On a typical summer’s day – wet, windy – seamen specialists of the nation’s flagship pull in the hawser on the forecastle as HMS Bulwark sails on her Olympic mission.
The amphibious assault ship departed Devonport yesterday and is spending the next few days ‘fine tuning’ before she arrives in Weymouth Bay – a giant piece in the Olympic security jigsaw.
The 16,000-tonne warship will serve as the floating command and control headquarters supporting Dorset police’s security team – the hub of a huge operation safeguarding sailing events off the seaside town.
Aside from Bulwark, the Royal Navy is committing RFA Mounts Bay, P2000 patrol boats, landing craft, fast boats and Merlins from 814 Naval Air Squadron to the mission.
That’s the hardware. But there’s also a large number of sailors, Royal Marines and reservists deployed alongside the civilian security and policing experts.
As the hub of the effort, Bulwark will be home to Coastguard staff, police officers, officials from the UK Border Agency and the RNLI who’ll all work side-by-side in the flagship’s impressive operations room.
All of which was put into practice back in May during the cunningly-titled Exercise Olympic Guardian when the ship, civilian and government agencies tried out the concept of ‘controlled access’ to the coastline, air and sea around the sailing venue.
The exercise gave all involved an insight into the challenges they might face, the environment around Weymouth and allowed them to work out shared communications and procedures.
"Bulwark’s task this summer is to support the policing operation in a discreet manner,” explained Bulwark’s Commanding Officer Capt Alex Burton, who’s likened his ship’s versatility to a Swiss army knife in the past.
"Over the past year our military planning team has established a strong and effective working relationship with Dorset police.
"The Royal Navy stands ready to support the nation on home water. Together we’ll deliver a safe and secure Games venue in the region – it’s going to be a spectacular showpiece for the country and Bulwark’s particularly looking forward to supporting this unique event.