UK: HMS York Comes Home After Five-Month Deployment


HMS York is on the last leg of her five-month deployment to the southern oceans after passing through the world’s greatest manmade waterway.

After the bulk of her deployment around the Falklands, Britain’s fastest destroyer warship shifted oceans to the Pacific to begin a seven-and-a-half-week passage back to her home base of Portsmouth.

Her first challenge was a safe transit of the Magellan Strait and Patagonia Canal taking her from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

With two Chilean Naval pilots embarked for two and a half days of ‘interesting’ and ‘challenging’ navigation…

York’s Navigator Lt Tim Langford put his extensive planning into practice with extra sailors closed up for the entire passage at critical areas around the ship – the bridge, cable party and steering gear compartment.

For particularly narrow bits there were also extra sailors manning the engine rooms and machinery control room.

Meanwhile for those not closed up, the passage afforded some of the most stunning views known to seafarers on the planet.

And while negotiating the canals, Chile celebrated Naval Day – a national holiday commemorating victory at the Battle of Iquique in 1879.

With two Chilean pilots aboard it was only right and proper that the event was marked with a winter warmer on the bridge wing with toasts and speeches.

Having landed the pilots, York headed north for the second of her homeward-bound challenges. After a week or so at sea she met two Chilean vessels some 60 miles out into the Pacific Ocean for a Replenishment at Sea (RAS).

It’s thought to be the first time in a decade that a British ship has taken supplies from a Chilean tanker (in this case CNS Almirante Montt), which was simultaneously RASing with Almirante Williams – formerly Type 22 frigate HMS Sheffield.

The Chileans do things much as we do – their Navy’s modelled to a considerable degree on the Senior Service and a good few Chilean sailors have ‘enjoyed’ the experience of Operational Sea Training off Plymouth.

And some things they do differently. Like blasting rock music across the upper deck during the middle of the fuel transfer…

With 350,000 litres of fuel – nearly 77,000 gallons or enough to fill the tanks of 6,300 Ford Focuses – transferred to York during the 80-minute RAS, the destroyer staged a fast steam past of the two Chilean vessels to show her gratitude before resuming her journey north.

Recognising that a Type 42 Destroyer needs a regular pit stop, the Chilean Navy were nothing but excellent from the moment the request for this RAS was submitted,” said York’s CO Cdr Simon Staley.

It was an extremely slick and professional connection and transfer of some 350,000 litres of fuel from the impressive tanker. There was a real sense of pride and camaraderie throughout the three-hour evolution.

Perhaps the most poignant element of the day has been the interaction with terrifically smart and well handled CNS Almirante Williams, formally known as HMS Sheffield. With the decommissioning of our own Type 22 fleet in the UK, and the progressive withdrawal from service of the Type 42 Destroyer as the Type 45 comes on line, in conducting a simultaneous RAS today it has probably been the last time the 2 classes of ship will ever operate together”.

Next stop Callao in Peru for a four-day break. On arrival there were the all-important official calls carried out by the captain as he paid courtesy visits to senior Peruvian officers, whose port authority laid on buses for the ship’s company so they could move between the harbour and the sights of nearby Lima.

A dozen officers from the Peruvian Naval Academy visited York for a discussion about dealing with the scourge of drug-running at sea and, on a less serious note, some 40 youngsters from Lima orphanage Casa Wasi Warmi were entertained with a tea party and a tour of the ship.

On sailing from Callao, York spent a day in company with the veteran Peruvian frigate BAP Montero. Several Yorkies sailed aboard the Montero and six Peruvians, well you get the picture.

A busy day of RAS approaches, flag signals and flashing light exercises as well as some boarding training and a double round of flying (York’s Lynx and Montero’s Huey) ensued.

Throughout Peru’s Admiral Calderon was onboard as were a team from Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.

Exercises complete, the Montero bore away and York made for Panama.

The short passage concluded with a forecastle barbecue – conducted in true British fashion with hungry sailors queuing in the rain for their burgers – and a night of ‘Go Fast’ racing (a spin on the traditional horse racing but using drug-runner fast boat models) hosted by the Petty Officers’ Mess which raised £750 for the ship’s charity, while riding at anchor off Panama City.

So to the world’s greatest manmade waterway. It takes ten hours to cover the 77 kilometres from the Pacific to the Caribbean, where York emerged and switched to counter-narcotics duties as she made for Kingston, Jamaica.

On the way her 815 NAS Lynx was scrambled to search for a suspected drugs boat – but sadly nothing was found.

The destroyer arrived in the Jamaican capital to find tanker RFA Wave Knight, Britain’s current counter-narcotics warrior, in port, taking a breather from her search for drug-runners.

Pretty much any run ashore is enjoyed by Jack and Jenny, but this one went down particularly well with LStd Silma Whitely who hails from Westmoreland, a stone’s throw (in the grand scheme of things) from Kingston.

“Since joining the Navy eight years ago this is the first time I have returned home in a warship. It was really exciting – all of my family came to see the ship and have a look around. They were as excited as I was,” she said.

Equally excitable were a group of children at the Christian Boys Home, a local orphanage whose surroundings are a little brighter thanks to a lick of paint inside and some elbow grease in the garden despite the blistering Caribbean temperatures.

Twenty-two sailors from York spent the day at the home, while 32 youngsters headed in the opposite direction to tour the Type 42 and enjoy a party aboard.

Fannie Knight, the 103-year-old (yes, really) director of the home said:

I feel very good about getting the help, and the boys were so excited about going on the ship.

NA(AC) Jon Forbes added: “Everyone has enjoyed taking part in this project and has found it very rewarding.”

Having packed such a lot into a short space of time, HMS York left Kingston in company with RFA Wave Ruler to conduct her last deployment RAS allowing her to top up prior to her final leg homeward.

After stops in Key West, Bermuda and the Azores, the Fastest 42 is due home in Portsmouth on July 8.
Source: royalnavy, June 15, 2011