Air Cadets from Nuneaton and Bedworth hung up their wings for three days when they boarded the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Bristol.
The youngsters from 121( Nuneaton) Squadron of the Air Training Corps joined a group of 50 cadets from other units within the Warwickshire area for a weekend camp designed to give them an insight into life in the Senior Service.
The cadets were accommodated onboard the Royal Navel Cadet Force's Accommodation and Training ship HMS Bristol which is permanently moored at the HMS Excellent navel base on Whale Island in Portsmouth Harbour.
HMS Bristol which saw action in the Falklands war is the only Type 82 destroyer to have been built. She is some 6,000 tons displacement and 155 metres in length. Following her decommissioning from active service in 1994 she now acts as an accommodation and training ship for the Royal Navy and other Service recognised youth groups such as the Air Cadets. Although she is classified as non-seagoing, she is still a commissioned Royal Naval ship and is commanded by an active service Lieutenant Commander (equivalent in rank to RAF Squadron Leader) with a ships company of 37 serving RN personnel and 6 civilian staff.
Apart from learning various Naval routines and sleeping on board the warship, the cadets visited; ‘Action Stations' in the Portsmouth Dockyard, where they had the opportunity to have a go in numerous naval themed simulators including helicopters and submarines. They also visited HMS Victory (The historic flagship of the Royal Navy), the Victory Experience (a new multi million pound recreation of the ship and its battles) , the Royal Marine Museum, the Submarine Museum (where they spent almost an hour inside a WW2 Submarine) and Fort Nelson a Napoleonic Fort on the hills above Portsmouth that was built to repel the French who never actually arrived .
As can be seen from some of the photographs the staff couldn't resist the chance to have a play with the big guns at Fort Nelson and even took to loading each other into the barrels. You can take the cadets anywhere and they will behave, it's the big kids in the staff you've got to keep your eye on. Heaven only knows what would have happened if they had found some powder. We would definitely need a new Squadron Warrant Officer.
The CC Sqn Ldr Coats said “This is our 2nd camp in 2 months so 100 cadets and staff have been there this year, and unfortunately there will be no more for 2010 as HMS Bristol goes into refit from 1 Sept 10 to 31 Mar 11, but after the refit it will be with us for 10 years so we will be there again for years to come. Our cadets and staff enjoyed the experience, even though it was rather warm `below decks` and the cadets ( but not staff) had some air conditioning units in their Mess Decks. The usual programme was followed and enjoyed by all, and with over 95% of cadets and 40% of staff being 1st timers it was for them an experience they will remember. A successful camp and once again we received compliments about our cadets and their behaviour from many sources and that HMS Bristol always expects our cadets to rise above the rest!.