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The Fort is with us as RFA support ship returns from major refit

8 November 2018
Nearly ready to take up her place in HMS Queen Elizabeth’s task group is supply ship RFA Fort Victoria – at sea for the first time this year.

The 24-year-old support ship is heading for Faslane after leaving Birkenhead, her home for more than 12 months, as her sailors prepare for renewed front-line duties.

In the hands of the world-famous Cammell Laird yard – where battleships HMS Prince of Wales and Rodney, the third and fourth HMS Ark Royal were built – Fort Vic underwent both an overhaul and modifications to meet the demands of global environmental regulators and to support the Royal Navy’s new carriers.

Since January, shipwrights and technicians have fitted extra protective hulls to the fuel tanks – used to re-supply smaller vessels than the carriers which have dedicated Tide-class tankers to ply them with black gold (two refuels of Queen Elizabeth would effectively empty Fort Vic’s tanks).

More importantly, the support ship has 3,377 cubic metres of space for ammunition – from small arms up to air-to-air missiles and Paveway laser-guided bombs for the F-35 Lightning stealth fighters – plus 2,941 cubic metres of space for dry stores (spare parts, replacement engines, food).

If you brain doesn’t work in cubic metres, that’s enough ammo to nearly fill 102 shipping containers, and dry stores for more than 85 of the 20ft boxes. The rigs which are used to transfer the ammo/stores by jackstay have been adapted so they can be used with the new carriers.

Crew moved back onboard in early August to begin preparing to take Fort Victoria back to sea, having to prove to assessors from the Flag Officer Sea Training organization that they could operate the ship safely and deal with any emergencies and casualties on board.

The fire exercise revolved around a blaze in a cabin which quickly escalated, resulting in two casualties, swiftly dealt with by RFA Fort Victoria’s first aid party, whilst the fire was tackled.

Without a bank of actors standing by to play the part of the casualties, the roles fell to two of the newest personnel onboard, CIS apprentices Adam Dare and James Holstead.

“I was able to put to use the training I had received at HMS Excellent to attract attention and to report the whereabouts of the fire before I was treated for shock and smoke inhalation by the first aid party,” said Adam.

His shipmate James received treatment for a ‘broken leg’. “Without the actions of the emergency party I would never have been able to move away from the danger, I was relocated to the first aid party position to receive treatment quickly and effectively,” he added.

Successfully extinguishing the fire, the exercise allowed the opportunity for ship’s company to dust off the cobwebs, identify shortcoming and build on a strong base ready for the at-sea phase of Fort Victoria’s training.

Like most RN – and an increasing number of RFA – ships, Fort Vic has a Twitter page (@rfafortvictoria) which will be updated regularly with tales of how training is progressing.

Team Fort Vic are keen to engage with the public throughout their regeneration and beyond and welcome questions about life aboard, or life in the RFA in general.

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