HMS Ocean returns to its home-port of HM Naval Base, Devonport at Plymouth on Friday (21 September) after two months on the Thames supporting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. HMS Ocean, the Royal Navy’s largest warship, has been moored on the river Thames off Greenwich playing a key role in the London 2012 security plan.
Captain Andrew Betton, commanding officer of HMS Ocean, said: “After two months moored on the River Thames supporting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, our return home to Plymouth closes a fascinating chapter in the ship’s life. HMS Oceanhas provided a fully equipped base for Royal Navy and Army helicopters, accommodating more than 1,000 military personnel from all three armed services working in support of the Games. Whilst moored in London we have also welcomed almost 20,000 visitors onboard and it has been a fantastic and thoroughly rewarding experience to have played our part in this fabulous summer of sporting endeavour.”
The ship has been home for five Royal Navy and five Army Lynx helicopters supporting police with air and river security. The ship has also operated London Air Ambulance and Metropolitan Police helicopters.
On top of the crew the commando helicopter carrier has accommodated an extra 400 Army and Royal Naval personnel who have been working alongside G4S employees to ensure security at the Equestrian Arena in Greenwich Park. At the busiest times this has seen more than 1,000 personnel living onboard, being fed through the ship’s galley (kitchen) to provide 100,000 meals during the London 2012 Games.
The ship has hosted VIPs including HRH Princess Royal, HRH Prince Michael of Kent, Prime Minister David Cameron, four other Ministers, 38 senior military officers, senior civil servants and 125 tours for groups of youth, uniformed, veteran and other organisations.
Being in the heart of historic maritime Greenwich has ensured that HMS Ocean has been of great interest to the general public and tourists and the ship has opened her gangways to the public three times.
But it’s not all been work for the sailors and Royal Marines onboard as some personnel have been able to attend various Olympic events, including the Paralympics closing ceremony and tours to many London favourites, such as the Houses of Parliament and No 10 Downing Street. When the ship arrived in London the crew conducted the historic Ceremony of the Dues at the Tower of London where the ship’s captain and a party of sailors presented a barrel of wine to the Constable of the Tower as a ‘toll’ for the ship using the Thames.
A hugely versatile ship, this Olympic role has been a contrast to last year when HMS Ocean spent seven-and-a- half months deployed on military operations such an amphibious exercise in the Mediterranean then re-roled to become part of the NATO mission off Libya for four months with Apache helicopters, before steaming to the Gulf of Aden for further tasking.
On arriving home the ship will prepare for a major one-year refit at the end of the year in Devonport by Babcock Marine. HMS Ocean will then work up to full capability ready to take over again from HMS Illustrious as the Royal Navy’s high-readiness helicopter carrier later that year.