No I am not saying (picture) “In this sea state? Really?” Though Severn’s team very nearly did. As part of our film ‘Seaguard’, I joined one of their teams making a routine check on a trawler and what she’d been raking from the sea. Getting there was the thing though, with the RIB – according to Severn’s captain – only just up to the challenge of that day’s wave and wind. RIB’s, on days like that, make a bouncy castle look like a Catterick mattress. So, with the RN’s usual professionalism and skill, I was briefed, survival-suited and booted (with a big helping hand dragging all that on), and helmeted too. And then hung on totally tight as we roared across to the trawler. Exciting, and the inspection was fascinating to film, witnessing the hours of hard work every inspection requires.
This (picture) is HMS Severn, an OPV (Offshore Patrol Vessel) of the Royal Navy. We filmed aboard her for ‘Seaguard’. Literally a last shout, because this was her final voyage from Newport (her affiliated home port) to Plymouth. Her last voyage because she was on her way to being decommissioned – which she now is. All a bit hard to understand – even though new OPV’s are on the way, with the new HMS Forth ready very soon Because if we are to take back charge of our own fisheries – after the years of destruction covertly triggered by Edward Heath’s Euro-zeal – we’ll need more ships, not fewer. And Severn’s C.O. and his ship’s company showed clearly how efficient they were at fishery patrol (are, to be fair, as they’ve transferred now to HMS Tyne, same class.) We went along for the ride…
…is where we are in terms of Border Force sea-going assets. Making ‘Seaguard’, our latest Maritime Foundation keynote film, reported this about international maritime border protection. Italy, with her 4,722 miles of coastline, has 600 patrol vessels. Nearly one for each 8 miles, then. Spain, with a 3,085 littoral-mile commitment, has 147. A handsome one for each 21 miles. Greece, hammered like Spain by Euro membership, still manages 240 vessels for its 8,497 coastal waters. A nice and comfortable 35 miles per vessel. So our three longer-range vessels – if they can be manned – must cover 7,723 miles of coast. 2,574 miles per patrol boat. Now, none of that is literal – it’s just a comparative measure. And filming ‘Seaguard’, we were able to report the three new vessels acquired for UKBF (picture.) But they’re inshore workers. So, handy, but not multi-deployable.
Whichever way you voted on the E.U., you would probably like to think that we know how to secure our borders, and especially our maritime ones. Not much point in having “a precious stone set in a silver sea” if you don’t guard against someone coming along and nicking it! So it’s a bit of a shock to discover that in terms of seagoing vessels operationally available to Border Force, whose job it is to do all that (as well as many other tasks), we’re talking… 3. Not 300. Not 30. Just three. With three away in the Med coping with the issue of migrants and refugees aided on their way by traffickers – who can trade on the basis that we won’t let them drown if we can help it. So how do other countries stack up? See next blog…
Of course… if you have clockwork you have to have a winder…. And you have to remember it on those special occasions. Conjures up a vision of Nelson appearing at court and searching his pockets for the key only to find he’d left it on board, or in his other uniform coat, or something. He wore it once at court, which led to the King snubbing him, despite the great victories he’d achieved. All because he put it above his Order of the Bath, you see. Tut. Anyway, when it came to making the key, our Master Goldsmith wasn’t going to have any old key. He carved this beautiful winder (picture) – a miniature bicorn hat, + Chelengk. With a plaque on the back marking its purpose. All in one day. And the wood? Well, oak from HMS Victory, of course!
No-one could accuse the Sultans’ jewellers of being unambitious. The Chelengk presented to Nelson after the Battle of the Nile makes the point. The turban jewel – the first ever presented to a non-Muslim – has a story all of its own. The sprays at the top represent the thirteen French ships captured by Nelson and the British fleet in the battle; the clustering enamelled flowers – each with a diamond in its centre – are set “en tremblant”, which means they are mounted on very fine gold wire, so that the flowers bob and “tremble” as the wearer walks. And the brilliant, crown-like cluster of diamonds in the middle has a clockwork mechanism, so that it turns to catch your eye, diamonds sparkling as they languidly rotate. Does anyone know the Turkish for bling? Because it looks like the Sultans invented it!
Rob is a TV producer, reporter and camera operator with 30 years’ experience at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITN, in news, factual and documentary production. He is a four times award winner, whose awards include a coveted Royal Television Society award for his work on Channel 4 News. His association with The Maritime Foundation goes back to 1995, when he won the first Desmond Wettern Maritime Media Award for a series of reports that led to a major documentary on the loss of the bulk carrier Derbyshire.
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