The mighty HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s largest warship, will visit her affiliated city of Sunderland from May 24-28 and be open to visitors from the local community on Sunday 27 May.
Berthing alongside at Corporation Quay, Port of Sunderland on Thursday, the ship will spend a very busy few days in the north east city.
HMS Ocean has recently completed a pre-Olympics security exercise in London. During the games, she will return to the Thames, mooring at Greenwich, and will play a central role in the Armed Forces support to the police in ensuring the games are safe and secure for everyone to enjoy.
In addition to being a platform for Royal Navy and Army Air Corps Lynx helicopters, the ship will also accommodate military personnel who are providing security for the equestrian events at Greenwich Park.
This weekend’s activities kick off on Friday during the day, when around 100 young people will join the Royal Marines Commando Recruitment Team on board the ship. The day’s events will give everyone a small taste of life as part of the elite Royal Marines.
Participants will have the opportunity to try out skills such as unarmed combat, using a climbing wall and some rigorous physical training packages which the commandos use to hone and then maintain peak fitness.
Saturday dawns to a day of honour for all the crew when they take to the streets of Sunderland to exercise their Freedom of the City – a ceremonial spectacle with drums beating and bayonets fixed, it promises to be a visual treat for locals lining the route.
The parade forms up at the rear of Sunderland Civic Centre, Burdon Road at 3pm and proceeds to the war memorial where they will be reviewed by the Mayor, Councillor Iain Kay.
In recognition of the affiliation with the city and in hour to renew the honour bestowed in 2004, the engraved silver canister housing the Freedom Proclamation will be presented to the ship’s Commanding Officer, Captain Andrew Betton, before the parade commander request permission to exercise HMS Ocean’s right to parade through the city.
Led by The Band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the ship’s company begins the parade through the city at 4pm, up Fawcett Street and left onto High Street West.
Then proceeding onto Union Street and through the pedestrian area, the parade later returns to Burdon Road and salutes the Mayor before making their way back up to the civic centre. The Freedom Parade culminates in a reception hosted by Sunderland City Council in the Pottery Gallery of the Museum and Sunderland Winter Gardens.
On Sunday locals will have an opportunity to visit HMS Ocean when she opens her gangway to visitors from 10am-4pm. Access to the ship on Corporation Quay will be via the Low Street entrance. Families with vehicles are advised to seek parking away from the immediate vicinity of the port, which will be open to pedestrians only. Parking on Low Street will be for residents only.
Visitors will be able to tour the flight deck, hangar and vehicle, and have the opportunity to speak to members of Ocean’s crew about their experiences and life in the modern Royal Navy. There will also be a number of attractions on the jetty, including a climbing wall and children’s assault course hosted by the Royal Marines.
In addition to all of that, the ship will also hope a number of organised tours for various local organisations and youth groups, including 21st Sunderland Sea Scouts.
Like any military organisation, the Royal Navy and Royal Marines promote sport and physical fitness as an important part of maintaining morale and Sunderland City Council’s events team has been busy to line up an impressive range of activities from a golf tournament at Wearside Golf Club to a friendly rugby match to compete against Sunderland RFC.
And the ship’s football team, known as ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ will play the Nissan 2011 Interdepartmental team finalists on Sunday afternoon at the Nissan Sport and Social Conference Centre on Washington Road, kicking off at 2pm.
In addition, a kind-hearted group of sailors and marines are planning to raise money for both the Grace House North East Children’s Hospice, as well as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity, when they set out with a small head start on Sunday morning to race the ship over the 500 miles back to Plymouth on their bikes.
“We are thoroughly looking forward to visiting our adopted home,” said HMS Ocean’s Commanding Officer, Captain Andrew Betton.
“ We are hugely honoured to be able to exercise our Freedom of the City of Sunderland and I hope that members of the public will come along to support the ship’s company while we parade through the streets.
“And then it will be our turn to give something back when we open the gangway to the public on Sunday – I know that my crew is already looking forward to welcoming as many people as possible and sharing their pride in Sunderland’s adopted ship.”
An amphibious assault ship, HMS Ocean is designed to deliver troops to the centre of the action by helicopter or by landing craft – there are six helicopter operating spots on the flight deck and the hangar can hold many more aircraft. The ship also has its own Royal Marine assault squadron and carries four Mk5 landing craft.
HMS Ocean played a key role in support of the UN Security Council Resolution in Libya last year, acting as the base for the Army’s Apache attack helicopters and Royal Navy’s Sea King surveillance helicopters.
The Apache gunships flying from HMS Ocean complemented the RAF jets, delivering additional precision strike capability with considerable success. Over the course of the operation, the Apache crews from 656 Squadron Army Air Corps attacked Libyan military vehicles, installations and communications equipment.
Built on the Clyde by Kvaerner Govan, the ship was launched in October 1995, and named by Her Majesty the Queen on February 20 1998. HMS Ocean was commissioned into the Fleet in September 1998 and is the largest warship in the Royal Navy.
Naval Today Staff , May 25, 2012; Image: Royal Navy