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Royal Navy aid efforts in Tonga hold personal importance for St Vincent sailor

28 January 2022
For sailor Glenroy Cupid the Royal Navy's aid efforts in Tonga hold personal importance after seeing his homeland of St Vincent in the Caribbean suffer in the wake of its own natural disaster last year.

Supply Chain Rating Cupid is a logistician aboard HMS Spey as the patrol ship helps the international aid effort in the Pacific islands following a devastating tsunami caused by an underwater volcano eruption. 

Among the 50 sailors on aboard are others like Glenroy who are from fellow Commonwealth nations and have a great sense of pride in helping another country from the global network of nations.

For SC Cupid, though, there has been added emotion this week during the delivery of crucial aid – including bottled water, sanitary products and medical supplies – to Tongan capital Nuku’alofa on the island of Tongatapu.

The sailor is from St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean, which was hit by its own natural disaster after the eruption of the La Soufrière volcano last year, and is proud to be now supporting efforts in Tonga.

He watched on from more than 4,000 miles away in the UK as his homeland suffered terribly, sending back his own supplies via mail as the islands were covered in a thick layer of volcanic ash – similar to scenes in Tonga right now.

Tanker RFA Wave Knight delivered 135 pallets of emergency assistance to St Vincent in April 2021 after the intense volcanic activity had forced an evacuation, displacing 14,000 islanders.

“Lots of my friends and family in St Vincent were affected by the volcano,” said Glenroy, who has been heavily involved in the delivery of aid to Tonga alongside his comrades aboard Spey.

“I was in the UK at the time and I couldn’t get back but wanted to help so I mailed my own boxes of supplies. 

“Royal Navy ships are often in the Caribbean and RFA Wave Knight was sent to St Vincent. Here in the Pacific it is only right we help too. 

“Even for a small ship like Spey, help is still help and people feel important if the UK and the Royal Navy are there giving support and reassurance.”

Glenroy grew up in Kingston in St Vincent and played cricket in school and primarily knew of the Commonwealth through sporting links and the Commonwealth games.

He joined the RN and has forged friendships with fellow sailors from around the Commonwealth, including Sub-Lieutenant Daniel Basel from South Africa, who is also aboard Spey.

“I had a cousin who was in the Royal Navy, and my neighbour is a retired Royal Marine and this made me consider opportunities in the UK,” said Glenroy.
“The Commonwealth link to the UK made this possible and allows me to work in the Royal Navy.”

For SLt Basel, growing up in Durban, South Africa, then studying engineering in Pretoria he had wanted to join the military and similarly looked into the Royal Navy as a different opportunity that was open to him as a member of the Commonwealth. 

He said: “Living in South Africa, I was not often exposed to the relationship between Commonwealth countries and I had not thought much of it except as a link for me to work in the UK. 

“However joining HMS Spey in the Pacific is the first time I have been involved in any aid operations, and seeing the substantial links Britain has to countries like Tonga has highlighted the Commonwealth in new ways. 

“I am very glad that we can be involved and support.”

HMS Spey has remained in Tongan waters after delivering her aid and has been supporting a mission to restore the islands’ communications network and working closely with the New Zealand and Australian navies.  

“It will put the Tongan government back in touch with all of the outlying islands so that they can start to really gather that picture and to be able to decide where the supplies are most needed,” said commanding officer, Commander Mike Proudman, about their recent mission. 


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