HMS Vanguard was not only the biggest, fastest and last of the Royal Navy’s battleships but she also had the distinction of being the last battleship ever launched when she was commissioned on May 12th 1946. Throughout her career, Vanguard usually served as the flagship for Royal Navy or NATO surface groups and in 1953 she participated in Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation Review. While undergoing refit in 1955, the Admiralty announced that the ship was going to be put into reserve and was finally sold for scrap in 1960. However, the ship would have one last defiant and almost catastrophic moment in her life before she was to go to the breaker’s yard.
On August 4th 1960, the sea front was packed with people who came to see the mighty ship off as she was to leave Portsmouth for Faslane, Scotland where she would be broken up. As the last battleship was being towed towards the harbour entrance however, she slid across the harbour and ran aground near the Still & West pub. It would take an hour and the effort of five tugboats to pull her off again and lead her out to sea for her final journey north.
An RAF Griffin HT.1 helicopter has burst into flames after being forced to land on a Snowdonia peak with technical problems. The aircraft was operating out of RAF Valley and was carrying five crewmembers none of whom were hurt in the incident.
The emergency services were alerted to the scene by walkers who had spotted the smoke and flames sending firefighters, police and mountain rescue teams from Llanberis, Ogwen Valley and Aberglaslyn to the scene. An air ambulance and HM Coast Guard helicopter were dispatched to the scene as a precautionary measure while the air space above the scene was restricted to other aircraft.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the aircraft was involved in a search and rescue training exercise at the time of the incident. The Griffin HT.1s based at Valley are part of the Search and Rescue Training Unit (SARTU).
The incident occurred on Monday at RAF Valley, Anglesey. The pilot was beginning his take-off run when he spotted a flock of birds in his path. He therefore decided to abort the take-off but by then had travelled too far down the runway to stop before the barrier. The Hawk T.1 hit the barrier at the bottom of the south east runway before coming to a stop just before Cymyran beach.
Squadron leader Dave Williams told reporters:
There were no injuries at all and assessments are currently being made as to how to recover the aircraft.
Information released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the startling figures of fatalities during training in all branches of the armed forces since 2000. In total there have been 125 non-combat deaths since January 2000 attributed to accidents, mishaps, cases of assault and unknown causes with the Army being the biggest contributor to this figure with 86 in total. The Royal Navy (which includes the Royal Marines) numbered 22 deaths in the same time period while the RAF suffered 17.
The Ministry of Defence released a statement regarding the figures by saying that it was necessary to train and test military personnel to the highest level in order to maintain the highest standards that the armed forces set for its men and women. They did however recognise that some personnel will push themselves beyond their limits in order to meet or surpass the requirements which is especially true for new recruits who want to show they have what it takes. The MoD added that the armed forces try to balance out the risks compared to what they need to do to keep their personnel combat ready but reiterated that by its very nature military service is dangerous.
Just how dangerous was dramatically shown in March 2013 when three Special Air Service (SAS) recruits died during a 16-mile march on the Brecon Beacons. Temperatures were extremely high and two men died of heatstroke while a third died of multiple organ failure. The incident provoked strong anger from family members and the media and the MoD confessed that they had failed these men and apologised. Earlier this year a 25-year old Royal Marine died carrying out a similar march.
The MoD did highlight that the number of deaths in recent years has actually fallen, however many people attribute this to a dramatic reduction in the armed forces rather than a change in operating doctrine.