The workers who keep the ship and the crew running

DINNER TIME The ship's company of HMS Dragon grab a quick meal during action messing. Picture: L(Phot) Dave Jenkins
DINNER TIME The ship's company of HMS Dragon grab a quick meal during action messing. Picture: L(Phot) Dave Jenkins

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There are many different people needed to keep a warship afloat, especially one which is patrolling around a hostile environment for seven months.

From the bridge to her engine spaces, HMS Dragon is packed with more than 240 skilled workers who each have a crucial part to play in the running of the ship.

As well as the gunners, helicopter pilots, and radar operators, there are chefs, writers, stewards, and medics.

Writers are the ship’s administrators, and handle legal, pay, welfare, and travel issues for those on board.

Stewards are there to look after officers and any visiting dignitaries. They also have secondary roles as medics.

The ship has a small team of medics, who provide day-to-day healthcare as well as life-saving treatment if the worst should happen.

As for the chefs, they have the tall order of keeping the ship’s company happy with three tasty meals a day.

Meanwhile, down in the engine spaces, the ship’s engineers will spend hours in sweltering temperatures making sure the gas turbines are running smoothly in the warm waters of the Gulf.

Most people on board do not just have the one role, they may also be members of the ship’s boarding team, or trained first aiders, and must be ready to respond to whatever situations may arise.

STEWARDS

Stewards have one of the most varied roles on board a warship.

They provide the hospitality for visiting admirals and even heads of state both at home and abroad.

They effectively run their own hotel, with day-to-day responsibility for the officers’ bar, accommodation, and dining room.

But they have other important duties too, and often take on several other roles including providing first aid.

Steward Assy Lutumailagi, 40, is a mother-of-three from Fiji.

She moved to Gosport with her husband Soko, 38, and their three children, Api, 16, Ted, 14, and Raymond, two, in order to serve in the Royal Navy.

‘It’s amazing to be on board HMS Dragon,’ she says.

‘I have never been to the Gulf before and I am enjoying it very much.

‘I wanted to join the navy so I could travel the world.

‘The highlight for me is being able to see new places so I am very happy.’

SHIP’S PHOTOGRAPHER

It sounds like one of the most thrilling jobs in the Royal Navy — the ship’s photographer.

Flying around the skies in helicopters taking aerial shots of dramatic naval exercises, and generally capturing life on board.

But being the warship’s snapper is about much more than the exciting images you see published by the Royal Navy. They must act as intelligence gatherers, and document defects on the ship.

Leading Photographer Dave Jenkins is the photographer on board HMS Dragon.

He joined the Royal Navy in 2002 as an Able Chef, before transferring to the photographic unit in 2007.

L(Phot) Jenkins was recently named the Royal Navy’s Photographer of the Year 2013

‘Being named the Royal Navy’s photographer of the year has definitely been a highlight for me,’ says the 36-year-old.

‘I joined the navy as a chef and then got promoted to leading chef and decided it wasn’t for me anymore.

‘But I still loved being in the navy, and photography was a hobby of mine, so I joined the photographic branch.

‘We could join the start of a deployment or part of it, and we are here to cover everything from life on board to intelligence gathering to documenting defects.’

He lives in Gosport with his wife Laura, 18-month-old daughter Megan, and their German Shepherd Toby.

ENGINEERING

THERE’S a lot of effort needed to keep a warship afloat, never mind making sure she can dash around the high seas and be ready to respond to anything that comes her way.

HMS Dragon’s engineers have certainly got their work cut out for them keeping a new Type 45 destroyer at the top of her game in a hostile environment.

They work on everything from the ship’s hull to the massive turbines which provide the power and propulsion.

Engineers are also responsible for the all-important air conditioning, fresh water, and sewage treatment.

Leading Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Ben Kern, 29, from Southsea, says: ‘Working out here is very hard, not just for us but also for the ship.

‘We have 45 people in this department and there is something within every cabin on the ship we have to look after.

‘I really enjoy what I do. I didn’t want just any job, I wanted something rewarding.

‘It has been hard work getting the ship to this point, and there have been times when we’ve had some propulsion problems.

‘But it is very rewarding work, although I do miss my wife.’

In every cabin of the ship, there is something which will need to be maintained by the engineers on board, whether it is light fixtures or firefighting systems.

And since the ship is away from port for weeks at a time, the engineers have to be able to work with the equipment and spares they have in 
order to keep her running smoothly.

MEDICS

Warships can be dangerous environments to live and work in, so HMS Dragon’s medical team has to be prepared for anything.

The majority of their days might be taken up with dealing with the sort of standard ailments a GP tends to.

But if the worst should happen, the lives of their colleagues may depend on the team’s vital skills.

Surgeon Lieutenant Tim Anderson is the doctor on board HMS Dragon.

He says: ‘It is a really interesting job and I do enjoy it.

‘We cover everything from primary care, to emergency care, and pastoral care as well.

‘Anything said within the walls of the sick bay are medically in confidence so people do some here just to talk about things that are bothering them sometimes.

‘This is a high stress environment, and people are living on top of each other, and we expect a lot from people.

‘So sometimes people do just seek you out to blow off a bit of steam and that is an important role too.’

There is a requirement on board Royal Navy ships for 10 per cent of the ship’s company to be trained in first aid.

But the medical team on board HMS Dragon have taken it upon themselves to train as many sailors as they can — including the captain.

Now, 24 per cent of the destroyer’s crew are trained.

Medical Assistant Jade Morris adds: ‘Once they got into it, people have really started to enjoy the first aid training.

‘It’s a new skill, and it’s a life skill, which they can take away with them and use outside of the ship.’

The medical team on board HMS Dragon have been carrying out a number of exercises, as well as training their crewmates in first aid.

They have tested their skills in dealing with burns and falls, and working in high-pressure incidents.

LOGISTICS

Logisticians are responsible for making sure everybody on board has everything they need to do their jobs.

That is an overwhelming task when you consider how many people there are on board a ship, and all the things they need to be able to do.

Guaranteeing the arrival of stores and mail can also have a huge impact on the morale of the ship’s company — to say nothing of the boost chefs can bring when they cook up three top-class meals a day.

Thanks to HMS Dragon’s cavernous on board stores, there is more than enough space to carry all the ingredients needed for a range of food including steaks, curries, fish and chips, and Sunday roasts.

Petty Officer (Catering Services) Fran Boreham, 30, says: ‘Generally, people are good and they will remember to say thank you to the chefs, but I wish more people would remember sometimes.

‘Everybody here works very hard and there is a lot to do but it is rewarding work.’

Other logisticians have the tall order of making sure the ship has everything it needs, handling millions of pounds worth of equipment from ammunition to stationary.

Strict records have to be kept of everything that is in stores.

Logisticians also have to plan ahead to work out what might be needed throughout the ship’s deployment, and arrange for the stores to be shipped out and brought to the ship wherever she may be.

The logistics branch is made up of those who look after the stores, chefs, stewards, writers, and medics.