Rushden Units Visit to Portsmouth and HMS Dragon

HMS Dragon is the fourth of the Navy’s six £1bn Type 45 destroyers – and the latest to be commissioned into the Fleet. She was launched 17 November 2008 by her Lady Sponsor – Mrs Susie Boissier. After successfully completing extensive trials, the destroyer was handed over to the Royal Navy and made her debut in Portsmouth in the late summer of 2011. The Type 45s can also be used as general-purpose warships; they have huge flight decks to accommodate helicopters up to the size of a Chinook. There’s enough space on board to host a Royal Marines detachment up to 60 strong. As for the ship’s company, they enjoy ‘creature comforts’ only dreamed of by their forebears: no sailor lives in a mess square for more than six people and there are no communal heads (toilets) or showers.

On the weekend of 26 and 27 January, members from the Portsmouth and Gosport units joined members from the Rushden unit on a pre-arranged tour of HMS DRAGON, whilst she was in dock at Portsmouth, along with several members of the Maritime Training Corps. (a local youth organisation). The visit started at 1030 with the usual safety briefing and then we were split in to 2 groups, MVS one group and the cadets the other. Our guide was officially on Fire Watch and proved to be very knowledgeable about his ship. The tour then commenced with a look at the crews quarters and boy how they differed from the older ships.

Six persons cabins being the norm these days with iPod and TV consul’s to most if not all the berths. There were virtually no restrictions as to where we went with the exception of the engine room (Health and Safety!). Galley, flight deck, forepeak, quarterdeck, HQ1, operations room, (more monitor screens than PC World). The electronics on board were amazing to behold and it soon became obvious on the ships reliance on the god of electricity. According to our guide just alongside her electricity bill is in the region of, wait for it, £20,000 per week! We eventually got to the bridge. More like the Star Ship Enterprise nowadays. Off course we had to have our photos taken in the Captain’s chair which was a gift from Rolls Royce, still had the picnic table in the back as it came from a RR Phantom. We departed after about 2 hours with so much information inside us. Thanks must go to the crew and to Tony Crisp from the MTC who organised this trip for us.

The day finished up at the Waterlooville Branch of the RNA, again thanks to Tony Crisp. Good company, good sounds and reasonably priced “lemonade.”

Sunday obviously followed.

Members from the Portsmouth unit took our ARKWRIGHT out and collected 4 from the Rushden Unit and proceeded to give them a tour of Portsmouth Harbour which brought back memories for some of our visitors. On the tour we saw 2 other 45s, Illustrious, a Brazilian navy ship, 6 very sad old ships which are up for disposal and the new Upper Harbour Ammunitioning Facility which is to cater for the new carrier. The trip inevitably finished up at a local watering hole where Rushden demonstrated their thanks with a round.
All departed in good cheer and thanks to all. I would not be surprised if they come back again sometime when they will be made most welcome as are all MVS members.

Prior to this account the Rushden Unit visited HMS VICTORY which is trip to stir the blood and comes highly recommended. Any other units wishing to engage in this type of visit we may be able to accommodate in our unit over a weekend. T&Cs apply.

VO Chris Davenport, Portsmouth Unit