The Royal Naval warship HMS Somerset welcomed its crew’s families onboard today (Friday) to treat them to an exciting day at sea before the sailors deploy on patrol.
The action-packed day off the south west coast included a thrilling Lynx helicopter display and the ship turned up the volume by sending off a salvo from its main gun.
In a perfect weather families and other loved ones packed the frigate’s upper deck to make the most of departure from the historic dockyard of Devonport. No sooner than out of Plymouth breakwater the type 23 frigate started its programme of demonstrations with a fire-fighting display, fired its 4.5inch gun (the main gun) and operating with Fleet Air Arm helicopters. As well as being impressive to onlookers, having the chance to test the main gun is invaluable preparation for any potential use during the deployment.
The day was particularly special for one little girl onboard – Chief Petty Officer Kevin Williams’ daughter Pippa not only celebrated her 6th birthday onboard, but was delighted when the main gun sounded an appropriate six times. Kevin is the missile director onboard who works in the operations room co-ordinating missile strikes. Kevin from Stockport, was also onboard with his children Hannah(10) and Harry (9) and wife Lynn. He said: “Pippa had a very exciting day celebrating her birthday and I told her we fired the gun six times because it was her sixth birthday and it made her very happy.”
Ship’s weapons engineering officer, Lieutenant Commander Paul Evans, of Plymouth, was on board with his two children Lucy (9), of Oreston School, Plymouth, and Connor (13), of Hele School, Plymouth. Lucy was given the rare chance to steer the ship and was told by the Captain, Commander Paul Bristowe, that she drove an accurate, straight line better than him. Connor said that he wanted to join the Navy and become a weapons engineering officer like his father. Paul said: “This is a great chance for my family and all the other families to see where their sons and daughters, husbands and wives work and live. This is especially important with a six-month deployment coming up. We need our families’ support and this visit reinforces the strong support we know we can rely on when we are deployed far from home.”
HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer Cdr Bristowe said: “They day went very well, everybody smiling and it is good for the families and the ship’s company to have this time together before we deploy. The Ship only came back in December from the last deployment and it has been a great achievement for a dedicated and committed ship’s company to turn the ship round in order to be operational for our next deployment. It has been tough for the families to be off again so soon but we know we can rely on their support and today is part of showing our appreciation to them.”
There was plenty of entertainment for all, including children’s face-painting and sea-shanties were sang by the famous band of the Fisherman’s Friends.
HMS Somerset’s forthcoming deployment will see her conduct a range of operations off the Horn of Africa, providing reassurance and reinforcing freedom of navigation. She will also be available to support UK strategic interests in the Middle East.