Two Royal Navy sailors from Plymouth are touring the Far East deployed on board Devonport warship HMS Albion.
Petty Officer Stephen Gray and Writer Lee Nesbitt, both from Plymouth are flying the flag, promoting peace, security and prosperity and helping safeguard trade routes critical to the UK’s economy.
The 23,000-tonne amphibious assault ship left Plymouth at the beginning February, and is tasked with strengthening the United Kingdom’s ties throughout the Asia-Pacific region. HMS Albion has already paid diplomatic visits to Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei and Japan, while her Royal Marines have exercised deep in the jungles of Borneo.
Stephen said: “I’ve been all over the Mediterranean and the Gulf during my 19 years with the Royal Navy, but I’ve never been to the Far East before. In fact, HMS Albion is the first British warship to visit some of these parts for six or seven years.
“I really enjoyed Singapore as it was my first taste of a totally different culture. Brunei was interesting too as it’s the kind of place that’s not on the usual tourist trail and I wouldn’t get to see were it not for the Navy.”
He is responsible for the Bowman radio system linking HMS Albion to her Royal Marines, at sea, in the air or ashore. He also helps to train the crew to tackle fires, floods and other damage.
Stephen has already served on Devonport-based ships, survey vessel HMS Enterprise and frigates HMS Argyll, Sutherland and Chatham: “My father worked at the Ernesettle naval depot for 33 years, so my family have always enjoyed strong links to the Navy. My wife and children are following the deployment closely and miss me.”
Lee said: “I was part of the original ship’s company that took HMS Albion out of build 15 years ago. I’ve also served on her sister ship HMS Bulwark and on the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean – all Devonport assault ships.’’
In Jakarta, Indonesia, Lee and colleagues visited an orphanage: “Normally we’d volunteer to help with painting or maintenance, but this time the orphanage shared a traditional Indonesian meal with us. The children were very excited and were queuing up to take selfies with us .The ship wanted to do something in return, so after the visit we donated about £400 for the orphanage.”
Lee arranges pay, travel and other support for the embarked Royal Marines Assault Squadron. He also operates the davits lowering HMS Albion’s landing craft into the water.
He attended Sir John Hunt Community College. His brother previously served in the Royal Marines and transferred to be a naval officer, while his sister Kate is a naval nurse who was famously awarded the Military Cross for service in Afghanistan.
HMS Albion’s Commanding Officer, Captain Tim Neild, said: “The presence of HMS Albion in the Asia-Pacific region demonstrates that the Royal Navy is a truly global force in a part of the world vital to the UK’s own economic ambitions. In doing so, I am privileged to be able to count on such a dedicated team of sailors and marines. They are quite simply the best ambassadors our nation could wish for.”
The 23,000-tonne amphibious assault ship left Plymouth in February tasked with strengthening the United Kingdom’s ties throughout the Asia-Pacific region.