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On board HMS Illustrious

Published on isbi School News dated Friday 23rd of May 2014

On 5 May, Contingent Commander of the Oundle School Combined Cadet Force (CCF), Major Andrew Mansergh and Sergeant Palmer accompanied six pupil Navy cadets on a trip to the CCF's affiliated ship, the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious, whilst it was alongside in Portsmouth.

Arriving at dusk, pupil, Anthony Orr commented, 'Even in the partial darkness, the ship was impressive, a humongous, grey monster rising up out of the water, sleek as a fish, yet as big as the moon shining onto it. We were shown to our officers' quarters and retired for a good night's sleep in preparation for leaving port at 1100 hours the following morning.'

The group assembled on deck for the daily Colours ceremony involving the raising and saluting of the flag over the bow of the ship.

Throughout the morning, there had been little snippets of info and commands coming through the 'pipes', the ship's broadcast system, and there followed an announcement: 'This is your captain speaking. The weather forecast has taken a turn for the worse, and there are severe winds blowing out at sea. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that we will leave port today due to the adverse weather conditions'.

The reality, as the captain explained, was that the ship could leave port, but could not guarantee getting back into port at the Bristol lock, as there was only four feet of leeway either side and the wind might have blown the ship to one side.

Anthony commented, 'This was completely unexpected and the crew had to prepare a new programme for its guests, which included our party as well as friends and family of the crew on board. They did remarkably well, and within an hour, we were treated to a demonstration of how they would contain floods and put out fires, including a theatrical smoke machine; we saw a general purpose machine gun, fired a mini-gun with drill rounds, pistols and their patrol weapons. Night vision goggles, emergency medicals and stab/bullet proof vests also featured.

We saw the Bridge, with no big naval wheel as you might expect, just a set of handles, the Air Traffic Control Tower that had a stunning view, the engineering department and the engines, all fully functioning. This was something special. The ship runs on four adapted Concorde engines, with impressive fuel efficiency. The ship can hold up to 2,000 tonnes of fuel - a tenth of its weight.'

In the afternoon, the group split, most of us going to the Mary Rose museum, and Sergeant Palmer going out to sea on a smaller craft to scatter his father's ashes. The Mary Rose was Henry the VIII's flagship, that was sunk on its maiden voyage; it was recovered and brought to the surface in modern times, and has been being restored for over 30 years.

Anthony concluded, 'I speak for all of the cadets and I'm sure the staff as well when I say that I enjoyed this visit immensely despite the weather.'

On board HMS Illustrious - Photo 1
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