As two Portsmouth ships speed toward the typhoon-torn Philippines, The News went on board HMS Defender to find out how the Royal Navy prepares for disaster relief operations
Alongside at Portsmouth Naval Base, the crew of HMS Defender are hard at work having just finished disaster relief training.
Thousands of miles away, her sister ship HMS Daring and helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious are steaming towards the Philippines to deliver emergency humanitarian aid and put their own training to the test.
Disaster relief is one of the Royal Navy’s key roles and one that wins hearts and minds the world over.
So it’s no surprise two Royal Navy ships are changing course to give urgent aid to thousands of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
Authorities say 2,357 people have been confirmed dead in the disaster, but that figure is expected to rise when information is collected from other areas.
Commodore Guy Robinson is a former commanding officer of HMS Daring.
Speaking to The News on board HMS Defender at Portsmouth Naval Base yesterday, he said: ‘I’m delighted to see HMS Daring carrying out this role, because I have a close relationship with the ship.
‘I was lucky enough to take her away on her first deployment – the beauty of these ships is their versatility.
‘That means she is very capable of now turning her attention to disaster relief.’
HMS Daring was sailing from Singapore on her way to take part in a major exercise when she was rerouted to the Philippines.
Commander Angus Essenhigh, pictured in front of the Sydney Opera House, is the commanding officer of HMS Daring.
He said: ‘Our plan is evolving hour by hour, but rest assured, we will be able to make a significant impact for those affected and who need our help the most.
‘We have a strong team with no shortage of useful skills and equipment who are busily preparing for what we may encounter.’
Commander Phil Nash, the commanding officer of HMS Defender, says the Royal Navy’s disaster relief training is essential in preparing sailors for humanitarian missions.
He said: ‘It’s absolutely key.
‘We specialise in providing air defence to a task group but we stand ready to undertake a wide variety of other roles whether its counter narcotics or disaster relief.
‘We are prepared very well to do them all.’
The cost of the military assistance to the Philippines will be covered by the UK’s disaster relief fund.
Chief Petty Officer Cy Curzon is an operations room supervisor on board Portsmouth-based HMS Daring.
Once the ship arrives in the Philippines, his role will be to go ashore and manage the operations room as well as allocate resources.
The 36-year-old said: ‘I will be collecting all the information from the people on the ground and plotting it onto a board so the command can make decisions on the best way to allocate manpower and equipment.
‘I will basically keep a tally of the situation as it develops.’
It is not the first time CPO Curzon has been called upon to provide humanitarian assistance.
He was based in HMS Southampton when the volcano on the island of Montserrat erupted, and HMS Manchester in 2010 when St Lucia was hit by a hurricane.
He added: ‘I expect those that are going ashore will be in for a bit of a shock.
‘The training the Royal Navy provides is good, it helped me in my previous experiences.
‘The guys have to be aware that emotions can take their toll.
‘The trauma risk management team are good at spotting those in trouble and I know we will have a strong team out there to assist them.’
HMS Daring is the first of six Type 45 destroyers built to replace the Type 42 destroyer.
The six ships, all of which are based in Portsmouth, are Daring, Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender, and Duncan.