Biggest Day Since The Fleet Returned From The Falklands

HMS Queen Elizabeth; a very nice edge in a firefight

HMS Queen Elizabeth; a very nice edge in a firefight

Tomorrow is the biggest day for the Royal Navy since the Fleet returned from the Falklands War. HMS Elizabeth will enter Portsmouth for the first time tomorrow at the currently scheduled time of 07:10hrs. Six tugs will bring her in with a flypast of Merlin and Wildcat helicopters and Hawk jets from 736 Naval Air Squadron. The wind limit for safe entry for this huge ship is 15 knots. It is in the DNA of the people of Portsmouth to support the Navy and large crowds are expected. 

Carrier timeline, (from

Carrier timeline, (from

The ship has been completing Phase 1 (machinery) trials since the 26th June which have apparently gone well apart from some propeller shaft issues which were attended to in Invergordon in a planned stop for refuelling and replenishment. Apparently the Captain and crew are happy with progress, not that we would know if they weren’t, but of course the ship is not yet commissioned into the Royal Navy. It is currently the property of the Aircraft Carrier Alliance until commissioning at which point the White rather than Blue Ensign will fly. Until then, (expected mid 2018), while the ship is the responsibility of it’s captain he must operate under direction of the sea trials manager. 

When HMS Elizabeth is operational, and her soon to follow sister ship the Prince of Wales, the perception and reality of the United Kingdom as a meaningful strategic power will undergo a significant change, both within the country and beyond. These ships will give the United Kingdom the ability to conduct operations with flexibility at arms reach from home waters, quickly, (relative to deploying an Army Division), and efficiently. They will provide a platform to support ground operations overseas, they will exercise a demonstration of political will and force if required, they will provide air cover to Naval Task Forces and of course operate in support of humanitarian missions and as intelligence gathering platforms. 

The bigger problem of course is that we don’t have many people in Westminster equipped either emotionally or intellectually to think strategically. Then we have the nagging concern that once they have new shiny toys in their play-pen they might be tempted to use them without judicious planning and forethought but that is a discussion for another day. For now, let Portsmouth and the ‘Andrew,’ celebrate.

A Bad Day At The Office

A Bad Day At The Office

When next you have a bad day at the office; think of the story that is to follow.  Imagine if you can, being in a ship in 'bomb alley,' with two unexploded bombs on board, one of them conveniently parked next to your own missile magazine, having lost power and steering.......... for five days while under constant air attack. That is exactly what happened to HMS Argonaut, a Leander class frigate. 

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Extraordinary Man Amongst Extraordinary Men

Britain Afghanistan Marines

I read the story below with growing awe, respect and admiration and have no words to add.

The tragedy leading to this award occurred during an Adventurous Training diving expedition off El Quseir in Egypt in August last year. 40 Commando, which organised the expedition, had only recently spent six months based at 'HMS Price' in central Helmand, Afghanistan for Operation HERRICK XVII. The citation from Supplement No.1 of Thursday 2 October 2014 of the London Gazette  speaks for itself:


St James’s Palace, London SW1

3 October 2014

The QUEEN has been graciously pleased to approve the award of the George Cross to the under mentioned:



Lieutenant Samuel John SHEPHARD, Royal Marines, 30140550.

On 3 August 2013, Lieutenant Shephard Royal Marines was snorkelling in Egypt during a diving exercise when a fellow diver, who was also his friend, suffered an embolism and sank rapidly to the bottom. Shephard rescued his friend’s body from a depth of approximately 60 metres.

At 1700 hours, in fading light and tired after six hours in the water, the pair were snorkelling with four others off a shallow reef 200 metres from the shore. The other diver briefly surfaced with the others, lost consciousness, and sank rapidly to a depth estimated at 40 metres, where he lay bleeding from the nose and mouth. Amidst the panic Shephard immediately took command of the group. He alerted his colleagues and the Dive Instructor on the beach; prepared the group for an evacuation and for 25 minutes sought to rescue the casualty by descending alone, rapidly without air or equipment. A qualified and equipped Dive Instructor arrived within minutes but judged it too dark, deep and dangerous to mount a rescue. Without hesitation Shephard disregarded the instructor’s advice, took his equipment and attempted his own rescue. Without a weight belt he demanded that he be pushed below the surface by his comrades so that he could gain neutral buoyancy to enable him to swim down. Conscious that he was diving to the very edge of accepted safe limits, and following a series of dives that day, he knew the risk of decompression sickness, paralysis or even death, was significant as he made his descent in the fading light. He had to overcome tremendous upward forces, swimming down in less than 5 metres visibility, to reach the bottom. 

Disorientated, now in almost complete darkness, and with a perforated ear drum, he searched for and located the casualty suspended upside down on the reef. His dive watch recorded a depth over 60 metres, far in excess of his training and where the air he was breathing was extremely toxic. Despite the immediate danger, Shephard fought to free his friend, sustained deep lacerations to his legs in the process and, placing himself at even greater risk, removed his mask to give the lifeless diver two rescue breaths. Shephard, now with negative buoyancy, fought against the immense pressure forcing him down to carry the casualty’s limp body back to the surface.

Dismissing the safety of a gradual ascent he risked a near certain severe decompression injury to get his friend to medical care. After 15 minutes in the gloomy water, and against his own expectation, he surfaced without incident. Shephard then led the ensuing evacuation, in the half light, over 200 metres of coral in bare and bloodied feet, providing continual emergency resuscitation until their arrival at the hospital. Unwavering throughout, he was focussed and extraordinarily composed during this most harrowing situation. Tragically, despite his heroic efforts, the casualty died.

In the face of extreme known and manifest personal risk, Lieutenant Shephard showed truly exceptional courage and fortitude in his efforts to save the life of his friend. His unhesitating, selfless act, though ultimately unsuccessful, commands the highest national recognition.

Lt Shephard was promoted Capt RM on 1 September 2013. The casualty was Lt Damien Moran RM.

HMS Prince of Wales

Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier

I suppose I ought not to call it HMS given it's some way from being named and launched or whatever the conventions of our naval chums are. Anyway, I spend enough time bashing the government they ought to be congratulated when they do something good. The decision to not mothball the Prince of Wales on delivery is a welcome respite to years of grinding cuts. We'll then have two! Remarkable isn't it that Great Britain having two aircraft carriers is a cause for rejoicing?

Given all the other news this week, mostly bad, I'm surprised that few commentators appear to have grasped the significance of the decision. At a stroke it sends a powerful and resolute message to our allies, "oh, so you are serious," and will keep us at the geopolitical top table. Nor will it be unnoticed by our enemies and it is an overdue shot in the arm to the Navy who for too long, have been the poor relation. Their morale has suffered somewhat with relentless reductions in scale and capability in the past two decades and this news ought to encourage more experienced men to stay on given their potential career paths just broadened.

don't worry son, the Royal Navy's out there to look after Christmas

I know there are other considerations, such as aircraft which we haven't yet sorted out but for the moment, we should take what's on offer. Clearly, the Navy are in the ascendant and I would think too, so are the Royal Marines. I'm not the only one who thinks its good news. There is a statistic that rolls around out there that says 90%+ of all Christmas presents under the tree come by sea. Little boys and girls can sleep safe then; the Royal Navy is there to protect Christmas for all children.....