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HMS Ramsey tackles fires and floods in Germany

All Hans to the pumps as HMS Ramsey tackles fires and floods in Germany
4 March 2016
Here's the answer to what lies at the end of a rainbow. Not a pot of gold, but a Sandown-class minehunter – embodied here by HMS Ramsey.

The Faslane-based warship enjoys the relative calm after her NATO group came in for a battering from Storm Jack– waves of 10ft, close to the operating limit of these smaller ships, battered the group of German, British and Belgian vessels as they crossed the North Sea.

It’s not the sole ordeal the force has encountered, but the only one – so far – inflicted by Nature.

The international force, which patrols the waters of northern Europe carrying out a mixture of present-day minehunting exercises and dealing with unexploded ordnance from last century’s conflicts, spent a fortnight being tested to the limit at the German Navy’s naval warfare school.

It’s fairly common for German ships to receive such instruction at the hands of the Royal Navy, courtesy of two months of combat training at FOST in Plymouth.

But only very occasionally to British warships do the same at the Einsatzausbildungszentrum Schadensabwehr (Combat Training Centre for Damage Control or EAZS) in the picture-postcard town of Neustadt, about 30 miles southeast of Kiel.

Getting to work with the German Navy like this really helps me understand how they work

Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) David Hedley, HMS Ramsey

The centre features a sinking ship simulator on land, a fire-fighting training complex – both similar to those in Portsmouth and Torpoint – and the former frigate Köln which set on fire and partially flooded for sailors to deal with.

German instructors set a mock-up helicopter ablaze for the Ramsey sailors to extinguish and had damage control teams hammering blocks of wood into holes in the hull of the training simulator – a proven method which saved HMS Nottingham from sinking when she was holed in Australia in 2002.

“It was incredible to be able to train with real fires – the facilities at Neustadt are just as impressive as those we have back in the UK,” said 27-year-old Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) David Hedley.

“I was surprised by how similar some of our techniques are – but at the same time, it’s the little differences that are important. Getting to work with the German Navy like this really helps me understand how they work.”

After a week in Neustadt, the training shifted to the Baltic with many of the same drills – minus the real fires and floods – plus air attacks and engine breakdowns closing with the rescue of a stricken merchant ship with casualties on board which had to be saved by the combined efforts of the minehunter force.

The group’s spell in the Baltic has allowed time to visit famous cities such as Copenhagen and Lübeck, as well as tiny ports like Neustadt and Rønne on the small Danish island of Bornholm.

After cutting back to the North Sea through the Kiel Canal, the German-led group paid a short visit to Amsterdam before heading out again – and into rough weather.

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