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HMS Ocean will provide toys for Caribbean children

Op Ruman
15 September 2017
HMS Ocean Chaplin, Reverend Paul Andrew, has raised over £1,500 from generous donations from the ship’s company and the people of Gibraltar to provide toys for children affected by Hurricane Irma in the Caribbean.

Paul collected the money when the ship was sailing from the Mediterranean to Gibraltar.

As the ship was re-tasked to go to the Caribbean to provide hurricane disaster relief to British Overseas Territories, Paul read about the devastation that had affected the area and had the idea to get some money together to buy toys for the kids.

Reverend Paul Andrew, or ‘the Bish’ as he is known on board, said, “A lot of the kids have been left with nothing other than what they were standing up in when the hurricane struck. I wanted to raise some money to buy some little toys for the kids in the Caribbean.

“I mentioned this to Reverend Mike Wagstaff, the HQ British Forces Chaplain, and he put out an appeal in his Church.

“From that he also managed to raised over £300 at very short notice. When we arrived in Gibraltar I met up with Mike and he drove us around looking for toy shops. We had just a 72 hour stopover in Gibraltar so we had a lot of toys to gather in that time.

“The great thing was word soon got round and the people of Gibraltar were giving us things and donating toys. We ended up with over £1,500 to buy toys with, which was absolutely amazing.”

A lot of the kids have been left with nothing other than what they were standing up in when the hurricane struck. I wanted to raise some money to buy some little toys

Reverend Paul Andrew, HMS Ocean's Chaplain

The Bish was also helped by Sub Lieutenant Tom Dawkins who is an Officer Under Training on board. Tom said: “I put buckets in all the dining spaces on board and in the NAAFI. The crew on HMS Ocean have been very generous. We made £500 from the buckets and I’m going to get them out again when we get closer to where we are going.”

Helping Reverend Paul sort all the toys were eight army soldiers from the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards, usually based at Victoria Barracks in Windsor.  

The Regiment is affiliated to HMS Ocean and when the ship sailed from Devonport in August to assume the role of Flagship to the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 (SNMG2) they took the opportunity to send eight of their soldiers to sea. This will maintain the Ship’s strong affiliation with the Regiment and gives them an insight into what the Royal Navy does.

HMS Ocean’s Commanding Officer, Captain Rob Pedre, said, “HMS Ocean is honoured to host members of the Coldstream Guards. They have been fully integrated into life onboard and we are rightly very proud of our strong affiliation with the Regiment.

“I feel sure we have given our guests an insight into life at sea and the very joint nature of the operations we conduct on a daily basis.”

Sergeant Aaron Heath said, “We were invited on board to learn how HMS Ocean operates and we were due to disembark at Souda Bay. When we heard the Captain’s pipe about the change of tasking I ran up to the bridge to ask whether could we stay on board to go with them.

“I was hoping we could provide valuable assistance in the disaster relief op. It proves how the Armed Forces are able to work together across many different levels for a common aim.”

Aaron, 30, from Stoke-in-Trent continued, “When the Commanding Officer of Ocean said he’d be delighted for us to stay on board we thought it was great. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us. For the Army to be on board for this sort of deployment is not really heard of. All we want to do is get there to help out in any way we can.”

Aaron’s usual role with the Coldstream Guards is ceremonial duty for HM The Queen – who is also the ship’s sponsor.  

HMS Ocean is now travelling at her top speed across the North Atlantic to the Caribbean.

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