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Queen tries out fire horn on visit to Hurricane Irma relief frigate

The crew of a Wildcat helicopter described the devastation they saw when deployed to the West Indies.

The Queen has heard first-hand about the Royal Navy’s relief effort in the aftermath of Caribbean Hurricane Irma – and could not resist trying out a piece of a fireman’s safety equipment.

The crew of a Wildcat helicopter described the devastation they saw when deployed to the West Indies when the Queen visited the warship HMS Sutherland, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the vessel’s commissioning.

Moored in London’s West India Docks and surrounded by the skyscrapers of City banks, the Type 23 frigate looked an incongruous sight.

Its commanding officer, Commander Andrew Canale, is well known to the Queen as he served for a number of years as her equerry.

On the vessel’s deck, the Queen chatted to the flight crew of a Wildcat helicopter who described their humanitarian experiences while deployed to the Caribbean, separately from HMS Sutherland, as part of Operation Ruman.

Later, when the Queen came across four of the frigate’s firefighters, she could not resist pressing the fire horn of Engineering Technician Stanley Money, 21.

Chief Petty Officer Peter Manning, 38, who is in charge of the fire crew, laughed with the royal visitor as she prodded the horn, which is worn on the shoulder and looks like an old-fashioned bicycle horn, and then gave it a squeeze.

He said later: “The Queen asked what it was for and I told her they sound it in distress. If they get into a distress situation during firefighting – it could be dark with smoke – it lets others know they need help.”

Lieutenant Oliver Brooksbank, pilot of the Wildcat helicopter deployed to the Caribbean to help with hurricane relief, said about working in the islands: “This has been a real privilege.

“We train again and again for war fighting and dropping missiles and torpedoes on the enemy and every so often you get an opportunity to do something which is tangible and for the good of the people you’re directly helping.

“And to see that effort and to see lives change directly as a consequence of your part, no matter how minor, is really satisfying for us.”

His aircraft was based on the support ship Royal Fleet Auxiliary Mounts Bay and he and his crew spent around three weeks working on Grand Turk, capital island of the Turks and Caicos, and Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands.

The Wildcat’s engineer Petty Officer Colin Wilson, 36, said about the experience: “On a typical day we were load lifting water, two tonnes of water, there was aid in the back of the aircraft and anything that was requested by the commander on the ground, it was pretty rewarding.”

The Queen was invited to lunch on the warship and its hanger was decorated for the occasion and fittingly guests sat down to a starter of salmon followed by Balmoral chicken.

Before leaving the Queen posed for a picture with the ship’s crew and later the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, led all the sailors in giving the Queen three cheers as she stood on the dockside.

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