Warship sailors visit preschoolers

Royal British Navy sailors brought a taste of life on the high seas to preschool children when they visited Casa Montessori in George Town on Wednesday morning. 

Five sailors from the visiting HMS Argyll, Lieutenant Commander Grant Dalgleish, Surgeon Lieutenant Sophie Hawkes, and Able Seamen Ben Northcott, Tom Knowles and Michael Stalbow-Best, regaled the young students with tales of life on board a warship and field plenty of questions from the curious kids. 

An invitation to visit the pre-school was extended to the sailors after four teachers from the school attended a reception on board the warship earlier this week. 

“After discussing that we were preschool teachers on island, we came up with the joint idea that it would be a fantastic experience for the children to have real-life sailors visit the school in order to spark the children’s imaginations in becoming sailors,” said Natalie Mallinson, owner of Casa Montessori. 

At the school, sailors discussed with the children how they work together as a team to patrol Caribbean waters, the uniforms they wear, and all the different places that they visit while on tours of duty. 

They also told them they were ready to help the Cayman community in the event of a hurricane. 

Showing the kids a photo of the HMS Argyll, Lt. Dalgleish told them, “See this helicopter on the back of the warship? We send that to pick up people if their yacht breaks down. It is also used to pick up the mail and supplies from the island’s stores.”
“The ship is really fast,” he added. “It runs about 30 miles per hour and has lots of weapons. At the front, there is a big gun at the top with lots of missiles and lots of radars to keep us safe at sea. Our primary reason to come to Cayman is to help the island with any disasters and if anyone is in trouble, we help out. We also stop the bad men at sea.” 

One of the missions of the warship is to carry out anti-narcotic operations. In August this year, the ship’s crew was involved in the arrest of suspected drug smugglers, following a 12-hour sea chase, after which they seized bales of cocaine with a street value of CI$27.6 million. 

“Do you have a boat or ship at home?” Lt. Dalgleish asked the students. “No, but I have a helicopter at home,” said student Martha Kennedy, revealing a little later that it was in a book. Another student shouted he didn’t have a ship, but had a Ferrari. 

The children showed lots of interest in the sailors and their lives on board HMS Argyll. They asked them what is it to live on a boat, how they were given time on shore, and how many sailors were on the warship, among many other questions. 

“We all got separate messes with 26, 39, 30 and 18 in each mess, so it is really cramped but still enjoyable,” Able Seaman Northcott told them.  

“We spend at least 21 days at sea but could go for 40-50 days in row, depending on the amount of supplies on board,” added Lt. Dalgleish. The ship has a crew of 185. 

Lt. Dalgleish presented the students and teachers with a large picture of the ship signed by the captain and smaller pictures for each classroom. He said he was delighted to represent HMS Argyll at the school, adding that, hopefully, the kids may grown up to join the Royal Navy and experience the kinds of lives the sailors had. 

“It was a pleasure to have the sailors visit because it shows the children how they protect the country and they could learn about their life at sea,” said Ms. Mallinson.  

The ship arrived in Cayman on Monday and is scheduled to leave Thursday morning. Its crew is also working on local community projects and was due to play a rugby match with a local team on Wednesday afternoon. 

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Able Seaman Tom Knowles with Casa Montessori students Saiorse Collins, left, and Ella Galatorpolos, who loved trying on the sailors’ caps. – Photo: Jewel Levy

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Lieutenant Commander Grant Dalgleish chats with Aiden Bahadur, center, and Matthew Bonikowski at Casa Montessori.

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HMS Argyll Able Seaman Ben Northcott loses his sailor’s cap to enthusiastic students at Casa Montessori. – PHOTOS: JEWEL LEVY

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