HMS Manchester getting to know us

The
HMS Manchester recently arrived in Grand Cayman, the first port of call on a
seven-month deployment in the Caribbean region to assist with disaster preparedness
and relief and counter drug efforts.

“The
first reason for being here is to press the flesh, to meet the personalities in
the disaster management organisations and in the local government so that, God
forbid, should the worst happen and a hurricane comes through this season, at
least we know who we’re talking to, you know who you’re talking to and we’ve
got an idea of what Cayman has to offer in her preparedness and how we can fit
in and perhaps assist that,” said Commanding Officer Rex Cox. “The other part,
of course, is to meet the Caymanians and to get to know the Islands, and, I
suspect, get beaten badly at cricket tomorrow.”

The
commander said the HMS Manchester, a Type 42 Destroyer, is on her last
deployment before returning to her home port of Portsmouth to be decommissioned
after 30 years of service.

“She’s
getting to be a bit of an old lady, but we love her to bits,” he said. “It’s
very fitting, we think, that she comes back to the Caribbean, which was one of
her first deployments.”

The
HMS Manchester is heavily equipped with artillery suited to counter drug
efforts, including surface-to-air missiles, a four-and-a-half-inch gun and a
range of 20 to 30 millimetre calibre guns or “small arms”.

The
ship is also equipped with a Mark 3 Lynx helicopter, nicknamed Sting, which is
capable of speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.

In
addition to weapons useful in counter-drug efforts, the HMS Manchester is also
equipped with disaster relief stores, a reverse osmosis plant to make drinking
water and over 250 navy personnel trained in disaster response and management.

“We
bring medical, we bring damage control, fire fighting, the ability to set up
temporary medical facilities, temporary shelter, and, probably most importantly,
water,” Mr. Cox said. “We can bring well over 20,000 litres of water in the
first 24 hours and we have the ability to make water and we have the ability to
generate power.”

According
to the commander, there is a wide breadth of experience among the navy
personnel on board the HMS Manchester when it comes to dealing with disaster
relief and preparedness, but every crew member has undergone a 48 hour training
exercise in a simulated hurricane-struck village where they practiced
evacuations, dealing with casualties, setting up temporary hospitals and shelters
and providing water and sanitation.

As
part of their visit to the Cayman Islands, the crew will also take part in a
training exercise involving members of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.

“We’re
doing an exercise with the Cayman Police Marine Unit on Friday and that will
involve … the ship, the helicopter, our boats, their boats … and doing a lot of
training with them,” said Mr. Cox.

Although
the HMS Manchester is equipped with disaster relief stores, the UK Department
for International Development hurricane stores for the region will be based in
the Cayman Islands.

“The
DFID hurricane relief stores are going to be based here in Grand Cayman,
they’ll be arriving in the middle of July,’ said Mr. Cox, “so you’ll be very
well set for equipment and stores here.”

The
HMS Manchester is also accompanied by the RFA Wave Ruler, a Royal Fleet
Auxiliary fast fleet tanker, which is no stranger to Cayman waters, having
provided humanitarian assistance to Cayman Brac following Hurricane Paloma in
2008.

“She
also has disaster relief stores on board, a bigger package than we do,” the
commander said, adding that the tanker also acted as a “floating gas station”
to the HMS Manchester.

The
crew of the HMS Manchester began their activities on Wednesday with a cocktail
reception held on the main deck of the destroyer.

HMS

HMS Manchester navy personnel stand ready to lower the flag for the evening beside the Mark 3 Lynx helicopter.
Photo: Hannah Reid

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