The Royal Navy’s Flagship HMS Bulwark has given personnel from the Army and the RAF a taste of life on the ocean wave which ended with a steely display of her amphibious skills.
Nearly 350 students, including international officers, from the Advanced Command and Staff Course from all three Services embarked for an overnight stay on Sunday where they were given a series of demonstrations and displays of the Royal Navy in action.
As well as displays in the key areas of the ship including the Operations Room, Galley and Bridge, the students saw the kit including embarked helicopters, sea boats and the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operations (HADRO) pack consisting of equipment that was most recently used by HMS Daring and HMS Illustrious in the Philippines.
This was followed by dynamic displays of air defence against two Hawks, a Replenishment at Sea (RAS) with RFA Wave Knight and a display of Naval Fire Support provided by HMS Richmond.
An amphibious assault was the final part of the show with the students embarked in landing craft to witness an attack by the Royal Marines on Browndown beach in Gosport.
“We launched landing craft from HMS Bulwark onto the beach where they were then involved in a short firefight,” explained Royal Marine and Amphibious Operations Officer Lieutenant Colonel Rich Maltby.
“We also sent the quick reaction force, which is a group of Marines held at short notice to move, to engage the enemy and neutralise the threat.”
For many of the students embarked on HMS Bulwark this was the first time they had lived on board a ship and been able to witness the key facets of a capable and agile maritime force in action.
The aim of the visit is to allow students to evaluate RN capability in the joint environment, learn how Task Groups knit together and about the effects that the Maritime Component can project ashore. For land and air students in particular it is designed to demonstrate the utility of maritime forces.
Lieutenant Colonel Ian Large of the Adjutant General’s Corps (Staff and Personnel Support) said it had been a fantastic experience.
“For me it was great to see it in action – we have had all the capability briefs and talks and, having spent 24 hours on board, it was really important to see the Royal Navy and Royal Marines showing us what they can do,” he said.
“It was also a fascinating insight into how sailors live on board – that they have just a bunk and locker for all their belongings, that they don’t have access to Wi-Fi and can’t just get off and see their friends all the time was sobering for us.
“It really has given a greater understanding of life on board – and one thing I will take away is how people have several roles, so they have their core job and then do firefighting or first aid as well. That is a message we should all be looking at for our own Services.”
Wing Commander Bruce Farquhar, a pilot with the Royal Air Force has been embarked on ships previously with aircraft, but said it was always interesting to witness other Services in action.
“It has been an excellent experience,” he said. “One of the biggest things for me is understanding the environment that the sailors live and work in, I don’t think you can understand being at sea until you have actually been to sea.”
The RN students will now experience similar days with the Army and RAF to ensure all have a good working knowledge of the wider organisation. The ACSC generally comprises SO1 level officers destined for command and staff appointments, and students are encouraged to ask questions and focus on the challenges of operations.
Press Release, May 22, 2014; Image: Royal Navy