Five Colleges on One Naval Ship
When Lisa Lee (Grey 01-05, Chemistry) joined HMS Somerset at the end of 2009 as a Leading Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineer), little did she know that she would be in the company of the Commanding Officer, Commander Andrew Burns Royal Navy (Hatfield 89-92, Geography), and an Officer of the Watch, Lieutenant Amy Skinner Royal Navy (Mary’s 01-04, Archaeology). Prior to sailing for a 6 month deployment to the Arabian Gulf in May; Somerset embarked another alumnus, Revd Matt Godfrey (University 88-91, Theology) as the Ship’s Chaplain, a call he answered later in his life after some time in Uruguay playing professional football! At the mid-way point of the deployment, Somerset welcomed yet another Durham Graduate, Sub-Lieutenant Alex Marshall Royal Navy (Josephine Butler 06-09, Geology and Geophysics).
Pictured here HMS Somerset off the Al Basrah Oil Terminal.
They have all been deployed in HMS Somerset, one of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 Duke Class Frigate in the Middle East on Operation TELIC, one of the Royal Navy’s most demanding deployments. The ship operated in and around four of the world’s eight strategic choke points through which much of the UK’s trade flows, including a considerable proportion of its gas and oil; the Strait of Gibraltar, the Suez Canal, the Strait of Bab al Mendeb and the Straits of Hormuz. The ship has contributed to the counter terrorism operation in the Mediterranean, Operation ACTIVE ENDEAVOUR and counter piracy in the Gulf of Aden. But the main effort was in the Arabian Gulf.
In the extreme north HMS Somerset provided protection to the Al Basrah oil terminal, part of Iraq’s offshore energy infrastructure. The free flow of oil through the terminal is vital for Iraq’s growing economy as the country recovers from conflict and for the coalition’s reconstruction effort. The presence and deterrence the ship provides is instrumental in assisting the emerging Iraqi Navy. Throughout the Arabian Gulf the ship’s patrols have been amongst the legitimate seafarers of the region. The combined Royal Navy and Royal Marines boarding team have engaged with over 250 masters of dhows and merchant vessels, reassuring them of the UK’s commitment to their freedom of navigation and deterring those who wish to use the sea for illegal activity.
The ship has visited some of the UK’s key partners in the region too; Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman. This work has enabled the strengthening of relationships with them and the reaffirmation of the Royal Navy’s commitment to security in the region. HMS Somerset will deploy again in 2011.
Andrew Burns said, ’I’m sure it’s unusual to have five Durham graduates representing five different colleges in the same ship and representing such diverse specialisations but they have all made a significant contribution to the success of the ship during the last 6 months.’
Pictured here are From left to right – Burns, Skinner, Lee, Godfrey, Marshall.