Hundreds of Torbay people enjoyed a taste of the Royal Navy at sea when the amphibious assault ship HMS Bulwark anchored off Torquay.
The 320-strong crew of the Plymouth-based ship HMS Bulwark hosted nearly 1,000 guests last weekend (22/24th July) and treated some to a dynamic action-packed programme demonstrating the versatility and power of the ship and crew.
HMS Bulwark’s Commanding Officer, Captain Alex Burton, said: “We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the warmth and hospitality extended to HMS Bulwark during our short visit. The enthusiasm shown by Torbay for the ship and the Royal Navy has been staggering. It has been a privilege to give Torbay a flavour of the Royal Navy’s capability and we sail with fond memories, hopefully, to return in the near future.”
More than 200 VIP guests were welcomed on board by the Naval Regional Commander Wales and the West of England, Commodore Jamie Miller before the ship’s company treated them to an evening’s display of the ship’s awesome capability. This including an exciting boarding demonstration mounted from HMS Bulwark’s landing craft, complete with gunfire, smoke and ‘bad guys’. The evening was rounded off with a Beating the Retreat and a ceremonial sunset performed by members of The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Plymouth. Visitors were then returned to shore by landing craft.
About 260 Torbay visitors from youth groups, ranging from Cadet Forces to potential Royal Navy recruits enjoyed guided tours allowing visitors to sample life afloat, get hands-on with the equipment and talk to the crew. After the tours lucky members of the ship’s company were treated to hospitality Torbay style. The Royal British Legion, celebrating their 90th anniversary, hosted ship’s company as did the Grand Hotel and Royal Yacht Club.
HMS Bulwark then threw open her gangway to the general public (Sunday). This was a rare opportunity for up to 500 visitors to travel, in a landing craft, out to the ship and see first-hand what the Royal Navy is about and in particular the capabilities the ship has to offer.
Back on shore sailors engaged in fixtures with Brixham Rugby Club and Upton Athletic Football team during her stay; unfortunately though, HMS Bulwark was defeated in both.
Whilst anchored near Torquay, Bulwark begun the weekend with literally a flying visit from Lady Ibbotson. Arriving by helicopter Lady Ibbotson, wife of Vice Admiral Richard Jeffery Ibbotson had lunch with commanding officer, Captain Alex Burton prior to inspecting Bulwark’s ceremonial guard, touring the ship and departing by helicopter.
HMS Bulwark will now continue with her operational training with the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation based in HM Naval Base Devonport prior to taking on the role of Fleet Flag Ship in October 11.
The ship is one of the Royal Navy’s two assault command and control ships including HMS Albion. Launched in 2001 she has a ship’s company of 380, a quarter of whom are made up from 4 Assault Squadron Royal Marines. The ship can also carry an extra 200 marines in dedicated accommodation for long periods and another 500 in austere conditions for short periods. Her flight deck can accommodate two Chinook or two Merlin helicopters. A large floodable dock holds four large landing craft – with another four carried on davits on the ship’s side.