off watch students set off to see what the city was like meeting up with the ships company and the Senior Training Officer (STO) Lt Jim Hawkins for a drink.

The next day was the first harbour day of the deployment and while the duty watch started to prepare charts for the coming passage to Cuxhaven the remaining students went sightseeing starting with lunch on a canal and ending with a visit to an Amsterdam museum! Which was followed by an evening run ashore (night out) in true Amsterdam style!

The transit to Cuxhaven was a long one and we did not arrive before dark leading to some striking scenes as we came into port in a thunderstorm navigating by lights and radar this was testing requiring students to draw on all of their navigational training to ensure the OOW new where the ship was at all times and requiring the look out and OOW to put into practise all they had learnt of lights and signals to give accurate and fast shipping reports as we passed through a busy port entrance in the dark. The following morning we set sail and approached the entrance to the Kiel Canal with the chart team working on 3 minute fixing for the whole hour long stretch of the passage stopping to embark a pilot before traversing the canal.

As we transited the Kiel Canal the students undertook task book training with the STO focusing on navigation. That evening after we had come along side many of the students went ashore catching the train to Kiel, to witness the last that the famed Kiel week had to offer. Now officially in the Baltic Sea and with no tides to be concerned with chart work became easier but the spare time was used for each student in turn planning and executing a pilotage.

The weather stayed impeccable from this point onwards in the phase, with temperatures in the high 20s and clear skies. Now one week into the deployment the roles of Senior Midshipman and Catering Offcier were rotated to give more students a chance to take on these roles. Our transit from Eckernförde to Rostock went smoothly and we arrived in Warnemünde Naval Base alongside HMS Dasher.

Our next harbour day came as the new MEO conducted his platform endorsement this meant that we were also hosting the squadron engineer for the day, only five students were required to be aboard for the platform endorsement so the remaining five went ashore in Rostock and spent the day visiting the local zoo. Unfortunately during the day the starter motor on the port engine failed and this was a problem that we were unable to rectify with the tools aboard and so had to wait for an engineer to arrive with the new part and this was predicted to take a few days.

While in Rostock we hosted a BBQ organised by A/OC Nightingale, which involved all students and ships company ending up swimming in the harbour! Finally on the 1st of July the new starter motor was delivered and we were able to regain our intended schedule meeting up with HMS Dasher in Kolobrzeg, Poland, that evening we were stood down from watch and all of the students went for a last run ashore of the phase. The following morning we transited to Gdansk, during the passage OC Lazenby completed his second task book to achieve the rank of Honorary Midshipman. Once we arrived in Gdansk and secured the ship we said our goodbyes to the ships company and headed to the airport to catch our fight home.

What a great time, and now Navigation makes sense!

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.