As HMS Monmouth hits the five-month mark on her Maritime Security patrol of the Gulf, it is worth taking stock of what is required to keep a Type 23 frigate and her Ship’s company of over 200 sailors and Royal Marines continuously on task and ready for action.
Sustainability is the key theme running through the command’s aims and objectives. It’s not just about making sure the Ship keeps ticking over, it’s about ensuring that everyone on board has what they need to do their job to the highest standard possible. Over the past five months the Ship has taken on board nearly 3,000 cubic metres of fuel and served 90,000 meals to the 200 souls onboard.
When the ship does return alongside for replenishment, the main broadcast pipe of “Clear Lower Deck, Store Ship” brings the whole Ship’s company onto the upper deck with a look of eager anticipation on their faces. From the Wardroom to the Junior Ratings, all eyes are on the jetty to see what this evolution will involve. Forming a human chain from the delivery vehicles to the store rooms, provisions are manhandled onboard with the impressive efficiency of a well oiled machine. Issues of iced lollies go a long way to lift morale, particularly as the storing can involve shifting two tonnes of spuds in the blistering Arabian heat!
In some respects getting the stores on board is the easy part, the real skill lies in the members of the Logistics department who order it, account for it, issue it, log it, cook it and serve it. And that’s not all they do; diverse but important secondary roles such as Damage Control Officer, fire fighting team leader, boarding team member, first aider, and Flight Deck Officer all have to be completed around the day job. It all goes to show our ‘Loggies’ really do keep the Ship going!
Replenishment doesn’t just happen alongside either, as demonstrated by the “double headed” transfer of fuel and ammunition recently conducted with RFA Fort Victoria. Both ships were designed to conduct Replenishment At Sea (RAS) operations together using 2 rigs simultaneously, and the efficiency with which the two ships undertook this complex manoeuvre made for an impressive sight.
Shore replenishments make this a rare occurrence, and undertaking it in defence watches when limited to 50% manning would make this a particularly testing challenge for most – but not so for the Black Duke!
“Maintaining 2 transfer lines made steering the correct course particularly challenging, as the tension on the thick steel wires acted to drag the two ships closer together,”
said Special Sea Dutyman Ship driver LPT Danny Card.
“My driving had to correct for this. When the loads came across I needed to compensate by up to 15 degrees of wheel to just keep the Ship on a steady course”.
There was even an element of drama as a small but stubborn fishing dhow stopped directly in the path of the replenishing vessels. A well drilled series of whistles and blasts initiated the emergency breakaway procedure as the vessels disconnected with a calm efficiency, manoeuvring around the obstinate fisherman and reconnecting to complete the transfer of ammunition and fuel.
Currently in her 20th year of service, the Plymouth based warship is helping to maintain stability and security to the Gulf region as part of the Royal Navy’s continued presence in the region over the past 30 years.
Naval Today Staff, March 21, 2013; Image: Royal Navy