UK: Type 23 Frigate HMS Somerset Digs Deep And Raises Bar On Fitness


Having deployed from Devonport on 17 August, the type 23 frigate HMS Somerset has made good progress towards her operating area conducting maritime security operations.

As she makes her way into the Mediterranean the ship’s company remain focussed on her mission: to defend worldwide trade routes and deter threats to UK prosperity. With only a short period before the ship takes station, personnel are preparing for the physical demands that the mission will present.

The ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Paul Bristowe, said:

“En route to Gibraltar we have successfully conducted full functional checks of the ship’s systems and machinery. However, without fit and healthy operators and maintainers the equipment is of no use.”

The temperature is rising as we head towards our operating areas; I need my crew to be fully acclimatised to fulfil the maritime security mission.

“We must be physically and mentally prepared – and that is exactly what we are doing.”

Somerset’s maritime security tasking will include boarding operations wearing body armour, and the ship’s fire fighting and damage control teams must wear full breathing apparatus and protective clothing in the eventuality of an emergency onboard.

The ship has seen a significant increase in personnel with the embarkation of 829 Naval Air Squadron Merlin Flight and Royal Marine boarding team from the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines (FPGRM). Whilst they familiarise themselves with life onboard, the teams are repeatedly conducting boarding drills and integrating with the existing crew to form a cohesive operational unit.

Included in the training is the maintenance of strength and fitness for both the ships boarding teams. Their days will be long and physically demanding and both teams, ‘Blue’ (Royal Navy) and ‘Green’ (Royal Marines), are ensuring they remain at the peak of physical fitness.

Boarding of suspect vessels can be achieved either via the ship’s seaboats or fast-roping from the ship’s Merlin helicopter. Both are potentially dangerous, but the latter requires the boarding teams to support their body weight (and that of their assault rifle, ammunition, communications and body armour) with their upper body strength alone.

For the remainder of the personnel onboard, physical training continues – whether it is maintenance of cardio vascular, increasing strength and power or just maintaining a healthier lifestyle. The goal is not only for personal gain but to ensure they remain at a readiness to face the demanding role expected of them over the forthcoming months.

Whilst alongside in Gibraltar, members of the ship’s company took part in the traditional rock race – an early morning competition from sea level to the top of Gibraltar’s 1400 foot (430m) summit. Last year HMS Somerset won the award for the fastest average ascent.

This year the best individual time was achieved by Engineering Technician (Weapons Engineering) Nick Faucher (20, from Plymouth) who reached the top in 23 minutes and 46 seconds. Gibraltar also provided the opportunity to conduct boarding exercises with HMS Sabre, a Scimitar class fast patrol boat, of the Gibraltar Squadron.

HMS Somerset’s duties will include patrols throughout the Middle East region. Throughout her deployment she will remain at readiness to respond to any unscheduled tasking. Somerset is due to return to the UK in February 2012.

Source: royalnavy, August 29, 2011;