A Royal Naval Lynx returns from its four month embarkation following a unique and successful deployment with a French warship in the Indian Ocean on Counter Piracy Operations. 217 Flight of 815 Naval Air Squadron arrived back at Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton to a family welcome following their deployment in the French Navy Frigate Surcouf.
During this they captured 12 suspected pirates following an attack on the Merchant Ship Jasmine by men armed with rocket grenades.
Surcouf was dispatched to support the European Union’s Operation Atalanta, a double mission to both eradicate the scourge of piracy and to safeguard shipping delivering aid to Somalia.
The deployment of the dozen-strong team from 217 Flight, headed by Flight Commander Lieutenant Mike Curd in Surcouf was the result of a treaty signed between the UK and France in 2010 pledging greater military cooperation and interoperability between the two countries.
“The experience has been really good; Challenges have been more on the human side than operational. One of the biggest challenges was the language as none of us were expert French speakers but it worked. There was some excellent team work during this deployment”, said Lt Curd.
Following the suspected pirate attack on the merchant vessel off the coast of Somalia the Lynx first located the two suspect boats and afterwards provided air cover for the Surcouf’s boarding team as they apprehended 12 men.
Lt Curd said, “we stopped the suspected pirates without having to fire a shot, although the two vessels split up over night we located and intercepted the first and went back for the second.”
The families were waiting eagerly to welcome the Flight home including Dawn Eccles wife of Matthew ‘Cakey’ Eccles and their two children Lewis (4) and Ethan (8).
Ethan said, “I have really missed my Dad and have finished school early to come and see him. Me and Lewis have made him a card and stuck it to the TV to surprise him when he gets back home.
I’ve been practising my French but I’m not very good but my little brother Lewis’s French is worse.”
Dawn said, “it’s been hard with the two boys on my own the last time Matthew was away I only had Ethan. I’m very proud but glad to have him back.”
Their mission, hailed as a great success as the first of its kind was followed closely by wife of Chief Petty Officer Richard ‘Ronnie’ Corbett, Catherine, who is 28 weeks pregnant.
Catherine said, “I have missed sharing our pregnancy with him but baby Corbett sent an email every week. Now he’s back its time for me to put my feet up.”
217 Flight’s deployment in Surcouf has been a great success and an opportunity to demonstrate the adaptability and operational capability the Fleet Air Arm is renowned for as well as improving military relations between the UK and France and the wider EU.
Having been away from their families at Christmas time they are all really looking forward to some downtime together.
Naval Today Staff, March 14, 2013; Image: Royal Navy