Skip to content
Recruiting now.Explore navy careers

HMS Kent shapes future of Royal Navy around UK and Europe

7 March 2016
Everyone knows that Royal Navy Ships are deployed across the world 365 days of the year. But what does a ship do when she is not deployed?

HMS Kent has been operating from the UK since summer 2015 and has shown exactly why the Type 23 Frigate class can justifiably be called the ‘workhorse of the fleet.’ In just 6 months, the ship has completed her lengthy Operational Sea Training package with flying colours, engaged in a significant amount of training including with multinational units, visited foreign ports to engage in defence diplomacy and completed a high profile visit to the Ship’s ‘home port’ of Dover – all while training new engineering technicians!

After summer leave in 2015, the ship reduced her core complement of sailors in order to free up accommodation space for the Engineering Training Squadron.  In total 65 engineers have qualified as ET1s in 12 short weeks onboard HMS Kent by gaining hands-on experience maintaining equipment with the ME and WE departments; meaning that the fleet gains valuable trained engineering technicians more quickly.  

In a change from previous thinking, where young sailors would be trained at shore bases like HMS Collingwood, these engineering technicians are being sent to sea almost immediately after finishing basic training.  

HMS Kent’s Deputy Marine Engineer Officer, Lt Pete Ainscow RN, believes this is an important change for the fleet. “Front line, practical experience is invaluable for junior ETs, particularly with the manpower challenges we face today and HMS Kent's programme has been custom made to deliver this essential engineering know-how”

Operating from the UK doesn’t excuse HMS Kent from having to demonstrate that she is capable of undertaking her tasking, just as deploying units do, under the watchful eye of the Devonport based FOST staff.

Front line, practical experience is invaluable for junior ETs

Lieutenant Pete Ainscow RN, HMS Kent’s Deputy Marine Engineer Officer

This involved simulating onboard everything from a small fire isolated to a single compartment all the way up to a collision or grounding incident, overlaying multiple fires, floods and critical equipment losses throughout the ship.  

This not only proves the skill of the Ship’s Company in firefighting and leak-stopping, but also the ability to coordinate personnel and equipment such that they are in the right place at the right time.  

Multi-tasking and switching roles at short notice is a perfected art for sailors, who might have to go from preparing lunch for almost 200 people or conducting routine maintenance on a salt water pump to suddenly donning breathing apparatus and extinguishing a fire in a smoke filled compartment – and then back again.  

Of course a warship must also be ready to fight, requiring not only the systems and weaponry but also suitably trained people.  HMS Kent hosted 6 Principle Warfare Officers in their final stages of training for a week-long exercise based around an enclave defending its independence.  

This culminated in a ‘Thursday War’ involving real Hawk jets from 736 Naval Air Squadron simulating enemy fighter and bomber aircraft, supplemented by computer-generated surface and sub-surface combatants.  All this combined meant that the PWOs had to deal with simultaneous attacks.  

Lt Cdr Dafydd Bryden RN, one of HMS Kent’s PWOs, oversaw the training “It was a pleasure to provide this training to the next generation of PWOs; it will only be a matter of weeks before some of them will be running their own defence watch in an operational environment such as the Middle East and I feel we have given them the best possible prospect for success.”

At the opposite end of kinetic action is Defence Diplomacy, something the Royal Navy has mastered over the centuries.  HMS Kent paid a visit to Rotterdam towards the end of 2015, demonstrating the softer skills still demanded from the Senior Service and allowing the Ship’s Company an opportunity to explore new surroundings.  

A particularly busy visit to Kent’s home port of Dover saw the Ship’s Company welcome the Ship’s affiliates and friends onboard for tours and a Reception and Capability Demonstration and commemorate the 101st anniversary of the Battle of the Falklands, in which a previous HMS Kent was involved. 

The Commanding Officer, Cdr Dan Thomas RN, led a service to remember the battle. During that visit, at a time when floods in northern England were in the forefront of everyone’s minds, the ship conducted a Resilience Demonstration to allow disaster management organisations to see first-hand the tools, skills and people that a warship could bring to the table in a time of need. 

Chief Petty Officer Anthony Baker, the ship’s expert in damage control, said “it was an exciting opportunity to demonstrate our extensive capabilities to the Emergency Services and talk about how 200 highly trained and motivated people can support a real life disaster relief effort”.  

Spending time with our affiliates is one of HMS Kent’s highest priorities and has reaped the ongoing rewards of friendship and support.  With organisations ranging from Sea Cadets and Football Clubs to breweries and charities, it is important to set aside time to see our friends whilst the Ship is operating in and around Europe.

A team of 8 from HMS Kent, led by Cdr Dan Thomas RN, visited the Ship’s affiliates in September 2015 in order to rekindle those important friendships post-deployment.  In turn, those affiliates were once again welcomed onboard when Kent visited Dover.  HMS Kent is particularly proud to support Demelza House Children’s Hospice, which cares for terminally ill children.  Whilst in Dover a 17-strong team spent an afternoon clearing the charity’s gardens, a task which means an awful lot to the time-pressured workers at the charity.  

Two officers from the ship were also invited to inspect Sea Cadets from the Kent county area at the Trafalgar Day Parade and the Cadets were very happy to accept a return invitation for a tour on board a few weeks later, with some very thoughtful and potent questions asked by children obviously keen on a Navy career.

Aggression can take on another form for sailors in the Royal Navy… Sport! The Kent Crusaders, the Ship’s rugby team, have had two important outings in recent months. HMS Kent beat HMS Collingwood in the Navy Cup and narrowly lost in a hard-fought game against RFC Dover, an outstanding achievement considering the minimal preparation time the team had prior to setting out on the field and that one of the opposing teams was a professional outfit! Chief Petty Officer Max Boyce, the stalwart of the team, said “representing HMS Kent has been a privilege and a highlight was beating the largest training establishment in Europe in the Navy Cup from a core Ship’s Company of only 147”.

From training experienced officers through to the youngest sailors, winning (and losing!) in sports fixtures, visiting ports and engaging with affiliates, HMS Kent has certainly been busy since returning from the Gulf last May. 

The ship is now alongside in Portsmouth undergoing planned maintenance, but will kick off another busy period after Easter leave, making the most of her time at sea in the Orkneys, Cardiff, London and the Mediterranean before going into refit at the end of the year. For the Captain, Cdr Dan Thomas RN, the aim is to do more of the same until then!

Related articles

Navy News Magazine

We bring you the latest news, features and award-winning photographs from the front-line. Navy News has been reporting on all that happens in the Royal Navy and its wider community since 1954.