HMS Forth joined the Army and RAF in a combined exercise in one of the islands in the Falklands. After a busy ‘remembrance season’ in the South Atlantic, which saw the patrol ship retrace the route of ships and troops involved in the 1982 conflict, the second-generation River-class vessel knuckled down to more regular military duties.
Every few months all three Services in the Falklands pool their collective resources for a combined exercise. This austral winter, planners’ eyes fell on Weddell, the third largest of the 778 islands which make up the Falklands.
It sits off the west coast of West Falkland about 130 miles from the capital Stanley, is about three times the size of Brighton but home to just 43 souls.
It’s also in private hands so the military received permission from owners before embarking on the exercise. Permission received, embarked Riflemen from A Company, 1st Battalion The Rifles – the latest Army unit to deploy to the Falklands as the ‘Roulemont Infantry Company’.
Forth – and her four sisters – has a dedicated mess deck (bunks, heads, stowage) for more than 50 troops.
As Forth made her way towards Weddell, the RAF’s A400M provided reconnaissance, confirming the route was clear for the ship to dispatch her Pacific 24 sea boats to put the Riflemen ashore.
“The remote location of the island provided an excellent training area for a joint land, air, sea exercise,” said Lieutenant Commander Sam Fields, Forth’s Executive Officer.
The undulating landscape on the island, its size and few inhabitants made for an ideal setting for the Rifles to run-through their section manoeuvres.
Towards the end of the exercise the Typhoons of 1435 Flt could be seen overhead, working with the Riflemen to practice their communication and signaling skills with the jets. Throughout the exercise the Riflemen made use of Forth’s embarked forces accommodation for eat and sleep.
They also tested the ship’s laundry, with Operation Dry-Out – allowing the soldiers to wash, rest, grab hot food, clean their kit – put into effect at the end of the day as the troops filed back on board.