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SO FAR IN 2012
The Ships Company of HMS MERSEY have had a none stop start during the first quarter of 2012. After a very successful engineering and maintenance period alongside in January the Ship got straight down to business. A trio of significant fines for fisheries offences, a squadron exercise, a number of high profile visitors, followed by an enjoyable operational stand off in Belfast. This month Mersey Beat brings you an update on these stories alongside some impressive sporting triumphs.

MERSEY is one of three Ships which make up the RNs Fishery Protection Squadron enforcing UK and EU fisheries legislation in order to ensure the long term sustainability of the UK fishing grounds. In addition, the three UK based Ships are the only warships on permanent patrol around the UK, contributing to the policing of UK waters and delivering an intrinsic element of the UKs Maritime Security.


Royal Navy Fishery Protection Vessel HMS MERSEY has issued a record on the spot fine for undersized nets during the boarding of a Dutch fishing vessel in the North Sea. HMS MERSEY was on routine fishery protection duties in the early hours of Tuesday morning when she located the Dutch beam trawler FV Elizabeth 40 nautical miles East from the Norfolk Coast, just inside UK fisheries limits. The Ships boarding team were sent onto the Elizabeth to carry out a full inspection just as dawn broke on Tuesday morning. Marine Enforcement Officer Midshipman Phill Fordham RN and his Assistant Boarding Officer ET(WE) Don King carried out a thorough inspection of all aspects of the vessels documentation and catch before moving on to an inspection of the gear onboard. The size of the holes in the nets used is a key element of fisheries legislation, with undersized mesh sizes resulting in the depletion of young fish and vulnerable species that are unable to escape as the nets are dragged through the water.

An inspection of the 2 cod-ends (the section of the net that catches and holds the fish) revealed that both were significantly undersized, this infringement was reported back to HMS MERSEY who liaised with the Marine Management Organisation to determine the next course of action. It was decided that Elizabeth would receive a Financial Administrative Penalty of 8,000 to be administered by the RN boarding team. This significant sum is a record for any ship within the Fishery Protection Squadron. HMS MERSEYs Commanding Officer, Lt Cdr Mark Anderson RN said This is a great result for my Ships Company and another example of the continued effectiveness of RN Fishery Protection Vessels working to enforce important fisheries legislation in and around UK waters. Following in the path of this early success for the year, the Marine Enforcement team recorded a further three significant fines against fishing vessels for a range of offences as well as a number of official written warnings. As 2012 continues MERSEY is determined to sustain the effective enforcement capability they have developed and ensure that fishing vessels operating outside the law are identified and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Royal Navy Fishery Protection Vessel HMS MERSEY was joined by her sister ships HMS SEVERN and HMS TYNE for the annual Fishery Protection Squadron Exercise in February. The exercise saw the ships put through their paces in a series of challenging combined evolutions at sea as well as team-building and knowledge-sharing events ashore. The exercise began as all ships, returning from Fishery Protection patrols around the UK, closed each other at the rendezvous point off Sandown Bay just before sunrise on the first morning. Falling into formation they wasted no time in commencing the first in a series of intricate manoeuvres with HMS SEVERN directing the rest of the Squadron into a co-ordinated anchorage at Spithead. Safely clear of the anchorage it was MERSEYs opportunity to shine as she took the lead for a series of Officer of the Watch Manoeuvres, this involves a number of ships moving perfectly in time in a series of coordinated movements at set distances from each other. Zig-zagging and weaving her way at the head of the formation, MERSEY successfully guided her sister ships into open water for a photo opportunity with a Lynx helicopter from 815 Naval Air Squadron. The annual squadron exercise provides a perfect opportunity for the weapons directors and their crews to dust off the anti-flash and test their sharp shooting skills with GPMGs and 20mm cannons against the other ships (it should be noted that the shots were aimed at a floating target rather than each other that would take the competition a bit far). As HMS TYNE coordinated the positioning of all three ships in relation to the firing areas it was MERSEYs very own AB(Sea) Antony who claimed the honours as his 20mm shot struck a direct hit on the target. After an enjoyable and certainly worthwhile day all that was left was for MERSEY, flying her recently awarded Fleet Efficiency Pennant, to resume command and lead the other two ships back into Portsmouth Dockyard. Day two saw a number of evolutions happening concurrently throughout the day involving all members of the various Ships Companies. Whilst the Commanding Officers and their Executive Officers met with representatives from the Squadron Staff for their annual Command Conference, the Marine Enforcement Officers from all three ships held a similar discussion with visiting staff from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and the sports teams from the three ships competed at Football and back-pass in HMS NELSONs gymnasium. HMS MERSEYs team earned a sporting trophy to accompany the efficiency pennant awarded at the end of 2011. With work over, it was time for the Squadron to relax and put rivalries aside as they came together for the annual Fish Ball; held at the Royal Maritime Club, this event is an opportunity for all ranks and rates from the Squadron, as well as staff from the MMO, to get together, reunite with old friends and let their hair down for the evening. Guests were treated to a threecourse meal and live entertainment featuring classics from the Frank Sinatra back catalogue as well as a DJ and dancing into the early hours. MERSEYs Executive Officer Lt Rob Lamb said Overall the Exercise was a great success, the ships proved they coul d work together effectively and that even in evolutions not routinely part of their daily business, they were still able to perform to the high standard expected within the RN. The shore side aspects were of great use, providing an important opportunity to renew the connection between the MMO and the RN Officers who work on the front line of fishery protection and for everyone to relax in a more informal setting at a very enjoyable Fish Ball.


MERSEY took advantage of the unseasonably fine March weather to exercise the upper deck weapons crews and bridge teams in combating the waterborne threat posed by a small rib approaching the Ship. Our tasking takes us close in to land and we visit a number of ports each year not usually frequented by RN vessels; whilst thankfully the threat is not one we face on a routine basis it is nevertheless one which we must take seriously. The exercise provided an opportunity for some of the newer members of the Ships Company to familiarise themselves with our procedures and fire off some rounds (albeit blank) against our seaboat as it played the role of an enemy craft. Evading a potential aggressor in a small craft requires a combination of tactical manoeuvring by the bridge team, a rapid response by the upper deck weapons crews in assuming their positions and a sequence of warnings. The actions of the Ship are taken in line with strict rules of engagement and exercises such as this one allow the command to rehearse applying the rules to various scenarios played out before them. In the run up to a period of Operational Sea Training coming up later in the year there are sure to be many more training serials such as this to take the team to that next level in operational effectiveness.


Different people like to spend their leave in different ways; many enjoy a restful break and a chance to relax away from the stresses of work. Others however take things to extremes and use their time off to undertake one of the craziest endurance challenges the UK has to offer. The Tough Guy race takes place over an eight mile course pitting contestants against the forces of nature, exhaustion and sheer determination - Lt Tom Hazel, ET(ME) Chris Luce and AB(SEA) David Antony faced this challenge head on as part of Team MERSEY and made it out the other side to tell the tale. The first four miles of the course featured long open stretches to get the legs going, moving across fields and over furlongs, up and down steep hills fighting against the thick mud making half a mile last forever. The budding tough guys fought their way through, clambering in and out of freezing deep streams, trudging through boggy marshes, struggling under forest netting and scrambling over huge hay obstacles just to make it to the half-way point. With sections known by names such as the Torture Chamber and the Killing Fields the course was never going to get easier from this point on. Those still standing were faced with what seemed like endless freezing water, raging fires to jump over, 10,000 volts of electrodes to avoid and the challenge of mounting 40ft A-frames with only some netting to help them. Traversing rope walkways strung across yet more freezing water they moved on to seemingly endless steep hills and boggy expanses, through tunnels made of tires, concrete and under barbed wire before finally making their way across the finish line looking like broken men, but having completed the most awesome challenge. AB(SEA) Antony remarked this was an immense race, we have overcome unthinkable obstacles and physical pain, all the time battling hypothermia, exhaustion and really bad cramp but we did it! This is what really sorts the weak from the Tough Guys!


Written by (newly promoted) SLt Phill Fordham RN

The Royal Navy Alpine Skiing Championships are held annually in Tignes during the middle two weeks of January. This year MERSEYs Navigating Officer Lt Stuart Willsmore and Specialist Fleet Time Young Officer Midshipman Phill Fordham were lucky enough to attend. The Royal Navy Winter Sports Association provides packages over either of the two weeks or for those lucky enough; both weeks. All abilities are catered for, from absolute beginners to advanced training in racing and off-piste avalanche survival. The Championships are open to all serving, reserve and retired RN and RM personnel, as well as any civilian family or friends. This gives a fantastic atmosphere throughout the resort, with more than 2,000 people attending the championships over the two weeks. An excellent standard of coaching is provided by a combination of RN/RM instructors, supplemented by instructors from the resort as required. Racing is held in the last two days of the first week and throughout the second week and is encouraged regardless of ability. MERSEY were unfortunately unable to field a full four man team (no shame there as neither did HMS ILLUSTRIOUS) but both Stuart and Phill raced as individuals during the first week. Stuart was setting a competitive time in the Giant Slalom C race before an unfortunate, but rather spectacular fall three quarters of the way down an already rutted course meant he did not finish. Based on his performance in the Giant Slalom B race Phill was asked to stay for the second week of the championships and train with the Royal Navy Ski Team. During this second week Phill won Silver in the intermediate Giant Slalom and Gold in the intermediate Slalom races, making him intermediate runner up for the championships.



1. Prepare the lobster: cut it in half, remove the claws and legs, discard the sac and trail. Remove meat from the claws and cut the tail into 3-4 pieces, leaving meat in the shell. 2. Clean the squid, pull the body and head apart. Extract the transparent pen from the body. Rinse well, pulling off the thin purple membrane on the outside. Remove the ink sack. Cut the body into ring and tentacles into 1cm (1/2 inch) lengths. 3. Prepare the prawns by shelling the body.


4. Boil the white stock, infuse with saffron and simmer for 510 minutes. 5. Sweat the finely chopped onion in a suitable pan, without colour. Add the garlic and the peppers. 6. Add the rice to the onions and garlic and sweat for 2 minutes. 7. Add about 1 litre white stock. 8. Add the thyme, bay leaf and seasoning. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lightly oiled greaseproof paper and lid. Cook for 5-8 minutes, in a moderately hot oven (around 180C). 9. Add the squid and cook for another 5 minutes. 10. Add the tomatoes, lobster pieces and prawns. Stir gently, cover with a lid and reheat the rice in the oven. 11. Correct the consistency of the rice if necessary by adding more stock, so that it looks sufficiently moist without being too wet. Correct the seasoning. 12. When all is reheated and cooked, lace in a suitable serving dish, decorate with 4 prawns. Finish with wedges of lemon.


Ashley Head joined the Royal Navy on 23rd April 2005 as a Chef. On completion of training Ash joined HMS Westminster for a Far East deployment as part of Volans 06. Remaining with Westminster Ash took part in a similar deployment on Orion 08. Since then he has served in mine hunters HMS Middleton and HMS Brocklesby as well as completing operational tours on Tellick 09 and Herrick 10. Ash joined HMS Mersey in February 2012 with the instructions if you impress us, you can stay. Ash has since been permanently drafted to MERSEY.