The Royal Navy’s fleet amphibious flagship HMS Bulwark marked the 90th birthday of Her Majesty the Queen while in the middle of an intensive international exercise at sea.
Sailors and Royal Marines of the 20,000-ton assault ship spelled a ‘90’ on the flight deck and the ship’s chefs baked a special cake, subsequently enjoyed by the ship’s company at a special birthday ‘stand easy’ or rest break and between helicopters landing and taking off.
The Plymouth-based ship took time out from the Anglo-French Exercise Griffin Strike while at sea in the Bristol Channel for the event.
Captain James Parkin, the Captain of HMS Bulwark said: “On behalf on my ship’s company I would like to offer our loyal greetings and best wishes to Her Majesty on the occasion of her 90th birthday. My sailors and marines were delighted and honoured to be able to mark the occasion in such a special way, and everyone on board wishes her many happy returns for this landmark occasion.”
The cake, shaped into the figure 90 was made by the ship’s logistics department with leading chefs Nick Pryor and Chris Lynch taking the lead. The ceremonial ‘90’ on the flight deck consisted of 90 personnel and was coordinated by ship’s ceremonial training officer Petty Officer Andrew Morgan of the warfare department, forming the numbers to millimetre-precision in the brief period between helicopter landings on the flight deck.
Griffin Strike is in its second week and is culminating off South Wales this week following co-ordinated beach assaults by sea and air from the Royal Marines, working with helicopters and aircraft of all three of the UK armed services, and subsequently linking up with a considerable number of UK and French land forces.
The entire exercise is the culmination of many years of UK-French military and naval cooperation and is a key component of the commitment towards joint working made by both nations at the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement in 2010.
HMS Bulwark will continue her busy programme of operations and training in north-west European waters after the exercise and – after a brief maintenance period – will lead the Royal Navy’s Joint Expeditionary Force (Maritime) deployment later in the year.
Based in Devonport naval Base, HMS Bulwark is one of the Royal Navy’s two amphibious assault command and control ships. She has a crew of 350, a quarter of whom are made up from 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines (4 ASRM).
The ship is designed to carry up to 225 marines in dedicated accommodation for long periods and another 500 in austere conditions for short periods.
A large floodable dock holds four large landing craft – with another four carried on davits on the ship’s side. The larger craft can carry up to 120 troops or a Challenger 2 main battle tank. For the humanitarian mission, they have been loaded with lifejackets, water, food, medical supplies and shelter.
HMS Bulwark is retained at high readiness for contingent operations – whether combat operations, providing humanitarian assistance or disaster relief. The ship remains at 5-days notice to deploy worldwide.