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HMS Somerset draws breath after busy autumn patrols

18 November 2022
HMS Somerset has completed a busy autumn patrol of northern European waters.

The Plymouth-based warship added more than 6,500 nautical miles to her odometer in just a couple of months – enough to take her to the Falklands.

Instead, Norway, the Netherlands and Germany were her destinations in between training, trials and busy maritime security duties.

She’s one of two RN warships to make use of the NATO ranges at Stavanger (HMS Kent, her sister was the other) which allows crew to test and calibrate all the various sensors and systems aboard to make sure they behave as specified.

The Norwegian port also offered superb adventurous training opportunities – stand-up paddleboard, kayaking, hill walking, and indoor climbing, led by trained RN instructors from Portsmouth.

Back at sea, Somerset’s gunners flashed up the frigate’s main 4.5in gun for the first time since 2018 (most of the intervening period was spent in refit), testing the weapon at various elevations and especially monitoring the barrel’s recoil – too much can damage the gun. It passed the shoot with flying colours.

Another weapon system needing testing was SeaCeptor, Somerset’s new air defence missile, fitted during refit. Its tracking system was thoroughly tested by engineers from MCTA, who used a live aircraft to calibrate it and follow the jet’s movements. 

Port visits have included Den Helder, home of the Dutch Navy, where crew took on a local rugby side (and won, celebrating with an evening of Abba and pickled herring) and took the train into Amsterdam, and Hamburg… which was the last overseas port Somerset called upon ahead of her refit. 

It took eight and a half hours to cover the 79 nautical mile transit from the mouth of the Elbe to the great harbour city – time spent by many of the crew in the hangar, running or rowing the distance as a physical challenge. 

Enjoying a plum berth in the city near the philharmonic hall, Somerset hosted a reception for a number of German officers and a Royal Marines colonel onboard. 

We’ve delivered on training and on patrol, as well as having some fantastic port visits, including the Netherlands and Germany. I’ve had a fantastic time onboard and look forward to what lays in store for Somerset in a busy New Year.

Surgeon Lieutenant Leo Potter

Two crew missed out on Hamburg’s hospitality to join affiliates from the Society of Apothecaries in London and their annual dinner. One of the largest livery companies, it helps to support medical students and its members carrying out medical research, such as helping develop the Covid vaccine.

To while away down time on patrol, sailors turned killers and sleuth with a game of Cluedo involving all aboard – ‘murderers’ drew the name of their victim, weapon and location of the crime out of a hat… and then set out to ‘kill’.

For the less-violently-minded, the inter-mess Mario kart video game challenge (top prize – bragging rights and £10 to spend in the NAAFI) with a series of head-to-head races which ended with the grand finale in the hangar, won by Lieutenant Stephen Swindley, deputy marine engineering officer.

All of this has been a new experience to communications specialist Engineering Technician Lucy Evans. “This was my first time on board a ship this has also been my first time away from home for a long period of time,” she said.

“Patrols were such an amazing experience for me as I got to learn loads about the other cultures around the world and see some sights I never thought I ever could. The time away made me feel very proud as I felt as though I was giving something back after all my training and getting to put it into practice now at this point in my career.”

Ship’s doctor Surgeon Lieutenant Leo Potter added: “As a last-minute addition to the ship, this period has proved to be exciting and dynamic. Somerset has been at the forefront of defence operations, such a busy deployment has shown what can be achieved when we all pull together.

“We’ve delivered on training and on patrol, as well as having some fantastic port visits, including the Netherlands and Germany. I’ve had a fantastic time onboard and look forward to what lays in store for Somerset in a busy New Year.”

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