Monthly Archives: February 2013

Reservists support Jordan Exercise

165 Port Regiment, RLC (V)

Sat in the office on a late autumn afternoon it seemed like there would be no escape from another 8 pages of legal gibberish with the usual demand for an immediate response. And then the phone rang.

SSgt Leon, our PSI, isn’t one to ring for a chat and calls from him are worth listening to. He didn’t disappoint. “Do you have a passport and can you go away for a week in two weeks time?” Talk of passports always grabs my attention this seemed interesting, one click of the mouse and my diary was cleared.

17 Port & Maritime had been asked to supply a gang to support the ongoing exercises in Jordan, Pashtun links and Pashtun Vortex. We would go to Aqaba port unload all the vehicles and supplies for those exercises in November and load anything they hadn’t eaten, lost or broken, back on to the ship in January.

The regiment had kept open two places for 165 Port Regt. This was the culmination of some careful work to bring about closer working relations between the regular army and the TA unit. LCpl Karl Wilson and I were the beneficiaries of this. The ever helpful PSI was on hand to offer us his wisdom, “Don’t sod this up, I have told them you two know what you are doing.”

We left Marchwood in the early hours and headed for Brize Norton from where we flew direct to Aqaba. There had been talk of luxury hotels. Mind you there had also been talk of tents in the desert. On landing it quickly became clear that those who had packed their swimming shorts and Dead Sea bath salts were going to be disappointed.

The first night was spent in a hanger on the airfield the place was infested with pigeons and their falling droppings.  It is moments like this where the resourceful nature of port ops comes to the fore. As others put up bashers or cowered under cardboard the boys set up an 8 man gaming table out of scrap airline seats and unused aluminium.

Our accommodation for the rest of the trip was a tented complex in the desert an hour North of Aqaba and although it was no hotel it does make you enjoy the simple things in life, like a space near the air con, or the Holy Grail… a plug point. Initially food was ration packs so the lads took any excuse to get out and buy food before the field kitchen was set up.

LCpl Drake is on the far right of the picture.

LCpl Drake is on the far right of the picture.

On the ship is where port ops come into their own. We had been reliant on the efforts of others thus far for food and accommodation and now they waited for us to do our thing. For those of us who don’t do this job everyday it is essential to get back into it quickly or you quickly earn the displeasure of the gang. I was grateful to LCpls Jay Virr and Mahni? who were on hand to offer guidance or advice when it was needed. I was also glad to have Ptes Laggler Duff and Wilson whose calm influence stopped a flap setting in.

Once the last bit of kit was off the ship came the long awaited away day at the Beach club. This was a perfect opportunity to enjoy snorkelling on perfect reef just yards from the beach and a couple of beers. In terms of job satisfaction it takes some beating.

The flight back stopped over in Cyprus for a night. It wouldn’t be a night in Cyprus without a visit to the Acki Arms. The next day provided a visit to the harbour. A quick swim in the Med and back to a rainy Brize Norton.

The second leg of the deployment was loading the ship in January.

The travel arrangements were different. It was civilian flights and the rumours of a hotel were true. By now we also knew where the important landmarks were. Burger King and the Rovers Return being right up there.

The hotel was magnificent. It isn’t often that the Army pays for accommodation like this and we had a duty to make the most of it. Slippers and robes were donned and the massed ranks of the Port Tasking Group headed for the spa. This was followed by cigars on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba.

Before we could start reloading the ship we had to get the vehicles from the convoy park to the port. This took the entire day, during which time LCpl Virr managed to break the brand new jeep he had been given. Fortunately the hire company were on hand to replace it with something even faster and newer.

This was the fullest ship I have loaded for some time. A quick nod from Cpl Coops gave me the tank deck. I had not previously had my own deck and one of the highlights for me was being trusted with this.

One of the problems with being TA is that you are frequently asked to slot in with a well drilled unit who know the job and each other very well. The TA has historically been viewed with suspicion by our regular counterparts who have unfairly likened it to a social club for the old and bold. This view is changing.

It is only by TA soldiers going on deployments like this and working with the regulars that we build relationships with the guys that improve. This happens with individuals to start with and as more of us form these working links this will gather pace. It’s already underway. A large part of Op Tosca departing for Cyprus next month will be made up of TA soldiers and there will be more opportunities for us to go away with the regulars, learn from them and hopefully be a valued part of their effectiveness.

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Sea Cadets carry out Community Service

Gosport Sea Cadets

That’s not ‘community service’ in the legal sense but as part of the Cadets’ training programme where Cadets are encouraged to go out into the community and help other people. On this occasion, Nicola Hepple, Assistant Manager at the Discovery Centre, had asked for the Cadets to help in moving the extensive stock of library books from the Discovery Centre, down three flights of stairs and across the road to the Community Centre where the new library will be located.

As arranged, 9 Cadets and 2 adults mustered at the Discovery Centre at 1030 on Saturday morning and were briefed by Nicola, the best part of which was where the Cadets were informed that, on completion of the task, the Cadets would be supplied with ‘tea and stickies’ in the best Naval tradition. The Discovery Centre staff also entered into the spirit of the event by dressing up as pirates.

Nicola briefing the Cadets

Nicola briefing the Cadets

Nicola then lead her team of enthusiastic Cadets away to begin the task and, in very short order, the books were flying off the shelves and were on their way to the Community Centre.

When the task was successfully completed to Nicola’s satisfaction she thanked the Cadets for all their effort and good humour and, true to her word, the promised ‘tea and stickies’ materialised, which all the Cadets agreed was the best part of the event.

The Cadets swing into action

The Cadets swing into action

The Cadets taking part were:-

Petty Officer Cadet Rich, Ordinary Cadet Killeen, OC Barry, OC Sherman, Cdt. Kitcherman, Cdt. A Frasle, Cdt. F Frasle, Cdt Sherman, Cdts. J and J King and Junior Cdt. First Class Hatch.

Gosport Sea Cadets meet every Tuesday and Friday evening at their headquarters in Berkley Hall, Royal Clarence Yard between 1900 and 2100. Young people aged 10 to 18 are taught life skills such as teamwork, leadership and socialising as well as practical skills such as sailing, power boating, expedition training and firefighting amongst many other things. E-mail or telephone 02392 580772 for further information.

Exercise Atlantis Barbara

457 Battery, Royal Artillery

A total of 9 personnel from 457 Battery, part of 106th Regiment, Royal Artillery were invited to take part in Exercise ATLANTIS BARBARA 2013 which sees soldiers from across the Royal Artillery sail to the Atlantic Islands between September 2012 and April 2013.    The exercise is comprised of 12 two week legs, and will involve a total of 110 personnel.  To ensure that the maximum number of people could attend this unique opportunity, the regiment chose to split the leg in two half’s, each sub-leg lasting a week.

Having left behind a cold, icy and snow covered Southampton on the 24th of Jan,  4 members from 457 Battery, based in Southampton, headed to Gatwick Airport to fly out to Lanzarote.   As novice sailors, who’s total number of sailing hours between us you can count on one hand, we did not really know what to we had really let ourselves in for. Tales of huge rolling Atlantic waves, sea monsters, constant seasickness and shark infested waters had done the rounds.

There is a good mix of Full and Part-time soldiers, including 3 personnel from our sister Regiments (12th Regiment, RA and Kings Troop, RA& JGBAD).  We stepped off the plane to be greeted by blue sky and sunshine and met up with our skipper and our new home for the next few 7 days.

The Saint Barbara

The Saint Barbara V

The yacht, St Barbara V looks rather ‘compact’ for nine people from the outside and from the inside it looked even more ‘compact’, our accommodation composed of a series of bunks/cots and a locker.   We were taken through a series of safety and yacht briefs, assigned roles and also introduced to vast array of new terms.   Just like being in the field exercise or on Ops to ensure the smooth running a strict ‘do you need it now, if not put it away policy’ is essential.

We left the safety of the harbour and ventured out to sea to begin our RYA Competent Crew syllabus, by the end of the exercise we will have covered: sail handling, helming, trimming sails, knots and rope work, mooring, anchoring, rules of the road and more.

Carrying out engine maintenance

Carrying out engine maintenance

Tasks which you take for granted such as cooking in galley (kitchen) and using the heads (toilets) were a bit more complex than they when on land.  Cooking for a crew of 9 was not something we were used too, especially on a very basic 2 ring and oven stove, when at sea, in 5m high swell,  while you are strapped to the stove to prevent everything sliding everywhere.   Having said that after a few days of finding our sea legs, our competitive natures kicked in and we were able to produce dishes such as a chocolate sponge cake and paella.

Over the course of the next 6 days we were on a strict deadline to sail South to ensure we reach Tenerife to hand over to the next batch of 7 sailors to come out from the Regiment, who are going to sail North back to Lanzaote.

We made brief calls in to Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria and have so far seen sharks, turtles, dolphins and a string ray.

For more information on 457 Battery RA visit