HMS Bulwark prepares for Anglo-French amphibious drill

Royal Navy’s amphibious assault ship HMS Bulwark and the Royal Marines are warming up for a major Anglo-French exercise in the Bristol Channel and Irish Sea by learning and re-learning the basics of putting troops and their equipment ashore.

The two-week exercise South West Sword runs through all the complex elements of a landing.

Making use of the beach at Pentewan (a popular spot for practice invasions thanks to its relative shelter from the elements and the gradient), Bulwark disgorged men and vehicles of 42 Commando from her vehicle dock on to shore via landing craft (large enough to carry Challenge 2 tanks).

At the same time, Merlin helicopters from 846 Naval Air Squadron, Wildcats from 847 Naval Air Squadron (both based in RNAS Yeovilton, Somerset) and RAF Chinooks from 27 Squadron (based in RAF Odiham, Hampshire) practised operating to and from Bulwark’s large flight deck. It’s the first time the battlefield version of the Merlin, the Mk3, has flown on to Bulwark.

Commanding Officer Captain James Parkin said: “Intensive amphibious training of this nature is vital to ensure we are ready to respond when the government requires Bulwark to act.”

“The first week of South West Sword was excellent as the maritime, air and land parts of amphibious operations came together for the first time this year. It’s especially good to see the new Merlin ‘Junglies’ of the Commando Helicopter Force at sea, working with Bulwark for the first time.”