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HMS Dauntless visits trio of Caribbean Islands in disaster relief preparation mission

4 October 2023
Royal Navy warship HMS Dauntless helped three British territories in the Caribbean prepare for the wrath of Nature as hurricane season reaches its climax.

The Portsmouth-based destroyer has been deployed to the Caribbean since May and, as well as providing a notable security presence working with allies and partners and countering the narcotics trade, has visited island communities to reassure and carry out work to lessen the risk of widespread damage during a storm.

The Type 45 destroyer completed work in the Bahamas earlier in the deployment but her most recent patrol of the Caribbean Sea took her to the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat and Anguilla to provide reassurance and offer assistance, plus the opportunity to explore these paradise islands.

“It has been an immensely insightful to visit the United Kingdom’s overseas territories in the Caribbean,” said HMS Dauntless’ Commanding Officer, Commander Ben Dorrington. 

“By engaging with the local authorities we are able to have a far better idea of how we would provide support in the event of a natural disaster.”

The Royal Navy is a regular presence in the region during hurricane season and has often come to the aid of communities in need in the wake of destructive storms. 

Last year, HMS Medway and RFA Tideforce delivered drinking water and made repairs as the Turks and Caicos Islands recovered from damage caused by Hurricane Fiona and, before that, RFA Wave Knight supported the international relief following Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2021.

It isn’t just limited to Caribbean islands: RFA Argus assisted disaster relief efforts in Honduras after Storm Eta swept the Central American nation in 2020.

Before that RFA Mounts Bay was in the region for two years and, notably, was at the heart of Operation Ruman, the military support to people affected by Hurricane Irma in 2017. 

The ship continued her patrol throughout 2018 and was involved in relief efforts after Hurricane Dorian in 2019 before handing duties over to RFA Argus. 

Now it’s HMS Dauntless and her team who stand ready to respond if the worst were to happen.

 

 

BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

In the British Virgin Islands, the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Team from Dauntless hosted personnel from the island’s disaster management committee to discuss planning for a joint response to a hurricane and other natural disasters.

The British Virgin Islands stop included visiting Virgin Gorda where the distinct large rocks in the national park form beautiful above-ground caves. The ship’s football team also played against a local team, losing 2-1.

MONTSERRAT

The ship sailed east to the volcanic island of Montserrat, where the HADR team met Royal Montserrat Defence Force personnel for planning and a look at measures against natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and hurricanes or tropical storms that could potentially impact the island.

A tour of the once-bustling capital, Plymouth, provided a stark reminder of the power and danger of Mother Nature.

The danger of a volcanic eruption on Montserrat – known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean for its lush vegetation – never goes away.

When long-dormant Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in 1995, it destroyed the island’s airport, rendered the capital Plymouth uninhabitable and prompted two thirds of Montserrat’s population to flee.

Now the island’s remaining populace have carved out new lives in northern Montserrat, built a new airport and established a new capital (Brades) – but they continue to live in the shadow of the volcano… which continues to smoulder.

A HADR exercise took place, with members of the ship’s company, Royal Marines and members of the RMDF hiking across steep mountain roads 16km from Plymouth to Little Bay in order to provide assistance, tackling extreme heat and torrential downpours along the way.

Able Rating Alejandro Stewart-Barreiro, said: “The visit was a great occasion for our ship’s company to travel somewhere new and also to take part in the gruelling hike in demanding conditions. 

“The island is not somewhere many people have heard of, and to meet up with the Royal Montserrat Defence Force made for a great bonding HADR exercise. The walk was definitely not easy, especially walking up what the Montserrat personnel described as ‘Death Hill’.

“At the beginning of the hike, being dropped off within the exclusion zone of the volcanic island, you could see first-hand the remains of the buildings destroyed by the 1997 volcanic eruption; that was a big eye opener.”

While the HADR exercise took place, Cdr Dorrington and three of the ship’s company engaged with school children, giving them insight into the life in the armed forces and experiences at sea. 

ANGUILLA

Two islands visited, one to go… this time it was northwest to Anguilla. 

The ship remained at anchor throughout her stay, with tenders running people to and from the vibrant island, not least the Governor of Anguilla who enjoyed lunch aboard and received a tour of the destroyer.

It was a chance for some downtime for the ship’s company as they prepare restart counter-narcotics operations. Dauntless’ last patrol saw a bust of £140m of cocaine and the ship helped US forces seize a drugs-running aircraft using the Type 45’s powerful radar systems. 

 

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