8th December 2008, 09:58
The frigate HMS Northumberland, which is armed with guided missiles, torpedoes and a Lynx helicopter, was due to be sent on patrol to the islands this month. But it will now be replaced by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) vessel not equipped for offensive combat operations.
The controversial decision was forced on senior naval commanders by the increasing problem of overstretch facing the Royal Navy.
In its place, RFA Largs Bay, a landing ship which is crewed by civilian sailors, will arrive in the South Atlantic this week to begin its mission of protecting the islands from the potential threat posed by Argentina, which still claims sovereignty of the islands.
8th December 2008, 11:54
I imagine that the Argentine Government are dusting off the plans again, taking great care not to make the same mistakes again I trust we do not underestimate our potential enemy!!
13th December 2008, 04:20
Will the ships company be given "Reserve Status" bearing in mind the remote possibility of confrontation?
13th December 2008, 08:47
As I understand it, the policy is that all RFAs deploying to operational areas are manned by personnel with "Sponsored Reserve Status", though whether this includes the S.Atlantic, I wouldnt know.
13th December 2008, 11:44
From my understanding of the SR concept, the Reservist status of those on board only applies when engaged in certain activities within a designated operational conflict zone where it was thought appropriate that those onboard may require the protection the SR concept brings. For what could be termed "normal" operational duties, i.e. South Atlantic/Caribbean patrol etc then this would not apply.
As far as I'm aware the only time the SR concept has been implemented 'for real' was for a couple of months in 2003 during Operation Telic.
Of course the MOD are very reluctant to engage in the 'call out' process as it's a rather expensive proposition. With our lot SR's are granted an initial call out fee, plus an allowance for the duration - all of this on top of normal wages and your annual RNR Training Bounty. For the men involved this is a rather lucrative situation to be in.
The initial plan was for SR's to also be activated for the duration of large exercises, however that was quickly shelved due to the financial implications.
Are there any figures regarding the SR takeup within the RFA? I'm aware that all new joiners are obliged to join the scheme from day 1, however I'm not sure if existing members have a deadline for sign up or the like. Certainly opinion seemed to be quite divided on the subject, although that perhaps had more to do with the 'Evolution/Revolution' talks ongoing at the time.
I believe SR concept is however quite widely used ashore by the likes of the RAF and Army when engaging civilian contractors.
13th December 2008, 17:08
Thank you, Jim, for that very full explanation - I had wondered about the workings. It seems odd that this SR arrangement should be introduced at about the same time it has been decided RFA personnel no longer qualify for military honours after 90 years under that system. From 2004 RFA honours have been under the civil list, so one wonders what might happen to those who may distinguish themselves in any future hostilities - it will be remembered two DSO's and three DSC's were awarded in the Falklands. My interest arises from work in establishing the RFA Museum Archive, where such matters are recorded.
13th December 2008, 17:49
What will happen should (when) there'll be a future conflict isn't entirely clear.
Legally, and assuming SR's are 'called out' then they'll be Royal Navy personnel for the duration, not RFA/MN or the like.
Certainly with ourselves, should we be called out we all change our epaulettes from MN Diamond to RN Curle and are supposed to wear Identity Discs from there on in. All of us already hold standard issue RN Identity Cards.
For SR purposes the ranks are as follows:
Master - Commander (Master and Commander after all eh!)
C/O - Lt Commander
2/O - Lt
3/O - Sub Lt
Corresponding ranks for the Engineers etc.
Bosun - CPO
SG1 - AB etc
What actually happens with regards to the manning of the ship has never been made particularly clear.
For example, do we abandon the traditional logbook and discharge book seeing as we're all now 'Forces' personnel, or do we adopt the odd attitude of "we're all RN who happen to have the right MN pieces of paper to serve on this civilian ship"? We are also bound by the Naval Discipline Act in all it's glory for the duration of callout, so theoretically an infraction onboard could result in Court Martial and a spell in the glasshouse.
As you've mentioned, should their be a case for Honours, would they be civilian or military?
I've asked similar questions and have never received a definitive answer, I suspect that quite simply nobody really knows what will happen and the attitude of "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it" seems prevalent.
Interestingly, despite the fact we may be called out, that all aboard are SR and that we're on Govt Service our vessels are expressly prohibited from flying a Blue Ensign - even if the Officers aboard are already (proper) RNR and are in posession of the relevant warrants. The reason behind this being that flying a Blue Ensign makes the ship more 'obvious'. Obviously their Lordships believe that the design, colour scheme and tasking of the ships are so subtle that only a 'Blue Duster' would give the ship away to a potential enemy!
13th December 2008, 20:20
Very interesting Jim. I suspect those serving RFA who might be able to tell us the current take up are not free to do so in this forum. Incidentally the RFA has always been placed under the NDA during recent conflicts, long before SR was thought of. We were told it was for our own good!
14th December 2008, 03:19
So, prior to the introduction of Sponsored Reserve Status we would have operating without the protection of the Geneva Convention.
If the Crown as our employers were aware that this was the situation we could have placed in a "challenging" situation of claiming to be civilians while operating with the military in a conflict zone.
War crimes anyone??
14th December 2008, 07:47
"we would have operating without the protection of the Geneva Convention."
Not sure about that. During the Falklands, we were hastily issued with do it yourself ID cards as "persons who accompany the armed forces" which seem to have offered some protection. See Photo.
14th December 2008, 18:38
Special ID card,
I was RFA and served in the Falklands and I was never issued with any special ID card, so some had them and some did not have. Somewhere some one may have realised that sections of the Geneva convention may not apply and issued ID cards. I was given two small brown pieces of paper telling me of my rights as a prisoner of war. Would have been a little bit too late by then.
14th December 2008, 20:39
AH well thats alright then - great protection ID cards will be - especially in a fire fight where our lads and lasses have no arms. This b.oody government has alot to answer for in the protection of those brave people who make up our Military Services - cant see the PM nor any member of the cabinet going anywhere without his/her armed protection officers in times of danger can you ? yet they expect unarmed vessels to patrol an obviously disputed area, thousands of miles from help without any means of defence - I am lost for words to adequately indicate how I feel without being too rude. (Cloud)
14th December 2008, 21:40
GBXZ. Cant explain why everyone didnt have one. Judging by the date of issue they must have arrived in the post before Ascension and we had to arrange our own photographer. The purpose of them and the new SR status is to ensure the holder is entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions,
which is better than nothing, provided the enemy respects the Conventions.
Santos. I believe the lack of a warship down south is that she has been diverted to the Gulf of Aden to join the "EU Navy" which has been exercising some concern in other forums. Someone must have decided that was a higher priority. Quarts and pint pots come to mind.