Vale RN

I must say I feel uneasy about the Brit sailors captured and subsequently released by the Iranians. The RN doesn't look good and the MOD has ricocheted back and forth about letting the hostages sell their story to the press. First they can and now they can't which means two have sold their story for a motza and the other 11 can't. People are furious that the hostages were initially allowed to sell their stories forcing the Admirals hit the rewind button. Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Adrian Johns said earlier today that the review of procedures was under way. All of a sudden we need a review of procedures that have stood the Brits in good stead for hundreds of years. HMS Cornwall is a type 22 'stetched' frigate and is reasonably well armed with 114mm (4.5 inch) MK 8 gun Goalkeeper close-in weapons system (CIWS) Sea Wolf anti-missile system 2 x Quad Harpoon missile launchers 2 x 20mm Close range guns NATO Seagnat Decoy Launchers She has a cruise speed of 18 knots and a sprint capability of 30 knots and has tons of radar sensors which raises the question: why the hell didn't the Captain move in and cover his troops. Am I to believe that it is RN Standard Operating Procedures to allow crew to approach unknown shipping without 'Mother cover" or sufficient heavy weapons to guarantee their own safety? Some RAN or RN readers may correct me here but I cannot begin to imagine how the Captain could allow crew members to wander around the ocean miles from their ship in rigids armed only with personal weapons. Surely risk assessment would consider the possibility that some ships may not like being bordered and might fight back. I would if all I could see from horizon to horizon was a couple of rigids. Over at LP armchair warriors have picked up on a new military buzzword 'ROE' (Rules of Engagement) and point out that ROEs in force precludes the Captain firing on Iranian shipping. Of course it does, the Brits aren't at war with Iran but that doesn't stop the captain keeping an eye on his sailors. Full steam ahead...move the frigate over.....staring down the barrel of a 4.5 in quick firer backed up by heavy machine guns would tend to take the revolutionary zeal out of the Iranian Navy. Why didn't he? If he was too far away to do it, why was he? Reports state he was ordered not to fire and that's reasonable but why couldn't he adopt an aggressive posture and frighten the Iranians off. Maybe because he was out of range which gets back to the original question. Why? Remedial Step One: Never let anyone come between you and your off-ship troops (look at the radar screen to see if there are any unknown boats nearby) and never let them get out of range. Interesting article from MOD Oracle
Iranian intelligence officers told the 15 British captives they first became suspicious about their activities after watching an interview with one of them on British television. On 13 March - 10 days before the 15 were seized - Channel 5 broadcast an interview with Captain Chris Air, one of the captured Royal Marines, in which he stated that his crew's role was to liaise with Iraqi vessels to 'let them know we are here to protect them, protect their fishing and to stop any terrorism or any piracy in the area'.
Remedial Step Two: Keep the media off the ship. They tend to feed intelligence to the bad guys - some even do it deliberately. The days of number, rank and name only are obviously over but I would've thought that Jack Tar could have waited a bit before rolling over. Coming home with 'Show Bags' like they'd been to the local fete didn't help their image nor does the happy snaps provided by the Iranians. Did they ever, for a moment, consider the reputation of the Navy. A local Bishop personifies what is wrong with the Brits at the moment;
A leading Church of England bishop has claimed the Iranian president showed a better understanding of “moral and spiritual” values at the end of the naval hostage crisis than Britain’s political leaders.
What's gone wrong? And this;
The youngest captive, Arthur Batchelor, 20, sold his account to the Daily Mirror, and described how guards had mocked him, calling him “Mr Bean”, and said that he had he cried himself to sleep at night.
Poor Arthur. The reputation of the once great Royal Navy has just flat-lined.

9 comments

  • Thanks Kevin. I’ve resisted commenting on this because I am not sure what to make of it. Richard at EU Referendum who also has a military background is a bit sore at the lack of cover. Series of articles at
    eureferendum.blogspot.com/

    One of the captives said they were photographed when they were “happy to see each other again” (http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2007160267,00.html) although as one American blogger noted, there was one in the crew who simply refused to smile or wave ever. And since their press conferences the Iranians have released another video of them lounging around in track suits playing chess.

    (I’m glad however that you understood what Nazir-Ali was saying; it seems some have misread him as supporting the Iranians instead of highlighting the vacuousness of the Brits)

  • I had the `pleasure’ of being sent on short exchange with the Royal Marines shortly after the Falklands War.

    The Marines I met were a tough, determined bunch with incredible esprit de corps and VERY impressive and professional NCOs and officers.

    I understand the Marine Sergeant was the only member who refused to play the Iranian’s game unlike the naval officer and incredibly the Marine Captain.

    I was shocked to see the unprofessional demeanour of the hostages, they didn’t look like service personnel at all, more a bunch of teens with poor posture.

    The Royal Navy’s inquiry should look at the whole service from recruit and officer training to boarding tactics as its people looked like a “shower of shit” both during their captivity and on their return to the UK.

    Thankfully the video I’ve watched of the RAN’s boarding teams in the Persian Gulf depicts them as the Royal Marines once were – switched on and professional, the same with video of diggers in Afghanistan and Iraq, their patrolling techniques, weapon handling and attention to detail brought a tear to my eye.

  • There was a Lynx helicopter covering them but it returned to Cornwall early for some reason. It seems the Iranians had been watching for just such an opportunity, and promptly took advantage of the situation.

  • Cloud,
    The trained military officer looks for something that can go wrong and accounts for it.They should know the Iranians would look for a gap and they found it….it shouldn’t have existed. If you can’t keep aircover overhead then don’t run the mission or at least have the frigate in range.

  • It’s encouraging…a good read Peter. 5 Pl seem to be performing as I would expect Brit troops to perform

  • Definitely seems to have been a stuff up with the helicopter. However, as to the frigate itself, someone at the MoD had this to say

    The frigate was more than four miles away and could not come to the rescue because the water was too shallow.

    “Cornwall draws about five metres and in water of less than 10 metres manoeuvring a craft of that size is very difficult,” a senior defence official said. “In future we should think about using minesweepers, which are smaller, instead.

    We need heavier weaponry on the light craft, and we must use obscurant smoke.”

    Good idea in hindsight, and that’s the real problem. They haven’t thought through just how “asymmetric” their enemies will be…

  • Sorry, here’s the link for that MoD quote:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/04/01/wiran101.xml

    Just for the record.

  • Foresight versus hindsight…one marks the professional and the other the amateur. I think it was all preventable. If the ship or chopper can’t support the troops then don’t run the mission until they can.