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RFA Wave Knight's Commandos revamp Caribbean church

11 August 2016
Commandos from RFA Wave Knight get stuck in revamping a church in the Caribbean – perhaps the first good deed of many as the tanker begins disaster relief duties in the region.

They spent 16 days revamping a ministry near Curacao in the Dutch Antilles, turning a run-down house of worship into a gleaming

The ship recently relieved patrol vessel HMS Mersey, who focused the majority of her deployment to the region on countering drug-running and flying the flag for the UK.

With hurricane season now arrived, however, the 31,000-tonne auxiliary has the additional responsibility of helping island communities hit by natural disaster; she even has a specialist humanitarian aid/disaster relief team, drawn from Army Royal Engineer Commandos, embarked.

Thankfully, as of mid-August, no storm had demanded Wave Knight’s attention, but the skills of the commandos were called upon… by the pastor of the church at Caracas Baai, about four miles outside the capital Willemstad.

The engineers found the ministry to be pretty run down – the paint on the outer walls had been degraded badly by the sea air, the gardens were overgrown and strewn with litter and the building itself suffered from a severe termite infestation.

Tackling these problems was well within the team’s ability – especially as the tanker was undergoing a three-week period of maintenance so the engineers had plenty of time on their hands.

The whole task was very rewarding,the pastor was continually telling us how grateful he was and our efforts drew the attention of the local newspaper and TV station.

WO2 Jason Betts

It took two days to chop down unwanted trees, remove weeds at their roots, repair the boundary fence and tidy up the grounds before the soldiers moved inside for the main task of revamping the ministry building.

First they had to chip off the old paint, then wash down the walls to remove any salt, before a sealant was applied (to prevent a repeat) and a fresh coating of white paint applied – overall a decorating job which took 12 whole days.

And still there was the termite problem to deal with. The troops found the source of the infestation, got rid of the nest and any other little critters they came across – another two-day task.

“The whole task was very rewarding,” said WO2 Jason Betts. “The pastor was continually telling us how grateful he was and our efforts drew the attention of the local newspaper and TV station.”

He and his comrades returned to the tanker with a clutch of souvenirs and the sound of the congregation ringing in their ears; worshippers sang for the Wave Knight team in gratitude of their efforts.

From Curacao, the tanker sailed 500 miles to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands where the embarked forces and sailors are carrying out disaster relief exercises with local authorities – useful dry runs performed in every island Wave Knight calls at during her deployment just in case a natural disaster befalls the community.

For most of her deployment to the region, Wave Knight will be within 24 hours’ sailing of British territories so she can respond at almost immediate notice. 

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