Adventurous sailors from a Plymouth-based warship have completed a cross-Europe car rally in a ‘banger’ to raise money for charity
Whilst their warship HMS Somerset was undergoing work following a refit in dry dock a group of engineers competed in a long-distance car rally .
Four senior ratings – leading hand engineering technicians (LET) – from the Devonport-based Type 23 frigate embarked on the journey of a lifetime across four countries, covering 1,500 miles in a £200 car in order to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
After conducting six months of maritime security operations in the Middle East, HMS Somerset has just emerged from a planned up-keep period in dry dock including upgrades and maintenance. Weapon engineering ratings Daniel Morris, Lisa Lee, John Parkes and Lynne Donnachie managed to complete the mammoth road trip in four days. They were one of only ten teams to finish, coming in 3rd place with a 100-Euro prize. Engineering challenges they were qualified to tackle including a damaged rear suspension, degraded brakes and a sheared exhaust.
Following the general concept of a banger rally, the event was arranged by the Random Rallies organisation. The push to take part came from Daniel Morris. With a keen motivation to travel, a love of driving and a passion to raise money for charity, he brought the idea to the team. Cancer Research UK was chosen because a member of his family is currently in remission from cancer.
The ship’s Weapon Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Commander Paul Evans, joked: “When approached by four LETs I was half-expecting a mutiny. The well-considered proposal was delivered with such enthusiasm and the attention to detail was highly compelling. All my leading hands have successfully assumed greater responsibility during upkeep, stepping up to the mark in the absence of key senior ratings. The spirit and camaraderie of this event epitomised the Naval ethos and leave to go ahead was approved.”
The perfect car was then chosen, a 1995 1.6 Honda Civic in the classic grey Royal Navy colour was found after an extensive search and christened HMS Carnage and given a Royal Naval White Ensign on the make-shift foremast.
Starting at Devonport, where HMS Somerset had emerged from the Babcock frigate refit complex dry dock, the team drove overnight from Plymouth to Dover and caught an early morning ferry to Calais before an arduous 500-mile drive south through France to Annecy. The two challenges of the day included an obscure quiz and supercar spotting. A convenient passing of a supercar showroom in Annecy put the team high on the leader board by the end of day one.
The following day, the team set off for the Alps and Chamonix and Mont Blanc and answered a landscape photo challenges. Following a cold night’s sleep in a pop-up tent in southern Germany, the team set off from Frieburg and headed north to Nurburg and the famous Nurburgring race circuit.
By day four the intrepid explorers were 5th so a big effort was required to recover their position. Nurburg to Amsterdam was the last leg, Windmill hunters and Mascot Lovers was the last challenge. Photos were required to be taken of the team with a windmill for the first of the challenges, the second was mascot – the White Ensign & foremast. At the finish line, Dam Square in Amsterdam the team was given 3rd.
Total monies raised amounted to £530 which came from charity bake sales, a just giving account and the prize money for their valiant third placed effort. LET Morris said “It was a very proud moment. I am very privileged to have been able to represent HMS Somerset and raise some money for charity.”
Lt Cdr Evans said: “The whole ship’s company have been working very hard during our deployment and subsequent up-keep period, so it was a good chance for us to do some teamwork away from the day to day routines alongside,” He added: “Being able to be part of a team is part of Naval life, so this was another exciting, challenging and worthwhile opportunity not to be missed.”
Having sailed in August 2011 and returned in February this year, HMS Somerset has been conducting maritime
security operations, ensuring freedom of navigation to merchant vessels in the world’s busiest trade routes. A professionally satisfying deployment, HMS Somerset was able to achieve operational successes – including direct pirate disruption – as well as providing life-saving assistance to stranded fishermen on the high seas.