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Giant of the waves RFA Argus returns home to Belfast

By Rebecca Black

Published 28/09/2015

The Argus docked in Belfast yesterday
The Argus docked in Belfast yesterday

Thirty sea cadets from Northern Ireland got a tour of one the largest and most unusual military vessels in the world when it came home for the weekend.

The 28,081-tonne RFA Argus will be a feature of the Belfast skyline until tomorrow, docked at Gotto Wharf on the Co Antrim side of the Lagan. She was originally an Italian container ship before becoming one of several taken from trade by the Ministry of Defence for use in the 1982 Falklands War.

She was utilised as an aircraft transport, ferrying aircraft on deck, before coming to Harland & Wolff in Belfast during 1985 to be converted into an aviation training ship.

The ship, which is recently back from service in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis as part of the Operation Gritrock response, will today welcome on board workers from Harland & Wolff who converted her 20 years ago.

However, they may not recognise the continually evolving vessel - which now boasts a 100-bed hospital as well as an enormous flight deck with Merlin Mark 2 submarine-hunting helicopters, as part of her dual role as a medical relief ship and pilot training hub.

Some 30 sea cadets from across Northern Ireland also had the privilege of a tour of the vessel over the weekend.

RFA Argus has a crew of 150 but accommodated 450 during service in Sierra Leone. These included Army Medical Reserve units, such as 204 Field Hospital Regiment based in Belfast.

Captain Karl Woodfield said many of the crew were excited about seeing Belfast, with many never having been before. "I know my ship's company are very much looking forward to being here and it is good to bring my ship home, show it to some of the people of Belfast and to welcome Harland & Wolff back on board," he said.

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