This week I had a chance to view the Royal Navy put on a maritme combat power demonstration, something that’s been held in various forms under various names for many years, but not recently open to the media.
Up at 0-dark-thirty in finest naval tradition for a train to Portsmouth. Turns out it was also full of MPs from the Commons Defence Select Committee on an away day. Last night they were probably rebelling against the PM’s line on Europe, but today it was tweeds and flat caps for a day messing about in boats, joined by at least two admirals and one general that I recognised. Some Canadian officers and a group of academics plus about a dozen of us journos made up the party.
We began events literally by walking the plank from Warrior Slip onto a Landing Craft Utility (LCU), which in due course set off for HMS Bulwark, anchored somewhere between the Isle of Wight and Browndown Beach near Gosport. Bulwark is classed as a Landing Platform Dock (LPD) ship, which essentially means it can land and launch helicopters from its flight deck, and boats and landing craft from its semi-submerged well deck at the stern.
The back door is how we arrived, and the large LCU slipped inside the starboard side of the well. Ramp down, we stepped aboard. This was my second visit to this ship, having been aboard for one night off the Outer Hebrides about three years ago. Most of it, including the shallow stairs for the embarked military force (EMF) and the unnecessarily steep ladders in the rest of the ship was fairly familiar.