South West-based warship HMS Ocean has today (Friday) sailed into its home port of Plymouth from London following the success in keeping the capital safe during the Olympic Games.
The Devonport Naval Base helicopter & commando carrier will now enter a 12-month refit in Devonport. HMS Ocean provided a highly visible presence on the Thames at Greenwich for the summer, acting as a helipad for aircraft to patrol the skies and as accommodation for more than 400 soldiers on Olympic security duties.
The ship felt greatly privileged to have taken part in such a high profile and historic event, although some were more honoured than others as two sailors were specially selected to attend Olympics occasions. Leading Seaman Luke Manley was chosen to attend the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony and Naval Airman Paul Wright was rewarded for his service with a visit to the Guildhall, where medal-winning athletes were hosted by VIPs.
Paul, 25, of Liverpool, an aircraft handler who helped manage the many helicopter flights from HMS Ocean, swapped notes with helicopter pilot Prince William at the reception. He said: “It was fantastic to meet the athletes and William and Kate. William was very interested in my job. We had something in common. He wanted to know the procedures and how we handle helicopters on a warship. He really wanted to land onto Ocean at some time. This was a really good for the Royal Navy, a very high profile job in the capital.’’
Paul has been in the Navy for four years and joined HMS Ocean shortly before the ship was involved in the Libyan conflict. He said: “I had to learn my operational role very fast. I’d have never believed at that time we’d have been taking part in such an historic event like the Olympics and certainly not when I joined the Navy.’’
Luke, 27, from Glenholt, Plymouth, is an electronics expert and provides warfare intelligence to the command. He said: “Being in the executive seats in the Olympic Stadium for the games opening ceremony was the highlight of my career. It was an amazing show. Meanwhile, while on duty on the ship working hard we still felt the buzz of the Olympics because we were close to the equestrian event at Greenwich and because we had so many VIP visitors.”
As well as hosting high profile visits from the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Princess Royal, the ship controlled 180 landings from seven types of aircraft and sent personnel on more than 120 security patrols along the river. While coordinating flying operations the flight team clocked a total of 1,680 hours of flying aircrew and snipers in their embarked Lynx helicopters.
While the ship ran its security operation, the public was also welcomed on board with three open days attracting more than 11,000 visitors to explore the ship and meet the team keeping the capital safe. Three charity
Receptions were hosted on HMS Ocean while their chefs busied themselves in the galley cooking up more than 100,000 meals for the ship’s company while visits from the Team GB athletes helped keep morale high.
The sailors were also given the chance to explore Number 10 Downing Street after a personal invite from the Prime Minister to thank them for their efforts. Writer Colin Lingwood, aged 21, said: “It was a real honour for me to get a chance to visit such an important building, especially because it’s so rarely open to the public. The most memorable part of the tour was our visit to the Cabinet Room, it was a great experience to stand in a room where all the big decisions that affect so many people’s lives are made.”