Saturday, 10 December 2011

St Albans Coming Home

The Company were invited to send two members to join with our affiliated ship, HMS St Albans, at Lisbon for the final leg of its journey home from operations in the Persian Gulf. Hugh West and Jeremy Stern snapped up the chance to spend 6 days on board. You see them here on the left and to all intents and purposes this photograph makes it appear that they are on a windy deck of a luxury holiday cruise liner. In the interests of balanced reporting I show a photograph lower down of Hugh which makes it clear that they were on HMS St Albans.
I quote now short extracts from an interesting paper Hugh wrote about their experiences on board.
''Each department took us through a very detailed explanation of their role and many exercises were carried out to keep the crew on top form. This included fire drills, sea boat launches and firing salvoes from the main 4.5” gun managed by our excellent and patient host, the Principal Weapons Officer, Lt Cdr James Robey RN, as well as allowing us to fire their Gatling type mini gun and the general purpose machine guns personally. I declined the strong invitation to take part in the man overboard exercise which showed how efficient the crew handled emergencies.''

''The ship was over manned with additional crew and a Royal Marines detachment making accommodation rather tight. We were billeted with the Chief Petty Officers (they are very large!) and slept in a tier of three narrow steel bunks within a few inches of the raging Atlantic swell though the single-skinned hull. Showers and heads (toilets) were the deck above which proved a difficult passage when only dressed in a towel at 0600 hours!''

''After a final night we anchored in Spithead and the Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery CBE RN, visited the ship and made a speech to the whole crew, with us at attention, and then we weigh anchor and gently glide into sunny Portsmouth harbour to be greeted with columns of water from the fireboats and the emotional sight of hundreds of excited family members on the quay waiting to welcome home their loved-ones after their six month deployment accompanied by a Royal Marine Band.

''The experience was wonderful but it is the officers and crew that makes St Albans such an outstanding ship and I hope the Marketors’ affiliation with HMS St Albans will be of long-lasting mutual benefit and being in Home Waters, until her refit in 2013, there will be plenty of opportunities for us to reciprocate their hospitality.''

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