Birmingham Royal Navy warship to act as Flame escort
One of the Royal Navy’s P2000 patrol vessels, HMS Exploit, has been honoured with an invitation to act as ceremonial escort for the Olympic Flame.
On July 14 and 15, HMS Exploit’s honorary role will take her across the Solent twice, and then bring the Universities Royal Naval Unit (URNU) ship for Birmingham to Southampton, Gosport and Portsmouth.
“We are normally based at Penarth near Cardiff,” said HMS Exploit’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Si Shaw. “But we are forward deployed to Portsmouth at the moment. It will have 11 students embarked from Birmingham, Birmingham City, Loughborough and Warwick Universities.
“Everyone on the ship and at the URNU is proud to be escorting the Olympic Flame around the Solent, into Southampton and finally to the Royal Navy’s homeport of Portsmouth.
“For many of my students, this will be their last time embarked in Exploit prior to graduation – so they are going out on a high.”
The first stage of HMS Exploit’s Olympic exploits will see her leave Lymington on Saturday July at 12 noon bound for Cowes.
She remains at anchor in Cowes while the torch tours the island, before it is embarked once again on one of the Solent’s iconic Red Funnel ferries for a return journey to the mainland at around 5.40pm, this time to Southampton.
Exploit will sail alongside as the Flame makes this crossing, also accompanied by a flotilla of other small craft, arriving at Southampton at approx 6.30pm.
But it doesn’t end there for Si and the crew – the very next day, HMS Exploit, together with two historic Royal Navy boats from World War II (Motor Torpedo Boat 102 and Motor Gun Boat 81) will escort the Flame once more, as it transits aboard the Spirit of Gosport ferry from Gosport to the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth at 5.50pm.
Once ashore, the torch will continue on its way past HMS Victory, on into the city and beyond to Fareham.
“We had a rehearsal with the two historic boats on Monday which went very well,” continued Si. “It is quite an honour for us to be able to sail alongside these older vessels which served the country so well in the Second World War.
“There will also be a couple of tugs on the day which will produce water plumes to welcome the flame – I have to say we got rather wet during the rehearsal, so waterproofs might be the order of the day on Sunday.”
Universities Royal Naval Units
There are currently 14 URNUs supporting universities in England, Wales and Scotland.
Each URNU is commanded by a Royal Navy lieutenant who is responsible for 51 undergraduates who each join the URNU as RN Reservists for their three or four years at university.
Training is conducted one evening a week in shore units at or near the university and at sea, over the weekends and during holiday periods, by a dedicated Archer Class P2000 20-metre patrol craft.
The organisation’s mission is to “Broaden Naval understanding and develop undergraduates who show potential to become the leaders of tomorrow, through maritime experience and exposure to the values and ethos of the Royal Navy”.