Visitors to this year’s Cowes Week will not have failed to notice the Royal Navy’s HMS Severn keeping a watchful eye over proceedings as the official Guard Ship of the regatta – and Island Echo has this week had a special tour on board the offshore patrol vessel.
The presence of a Guard Ship is a tradition dating back to when the Royal Family regularly attended the event, with Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia last mooring up in 1997. After a break of 25 years, the Royal Navy returned to Cowes last year with HMS Ledbury keeping guard and representing the Navy.
Now, HMS Severn and her crew have made their way to the Solent and have moored off Cowes for the week. The striking warship in its distinctive grey, green and blue livery appeared on Monday afternoon after carrying out operational duties in UK waters and she will remain until Sunday, before heading back out to sea to continue the protection of the UK’s interests.
Island Echo’s reporter and photographer boarded a launch boat from Trinity Landing yesterday morning (Wednesday) and headed out to the Royal Navy vessel to meet the ship’s crew. It made for the perfect viewing platform to see the start of the racing on Day 5 of the Regatta, which concludes on Saturday (6th August). An armed guard greeted those arriving on the adjoining pontoon.
Captain of HMS Severn, Commander Phil Harper, welcomed us onboard and exclaimed that the ship had a ‘grandstand view’ of all the goings on throughout Cowes Week. He went on to explain that the ship is operational some 320 days a year and is manned by 3 watches – Red, White and Blue. At any one time, there are 2 watches onboard the ship with the seaman working on a 6-week on, 3-week off rota.
HMS Severn is rather unique in that it has a Greene King bar on board – all thanks to the chain’s former Isle of Wight area manager, Lieutenant Matt Crick. Standing proudly behind the bar in the mess, Lt. Crick – who joined the Royal Navy as a reservist in 2014 – explained that during the COVID months Greene King installed the traditional bar, a somewhat fancy extension to what a standard Naval ship normally has.
Lt. Crick explained that he joined as a reservist to do his service for Queen and country, something that he wholeheartedly believes in. It was 2-and-a-half years ago he had the opportunity to join HMS Severn as a boarding officer.
Lieutenant Rory Slee, a warfare officer from Devon, explained that HMS Severn boasts very comfortable accommodation compared to counterparts in the fleet with seaman having their own bunks. He explained that those on board work either a normal working day of around 08:00-16:00, or conduct 2x 4-hour watches at any time of the day or night.
Lt. Slee led Island Echo down into the lower levels of the ship where the ammunition, guns and personal protection are kept. Flank jackets and helmets were at the ready, should the need arise to man the action stations and take action against enemies of the state.
Island Echo took the opportunity yesterday to also speak to Engineer Technician Darryl Craig, from Scotland, who works to keep the ship operating around the clock. He joined the Royal Navy almost 5 years ago.
Chatting about this reporter’s great-grandfather’s time as a Stoker in the Navy, it seemed natural to ask how dirty the job is now in comparison to the early 1900s. Craig explained that it is still a very dirty job and is quite intensive looking after the 80-metre-long warship, depending on the role you’re appointed for that day. When things go wrong though, Craig explained that it is unforgiving and can lead to long hours.
When asked where the role had taken him in the world, he quipped that the furthest he had been was Aberdeen having served on HMS Trent during the build stage then straight onto HMS Severn.
Ricardco Providence, who hails from Trinidad and Tobago, is the ship’s chef who serves up meals for around 40 people each day – from spaghetti bolognese to sweet and sour, topped off with garlic bread. Apparently, the ship’s company’s favourite meal is simply food – and plenty of it! Themed nights go down well with a diverse range of food on offer. The warship carries enough food for around 30 days.
HMS Severn is an offshore patrol vessel responsible for looking after the UK’s waters, including escorting foreign naval vessels such as the Russians. But it is also a navigation training ship and therefore plays an important role in training up the country’s defenders of tomorrow. The warship has also played her part in several search and rescue missions over the years.
Built in 2003, Severn was originally owned by BAE Systems and leased out but the Royal Navy bought her outright in 2012. Then, in 2017, the decision was taken to decommission her. That was soon overturned though as she was deemed too good to get rid of and with Brexit looming she re-entered the fleet in 2020.
Commander Harper has expressed his hopes that the Royal Navy will return to the Regatta again in 2023, either with HMS Severn or a sister vessel.
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