31 Squadron Visit HMS Iron Duke

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Having recently returned from OP HERRICK, eight personnel from 31 Sqn took the opportunity to visit their affiliated Royal Navy Ship HMS Iron Duke, which is currently undergoing a period of sea trials after a refit.

After an early Sunday morning start, and several modes of transport including multiple train journeys and a boat transfer, the group finally made it on deck and were greeted by the ship’s Captain and crew before being welcomed into the various messes on board HMS Iron Duke. For many of us from 31 Sqn this was our first experience of the Royal Navy and the way they operate and live whilst at sea.

The next day the ship weighed anchor at 0630 and headed towards the live firing ranges off the coast of Hampshire and Dorset which Iron Duke would be using for the period of sea trials, building up towards their operational deployment next year. Waking up to the constant swaying of the ship was something everyone on board was used to, except us as visitors from RAF Marham. Sea sickness was always a danger and fortunately only affected one of the group for a short period of time.

During the visit, HMS Iron Duke’s company gave a capabilities brief before showing us around the different sections including; the bridge, ops room, engine rooms, catering and messes, stores, weapons bays as well as onto the top deck to view the 4.5” and 30mm cannons up close, before watching the drills from the bridge. We were also fortunate enough to witness multiple routine exercises such as fire drills and man over board, this was a fantastic way for the crew of HMS Iron Duke to practice the skills they know by heart but also demonstrated the importance of team work and leadership which is needed for a self contained ship to operate efficiently.

The visit gave the opportunity to witness Air-Maritime Integration in practice and also a chance for HMS Iron Duke to show her newly updated capability with new cannons and RADAR, which we observed as the ship’s crew liaised with air assets during the sea trials.

Following the visit, the group were transferred back to dry land once again by boat transfer. The visit gave a greater understanding of the similarities and differences between the RAF and RN as well as a greater insight to the capabilities of both services.

There are plans for personnel from HMS Iron Duke to visit 31 Sqn in the near future to continue relations between the affiliated members. Thank you to Flt Lt Eccles, 31 Sqn who organised the visit. Also thank you to HMS Iron Duke, for their hospitality during our stay.

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