Royal Navy amphibious assault ship, HMS Bulwark, has returned to Plymouth from operations in the Mediterranean leading a major Royal Navy deployment.
The Plymouth-based ship was leading this year’s exercise Cougar comprising exercises with the French Navy off Corsica and then Exercise Trident Juncture, the largest NATO exercise for a decade involving 30 nations, 60 ships and 36000 personnel. HMS Bulwark completed the deployment by providing security support to the Maltese Armed Forces for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, including hosting her Majesty the Queen on board.
The ship’s commanding officer, Captain Nick Cooke-Priest, said: “Our return to Plymouth marks the finale of a truly outstanding year for HMS Bulwark. From the poignancy of Gallipoli 100, via the humanitarian assistance of Operation Weald in the Mediterranean to the operational focus of Cougar 2015, it has been a year that has seen HMS Bulwark at the heart of naval, and national activity.”
When away from exercises and operations, the ship visited to Gibraltar, Toulon, Palermo and Malta. High profile visits have been received from the Prime Minister, Home Secretary and high ranking NATO officials culminating with a rousing cheer by the entire crew for the Queen in Malta.
Cougar 2015 exercised the UK’s maritime high readiness joint expeditionary force, demonstrating the Royal Navy’s ability to keep Britain safe, reassure friendly nations and enhancing her prosperity by projecting a highly effective maritime force anywhere in the world to protect trade routes if needed.
Devonport-based HMS Bulwark was joined by HMS Ocean with Apache, Chinook and Wildcat helicopters embarked from the Joint Helicopter Command together with Royal Navy Merlin helicopters. Royal Marines completed the force.
HMS Bulwark will conduct maintenance before embarking on another busy operational programme next year.
Based in Devonport, HMS Bulwark is one of the Royal Navy’s two amphibious assault command and control ships and has a crew of 350, a quarter of whom are 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines. A large floodable dock holds four large landing craft – with another four carried 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, HMS Bulwark remains at 5-days notice to deploy worldwide.