UK: Six Crew Members of HMS Bulwark Complete 550-Mile Odyssey

Six Crew Members of HMS Bulwark Complete 550-Mile Odyssey

Six sailors and marines from the nation’s flagship were dumped in a remote bay in Scotland and ordered by their captain to rejoin HMS Bulwark 550 miles away. In the latest challenge set by the assault ship’s captain, the team secured free travel, free food, free accommodation and even met Royalty during their dash from Stranraer to Weymouth via London.

Six sailors and marines from the nation’s flagship completed a 550-mile odyssey from south-west Scotland to London and finally back to their ship in Weymouth with just the gift of the gab and their uniforms to help them on their way.

With just five minutes notice for challenge, the men and women from HMS Bulwark were summoned to the assault ship’s bridge, told they would be dumped ashore near Stranraer and would have to use their initiative to rejoin the warship a few days later in time for Olympic security training off the Dorset coast.

With the ship in Luce Bay completing her part in the biggest military exercise of the year, Marine engineer CPO Lou Lawson, aircraft handler LA Clare Callow, Royal Marine Cpl Richard ‘Banjo’ Lancaster, Wtr Michaela Tough and AB Paul ‘Buck’ Rogers rocked up and, as the event should be recorded for posterity, Bulwark’s photographer LA Martin ‘Chilli’ Carney was asked to join them.

The previous ‘mad challenge’ set five Bulwarkers the task of getting from the tip of Scotland to Faslane sans money and appear in the media, tour a distillery, play the bagpipes and generally blag a lot.

This time the flagship’s Commanding Officer Capt Alex Burton set the sextet the task of getting from Galloway to Weymouth to meet the ship for her Olympic security training exercise without the use of money.


For added ‘fun’, the captain decided they must visit each Olympic aquatic venue including the Water Polo Arena, Eton-Dorney, Lee Valley White Water Centre and Weymouth and Portland.

To make it even more interesting the challengers had to meet the Bishop, council chairman and Mayor of Durham, visit Durham Trinity School and Trinity House London, plug the ship on a TV show, meet a living Olympian and, before rejoining the flagship, produce a suitable commemorative photograph for HM The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Anyway, back to Luce Bay…

Once ashore, the six decided the first stop, once they’d orientated themselves, should be the pub – to hatch a plan, obviously.

That plan involved hitching to Stranraer… and then heading for the pub for more plan hatching…

In Stranraer, CPO Lawson persuaded railway staff to give free tickets to Edinburgh, where the team tried (and failed) to get a free night’s stay in a five-star hotel… but did stay in a hostel for £13.

Semi-refreshed, the next morning they blagged more free travel as far as Durham, where they were met off the train by the mayor.

The city’s bishop was away, but his dean obliged, as did the staff of Durham’s Trinity School who sorted out free fish and chips and a free night in a luxury hotel.

Next stop London.

Except the guard on the train south wasn’t quite as accommodating as predecessors in Scotland and booted the challengers off in Northallerton.

Luckily staff on the next train to York didn’t check tickets… and once in the historic city another train company was happy to provide free onward travel to the capital (and free cuppas all the way too).

Folk in the capital were just as helpful.

CPO Lawson once again proved he had a silvery tongue and sorted out two free nights at the Union Jack Club.

In London, the team accomplished all their goals bar one (appearing on the telly). They did, however, trump the ‘meet a living Olympian’ by meeting a living Olympian… and Royal to boot when they attended an event at Trinity House with Princess Anne (she rode with the equestrian team at the 1976 games in Montreal).

A bit more blagging (and a few more trips to the pub) and the six were back aboard Bulwark off Weymouth in time for the ship’s high-profile Olympic security exercise.

“The Navy often presents its personnel with challenging situations where wits and sharp thinking are key to resolving them. This one caught us all by surprise,” said Chilli.

“It tested our mettle and resourcefulness to the max. At times, the stress of certain situations showed as patience wore thin and voices became raised.

“But that professionalism which is instilled within us from the early stages of basic training prevailed and our personal differences would be quickly forgotten as we worked hard together to deal with the job in hand.”

Which is probably exactly what Capt Burton and his team want to hear.

This type of challenge tests these young sailors and marines’ initiative and resourcefulness whilst allowing them to apply their leadership and management training in an arena outside their normal sphere of operations,” says Bulwark’s Executive Officer Cdr Kevin Rowlands.

“The London 2012 motto is ‘inspire a generation’ and hopefully these sailors and marines will gain from their experience and inspire those that they lead.”


Naval Today Staff , May 14, 2012; Image: Royal Navy