Countess joins ship for the night to see destroyer in action

VISIT The Countess of Wessex aboard HMS Daring
VISIT The Countess of Wessex aboard HMS Daring
HMS Duncan has returned to Portsmouth after spending three months in the Mediterranean Picture:  L/Phot Louise George

HMS Duncan returns to Portsmouth after three months away at sea

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KITTED out in specially-tailored white overalls, the Countess of Wessex looks the part as she chats with sailors in HMS Daring’s control centre.

Sophie launched the Royal Navy’s first Type 45 destroyer in 2006 and has been a staunch supporter ever since.

So she accepted the offer of spending a night on board for an insight into life in the warship.

HMS Daring’s crew are hard at work as they prepare to head off on her second deployment in a few weeks.

There was plenty for the Countess to see as they ran through simulated scenarios on a day out in the Solent.

Commander Angus Essenhigh is HMS Daring’s commanding officer.

He said: ‘It was a great privilege to host the Countess for her first overnight stay in Daring and to continue to enhance this extremely close relationship.

‘She is an excellent sponsor who has always taken a great deal of interest in the ship since she launched Daring in early 2006.’

The Countess was on board while the ship’s company navigated HMS Daring out of Portsmouth and into a busy Solent.

They pushed the destroyer’s engines full ahead before coming to a crash stop – the sea-going equivalent of an emergency stop – and the ship came to a juddering halt.

The ship’s training dummy was then thrown into the water to simulate a man overboard.

Lieutenant Paul Kitching was the bridge officer of the watch and was working on his Type 45 qualification, under the watchful eye of the Countess.

It was his job to guide the destroyer quickly and safely to the spot so its sea boat could rescue the dummy.

Lt Kitching said: ‘It was nerve-wracking knowing I had royalty watching me.

‘But the training takes over and the “man” was safely recovered.’

Later, Sophie visited the operations room to see HMS Daring’s capabilities as an anti-air defence destroyer during a simulated air raid.

At the end of the action-packed morning, the ship’s chefs put their culinary skills to the test to make a meal fit for royalty.

Later, junior ratings on board the Type 45 were given the chance to sit down with the Countess and talk about life on board.

The second day started with an early breakfast, before the Countess was briefed on HMS Daring’s upcoming deployment and given the chance to meet more of the ship’s company.