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Oxford URNU Summer deployment

Oxford URNU Summer deployment
5 September 2017
Oxford URNU’s Summer Deployment began by meeting HMS Smiter in Hamburg, from where the ship sailed in company with HMS Ranger, HMS Exploit and HMS Archer to Wilhelmshaven, Germany’s largest naval base.

Alongside at Wilhelmshaven was FGS Hamburg, a previous ship for Smiter's Commanding Officer (CO) who gave a tour of the P2000 to Hamburg's CO accordingly.

Next the deployment continued over rough seas to Helgoland, the final port in Germany before sailing on to the Netherlands, and the small town of West Terschelling.

An island in the northern Netherlands, Terschelling is home to the Maritime Institute Willem Barentsz, a renowned nautical college where many future officers study for degree programs in courses such as the Maritime Officer Program.

From Terschelling, the ship sailed up the North Sea Canal to the Dutch capital Amsterdam, where two harbour days were enjoyed by all - some Officer Cadets (OCdt), apparently dismayed by the prospect of spending two whole days on dry land, chose to hire a small boat to explore the city’s canals, while others visited some of the city’s historic sights.

The deployment was a great opportunity for the OCdts to visit some fantastic locations and experience naval life first hand. The feedback since has been unanimously positive

Lieutenant Will Jones, Commanding Officer of Oxford URNU

Following this, the four P2000s made their way to Antwerp, where representatives of the Belgian Navy welcomed the ships and provided not only information about the city but also free entry to Antwerp’s cathedral and zoo, one of the oldest zoos in the world.

Leaving Belgium behind, the unit sailed on to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France’s largest fishing port and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

The final harbour day of the phase was spent exploring the walled Old Town, including the 12th century belfry, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, before sailing to Dieppe the following day.

Sailing from Dieppe along the coast provided plenty of opportunities for OCdts to practice visual fixing (or at least to attempt to practice visual fixing!). In company with HMS Ranger and HMS Exploit, SmiterR called in at Le Havre for a night on the way to the historic town of Honfleur, on the southern bank of the Seine estuary.

As the ships were sailing into a French port on Bastille Day, each ship flew a French Tricolour (hastily crafted out of a former flag Tango).

OCdt Claire Evans said, “The national holiday meant that there was a lively atmosphere in the town, with an excellent firework display in the evening.”

A harbour day the following day also gave the Unit the chance to see many of Honfleur’s historic buildings, including its maritime museum, housed in a parish church dating partly from the 14th century.

The next port was Caen, via the Caen canal, where the unit sailed past the Pegasus Bridge memorial. The Pegasus bridge, along with other nearby bridges, was a key objective during Operation Deadstick, part of Operation Tonga in the days leading up to the D-Day landings.

OCdt Claire Evans was particularly interested in the history of this bridge and the area around Caen as her grandfather was part of the 6th Airborne Division who undertook the operation.

After a harbour day in Caen, where some of the deployment was able to visit the Caen Memorial, a museum and war memorial commemorating World War II and the Battle of Normandy, the unit sailed on to Cherbourg, the final French port of the phase, where an impressive thunderstorm caught us just as we came alongside.

Our final port was St Helier in Jersey, where the Ship’s Company and OCdts all enjoyed an end-of-deployment meal, before the OCdts departed the following day on a ferry back to Portsmouth.

Lieutenant Will Jones RN, the Commanding Officer of the Oxford URNU said, “The deployment was a great opportunity for the OCdts to visit some fantastic locations and experience naval life first hand. The feedback since has been unanimously positive”.

Oxford is one of 15 URNUs located across the UK offering opportunities to 750 undergraduates from the country’s leading universities.

The URNU aims to broaden understanding of the Royal Navy among university students. It offers students who show leadership potential the chance to develop these skills through maritime experience and exposure to the Royal Navy’s values and ethos.

The URNU is a chance to experience military life without commitment and gain new skills applicable to all walks of life.

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