Royal Navy sailors from Portsmouth ready to save lives in Caribbean ahead of hurricane season

ROYAL Navy sailors from Portsmouth stand ready to save lives and react to humanitarian disasters in the Caribbean after a series of major workouts.

By Tom Cotterill
Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 4:56 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 7:50 pm

Portsmouth-based patrol ship HMS Medway is part of a British task force in the region preparing for rescue operations ahead of the hurricane season in the Caribbean.

The vessel, alongside support ship RFA Argus, have been rehearsing for the impending inclement weather by responding to fictional scenarios in Montserrat and Turks and Caicos.

The emergency squad is made up of Royal Marines, engineers, aviators and sailors, who will all be involved in disaster relief, delivering supplies from land, sea and air, or helping to rebuild infrastructure.

Royal Navy demonstrates ability to react in the aftermath of a disaster

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Captain Phil Dennis, commander of the British task group in the region, said: ‘The Royal Navy is committed to supporting the safety and security of British citizens within this important region.

‘We conduct training such as this to ensure we are ready to act swiftly should the call come.’

Also in the task group are a Wildcat maritime patrol aircraft from 815 Naval Air Squadron, three Merlin troop carriers from 845 Naval Air Squadron, plus 1700 Naval Air Squadron, Royal Marines small boat specialists 47 Commando and Royal Engineers from 24 Commando.

Families and spectators gather at the Round Tower, Old Portsmouth to watch HMS Medway departing from Portsmouth in January. Picture: Habibur Rahman

RFA Mounts Bay has previously been involved in disaster relief operations in the Caribbean following the aftermaths of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, and Dorian in 2019.

Argus, her air group and commando teams have stopped in six overseas territories during their latest exploits in the region.

Starting in Bermuda, Argus has since been to the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Cayman Islands and now Turks and Caicos.

On Montserrat, the task group responded to a simulated request from the island’s authorities and worked closely with the Royal Montserrat Defence Force.

Royal Navy demonstrates ability to react in the aftermath of a disaster

In the deserted zones evacuated after a series of eruptions from the island’s Soufrière Hills volcano in 1997, the task group sprang into action, delivering aid ashore via helicopter and boat.

Merlin helicopters and 47 Commando practised evacuating casualties, winching on and off small boats.

On Turks and Caicos, another three days of training awaited, practising delivering aid if a hurricane hit during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘Covid-19 has created lots of new challenges to how we would normally provide assistance,’ said Lieutenant Aaron Wilding, a medical advisor on Argus.

Royal Navy task group tests themselves in Turks and Caicos

‘During this training we have been adapting our standard operating procedures to ensure that, even in the aftermath of a hurricane, the risk of exposure is protected against.’

Medway left Portsmouth in January for the Caribbean, where she will be forward-deployed for the next few years.

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