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Corona virus – Messages from HM the Queen and First Sea Lord; SANO and other updates
Message from HM the Queen after hosting at Buckingham Palace the current and immediately previous COs of “her warship”, HMS Queen Elizabeth:
“At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.
“I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”
Full report here.
Video message to the RN from the First Sea Lord
Video (3 mins 20) here.
Corona virus and SANO
The SANO AGM/Lecture/Lunch, originally scheduled for Saturday 4 April, is POSTPONED until a date to be advised. At present, there are no other Corona-related changes to SANO’s events programme. See statement on Programme page, and watch this space.
There is no news on the previously reported invitation to SANO to attend the Sussex URNU Leadership Awards on Thursday 7 May. In the current circumstances it would seem sensible to assume the event will not go ahead. Any developments will be relayed here.
Some, possibly all, local authorities are setting up community support arrangements to assist isolated/elderly/vulnerable people, e.g. https://www.adur-worthing.gov.uk/coronavirus/community-support/ . See also https://www.worthingsupport.co.uk/ . These or similar elsewhere may be of interest to some of our members.
Changes to Veterans UK services: Details, inc Helpline opening hours, here (incorporates further changes issued 3 April).
Isolation: Guidance from an expert – a submariner, here.
Other Corona virus “Navy News”:
RFA Argus, floating 100-bed medical facility and base to Maritime Deployed Hospital Group: Dispatched to support British Overseas Territories in Caribbean – report here. See also report on 2019 exercise here.
Trident: Next nuclear deterrent patrol crew to go into protective quarantine for 2 weeks ahead of deployment – Telegraph.
COVID Support Force of service personnel and reservists: 2,000 deployed of 20,000 on standby, 900 naval reservists have volunteered, to support local authorities, NHS and emergency services. Assistance to date includes:
- Medical evacuation
- Secondment of military planners to Local Resilience Forums and Scotland, Wales equivalents
- UK-wide helicopter deployment at Kinloss Barracks, RAF Benson, RAF Leeming, RAF Odiham, RNAS Yeovilton and RNAS Culdrose
- Delivery and/or assisting with activation of virus testing equipment, personal protective equipment, ventilators and oxygen supplies
- Assisting patient recovery centres in Cumbria
- Infrastructure, logistics and project management advice and support in setting up temporary hospitals under NHS Nightingale project
- Assisting South Central Ambulance Service
- Assistance to Falkland Islands and Gibraltar
More here (updated 2 April) and here (RNAS Culdrose, 1 April).
VE Day 75: Commemorations scaled back. Press release here.
Meanwhile – Life goes on, 1: RFA Tideforce in rescue off Portland
One of the RN’s biggest tankers has provided vital medical aid to a stricken sailor off Portland.
RFA Tideforce picked up a distress call from coastal freighter Sea Shannon shortly after 1100 on Monday (30th) after a crew member inhaled noxious fumes. Tideforce, which had been carrying out aviation training off Devon and Dorset, was nearby and sailed to assist.
Once close, she sent her rescue boat across to the freighter with her Medical Technician aboard. He provided oxygen to help the crewman until a Coastguard helicopter from Lee-on-the-Solent arrived and a paramedic was lowered down. The sick sailor was stretchered, winched aboard the helicopter and flown to hospital ashore.
Tideforce is the newest of four 39,000-tonne tankers built specifically for the RFA to support operations by Britain’s new aircraft carriers and their supporting task groups.
Meanwhile – Life goes on, 2: Recruits pass out from Raleigh
As Navy medics and planners help the NHS save lives during the coronavirus outbreak, the next generation of recruits at HMS Raleigh have passed out to join the service.
A class of 53 new Royal Navy sailors – mostly engineers and logisticians, but also including two naval nurses and a medic – have completed their basic training at HMS Raleigh and will now proceed with their next stage of training. The recruits embarked on their naval careers in January, and have now completed the 10-week Part 1 training programme designed to transform them from civilians into naval personnel.
While the finale of the course is normally a passing-out-parade attended by family and friends, due to the coronavirus outbreak the parade took place behind closed doors, with a live stream made available for families to follow.
Life goes on, 3: RN shadows Russians in Channel and North Sea
No fewer than nine RN ships have been shadowing Russian vessels in waters around the UK.
The Navy has completed a concentrated operation to shadow the Russian warships after unusually high levels of activity in the English Channel and North Sea.
Type 23 frigates Kent, Sutherland, Argyll and Richmond joined Offshore Patrol Vessels Tyne and Mersey, RFAs Tideforce and Tidespring and survey vessel Echo for the large-scale operation, with support from NATO allies. Sailors and aircrew monitored the seven Russian ships by using radar, surveillance cameras and sensors to track their course and speed as they passed the British Isles. They were supported by Merlin and Wildcat helicopters of 814 and 815 Naval Air Squadrons.
HMS Sutherland’s Operations Officer, Lieutenant Hannah Lee, said: “Our successful integration into the maritime group proves our ability to adapt to task group operations at short notice.”
MoD has announced plans to modernise the Reserve Forces’ and Cadets’ Associations, following a year-long review.
The review found RFCAs’ work in engaging with the nation to be of great value to defence. It identified opportunities to modernise RFCAs and maximise their potential through improved efficiency and effectiveness and addressing legal and financial issues.
In light of the review’s recommendations, defence will now embark on a cross-government programme to regularise the 13 RFCAs to drive efficiencies and enhance consistency.
RFCAs manage the Reserve and Cadet Estate, help business support reservist employees and provide administrative and logistical support to cadet formations.
Vernon diving and mine warfare monument unveiled
A monument to sailors who hunt and dispose of mines has been unveiled at Portsmouth.
Rising out of the water at Gunwharf Quays, site of the former HMS Vernon, the statue remembers those who have kept the sea lanes open and cleared mines: by sweeping, hunting and plunging into the depths to render them harmless. Serving divers from the Fleet Diving Squadron on Horsea Island joined veteran divers and mine warfare practitioners for the unveiling.
For nearly 75 years until 1996, the site was dedicated to training clearance divers and home to the RN’s world-leading mine warfare specialisation.
Despite the long, proud history of Vernon, there was until now no memorial on the site to mark its naval heritage and recognise the men who trained and served there. “Project Vernon” was established to put that right. A massive effort by the clearance diving and mine warfare communities to raise more than £250,000 turned dreams and sketches into the reality of artist Mark Richards’ finished sculpture.
It took a day to install the 1.25 scale moored mine and two divers. The Coronavirus pandemic kiboshed plans for a grand unveiling, but organisers still intend to hold a formal dedication service and install lighting for night viewing. There is a link to Project Vernon on the Links page of this site, Heritage column