UK: Plymouth Based Warship Wins Prestigious Trophy for Second Year Running
Plymouth based warship, HMS Ocean, has been awarded a trophy as the Royal Navy’s most effective large ship for 2011 having also won it in 2010. HMS Ocean has won the 2011 Effectiveness Trophy in two categories ‘Capital Ship’ and ‘Naval Capability’, the latter in conjunction with the Apache Air Group.
Rear Admiral Clive Johnstone OBE, the Admiral responsible for training ships before they deploy on operations, visited the ship to present the trophies. The awards recognise the hard work of the ship’s company and the embarked air group during 2011, an extremely busy year for the helicopter carrier, which at 20,700 tonnes is the largest ship in the Royal Navy.
Last year HMS Ocean originally deployed to the Mediterranean for a seven week amphibious exercise to test the Royal Navy’s new Response Force Task Group concept before being rapidly re-tasked to the coast of Libya as part of the NATO mission to protect civilians. Once there, her Army and Navy helicopters dealt precise blows to the Gaddafi regime with the Apaches flying 49 missions and the Sea King Mk 7s completing 99 sorties. There were more than 2,000 deck landings by embarked and visiting aircraft. When HMS Ocean finally returned to Plymouth just before Christmas, she had spent 229 days away with 176 of those being at sea during which she steamed more than 40,000 miles.
HMS Ocean’s Commanding Officer, Captain Andrew Betton said:
“It was a huge honour to win the efficiency trophy for a second year running but it does underline the inherently versatile nature of amphibious ships like HMS Ocean and in particular the capability and flexibility of the sailors and marines serving onboard.“
However, despite the very operational focus of 2011 HMS Ocean’s crew still found time to win three sporting trophies, two for rowing and one for running. First up was the Montague Cup for the fastest 50 x 1km on a Concept II rowing machine which was organised by a group of trainee officers undertaking their initial fleet training. This was not the first time that HMS Ocean has won this trophy having also done so in 2010. On the return journey to the UK, two further trophies were competed for and won. The Row the Suez challenge requires 81 people to row 2,000m whilst the ship is on transit through the Suez Canal with the aim of their total time beating the ship’s time. Although the Ocean rowers weren’t faster than the ship they were the fastest in the Fleet. The ship’s final port of call of the deployment was Gibraltar and, as is traditional, a ‘Top of the Rock Race’ was held. Starting at the ship the route is only 2 2/3 miles long but rises up from 15 feet above sea level to 1300 feet, finishing just beneath the top cable car station. The first six runners home count towards the competition and again HMS Ocean was the fastest Royal Navy ship with AET Jon Davies quickest in 23 min 6 sec.
Also present onboard at the trophy presentation was Major Mike Neville of the Army Air Corps, who commanded the Apaches last year, and Mr Derek Blois, an artist and father of one of the Apache pilots based onboard HMS Ocean. He has painted a picture to commemorate the ship’s involvement with the Libya campaign which was presented to the ship’s officers to hang in the Wardroom.
Although 2012 is shaping up to be a slightly less busy year, it will nonetheless be a rewarding one for the ‘Mighty O’, as the ship is known. Currently coming to the end of a period of maintenance, HMS Ocean is looking forward to visiting Sunderland, her affiliated city, in late May. The main focus this summer though will be in support of the Olympics when the ship will be based at Greenwich acting as a base for Royal Navy and Army Air Corps helicopters enhancing the existing UK air security arrangements. She will also provide support to police maritime operations on the Thames and accommodation for military personnel based in London during the Games. At the end of the year, the ship will commence a major refit in order to allow her to continue to provide amphibious helicopter support until replaced by the new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
Naval Today Staff , March 28, 2012; Image: royalnavy