The crew of Britain’s future flagship HMS Albion are half-way through all-action autumn training to prepare them for duties around the globe.
Three weeks into her operational sea training off the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, HMS Albion has already sent Royal Marines ashore to ‘storm’ West Country beaches, patched up a mock community affected by natural disaster, and launched an attack on a Cornish fortress.
This is the final hurdle the sailors and Royal Marines must overcome to prove they are ready for the potential real challenges ahead. The training includes everything from diplomacy through to delivering humanitarian aid and a full-scale amphibious landing.
After a two-year £90m refit to bring the ship back into service following four years in extended readiness in her home base of Devonport in Plymouth, the assault ship has undergone extensive trials and training since returning to sea in the summer.
The goal is to be ready to relieve HMS Ocean as Britain’s flagship and the on-call amphibious vessel, ready to respond to world events at immediate notice from the spring of 2018.
Operational training begins at a fairly low intensity, gradually building up to simulate all-out conflict, large-scale civilian evacuations and full-on amphibious operations.
So the cavernous vehicle deck has been filled with 150 tonnes of equipment and vehicles from the Commando Logistics Regiment from North Devon.
Some 500 Royal Marines – drawn from across the Corps – have joined the ship, plus the staff of 3 Commando Brigade and the Commander Amphibious Task Group.
Seventy officer cadets from Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth are also aboard for their first extended period of time at sea who joined the ship from landing craft when HMS Albion was conducting training around the Dart estuary.
Merlin helicopters from the ‘Flying Tigers’ of 814 NAS and maritime Wildcat of 815 NAS have been on and off the flight deck around the clock delivering personnel and equipment.
As part of their training the ship’s crew rehearsed disaster response to a scenario involving a storm hitting a mythical Chester – HMS Albion’s affiliated city – otherwise known as Bull Point, the specialist disaster-relief training complex in Devonport Naval Base in Plymouth.
The Victorian fort at Tregantle, guarding Whitsand Bay in Cornwall and the western approaches to Plymouth, was subject to an exercise assault by commandos coming ashore from landing craft.
HMS Albion is expected to complete training in December and after a Christmas leave, further exercises are lined up for the beginning of 2018 before the assault ship relieves HMS Ocean.