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HMS Queen Elizabeth joins world’s biggest coffee morning

HMS Queen Elizabeth joins world’s biggest coffee morning
27 September 2019
Now that’s about as British as you can get. You can’t have the world’s biggest coffee morning (being Brits tea is a perfectly acceptable and frequent substitute…) without Britain’s biggest warship.

Commander Chris Knowles raises his mug as he enjoys a wet in the right-hand pilot’s seat of his Merlin helicopter as it returns to aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after a patrol of the North Atlantic.

The commanding officer of 820 Naval Air Squadron is one of 1,800 sailors, soldiers and aviators in the carrier strike group joining Britons around the globe for the annual fundraiser Macmillan Cancer Support.

The UK Carrier Strike Group’s Biggest Coffee Morning took place simultaneously onboard HMS Queen Elizabeth, destroyer HMS Dragon (presently escorting US carrier USS Dwight D Eisenhower for a few days), frigate HMS Northumberland and tanker RFA Tideforce, with aviators and ground crew from 814, 815, 820 and 845 Naval Air Squadrons from RNAS Yeovilton and RNAS Culdrose, as well as Royal Marines and Army and Royal Air Force personnel embarked on the carrier.

In line with naval tradition, all but those sailors on essential duties stopped work at 10.15 for the daily 15-minute-long “stand easy”.

Typically a brew and biscuit affair, aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth the chefs raised the stakes to raise money, producing cakes for shipmates (for a donation to Macmillan, of course) in addition to the three meals they serve up to 1,200 men and women daily.

The idea for a strike group-wide coffee morning grew out of a pledge from Royal Navy chef Petty Officer Kieran Fisher.

“I wanted to do something after one of our shipmates was recently diagnosed with cancer. It got me thinking about how we could all help and raise the profile of Macmillan,” said the 35-year-old from Plymouth who serves onboard the carrier.

It’s fantastic that it’s grown and all of our strike group units have rallied around in support of this – it surely has to be one of the biggest coffee mornings at sea in history

Petty Officer Kieran Fisher

Merlin pilots, aircraft handlers, firefighters and medics all joined in the coffee and cake-fest… irrespective of where they were or what they were doing at the time. Personnel will have downed an estimated 9,000 cuppas by the day’s end.

“I don’t think there can be a sailor, soldier or aviator in the entire carrier strike group who hasn’t been touched by the tremendous work of Macmillan Cancer Support,” said Captain Steve Moorhouse, HMS Queen Elizabeth’s Commanding Officer.

“Many of our people here on the ‘Westlant 19’ deployment are thousands of miles away from friends or loved ones who need, or have needed the outstanding support Macmillan offers.

“It is a genuine privilege to take a moment out from the work we are doing in generating the nation’s carrier strike capability, to raise our traditional ‘stand-easy’ cuppa and give our heartfelt thanks and support to this extremely worthwhile cause.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth and her strike group will spend the rest of the autumn conducting training with UK F-35 Lightning stealth fighters off the east coast of the USA before returning to Portsmouth in December, joining her younger sister HMS Prince of Wales – currently on sea trials in the North Sea – in the naval base for the first time.

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