Norway’s ruler watched the climax of winter war games in the Arctic as Britain’s flagship laid on a beach demonstration. King Harald V was guest of honour in remote Malangen Fjord, between Harstad and Tromsø, as Royal Marines of 42 Commando and their Dutch counterparts were put ashore by the assault ship.
In the distance, their mother ship HMS Bulwark is ‘docked down’ – her stern flooded so the dock can launch landing craft – while the Norwegian missile patrol boat KNM Skudd and fast gunboat Kopås stand guard.
On the shore a commando beachmaster makes sure the landings go as planned.
What you cannot see is the King of Norway, Harald V, observing proceedings.
Nor can you hear the 21-gun salute reverberating around the steep sides of the fjord in his honour.
The Norwegian monarch was guest of honour as Exercise Cold Response, NATO’s regular Arctic war games, moved into its climactic final stage between the northern ports of Harstad and Tromsø.
Thousands of foreign soldiers, sailors and airmen are guests of King Harald and his compatriots for the ten-day exercise, with Bulwark leading the UK’s participation.
The king, an honorary colonel in the Royal Marines, spent 90 minutes visiting Kilo Company and Dutch marines – training alongside the Britons – at their beach landing site.
He witnessed a demonstration of an amphibious attack on a beachhead and took time to chat to the men – the great majority of whom have seen recent service in Afghanistan. At the end of the demonstration Bulwark marked the occasion with a 21-gun salute in the monarch’s honour.
Capt Martin Triggol RM, who explained to King Harald how the amphibious beach unit works, said:
“He was very interested in the level of expertise required to make all this happen.”
Although the demonstration was cold – as evidenced by the snow on the slopes and shores of the fjord – the weather was far better than some which Bulwark has experienced during Cold Response.
“Today was perfect,” said Capt Alex Burton, the flagship’s Commanding Officer.
“Unusually, we had calm sunny weather to show off the complexity of amphibious operations delivered by those that do it best: The Royal Navy and Royal Marines.
“It is what we do and it doesn’t get much better than this.”
For Bulwark, Cold Response has been another test of her ability as the UK’s rapid response assault ship (there’s one more trial to come when she leads the large Joint Warrior international exercise off Scotland next month).
For the men of 42 Commando, the Arctic war games are the capstone to their winter deployment. They’ve had the opportunity to develop core mountain and cold weather warfare skills.
Naval Today Staff , March 21, 2012; Image: royalnavy