Britain today has a new flagship with assault ship HMS Bulwark assuming the proud mantle from her sister.
Just two days after HMS Albion made her final entry to Plymouth for three years – and three days after she herself completed her last major training exercise, Bulwark is ready to assume the key role.
For the next four years the Devonport-based warship should be at the heart of every major maritime endeavour this nation carries out.
Right now she’s at two days’ notice to move anywhere in the world to deal with global events as the most important ship of the UK’s Response Force Task Group, formed under last year’s defence review.
The last hurdle for Bulwark to overcome after emerging from an 11-month £30m refit at the beginning of the year was the two-week Joint Warrior exercise, the largest war games staged in the UK this autumn.
“I know I speak on behalf of my ship’s company in saying that we are tremendously proud and excited to take over the mantle of the Royal Navy’s flagship.
“Joint Warrior was the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle in our long and demanding regeneration. We are now ready – and able – to deploy globally as directed.”
said Commanding Officer Capt Alex Burton.
With 3 Commando Brigade either engaged in Afghanistan or training in the Californian desert, the amphibious sword of Bulwark was provided by 130 troops from France’s 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment (2RIMa) – under the latest link-up between the respective corps since British and French marines were ‘twinned’ back in 1995.
The Frenchies (their word, not ours) enjoyed their time with the Rosbifs as they carried out landings in Loch Ewe and Loch Eriboll (renamed Loch Teriboll by Bulwark’s ship’s company as it can be a rather bleak place…) although they did manage to nearly lose an armoured personnel carrier in a bog; thanks to an international superhuman effort it was recovered.
“Overall it has been a great exercise.
“Working with the Rosbifs over the past couple of weeks has been a fantastic experience.
“Some of it was back to basics, but there is always so much to learn and re-learn.
“We were also impressed by the English breakfast – most of us agree it is actually better than the French croissant and a coffee.”
said Cpl Font, a Section Commander in 3 Company, 2RIMa.
Joint Warrior – which also witnessed participation from minehunters Ledbury, Cattistock and Hurworth, plus the RAF, Army and forces from the USA, France, Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Turkey and Poland – ended on Friday, but there’s little respite for the new flagship.
Next week she’ll be in the Solent for Maritime Combat Power Visits – demonstrating to officers from the Army and Air Force, plus VIPs what the Navy can do.
She’ll be joined by frigate HMS Sutherland, tanker RFA Black Rover, auxiliary landing ship Mounts Bay, patrol boat HMS Raider and Hawk jets.
As for Albion, it will be 2016 before she enjoys her place in the sun. She’s being put into extended readiness for three years, followed by a refit before working up and taking over from Bulwark once more.
Before that lengthy lay-up, however, the ship’s company will be engaged in five months of ‘de-storing’ – removing equipment and stores.
The period of extended readiness – announced under last year’s defence review – comes at the end of a hectic year for Albion which saw her lead the Cougar task group deployment, support operations in Libya (notably the first Apache gunship strikes from HMS Ocean), two Royal visits and a whistle-stop trip to the Baltic in support of the British defence industry.
She also visited Liverpool allowing her ship’s company to exercise the Freedom of Chester, Albion’s affiliated city.
“Although it’s a sad day to see such a modern ship placed alongside for such a long time, we all look forward to welcoming Albion back into the Fleet in 2016.
“Everyone onboard is tremendously proud to have served in such a capable and versatile ship.”
said her Commanding Officer Capt James Morley.
Source: royalnavy, October 19, 2011