CAMILLA The Duchess of Cornwall will visit Portsmouth next week to see the medical facilities on board the naval support ship RFA Argus.
The duchess will visit Portsmouth Naval Base on Tuesday for a tour of the 28,000-ton vessel, which is designed to receive and treat casualties in a war zone.
Captain Paul Kehoe, commanding officer of RFA Argus, said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall to RFA Argus.
‘It’s a great honour for us to be able to demonstrate the unique versatility of the ship and show its primary role as the navy’s primary casualty-receiving ship.’
The duchess, who is Commodore-in-Chief of Royal Naval Medical Services, will be given a two-hour tour of RFA Argus.
The ship, which had a £37m re-fit in 2009, boasts a 100-bed hospital facility, including a four-bay operating theatre, a 10-bed intensive care unit, 20-bed high dependency unit, two 35-bed general wards.
Among the state-of-the-art medical kit available to naval medics is a CT scanner which can provide 3D X-ray images of patients.
It is unusual for the duchess, who married Prince Charles in 2005, to venture out on Royal engagements by herself.
During her visit, she will be shown around the ship’s medical facilities and meet some of the ship’s company in the Officer’s Lounge.
Argus, which was originally an Italian-built container ship, was requisitioned in 1982 for service in the Falklands War.
She joined the RFA in 1988 and went to the first Gulf War in 1991.
She also saw service in the Adriatic in 1993 and 1999 supporting British operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. The ship can have more than 450 people serving on board at full capacity.
Among those working in her medical care role are naval reservists from Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra and St Mary’s hospitals.
The ship also provides specialist aviation training facilities and can accommodate any of the Royal Navy’s helicopters – which is why more than two-thirds of her length is given over to a 400ft flight deck.
After next week’s Royal visit, the ship will be in support of the Royal Navy conducting flying training serials with several naval air squadrons.