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HMS Lancaster supports British Government in Sudan evacuation

2 May 2023
Sailors and Royal Marines on HMS Lancaster have helped hundreds of civilians flee war-torn Sudan, assisting their escape through the country’s main port.

The frigate arrived in Port Sudan in the Red Sea last week as part of the UK effort to assist British citizens and those from partner nations get away from the raging civil war.

As well as the airlift of civilians from around the capital – an operation supported by the Royal Marines of 3 Commando – Britain’s response to the crisis also saw people evacuated across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia by ship, from where onward travel is arranged.

British nationals were processed and supported by personnel from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office and UK Border Force – assisted by the UK Armed Forces.

Hundreds of people have arrived in Port Sudan by road, with the safety of their journey having been bolstered by members of 3 Parachute Regiment and 42 Commando Royal Marines, who disembarked from HMS Lancaster.

Mohammed Kadouk, who was born in Cardiff and studied at Aberdeen University, made the 750km journey to Port Sudan with his wife and three-week-old daughter. He described the dangerous situation in Khartoum and challenges they had faced.

“Once I got here [Coral Hotel reception centre] it has been really good. My priority is my family, I need to get them somewhere safe, get them settled and then get back to work,” he said.

Today the ship’s company have been working as hard as we can to support them in their departure efforts; providing food, administrative and logistics help, and providing supplies for young children and babies.

Commander Tom Johnson

From the reception centre at the Coral Hotel, where the FCDO has opened a temporary consular facility, eligible people were transported to the port where they were supported for safe onward travel to Jeddah. The crew of HMS Lancaster were on hand to provide meals, welfare and general support.

The Commanding Officer of HMS Lancaster, Commander Tom Johnson, said: “My thoughts and the thoughts of my entire ship’s company are here with the people of Sudan.

“Today the ship’s company have been working as hard as we can to support them in their departure efforts; providing food, administrative and logistics help, and providing supplies for young children and babies.”

His ship was the first Royal Navy vessel to use Port Sudan since frigate HMS Galatea nearly 40 years ago which meant, says Cdr Johnson, “our knowledge of this port and pictures of the jetty were really stale”.

To plug that four-decade gap, the RAF were called in, with a Reaper drone committed over the harbour as part of wider support from pilotless craft over Sudan, providing real-time imagery of evacuation areas.

Reapers have been used to highlight potentially-dangerous areas to those on the ground and assisted the identification of buildings which could be suitable for temporary shelter, medical facilities or locations to process passengers.

The information gathered by the drone has been fed to HMS Lancaster as well as military and Government teams in Port Sudan.

The high-definition imagery has been used to assess the best moorings, as well as routes in and out of port for the naval vessels. Reaper can also send its video feed directly to the vessels to provide overwatch of their immediate vicinity.

“For me as the captain to have that knowledge provided by Reaper, and imagery of the surrounding area has allowed us to plan our force protection,” Cdr Johnson explained.

“It has also helped us to understand the route between where my ship is and the Coral Hotel where all the affected persons are currently being kept, which is really important.”

The 200 men and women serving in Lancaster comprise roughly one in seven of the UK military personnel – more than 1,400 souls in all – supporting the British Government’s evacuation of civilians from Sudan as the situation remains dangerous.

The ship is deployed to the Middle East on a long-term mission, usually operating in and around the Gulf, Gulf of Oman, and Indian Ocean, protecting international trade and countering illicit activity.

She works with regional allies and partners to ensure the security and safety of merchant shipping passing through these waters and to conduct maritime security operations.

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