A day with Somme

Published on LEUT Suresh Kumar (author), POEW Ben White (photographer)

Topic(s): Operation SLIPPER, HMAS Newcastle (F06), Replenishment at Sea (RAS)

Able Seaman Electronics Technician Jerrad Coomber and Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Matthew McKechnie-Cooke heaving in on the hose line with other members of ship's company backing them up. (photo: POEW Ben White)
Able Seaman Electronics Technician Jerrad Coomber and Leading Seaman Electronics Technician Matthew McKechnie-Cooke heaving in on the hose line with other members of ship's company backing them up.

Since her arrival in May, HMAS Newcastle (CMDR Paul O’Grady, CSM) conducted her third Replenishment at Sea (RAS) evolution in the Middle East Area of Operations (MEAO) with the French Navy’s FS Somme on 9 June 2013.

This time, a Replenishment At Sea - Liquid (RAS (L)).

Newcastle’s previous evolutions involved the United Kingdom’s RFA Fort Victoria and the American USNS Medgar Evers.

FS Somme (A631) is a Durance-class command and replenishment ship, the same class HMAS Success is based on.

Despite the obvious language barriers, communication between ships was not an issue.

ABBM Naomi Bloxidge was tasked with communicating with Somme’s personnel via signal bats.

“It’s a universal language for these evolutions. Even though we’re operating with a different navy, the signals are the same for everybody,” she said.

LSCIS Glen Gante had a similar experience.

“It was a typical day in the life of a CIS at sea; we were reporting for duty to French Ship Somme prior to the RAS, just the same way we would with an Australian ship. It was great to work with Coalition Forces this early in the deployment and to continue strengthening ties with our allies,” LSCIS Gante said.

For some others of the Ship’s company, like ABET Jerrad Coomber, one of Newcastle’s “Gunbusters”, the RAS evolution was a good opportunity to spend the afternoon doing something a little different.

“It was such a good opportunity to get outside and out of the usual workplace,” ABET Coomber said.

“Although a serious evolution, we all get in and manage a smile where we can. You don’t get to do this sort of thing in any other job.”

Since Newcastle’s last drink she’s steamed more than 1550 nautical miles, including to the 7 June medical mercy dash to evacuate two burn victims from the stricken MT Perla which had suffered a main room machinery fire.

The replenishment gave Newcastle a much needed top up for her continued Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) duties.

Newcastle is conducting maritime security, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism tasks as part of Operation SLIPPER’s CMF contribution to Combined Task Force (CTF) 150.

Imagery is available on the Royal Australian Navy Media Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20130463.