My career with the Royal Fleet Auxiliary has taken me to most parts of the world. I have commanded six ships and operated in the Gulf, the Caribbean and the Atlantic. It is a different job most days – this year alone I have commanded a ship supporting Commander UK Mine Counter Measures Force in the Gulf, followed by hurricane and disaster relief in the Bahamas.
The ship I now command, the RFA Mounts Bay, was told to follow in the wake of Hurricane Dorian and we were very close behind Dorian for most of the way. We conducted helicopter operations off Nassau as well as reconnaissance flights before going ashore.
The ship’s team is made up of highly trained professionals and many of us have undertaken training in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. This helps you to prepare mentally but it was difficult to be totally prepared as we were not sure exactly what to expect.
“I have never met a serving individual who has asked for any thanks or recognition”
The primary danger was environmental – the sea conditions were poor for the first few days and we were needing to move large, heavy pieces of equipment. We were operating in extremely testing conditions, lifting heavy boats on a ship that is rolling with a significant swell is a potentially dangerous situation. The helicopter was launched on its limits on many occasions. Later on, fatigue and heat exhaustion were issues for us as the crew were pushing themselves physically and mentally, far beyond usual capabilities.
The Armed Forces are always there, whether it’s helping out the civilian authorities in peace or helping defend our country’s interests in conflict. I have never met a serving individual who has asked for any thanks or recognition. I find veterans some of the most self-deprecating people you will meet.
During the two minutes silence, as a parent I think about the impact that the loss of a child would have on me. I often see the names of individuals who lost their lives at the age of 19 or 21 and I wonder what that individual might have gone on to achieve with their life had they survived and also how the loss would have affected each individual's wider family. It is right that we recognise the sacrifices members of the Armed Forces have made, including those who are serving, veterans and those that we have lost.