MORE than 10,000 people have been given food for seven days thanks to the efforts of HMS Illustrious in the Philippines.
It is a major milestone at the end of the first week of the Portsmouth-based ship’s disaster relief task.
Aircraft have been flying from the carrier constantly since she arrived in the Philippines, delivering 130 tonnes of food, tools, and makeshift shelters.
They have been delivered to around half a dozen remote islands, where people have been hit badly by the effects of Typhoon Haiyan.
Local communities have been quick to show their appreciation for the efforts of the Royal Navy sailors.
Islanders crowded around sailors delivering aid to give their thanks, and messages of gratitude have been hung from buildings or spelled out on beaches.
Commander Nick Walker, who is in charge of flying operations on board Illustrious, said: ‘I’m immensely proud of all those involved and what they have enabled the air group to achieve for the people of the Philippines.
‘I don’t think there has been a busier day on the flight deck since Illustrious converted to a helicopter carrier in 2010.
‘After five days of intensive air operations, Sunday was the most active day so far.
‘Five helicopters transported 40 tonnes of stores in 61 under-slung loads, with 50 sorties taking freight and landing our teams and officials ashore.
‘Although the majority of the flying occurs in daylight hours, supporting the air effort with aircraft maintenance, deck, and load preparations is a 24-hour operation.’
The aircraft hangar of HMS Illustrious has been converted into a floating warehouse of emergency supplies.
From the warehouse, Royal Marines from 42 Commando’s J Company have been delivering aid to where it is needed ashore.
Marine Ivan Oxley, 23, said: ‘Two weeks after the typhoon struck, the scene was still one of absolute devastation.
‘The locals are very tough and in high spirits.
‘They have been working hard to try and rebuild their lives, but with little in terms of food and building materials they were limited in what they could do.
‘We have provided them with enough of the essentials to help them start to rebuild their communities.
‘The thing I will remember most is the attitude of the people and how they remain so positive during such a difficult time.’
Defence firm BAE Systems has also deployed a specialist engineer to conduct maintenance of the ship’s water plant, to enable the ship to provide 100 tonnes of fresh water every day.
Meanwhile, three officer cadets from Britannia Royal Naval College have left the UK to join Illustrious on her disaster relief
The cadets, who joined the Royal Navy seven months ago, are undertaking their first taste of life at sea.
They joined HMS Illustrious in Dubai for what they thought would be a nine-week period at sea.
Now they are assisting with the humanitarian aid.
As reported in The News, HMS Illustrious had been operating off the Horn of Africa where she was chasing down pirates.
When Typhoon Haiyan struck, Prime Minister David Cameron immediately ordered Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer HMS Daring to the scene.
Later, HMS Illustrious was sent to relieve the ship and take over.
The carrier’s crew are now bracing themselves to spend Christmas away from their families.
WEATHER WATCH VITAL TO RELIEF
KEEPING an eye on the environment is of vital importance when helping with the relief effort following Typhoon Haiyan.
On board HMS Illustrious is Lieutenant Commander Neil Scott, 39, from Portsmouth, a hydrographic and meteorological officer by trade.
Over the coming weeks, Lt Cdr Scott and his team will ensure all military assets in the Philippines have an accurate picture of the weather.
He said: ‘Everything is reliant on the environment, especially in this kind of operation.
‘The Royal Navy teaches us to be prepared for every eventuality, and where possible, exploit it to maximise our effect.’
‘THIS IS WHAT I JOINED FOR’
TAKING on an extra 500 tonnes of stores to help with the disaster relief effort is a major logistical challenge for the ship.
HMS Illustrious’ assistant logistics officer James Robson, 24, from Gosport, says he is glad to have been a part of the mammoth operation.
‘It is the most worthwhile thing I have ever done,’ he said.
‘Even though it will mean missing Christmas, helping these people is a noble cause and absolutely the right thing to do.
‘If I do feel like I miss home, I remind myself this is what I joined for and I feel proud to be doing this.’
SPANISH OFFICER JOINS EFFORT
A SPANISH officer on exchange is having an action-packed time in the Royal Navy.
Lieutenant Luis Solano Veiga, 35, who lives in Southsea, is serving on board HMS Illustrious.
He has been working with the Royal Navy for 18 months and will return home to Ferrol next year.
Lt Veiga said: ‘It’s a huge challenge coming and working in another country, but it’s a great opportunity to be involved in.
‘I get to experience two ways of doing things, the Spanish Navy way and the Royal Navy way, and then I get to develop my own way that is the best of both.
‘I’m enjoying this experience.’