A VISIT to Sierra Leone gave sailors on board HMS Dauntless a chance to promote trade and get to know some of the locals.
The Portsmouth-based Type 45 destroyer visited the capital Freetown where Britain’s High Commissioner Ian Hughes played host to the Sierra Leonean Deputy Foreign Minister, Ebun Jusu, and other diplomats and dignitaries.
While security and trade were key focuses in Sierra Leone, the ship’s company also managed to take part in some sporting events and meet local people.
The crew played in three football matches and a golf match at the local course – though players avoided looking too hard for lost balls because of deadly Green Mamba snakes.
One crew member had more reason to visit than most, having been part of a long-term child sponsorship initiative through charity, World Vision.
Lieutenant Lindsey Griffiths, 28, one of Dauntless’s fighter controllers, took the opportunity to travel deep into the country to the Bonthe District and finally meet the little girl she had been sponsoring for six years.
As well as meeting 12-year-old Massah, Lindsey also delivered gifts from the ship’s company to the school which she attends.
Lindsey said: ‘It really was a once in a life time opportunity, I feel incredibly lucky that I got the chance to do it.
‘The reception we received when we got to the village was really overwhelming, and I was so pleased to finally get to meet Massah.
‘She is such a lovely little girl, and her family were the nicest people you could hope to meet.’
Lieutenant Commander Matt Strattan, 41, the ship’s weapon engineering officer, escorted Lindsey.
He said: ‘It was an amazing experience and it was really humbling to meet the people there who are all infectiously happy despite having next to nothing.’
The ship also helped launched a trade fair for British businesses seeking a foothold in Sierra Leone’s growing economic market place.
Captain Will Warrender, commanding officer of the Portsmouth-based warship, said: ‘West Africa as a region is very important to the UK and we have a particular affiliation to Sierra Leone.
‘Specifically we have been helping increase maritime security throughout the region in light of increasing reports of piracy and disruption to vital shipping routes.
‘This has been a really successful visit which as part of our wider regional engagement throughout West Africa has set the benchmark for future visits.’