Nearly two years after British military personnel helped rebuild it, Royal Navy support ship RFA Mounts Bay has returned to the British Virgin Islands capital of Tortola.
The airmen of 211 Flight, who fly the Royal Navy’s Wildcat helicopter, dropped in on Road Town, Tortola, as part of a fact-finding mission to prepare themselves and their ship for the hurricane season which is now upon the Caribbean.
The British Virgin Islands – and other British territories in the region – were badly hit by a series of storms in the early autumn of 2017 which prompted a massive relief effort by the UK’s armed forces, spearheaded by Mounts Bay.
Two years on, she’s ready for the 2019 storm season with a specialist team of marines, soldiers and engineers embarked with the relevant equipment and vehicles to deliver immediate assistance and patch up vital supplies such as communications, water and power should hurricanes barrel through again.
Also aboard is a Wildcat helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron which can be used to move personnel and material around – particularly useful if roads are blocked – as well as carry out reconnaissance to find the areas and settlements most in need of aid in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
211 Flight visited the Turks and Caicos and British Virgin Islands scouting possible landing sites and, on Tortola, meeting the leaders of the islands’ disaster management team to discuss possible plans of action with the officer in charge of Mounts Bay’s emergency troops and the ship’s medical officer.
Afterwards the Wildcat carried out a tour of Tortola with the local experts on board to identify the more vulnerable parts of the Island where help would be most needed.
“The ability of the Wildcat to carry equipment and also land in very small areas was key in the effort after Hurricane Irma in 2017,” said Lieutenant Mark Finnie, the Wildcat’s Observer (in charge of navigation, sensors and weapons systems).
“The opportunity to work with the disaster relief team ahead of the hurricane season allowed us to identify key infrastructure pinch points and gave us an idea where we would be able to drop off stores and equipment, should the need arise.
“It was important for us to continue the excellent relationship we have with the disaster management team and the British Virgin Islands as a whole.”
Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer Captain Jeremy Macanley RFA added: “Visits to the UK’s overseas territories, however brief, allow Mounts Bay to be better prepared to deliver help in the event of a disaster. My aircrew’s familiarity with the topography will permit a more focused response should we be called to assist.”